‘Developing an App Could Be the Wrong Place to Start’: User Reflections and Ideas about Innovation in Municipal Substance Abuse Services


  • Vidar Bakkeli Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University , Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research
  • Arne Backer Grønningsæter Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research




user involvement, co-production, technology, follow-up care, addiction, peer support


Introduction: There has been an increased focus on the search for innovative ways to use technology to improve services among many public welfare services. However, this focus has been less apparent among municipal substance abuse follow-up and aftercare services. Historically, this is a field that has had weak user involvement. Therefore, we have explored user ideas and reflections on whether and how technological innovation can improve these services.

Method: We conducted four group sessions with a total of 14 users of substance abuse follow-up services (five women and nine men) in the southern part of Norway in June of 2014 and February of 2016.

Results: The users who participated in the study pointed out that face-to-face interaction with service practitioners is an important dimension of these services. Some expressed fear that more technology might lead to services that are less relational or more standardized and that such developments might lead to reduced availability. They pointed out that enhancing individualization, continuity and service collaboration might be more important than prioritizing technology-oriented innovation. Nevertheless, the users viewed technology as positive and useful when it improves service accessibility and communication between service providers and users. More generally, the data also shed light on users’ service experiences. The analysis of these data shows that access to support from peers who have had user experiences was found to be particularly valuable.

Discussion: We contribute to the literature on co-production and user involvement by highlighting user perspectives on the risks, uncertainties and possibilities for the use of new technologies in service delivery. Based on these findings, we develop the ‘co-production triangle’. In this model, the relationship between the service provider and the user is expanded to include skilled peers as a third actor.

Keywords: User involvement, co-production, technology, follow-up care, addiction, peer support


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How to Cite

Bakkeli, V., & Grønningsæter, A. B. (2020). ‘Developing an App Could Be the Wrong Place to Start’: User Reflections and Ideas about Innovation in Municipal Substance Abuse Services. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 11(1), 86–108. https://doi.org/10.7577/njsr.2185




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