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In this #PROFILE series, we touch base with the recipients of DESIGNSCAPES’ 3rd and final Open Call for design-enabled Innovation Scalability Proofs.

In February DESIGNSCAPES sat down with Henric Barkman from Swinga to talk about the progress of his initiative and some of the challenges faced during the current replication stage. A great opportunity to learn more about the team behind the project and the lessons and strategies drawn from this scaling journey. 

Swinga in short

Born to halt overconsumption and foster a sense of community and helpfulness, Swinga aims to develop a platform where neighbours can connect and borrow underutilised goods from each other, or rent them from a local company. The project started in a neighbourhood in Karlstad, Sweden, and is now expanding to other 15 neighbourhoods in Karlstad, Gothenburg, and Stockholm, in collaboration with Stiftelsen Karlstadshus. 

What is Swinga currently busy with?

The project has just reached the milestone of scaling its service in nine new areas in Sweden. After launching the project’s app, the team is now busy collecting and analysing feedback from users in order to understand what areas need further development. “And that’s how we’ve been working during the whole project,” Henric told us. “I think it’s been a very good approach, and it has created opportunities for us to learn, through several learning cycles. I think that that has been very, very fruitful.”

Regarding the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

When we asked Henric about the difficulties that have emerged from the current sanitary crisis, he immediately mentioned the challenge of engaging new potential users: “Launching the service in a new area means actually meeting people. […] We don’t have that many established digital channels with people living in neighbourhoods,” he explained. “So we’re supposed to base that on people actually meeting other people — and that’s not happening right now.” When it came to launching Swinga in the last three areas, the team needed additional help: “We found a partner through our partner in the project […] that is a civil society organization working to help people living in what are, let’s say, tough neighbourhoods.” He went on, “they thought that Swinga could be of help to them, so they have been a very good channel to reach out to people.” 

The team has also been trying to involve companies in using the service to rent out their products, which has proven complicated in the current climate, as companies “are more focused on survival-based issues right now,” as Henric put it, “so they weren’t as keen as we were maybe hoping.” “To build engagement and to reach people is taking more and more resources, he added, “so we’re going to reach much, much fewer people that we’re supposed to reach”.

The team behind the project

Henric is project manager at Swinga, and has experience in behavioural economics and sustainable consumption — including a PhD, and different roles in the municipality of Karlstad or the Fairtrade organisation. Although he is one of the project’s founders “it was my wife, Anna Sundell, also part of the team, who came up with the idea”, he explained. She has a background in social sustainability, experience working with regional unions and charity organisations, and currently works in the same municipality as Henric: Karlstad. At Swinga, she is responsible for the financial and communication aspects. The team is also composed of two developers with great experience in the field, responsible for the back- and front-end design of the product, and a service designer, in charge of the service and digital design of Swinga as well as the communication of the project. 

“Our credibility is one of our real strengths.” 


For this replication phase, the team of Swinga is collaborating with Stiftelsen Karlstadshus, a non-profit housing company. Mirja, the contact person from the company, “is like a spider at the center of its web”, as Henric put it: She is the point of contact with the employees doing services in the buildings and makes sure that they hand out leaflets and communicate Swinga to their tenants. We pretty much have all the pieces of the puzzle in the team,” Henric reflected. Having worked for a long time with sustainable development issues, “we have a good credibility when it comes to those issues … also a good network of people”, he added. “So when we reach out to someone, they trust that we’re doing something that is not only for money — but that we’re trying to make something good here.” Before concluding: “I think that our credibility is one of our real strengths.” 

Scaling the service in a multitude of neighbourhoods

When talking to us about the team’s experience with launching the service in different areas, Henric elaborated on Swinga’s scaling strategy: “We’ve been trying to research the differences between the neighbourhoods we’ve been scaling into, and the effects they have [on the project].” “I think the main differences that we see is perhaps between low-income communities and those with a high income, or at least high cultural capital”, he said. In the latter “they ‘get it’ quicker […] but later on, it seems like they don’t have the big need other areas might have.” However, he continued, “in those areas with lower-income, it can be more difficult to get things going, though it seems they are using the service much more.” According to Henric, “I think one crucial part here really is to have a partner that has that contextual knowledge, and who can take the service, adapt the message and how you communicate it, without needing to do all the work.” 

Lessons from this replication experience

Scaling Swinga taught a lot to the team. The first versions of the service were really complicated: “We needed to get back to the drawing board, and see how we could simplify things as much as possible,” Henric confessed.The value of simplification is one key lesson, I think”. 

“That is really giving us the opportunity to fail many times as well, and see what we can learn from those failures.”


“Another, maybe bigger lesson,” he continued, “is about the value of launching several versions [of the service], as many times as possible.” “That is really giving us the opportunity to fail many times as well, and see what we can learn from those failures.” He recalled: “In the earlier days of this project, we tended to not get the product out there and test it. We were working on it too much in our own workshop.”

Looking ahead

Henric would like to continue improving the service: “The most important thing is to get a little bit higher engagement level from the app users for it to be really valuable.” Another goal is to make the scaling process more effective: “We’re seeing that after each launch, we’re fine-tuning that scaling process, so I think we’re getting there step by step.” 

That being said, the team at Swinga is far from being done trying different directions for the service. “We’re still experimenting with other sorts of tracks. One thing is where we are now, so a service based on borrowing stuff from your neighbour, but we also want to try to see if we can interconnect workplaces.” “You can reach out to your neighbours through the Swinga app,” as Henric explained, “but you can at the same time choose to also reach out to your workmates, your colleagues … That’s one thing that we want to experiment with and try.” 

Through this replication journey Swinga’s team iterated and learned a lot — and yet, the project still has plenty of possible directions to explore in the future.

Photos: Swinga