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Designing public policies and services is a central challenge in our societies today. Moreover, the advent of new technologies coupled with crises in the legitimacy of many western democracies and their governmental institutions has led to reformulate how governments interact with their peoples. Therefore, this research project investigates the use of design in the public sector, more precisely on the use and role of design methods for public policy innovation. It specifically focuses on how Policy Labs across Europe are applying design methods to innovate on how public policies come into being.
Central to this research is the notion that it is possible to consider public policies (and services) as products of design (Junginger, 2016). Borrowing from the economics of innovation, this study looks at public policy innovation as process innovation, in which innovations are oriented to the effectiveness and efficiency in which the organisation (in this case, the state) produces and delivers its products and services, public policies and services, respectively (Schilling, 2016). Furthermore, it considers the policymaking cycle model (Howlett, Ramesh & Perl, 2009; Dye,2013) as a framework for product development whilst collating it with the iterative design cycles.
As a unit of analysis, this study considers the emerging structures known as Policy Labs, since these organisations are recognised as helping to construct public policies in a design-oriented fashion (Fuller & Lochard, 2016). The study of multiple cases pursues the appreciation of practical problems in the application of design in the development of public policies and services. Concentrating 60% of all policy labs around the globe, Europe also present a series of notable aspects, such as intensive knowledge and policy transfers across national borders, which makes it of interest to understand how policy labs are incorporating design methods for public policy innovation.
To date, the mapping of Policy Labs in Europe has shown the importance of the process innovation perspective in understanding public policy innovation. The mapping of methods utilised by Policy Labs has offered a rich picture of the needs and challenges these are facing in innovating public policies. Furthermore, participant observation during policy exploration sessions within a UK governmental department has provided with valuable insights into how design methods are being transferred from the private orbit into the public sector. Contrasting the findings with the literature on design methods, we found a significant gap in the awareness of the methods' nature.
Dye, T. R. (2013). Understanding Public Policy: Pearson New International Edition. Pearson Higher Ed.
Fuller, M., & Lochard, A. (2016). Public policy labs in European Union member states. JRC102665 EUR 28044 EN.
Howlett, M., Ramesh, M., & Perl, A. (2009). Studying public policy: Policy cycles and policy subsystems (Vol. 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Junginger, S. (2016). Transforming Public Services by Design: Re-orienting Policies, Organizations and Services Around People. Taylor & Francis.
Schilling, M. A. (2010). Strategic management of technological innovation. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.