Design and Policy – short thoughts

It’s incredibly exciting to see the growing work being done on the intersection between design and policy.  Amongst other things I think that design can support the connection between policy and practice, and help to make policy more accessible to citizens and community members. In the recent community of practice panel at Design for Social Innovation NZ in Wellington  we explored some of the ways that policy makers in NZ are looking to draw on design practice – as well as the need for ongoing work to mature this practice. 

The fabulous Jo Hartigan of the The Policy Project shared some of their work, and offered a useful visual and critique of where design usually sits (tactical and operational), as compared to where policy spends most of its time (strategic).

(Thanks to Hamish Lindop for capturing the image).  This opened up a discussion about how we might better connect practice and policy and the role of design in helping that connection – and develop a policy practice that is as much pro-active and re-active. I pushed my usual agenda of asking how we might better ensure that many of the flourishing co-design projects currently happening around the country are also configured to inform policy development (not just tactical and operational outcomes) so we don’t keep hitting the strategic policy “ceiling”. (And to be fair this is happening more and more as we develop cross agency and community teams, for example current MSD family violence projects, the Challenges run out of the Co-design Lab and for example the Financial Literacy project being run by the MSD community investment team, where front line teams, managers and policy makers work together to make and identify change).

Jo and I also explored the question about perhaps needing to disrupt some of the traditional framing by policy advisers that their primary job was to serve the ministers (or equivalent local government decision makers) – rather than to serve the public through the provision of quality advice to ministers (and other decision-makers). I think this line of site and connection to citizens as end users of policy in practice (as operationalised) is something that a design approach helps to emphasise and make real.

As a result of working with different central and local government policy advisory teams last year to explore how policy and design might be better connected, Noel Brown and I developed this little visual to help articulate both the connection between end users and policy advice, as well as the different ways in which design can help to connect policy and practice and make policy more accessible. Your feedback is welcome.

Policy and Design - How might we?


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