Design, policy making and participatory

We are living the contemporary Great Transition, i.e. the social, economic and technological transformation which characterizes our individual and collective agency and the connected processes and challenges: what we usually interpret as “democracy” or “participation.” In this scenario, design action operates at different levels and scales, from micro to macro trying to tackle this change: from welfare to public services and new models of production and distribution; from ICT enabling platforms to innovation policies.

Such complexity generates new patterns of governance and policy making which could strengthen the building of enabling environments for bottom-up innovation processes and the scaling-up of such experiences.

Talking about the relationship between design and policy making processes thus means claiming that the processes of transformation of reality are indeed anchored to a world of ideas and values of politics, but that the conversion of these abstract principles takes place through proactive processes that could be designed.

We could design the conditions, the steps, and actions through which the transformation itself takes place: that is, the policies and their concrete implementation, through a definition of the agenda of change that is open, collaborative, informed and experimental (through an evidence-based approach).

In fact, participation can not be considered solely in its emerging and grassroots dimension, but it must enter into the policy making process and its execution and evaluation through a design for policy approach.

Democracy itself does not become just an act of consultative participation and not just a form of progressive civicism, but it could be framed concretely beyond the usual regulatory processes to imagine a renewed relationship between citizen and political practices.

As Design Policy Lab, we want to sustain this shift using a design approach for developing, implementing and evaluating policy. We want to start new practices which could produce experiments on change. And we want to learn from them, to fully understand the link between policy and results and assess the real outcomes and impacts finally.  We’ll follow the evolution of the initial engagement phase through a series of activities (community building, clusterization, and interpretation of the data/events, advocacy, and dissemination of selected cases …).

Thus the DPL will help the development of the platform telling the story of its evolution; enlarging and empowering the DDP’s activities and interconnecting the network of the participants. We’ll also try to use our policy-making analysis approach to understand the possible role of design as a democracy enabler at different scales (ex. In policy making processes, in service innovation actions in public administration …).

Stefano Maffei

Design Policy Lab, Politecnico di Milano

Milano, Italy

Fields of Action
It increases the opportunities for citizens to participate in deliberative processes. It focuses on transparency (which enables citizens to be aware of the on-going process of governance) and deliberative methods (which is the opportunity to be better involved in decision making processes).
It addresses the structural elements that function as frames and regulators of human action in a democratic system. It focuses on institutions (such as: branches of government, agencies, bureaus, courts, and offices) and procedures (such as: laws, regulations, rules, and protocols).



Evidence-based policymaking