Design Thinking in Public Policy

Authored by: Michael Mintrom , Joannah Luetjens

Routledge Handbook of Policy Design

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815369189
eBook ISBN: 9781351252928
Adobe ISBN:


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Design thinking has the potential to greatly improve the ways that policymakers go about the work of problem definition and mechanism design. For decades, policy analysts have been encouraged to understand the day-to-day experiences of the clients of government services and those delivering such services. By doing so, they can begin to devise policies that will contribute to improved outcomes. This chapter clarifies the essence of design thinking and its applicability to policy development. Five design thinking strategies are discussed, all of which have lengthy histories as social science methodologies. They are: (1) environmental scanning; (2) participant observation; (3) open-to-learning conversations; (4) mapping; and (5) sensemaking. Recent examples from Australia and New Zealand are used to illustrate how these strategies have been incorporated into policymaking efforts. The chapter concludes by discussing how design thinking might be more broadly applied in policymaking in the international arena. Consideration is given to the rise of policy innovation and design laboratories and their potential to support the integration of design thinking into mainstream policy analytic work.

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