Mapping design methods for public policy innovation in European Policy Labs
Federico Vaz (Loughborough University in London)
Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses the emergence of design approaches for policy innovation in Europe, mobilized through specialised government bodies known as Policy Labs. We mapped which design practices are being deployed at each stage of the policymaking cycle to innovate how public policies come into being.
Paper long abstract:
This paper discusses the emergence of design approaches for policy innovation in Europe, mobilized through specialised governmental bodies known as Policy Labs. The purpose of this article is to map how Policy Labs in Europe are incorporating design practices at distinct stages of the policymaking cycle. Policy Labs, defined as units that develop public policies in a design-oriented fashion, are tasked to innovate how these are conceived and implemented to gain in effectiveness and efficiency. However, these structures are relatively novel, and the way in which they operate significantly differs as public policymaking is a context-dependent activity. The relevance of this research is given by the scarce theoretical work on how and under which conditions design is adding value to public policy innovation. Firstly, we discuss public policy innovation in terms of a product vs. process innovation dichotomy. Secondly, we surveyed a sample of 21 Policy Labs in Europe operating at various levels of government for their understanding of public policy innovation. Thirdly, and based on the process model of public policymaking, we look into which specific design methods are currently being deployed to innovate how public policies come into being. The survey showed the importance of the process perspective in understanding public policy innovation. The mapping of methods utilised by Policy Labs offered a rich picture of the needs and challenges these face in innovating public policies. Contrasting the findings with the literature on design methods, we found a significant gap in the awareness of the methods' nature.
Democracies of controlled experimentation? The emerging landscape of social laboratories