T07P01 - The Design of Policy and Governance Design: Principles, Practices and Potentials

Topic : Policy Design, Policy Analysis, Expertise and Evaluation

Panel Chair : Arwin van Buuren - vanbuuren@fsw.eur.nl

Panel Second Chair : Martijn van der Steen - steen@nsob.nl

Panel Third Chair : Giliberto Capano - Giliberto.capano@sns.it

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Call for papers

Session 1 The Design of Policy and Governance Design: setting the scene


Giliberto Capano - Giliberto.capano@sns.it - Scuola normale superiore - Italy

Emma Blomkamp - blomkamp.e@unimelb.edu.au - University of Melbourne - Australia

Applying design methodology in Public Administration. A state of the art.

Margot Hermus - hermus@fsw.eur.nl - Netherlands

Arwin van Buuren - vanbuuren@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

William Voorberg - voorberg@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

Victor Bekkers - bekkers@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Dpt. of Public administration and sociology - Netherlands

We can witness a steep rise of applying design-oriented methodology in the academic field of Public Administration. New forms of action research, design experiments and applications of design thinking are applied to PA research, based upon the idea that prototyping and defining design principles can increase both the societal relevance and the empirical understanding of the field of Public Administration. This increased interest corresponds with a growing focus within public policy on experimentation, evidence-based policy-making and new forms of collaboration between policy-makers, citizens and experts in all kinds of labs.


This gives rise to the question what the actual state of the art is when it comes to adopting design-thinking and applying design methodology in Public Administration. What are the main characteristics of design-thinking in the field of PA? Which design methods are used and to what extent? Are some design methods over- or underrepresented? For which type of research questions do PA scholars use design methodology? For which kind of research themes and policy fields is design-oriented research used? Which lacks or gaps (for example when it comes to available methods) are mentioned? And what are the main potentials and pitfalls that are reported? What can we say about the assumption that applying design-thinking contributes to the quality and effectiveness of public policy and management?


In this paper we answer these questions and provide a state of the art of design-oriented research in the field of Public Administration. Our research consists of a systematic literature review of all PA journal articles listed in Web of Science between 2000 and 2016. By confronting the results of the literature review with more generic principles of design-thinking we are able to sketch a first outline of a research agenda about how to proceed with developing a design-oriented Public Administration.

Policy Design:

B. Guy Peters - bgpeters@pitt.edu - University of Pittsburgh - United States

Nenad Rava - nenad.rava@gmail.com - Strategic Innovation Lab - Canada

Although we could argue that policy process always involves elements of design, the academic literature about policy design emerged during the 1970s and 1980s as a rather technocratic approach to policy formulation. The assumption in this early literature on policy design appeared to be that if designers did their work properly then they could develop a logical, optimized "protocol" that would neatly connect problems and instruments and provide effective policy solutions. As well as being apolitical at times, these approaches also underestimated the difficulties in understanding the internal dynamics of policy areas. Moreover, the concept of design was limited to conventional engineering methods and creative problem solving, and did not incorporate elements of social system design and complexity.


That rather technocratic thinking about policy design now appears naive, or at least excessively optimistic, because it underestimates the difficulties in dealing with public policies in a complex and often poorly understood world. The re-emergence of interest in wicked problems and with that greater understanding of complexity and uncertainty in social systems appears to demand a different understanding of policy design. More recent emphasis on design of policy instruments and the promotion of design labs, while effective for certain purposes, does not seem to suffice for dealing with upstream policy challenges. Policy design for complexity also needs to incorporate elements of strategic foresight for shaping alternative, long-tail scenarios, and stakeholder dialogue for enabling emergent, distributed policy innovation. These are particularly important in the initial phases of agenda setting and for improving both effectiveness and legitimacy of policy. Finally, considering policy in terms of design for complexity seems to require going beyond the attempts to relate standardized design process with the policy process, or to limit the use of design to policy formulation and designing policy instruments. Interactive governance platforms based on continuous iteration, probing and stakeholder design represent new horizon for policy design in turbulent, disruptive and uncertain social contexts.


This paper will approach policy design from the perspectives of learning, innovation and experimentation, as well as the need to consider broader systemic design issues for more integrated and effective policy design outcomes. It will be primarily conceptual so as to develop firm foundation for new research agenda, but it will link the conceptual material to real-world policy challenges across a range of political systems. It will also provide an overview of design competences and methods, beyond conventional product and experience (i.e. "strange-making") design frameworks.

Design Approaches in the Public Sector: Problematizations, Actors and Transformations in the French Administration

jean-marc weller - jean-marc.weller@enpc.fr - LISIS - France

Frédérique Pallez - frederique.pallez@mines-paristech.fr - Mines Paris-Tech - France

Emmanuel Coblence - emmanuel.coblence@isg.fr - Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris - France

Over the past decade, French public services have introduced innovative approaches of a new kind, formally breaking with the bureaucratic engineering of the administration. These initiatives seem to be heterogeneous and diverse, but they adopt approaches sharing a similar family resemblance, inspired in a large extent by the principles of design — or “user-oriented design” — in the making of public policy. In schools, hospitals, social services or public authorities, local experimentations and research-action programs have been developed: “residencies” in which multidisciplinary teams of professionals and stakeholders are in total immersion within a public facility, “prototyping” to test new innovation methods on a specific topic, ground-level actions, do-it-yourself projects, etc.


As part of a research project entirely focused to these new Forms of Public Innovation by design (FPI), the authors of this paper suggest to outline the main features of this unprecedented landscape in the French public sector. For this purpose, a database listing more than 200 case of experiments has been constructed, providing a description of the phenomenon of emergence of these innovations carried out over the last ten years. Specifically, our study investigates two types of questions.


The first one is about temporal dynamics of such a movement and their potential meanings. Is it a sectorial trend, based on a few areas of government, particularly receptive to design methods? Or is it a global and wide trend, impacting public policies in general? The concepts of design applied to public services seem to meet undeniable success in France. But is this rise of design approaches a fundamental tendency, revealing lasting changes in the forms of innovation in administrations, or is it just a cyclical manifestation of what evil spirits would call a "fashion effect", as plenty of management tools and managerial approaches through their life cycles, their onset, development, and inresistable decline (Abrahamson and Fairchild, 1999)? The data from the survey show, in this respect, a crucial paradox: an already possible decrease of local experiments, but in the same time an increasingly strong attractiveness of the theme.


The second type of question is all about the possible meaning of such a phenomena. Design methods and their applicability to public sector can inspire different strategies (Mintrom & Luetjiens, 2016) and reveal what Actor Network Theory would consider a complex and various “work of problematization” from their promoters (Callon, 1986). Actually, the FPI population from the database describe four ways of building innovation: citizen participation; data visualization; improved accessibility for public services users; and the reengineering of decision-making process. However, these different issues seem to change over time. While the first two themes dominated the early stages, the two last ones seem to prevail today. Is this a displacement of the objects of intervention of designers, moving from a service design to that of a process design? How to interprete such an evolution?

Session 2 Practices of Policy and Governance Design


William Voorberg - voorberg@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

Chris Koski - ckoski@reed.edu - Reed College - United States

Designing social innovation processes for blue-green infrastructures

Arwin van Buuren - vanbuuren@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

Astrid Molenveld - molenveld@fsw.eur.nl - Netherlands

William Voorberg - voorberg@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands


Due to the increasing consequences of climate change - like extreme rainfall and heat - cities have to think about adaptation measures. In addition to collective measures taken by public authorities, cities also look for possibilities to mobilize citizens to contribute to climate-robustness. Citizens can take individual measures (like greening their roofs or their gardens) but they can also work together in order to green lanes, squares and parking places. These so-called blue green infrastructures can contribute significantly to the prevention of water nuisance. In 2016, ten European Cities started a collaborative project to explore the possibilities to design, realize and maintain blue-green infrastructures, by means of social innovation processes: co-creation between citizens, local government, private actors and experts. To start that process, cities need to know which requirements should be met to achieve a process of social innovation, in order to realize a broadly supported, feasible and sustainable solution. In addition, they need to know whether this fits the specific local context, the ambitions and competences of the local government, the needs of citizens, etcetera?

A way to move forward in terms of knowledge and making an ‘estimated guess’ about what could work under certain local contextual conditions, we will approach this research from the design science angle. Design science (Bryson, Quick, Slotterback, & Crosby, 2013; van Aken, 2005) is gaining ground in Public Administration research. It can be described as an effort to structure ‘configurational evidence‘ about what works in social innovation processes, in different design principles (Bovaird, 2007; Bryson et al., 2013). For example, can we figure out what works if you want to resolve a conflict in such processes, if you start a new initiative, or want to unlock local knowledge, and what conditions should be met? Design science can be described as an approach and a method. The approach conceptualizes social innovation processes as configurations of actors, interactions and contexts (Bryson et al., 2013). Through involving practitioners and local stakeholders in an iterative processes, testing various ideas and prototypes before designing principles, the method can be called distinct as well (van Aken, 2007).


In this paper we present the conceptual framework of (a) process design(s) with the constituting steps and the underlying design principles for the specific challenge of realizing urban blue-green infrastructures via a social innovation processes. We present the first results of an ex-ante evaluation of the framework we conducted with representatives of the participating cities. We conclude our paper with a critical reflection upon the framework and the principles we developed and reflect upon the added value of doing design-oriented research in the field of social innovation. 


Bovaird, T. (2007). Beyond Engagement and Participation: User and Community Coproduction of Public Services. Public Administration Review, 67(5), 846–860. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2007.00773.x

Bryson, J. M., Quick, K. S., Slotterback, C. S., & Crosby, B. C. (2013). Designing Public Participation Processes. Public Administration Review, 73(1), 23–34. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2012.02678.x

Van Aken, J. E. (2005). Management Research as a Design Science: Articulating the Research Products of Mode 2 Knowledge Production in Management. British Journal of Management, 16(1), 19–36. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8551.2005.00437.x

Van Aken, J. E. (2007). Design Science and Organization Development Interventions: Aligning Business and Humanistic Values. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43(1), 67–88. http://doi.org/10.1177/0021886306297761


Inter-Organizational Relations and the Implementation Process: An Analysis from the RSBY

Chang Yee Kwan - cykwan@e.ntu.edu.sg - Singapore

Dayashankar Maurya - mauryadaya@gmail.com - T A Pai Management Institute - India

We espouse the importance of inter-organizational relationships for effective and successful policy implementation. As they serve to influence and regulate the actions of individual parties in the implementation process, in this paper, we term such interparty relationships and the corresponding interactive dynamics as the governance mechanism. A congruent governance mechanism is present when interactions encourage conformity of action between parties for implementation and outcomes which line up with a policy’s objectives, and vice versa. We show the importance of inter-organizational relationships with the use of a comparative case study of India’s National Health Insurance Scheme, or RSBY, in the three states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.  To do so, this paper first dichotomizes the governance design into the implementation structure and the compliance mechanism. Following which, we use a combination of primary data from interviews and from various secondary sources to examine how the inter-organizational relations between them affect implementation performance. This enables us to analyze how the interactions and relational dynamics impact on the implementation outcomes of the RSBY in each state. Following on, we provide an unambiguous illustration of how different relationships and interactions between parties in the governance design result in varying extents of successful implementation. Our findings indicate, and we argue, that the underlying functionaries of the various parties privy to the implementation process play an important role in determining the type of interactive dynamics that emerge. More crucially, we find and argue that interactions can differ considerably between administrations even if there is a seemingly-identical governance design present. The broader significance of the paper is that, besides ensuring appropriate implementation structures and compliance mechanisms in the governance design, there is a clear need for policymakers and administrators across the public-private spectrum to understand what relationships may form between parties and their plausible impact on successful implementation.

Design parameters for invitational urban governance. Redesigning the Right to Challenge in Rotterdam.

Arwin van Buuren - vanbuuren@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

Jitske van Popering-Verkerk - verkerk@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University of Rotterdam - Netherlands

In order to give citizens opportunities to challenge and take over public service delivery, many Dutch cities experiment with invitational governance arrangements. Especially the English arrangement ‘Right to Challenge’, is used as prototype to design these experiments. One of these cities is Rotterdam. For two years the city experiments with Right to Challenge and in 2016 it was evaluated to improve the arrangement and to make it – if possible – more invitational.

In this paper we present how we dealt with this design challenge. To come to a revised design for the Right to Challenge Rotterdam, various steps were taken. A first step was to formulate a set of general design parameters for Right to Challenge and to define four prototypes. These parameters and prototypes were derived from a literature search and an empirical exploration of current practices. These parameters are about the scope, the way in which citizens are supported, the extent to which resources are provided to citizens and the procedural requirements that are set.

Secondly, we analyzed, based upon these design parameters, the Right to Challenge Rotterdam, as well as the arrangement in three other Dutch cities. We analyzed both the formal design and the ‘design in use’, and reflected upon the way in which these designs were deemed helpful by the directly involved people in realizing a more invitational urban governance.

As final step, we developed a revised design, based upon the evaluation of the Rotterdam Right to Challenge and the comparative analysis of other practices. These adjustments were verified and pre-tested with help of a focus group with public officials.

In this paper we not only present and reflect upon this design process and its results. We also draw a couple of lessons when it comes to the question how to carry out this type of design challenges in a systematic and reproducible way. We explicitly reflect upon the added value of using prototypes and design parameters, and a comparative analysis of different designs in practice. We conclude our paper with a couple of lessons about how to enhance reflexivity during a design process, and especially how a critical reflection upon both the formally approved design and the actual design in use can be used to fuel a reflexive dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of current practices and possible improvements.


Session 3 Policy and Governance Design: potentials and outlook


B. Guy Peters - bgpeters@pitt.edu - University of Pittsburgh - United States

Arwin van Buuren - vanbuuren@fsw.eur.nl - Erasmus University Rotterdam - Netherlands

Policy Punctuation through Policy Design: Examining the Feedback Effects of Policy Design Changes

Chris Koski - ckoski@reed.edu - Reed College - United States

Saba Siddiki - ssiddiki@iupui.edu - Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis - United States

The literatures on policy process and policy design are robust, have yet distinct from one another.  Process theories describe macro-political determinants of policy change in systemic terms.  In many cases, however, we know relatively little about which particular aspect of a policy’s design underwent change, typical patterns in how changes to policy design occur, and the broader implications of certain types of changes to policy design for the policy process. This paper offers a systematic investigation of changes in policy design within the context of an established and promising policy process theory: the Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET). Using existing PET and policy design scholarship as a platform, we examine patterns in changes to elements (e.g., goals, instruments, incentives) of policy design over a policy life cycle.  We then assess how alterations to policy design associate with positive and negative feedback that result in policy stasis or punctuations. We analyze state level policies for the empirical analysis. Our preliminary findings suggest that changes to policy goals in the years immediately following policies’ enactment are associated with positive feedback whereas modifications to policy instruments and incentives in the longer term are associated with negative feedback. Our paper concludes with a discussion of the theoretical and practical contributions of this research.  

Beyond touchpoints: The role of design in policy making

Erin Entrekin - erin.entrekin@thinkplace.com.sg - ThinkPlace - Singapore

Design thinking approaches are increasingly being used by public organisations to improve the experience of citizens and businesses accessing their services. However, much of the application of design thinking has been focused at the ‘last mile’ of service delivery, where citizens and customers interact with touchpoints like customer service centres, call centres, letters and digital tools.


While this focus is important, it is often in response to pain points or challenges driven by the underlying policies. This paper will propose that design thinking has a role to play not only in the design and delivery of effective services to citizens and businesses, but also in the development of the underlying policy to ensure that it meets users’ needs. This includes the role of design in understanding the appropriateness of policy transfer and in understanding likely challenges with policy positions from a communication or administration perspective early in the policymaking cycle, rather than as issues to be managed in implementation.


By more closely connecting the development of policy with the development of services, policymakers and administrators can design the whole system with a deep understanding of the needs of their users, and create interventions that deliver meaningful outcomes to citizens.

Co-Design for Government: magic bullet or magical thinking?

Emma Blomkamp - blomkamp.e@unimelb.edu.au - University of Melbourne - Australia

Co-design is variously described by its practitioners and proponents as a method, mindset, process and set of tools. As a novel means for creatively engaging citizens and stakeholders to find solutions to complex problems, co-design holds great promise for policy-makers. It has been vaunted as a way to generate more innovative ideas, ensure policies and services match the needs of their users, achieve economic efficiencies by improving responsiveness, foster cooperation and trust between different groups, meaningfully engage the ‘hard to reach’, achieve buy-in and support for change, and build social capital. This paper considers how we might determine whether advocates of co-design are ‘magical thinkers’ or if co-design indeed has potential to dramatically improve policy processes and outcomes.


Reviewing scholarship on participatory design as well as reflecting on the author’s professional experience in a social innovation agency and other practitioners’ accounts of policy innovation in practice, the paper will explore the definitions, principles and supposed benefits of co-design in the context of public policy and governance. For some, it is analogous to design thinking, human-centred design and co-production. At times, the term co-design signifies little more than a slightly creative or unconventional form of consultation or collaboration. Specialist practitioners, however, prefer to distinguish it as a participatory design-based methodology for innovation. The paper will attempt to provide a useful working definition of co-design for government as well as practical examples of its use in policy-making.


This analysis will highlight contradictions and tensions in the discursive and practical applications of co-design within governmental contexts, as well as its philosophical underpinnings and normative implications. The paper will consider the risks and limitations of co-design, and question the feasibility of achieving its transformative outcomes in the contemporary context of policy-making. Finally, pointing to the paucity of academic research on this emerging discourse and practice, it will sketch potential directions for future research on co-design for public policy and governance.

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