Design for Policymaking Workshops

Linh Phan

Government officials, legislators, and policymakers are increasingly exploring novel approaches to ensure that laws and policies prioritize the needs of individuals while enhancing the delivery of public services.

An bird eye view shot of a table full of Workshops materials. On the table, a person is writing on a sticky note next to colourful papers with labels that says: Transportation, Travel, Essential Items, Hobbies, Rent/Housing, Medications and Medical Equipments. There are small cubes, as well as poms poms placed on each paper, to represent budget that goes into each categories.

This initiative to bring Design thinking into the Policymaking process is a quick and low-cost but effective intervention that will give government officials new perspectives and understandings, increase a policy’s impact, equity and accessibility, offer creative and holistic solutions and strengthen communities and organizations.

Example of Roleplay activity in the workshops. Two person wearing character tag facing each other. The first person wear a tag for a character name Charlie, who is an older adult with dementia, live alone and don't have access to the computer. The second person is wearing a tag for a character name Rosie, who is a volunteer for Sunshine Neighbourhood House. This activity aims to simulate future scenarios in order to find area of improvements for the service
Workshops Activities

Human-centred policy prioritizes the needs, perspectives, and experiences of individuals and communities, ensuring that policies are designed and implemented with their well-being and interests at the forefront, ultimately fostering inclusivity, equity, and effectiveness in governance. One way to develop a more human-centred policy is to engage with the public and have their input during the policy-making process. However, this is often not possible due to the discrete nature of policy development.

Policy vs Design Thinking Cycle

Considering this limitation, how may we promote a deeper understanding of communities and diverse perspectives within the internal steps, leading to better policy outcomes?

Designers are experts in seeking to understand. We spend a large part of our design practice developing methodologies and using them to observe, listen, learn from the users and find insights into problems and opportunities.

It needs to start from the beginning: education. The workshop series will be the first step to introducing and inspiring government officials with design principles and simple methodologies suitable for policy-making.

Let’s follow Amy’s journey to discover what the workshops entail!

not interested in looking at Service Blue Print? Skip ahead for photos of the workshops

In the Design for Policymaking Workshops, Amy and her colleagues will learn design principles and engage in various design exercises.

Amy with her name tag to attend the workshops

Workshop 1: Building Empathy

Attendees attempt the Empathy Mapping Activity

Workshop 2: In the Public’s Shoes

The second workshop introduces design prototyping methods that can be adopted in the policy space to quickly visualize and test future policy implementation plans, for example, a program or service. Methods such as Role Playing, Journey Mapping, Service Walk Through and Wireframing can assist with decision-making while prioritizing people’s experiences.

Easy to make paper props, showing that these activities could be repeated anytime
attendees using props to visualize a service walk-through
attendees discussing during Service Walk-though Activity
low-fidelity prototyping –Wire-framing Activity for government website
attendees doing Role-play Activity

These are useful prototyping activities in design practice that will help policymakers simulate various perspectives and scenarios, fostering deeper understanding and informed decision-making.

Workshop 3: Co-Design for Policymaking

This last workshop in this series promotes collaboration and public engagement in policymaking. There is nothing that could replace the public’s input. Policymakers will try out an example co-design activity and learn facilitation tips to prepare them for their next step of public engagement during policy implementation when that is allowed.

attendees visualizing a person’s budget with intriguing materials

The goal of the workshops is not to turn policymakers into designers.

After the workshops, they can access a resource hub full of information, examples and case studies on how governments and colleagues all around the world are bringing human-centred design principles into public policies.

You can access the resource page here!

You will also find and download a toolkit in the resource hub to conceptualize these design methodologies in the policy space, making it easier for policymakers to bring them into their work and encourage usage in the future.

CoDesign for Policymaking Bingo chart, an example in the toolkit

The topic of integrating Design Thinking into Policy has many exciting opportunities to explore. This is just a small intervention that I was able to design within my scope of practice as an undergraduate student. But amazing organizations around the world such as the Stanford Legal Design Lab in California, Design Policy Lab, Milan or OXD in Vancouver have been doing this work for years to help governments improve their policies, programs, and in-person or digital services. As a future service designer who wishes to create systemic changes with my design practice, I am pleased to be able to explore this space in my capstone project which inspires me to carry on this work in the future.

Don’t want to read? Watch the project summary video here ( or both 🙂

Please note that this is not a REAL project of BC Government. Amy is a fictional government worker. Although I would love to see this project being carried out in real life.

Linh Phan

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Hello it’s Linh 🙂 I am a service designer solving complex social issues, starting from a small interaction at a time. I want to design and improve public services and government programs to better support communities’ well-being.

Through the practice of Participatory Design and Co-Design, I work closely with stakeholders and people with lived experience to build connections, form empathy and co-create accessible and sustainable solutions that meet their needs. 

I love systems and frameworks and finding ways designers like myself can make systemic changes. When I’m not designing, I like to dance, paint and find every chance to laugh and celebrate life.

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