Research Areas

The Public Policy Lab engages in research at the intersection of policy and user-centered design. When we identify an area for investigation, we develop a three-part research program: We evaluate best practices and current programs in the policy arena; we investigate the needs, preferences, and current experience of the intended users of the policy initiative; and we propose real-world mechanisms for delivering policy aims in a user-centered fashion. Some of our current areas of focus include the following:

Communications and Service Delivery by Public Agencies

We investigate public-sector efforts to improve the delivery of information and services to members of the public. Initiatives by federal, state, and local government agencies in the United States are our primary focus, although we also look at international and non-governmental programs when their methods seem transferable. We’re looking for two kinds of improvement: efforts that save money or reduce other resource requirements for the delivering agency, and improvements that provide members of the public with a more helpful and enjoyable citizen experience.

Service Design in the Public Sector

Service design is the practice of planning and organizing staff, communications, support systems, and physical spaces to improve a service — both as experienced by the person using the service and as measured by the organization delivering the service. One of the Public Policy Lab’s prime goals is to collect and assess the impact of service-design initiatives within the public sector. We document instances of private-sector design practices being put to good use in public-sector environments, and we look for mechanisms to translate commercial practices into forms that can be implemented in government.

Metrics for Citizen Experience

The Public Policy Lab  gathers examples of the measurable impact of improvements in public service delivery. Our aim is to provide support for forward-thinking public agencies to undertake similar initiatives and to provide a resourse for designers and policy makers looking for measurement methodologies.