Policy x Design Blog

PPL Fellows at EPIC 2014

EPIC, the international applied anthropology conference, is taking place in New York City from September 7 to 10, 2014.  The event promotes the use of ethnographic investigations and principles in the study of human behavior as they are applied in business settings — so it’s a fascinating gathering of people working in technology, consumer products, and a range of service industries.

This year, we’re proud to say that two of our Public Policy Lab fellows, Jacqueline Wallace and Natalia Radywyl (shown hard at work above!), will be presenting papers. Natalia’s paper is titled Service Designing Cities: Ethnography for Urban Resilience, while Jacquie will present Community Centered Design: Evolving the Mission of the Creative Industry.

Both fellows are speaking in the afternoon session on September 8th, so conference attendees are encouraged to catch their presentations. Or follow Jacquie and Natalia and EPIC on Twitter, where the event hashtag is #EPIC2014.

Public Innovation Practices Forum

On Wednesday, May 21, 2014, please join us for a day-long forum on government innovation, (New) Public Goods, hosted by Parsons DESIS Lab at The New School. This event is free and open to the public; register here.

Participants represent a international range of public innovation practices and include PPL’s Bryan Boyer and Chelsea Mauldin, MindLab‘s Christian Bason, New Urban Mechanics‘ Nigel Jacob, InWithForward‘s Sarah Schulman, and Joeri van den Steenhoven from MaRS Solutions Lab.

This event will also include results from our Rockefeller-supported partnership with Parsons and NYC HPD, Public & Collaborative: Designing Services for Housing.

NEA Webinar on Design for Government

The National Endowment for the Arts‘ Spring 2014 series of online talks focuses on international design initiatives. The Public Policy Lab’s Chelsea Mauldin participated in the second session, moderated by Camilla Buchanan from the Design Council UK, on innovation in government practice and policy.

As Buchanan explained in her blog post on the genesis of the session, her goal was to:

share insights on how design is being used to create public services around the people who use them, to introduce new methods into the civil service skill set, and as a tool to aid the process of public policy development.

She and Beatrice Andrews from the U.K. Cabinet Office’s Open Policy Making team also presented recent initiatives from their respective organizations. Some wonderful insights from top public-sector innovators in Britain!

Call for Multimedia Journalist

The Public Policy Lab has a fellowship opportunity for a versatile multimedia journalist who can capture visual and audio content and create stories for multiple platforms. This role allows you to work closely with the public and the project team of designers, social scientists, and public servants. Gain the satisfaction of doing good and meaningful work by using your skills to help design public services!

  • Fellowship includes a $2,000 stipend
  • Approximately 2 days per week for a 4-week period, beginning in May 2014
  • Based in Dumbo, Brooklyn

The deadline to apply is April 8, 2014. For application instructions, download the complete fellowship description or see more details below. (more…)

Impact! Social Good Webinar

Impact! Webinar

Design Ignites Change and the School of Visual Arts’ Impact! program kindly invited the Public Policy Lab to their ongoing webinar series on design for social good.

Watch video of PPL executive director Chelsea Mauldin in conversation with Mark Randall, chair of Impact! and principal of Worldstudio, about using design methods to improve government services and empower the public.

This webinar also marked the announcement of the first annual Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award, dedicated to the memory of Public Policy Lab co-founder Sylvia Harris. The $10,000 prize will support a designer’s work to address a pressing social need within the designer’s community. Learn more here.

Evaluating Design Impact

Public Policy Lab fellows Liana Dragoman and Kaja Kühl are evaluating how our work helps New Yorkers applying for affordable housing.

As part of Public  & Collaborative: Designing Services for Housing—our collaboration with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Parsons DESIS Lab—our team developed four pilot proposals to enhance the application process for affordable housing. HPD accepted all four proposals and implementation of the pilots is underway.

Our fellows are supporting the pilot roll-out and also collaborating with the agency to evaluate the implementation process and eventual pilot outcomes. You can now download their Preliminary Evaluation Plan [pdf]. This plan will be followed by two more evaluation reports. The second report will assess pilot implementation, while the third will focus on project impacts. Watch for those later in 2014!

You can read all about the proposals in our how-to guide, but in brief, we recommended that HPD and its sister agency, the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), test the following approaches:

  1. Create new, human-centered informational materials
    Implement, distribute, and sustain a series of new or redesigned informational materials to be used throughout the application process — from marketing to interview and lease-up.
  2. Encourage hyper-local marketing by developers
    Supplement existing outreach by asking developers to share redesigned advertisements in public venues frequented by neighborhood residents.
  3. Support community-based housing ambassadors
    Recognize the work of community-based groups and individuals who assist residents in applying for affordable housing by providing them with reliable information and resources.
  4. Form a street team for in-person HPD outreach
    To address the lack of visibility and awareness of HPD and its affordable housing programs, employ a street team in strategic locations and at specific events in order to highlight HPD’s work, publicize resources, and broaden the pool of applicants.

Combined, the goal of these pilots is to create a new knowledge-sharing infrastructure that enables a dynamic and reciprocal exchange of information between New York City residents, community-based partners, housing developers, and HPD leadership and front-line staff. The intended design objectives of the knowledge-sharing infrastructure are to:

  • Encourage information accessibility and exchange.
  • Account for applicants’ lived reality.
  • Enable more informed decision-making.

Through formative evaluation, it is hoped that HPD and the project team can determine the extent to which each pilot plan embodied the design objectives. In addition, evaluation will help HPD understand what aspects of the implementation process might need to be altered if the pilots are to be scaled citywide. To learn more about our evaluation activities, download the Preliminary Evaluation Plan [pdf].

Our Year in Review

Welcome to the Public Policy Lab’s annual report for 2013—we had an excellent year.

Starting in the spring, our affordable-housing fellows co-designed and tested five new user-friendly communications to help clarify the application process for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who apply annually for subsidized housing. In the fall, we and our partners released our “comprehensive yet delightful” how-to guide, Designing Services for Housing, to share our process. Now the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development is pilot-testing community-based engagement strategies designed by our team—check out our first pilot evaluation report, just released.

Over the summer, we partnered with the NYC Department of Education to understand how 75,000 New York families navigate the high-school choice process each year. Our admissions fellows spoke with policymakers, school staff, parents, and 8th and 9th graders. We identified four needs that everyone in the process shares—read about them in our discovery storybook. Soon, we’ll release a short film about how our work set the stage for an app-development challenge sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Innovation. (more…)

The School Choice Experience

Four Needs All Key Players Share

Each year more than 75,000 students navigate the admissions process to apply for seats at New York City’s 700+ public high school programs.

The Public Policy Lab formed a partnership with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and the Office of Student Enrollment to explore opportunities for improving the admissions experience. (more…)

2013 Fellow Natalia Radywyl

Natalia Radywyl received a PPL fellowship in 2013 for the Chancellor’s Challenge, a project with the NYC Department of Education.

Natalia is a design and user experience researcher with over 10 years of experience working at the intersection of ethnography, service design, and environments. Put another way, she’s a compulsive people-watcher and pattern detector, interminably curious about the world, and always scouting for ways to improve the way we live in our neighborhoods and cities.

Having departed her native Australia to be based in one of the world’s greatest urban laboratories, New York City, she works as a Research Fellow at Project for Public Spaces, a community-centered urban design organization. Working on projects from Detroit to New York City, she designs custom user research methods, facilitates public engagement workshops, runs user experience studies of public space, co-creates community-driven project evaluation programs, and guides internal research strategy.

Natalia is a Research Associate at the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, The University of Melbourne, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. In her academic work she identifies systemic ways to cultivate more positive, resilient ways of living. These projects have ranged from her PhD about museum visitor experience and co-editing a book about science and post-growth innovation, to identifying digital public space strategies for community mobilization following Hurricane Sandy. She has also coordinated university courses about new media, policy, and urban culture in the School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne. Natalia  straddles a range of design and communications practices to explore these passions, from curating and publishing to prototyping new street level experiences.

Natalia has also worked closely with a range of Australian government agencies as a social research consultant, improving service design in areas such as immigration experience, implementing electronic anti-gambling products, developing a communications strategy for nationwide literacy and numeracy programs, and improving cycling safety. She works regularly with non-profits dedicated to social innovation.

Natalia holds a PhD from the Schools of Culture and Communications and Historical Studies, The University of Melbourne, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Media and Communications, a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Media), and a Diploma of Modern Languages (German), all from the University of Melbourne.

Designing Services for Housing

We’re very happy to announce the release of Public & Collaborative: Designing Services for Housing, a publication created in partnership with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development and Parsons DESIS Lab.

The complete 80-page document is available for free download as a PDF.

Designing Services for Housing is the culmination of 18 months of discovery and co-design with agency staff, service providers, and New York City residents. The report illustrates how our project team applied user research and service design methods to the provision of housing services.

Crucially, it’s also a how-to implementation guide. The report outlines four pilot proposals for immediate testing and evaluation by the agency.

Specific sections of the four-part publication include: (more…)