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Open Access When design meets power: design thinking, public sector innovation and the politics of policymaking

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC licence.

Responding to the need for innovation, governments have begun experimenting with ‘design thinking’ approaches to reframe policy issues and generate and test new policy solutions. This paper examines what is new about design thinking and compares this to rational and participatory approaches to policymaking, highlighting the difference between their logics, foundations and the basis on which they ‘speak truth to power’. It then examines the impact of design thinking on policymaking in practice, using the example of public sector innovation (PSI) labs. The paper concludes that design thinking, when it comes in contact with power and politics, faces significant challenges, but that there are opportunities for design thinking and policymaking to work better together.

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Keywords: design thinking; participatory policy; policy design; power; public sector innovation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: January 2020

This article was made available online on August 26, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "When design meets power: Design thinking, public sector innovation and the politics of policymaking".

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