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Hot design: Public value design

A trending place to apply design thinking involves working on problems of collective interest, and leveraging the design process to deliver public value. It is about creating truly stunning results that people talk about and want to copy.

Public value is about creating collective benefit from a designed solution. It is about pushing toward social impact, increasing equity and engagement and generating positive differences to the wider environment. Paradoxically, public value in itself does not exist as priori, rather it is created through interactions across a service system. This begs the question – can we be that audacious and ambitious to claim we design public value? The answer is yes! It means that to design with public value in mind we take on the responsibility to invite the collective citizenry into collaborative, co-design processes and activities. It forces the designer to mix in fuzzy, loosely bound problem spaces, and interact with the everyday citizen, the lobbyist, the government official, the private business owner, the large conglomerate, the philanthropist, the innovator, and then be faced with the wickedly delicious challenge to understand this definition of collective benefit.

It means we spend time answering such questions as:

  • How do we understand the complex set of interactions that make up this ‘collective citizenry’?
  • What are the many goals and needs of the collective citizenry?
  • What is the meaning of ‘public value’ to the collective?
  • What might be the ways we can break ground, make a genuine start, and get traction and deliver?
  • What is the shift in design management as it converges with the emerging concept of public value management?

When looking at the implications of this trending move in design, we are seeing convergence and emergence in projects that are tackling real world problems. This includes access to health services in developing contexts, the increased competitiveness of small business in Asian markets, and economic and sustainable land use in rural areas. It is the place to be, and designers who navigate through the world of public value design discover a richness and deep satisfaction inspiring them to go beyond the craft they know and generate new design crafts.

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Nina Terrey

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