Abstract

This paper explores the nature of complexity and how it is manifest in the practice of design research and public policy given their unique contexts. This comparison is made by examining the tools and approaches that are used in understanding problems and creating outcomes in each field. This paper is based on a recently conducted action research study at a state legislature in the United States and is supported by foundational literature on modern problem theory, decision making, methods, and process in the two fields. Complexity emerges from the many stakeholders that surround and define our issues, the enigmatic nature of our ill-structured problems, and the multiplicity of variables that confound progress towards one solution. An interdisciplinary opportunity is presented; the study suggests tools are a function of the complexity in any given context and provides examples of varying modes of managing complexity in design and policy environments. By juxtaposing the similarities and differences in how design practice and policy development construe and manage complexity, this paper frames the overlap between the two areas of practice and builds a mutual space for learning and collaboration.

Keywords:

Design Practice, Participatory Approaches, Politics, Policy, Human / User-Centered Design, Methods, Complexity, Decision Making, Design Thinking

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

The Construction of Complexity in Design and Public Policy Contexts

This paper explores the nature of complexity and how it is manifest in the practice of design research and public policy given their unique contexts. This comparison is made by examining the tools and approaches that are used in understanding problems and creating outcomes in each field. This paper is based on a recently conducted action research study at a state legislature in the United States and is supported by foundational literature on modern problem theory, decision making, methods, and process in the two fields. Complexity emerges from the many stakeholders that surround and define our issues, the enigmatic nature of our ill-structured problems, and the multiplicity of variables that confound progress towards one solution. An interdisciplinary opportunity is presented; the study suggests tools are a function of the complexity in any given context and provides examples of varying modes of managing complexity in design and policy environments. By juxtaposing the similarities and differences in how design practice and policy development construe and manage complexity, this paper frames the overlap between the two areas of practice and builds a mutual space for learning and collaboration.

 

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