You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.
— R. Buckminster Fuller
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Systems Thinking: Creating a Civic Space for Conversation

Through public-private partnership, bringing together people, process & policy to reimagine and redesign local government

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Human Centered Design: Improving Civic Engagement

CDL applies human centered design method to public sector problems, starting with the question: “Who are we designing this policy or service with and for?”

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Leading with Racial Equity Lens

CDL puts people first. By bringing the racial equity lens to the start of every challenge we tackle, we can better understand our stakeholders, including who is being served, and by extension, who is not, so that we can design inclusively and equitably.

What Does This Look Like In Practice?

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Phase 1: Discovery

First, we listen. We go to people who have spent a lot of time thinking about the problems we are trying to tackle — it is not uncommon to find someone who has worked on social issues for decades, and generations. We also sit down with key decision-makers who may have the influence over the prototypes that emerge from our bottom-up design process. If we co-create from day one, we have higher probability of our suggestions being adopted and institutionalized.

Phase 2: Discussion

Next, we bring together all of the local and regional stakeholders that interface with problems we have identified and have a candid discussion. This stage is a cyclical because these conversations may happen one-on-one, in large groups, and over multiple meetings. Sometimes we need to act as translators and synthesize notes from these conversations but we set the expectation that our interactions with stakeholders are never a one-off.

Phase 3: Data

Data itself is meaningless unless we can ask the right questions to analyze it. It is also important to stay open minded about what we find, as data may validate our original assumptions, or it may completely challenge them. Often, as scientific researchers, we fall into the trap of confirmation bias because we, too, are human. But if we do our due diligence and ensure we are asking good questions to start with, the data will write the rest of the story for us.

Phase 4: Design

Building prototypes of a new way in which we might deliver a service is a very useful way to illustrate the difference our work makes. As designers, we are obsessed with frameworks and process maps more so than we are with any one set of tactical toolkit precisely because the challenges we face are always complex. At this stage, what’s most important is less about the fidelity of the prototype we build for various services and products, but it is about who gets brought into the room to see it. For our work to have traction, we need the key decision-makers taking full ownership of what we co-create with our stakeholders and run with it. Closing the loop through ownership transfer and effectively designing ourselves out of projects is what makes our work truly stick.