In 2017, I wrote a guest post in Philly discussing the value service designers could provide in government. After a couple of years of capacity-building efforts and project work, we have exciting news: the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is creating a service design studio.


About the CAO

The CAO drives enterprise-wide innovation by strengthening the City’s administrative functions and by collaborating with City agencies to improve their public-facing service delivery. The Office was started under the Kenney Administration to support its work in making government more efficient and effective. Reporting departments include the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT), the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT), Human Resources and Talent (HR&T), the Department of Records, and Procurement—to name a few.

Over the past several years, the CAO has been the oversight office for the redesign of, led by ODDT. This ongoing work has enhanced the public’s access to straightforward information about City services and programs. In addition, the CAO is leading project work that will streamline the steps residents’ take to apply for home improvement programs, improve the City’s civic engagement methods, and simplify vendors’ contracting and payment experiences. 

The Interim Chief Administrative Officer, Stephanie Tipton, is a self-described process nerd who is committed to using intentional and person-centered methods to improve resident and staff interactions with government. As a result, the CAO is launching a Service Design Studio at the end of the 2019 calendar year, and we’re hiring service designers and design researchers to help lead this work (see links below).


The new service design team

The Service Design Studio is strategically positioned within the CAO to support its enterprise-wide work in enhancing the City’s public-facing services.

As a team of design research practitioners and service design activists, the Service Design Studio takes “government of the people, for the people, and by the people” literally. We use participatory design processes to collaborate with policy-makers, City employees, and residents to make government service delivery more accessible, just, and human. And we do that by centering disenfranchised voices—or those typically not invited to the decision-making table—in our work.


Service designers’ role in government

Our City colleagues are domain experts in tax code, planning and development, financial empowerment, procurement, and emergency management, among other important subject areas. We’re domain experts in service design and redesign.

Often, these same colleagues don’t have the time or capacity to fully address on-the-ground service challenges. What if program directors and front-line staff could partner with service design experts—embedded inside government—to help them make progress on resolving their top priority service challenges? What if policy-makers could collaborate with service designers to prototype and test policies before they define on-the-ground service experiences? This is the Service Design Studio’s role at the City of Philadelphia. 

As a team, we support and expand the work of our City colleagues.

  • Agencies: We advance City agencies’ strategic goals and service improvement efforts.
  • Policy-makers: We help policy-makers prototype and test policy ideas before on-the-ground implementation.
  • Program directors: We evaluate the effectiveness of service delivery through our holistic, person-first service design lens.
  • City employees: We teach colleagues strategic design methods for use in their work.


Working in the CAO office

Over the past several years, the CAO has led the charge in modernizing what it looks and feels like to work in City government. As part of this effort, the Office has invested resources in designing a hybrid open/closed office environment that supports creative work, collaboration, and thoughtful risk-taking. 

The physical office is located in the Municipal Services Building where team members can use adjustable standing desks and break out rooms for focused work, meetings, concentrated visual synthesis, and brainstorming sessions. Team members are equipped with devices and software that reflect design industry standards. (And the office walls are colorful!)

Additional benefits of working in the CAO and at the City of Philadelphia:

  • Purposeful project work with social impact
  • Commitment to an equitable and inclusive work environment
  • Full pension and medical benefits
  • Paid vacation, holiday, and sick days
  • Work from home policy
  • Flex time and alternative work schedule policies
  • Professional mentorship opportunities


Apply to be a founding team member

Please consider applying to be a founding member of the CAO’s Service Design Studio. 

Open positions include:

Applications close Monday, October 7, 2019 by 5:00 PM ET.

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Questions? Contact