The City of Philadelphia announces speaker series exploring strategic design

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia, in collaboration with the University of the Arts Design for Social Impact Program, announced a speaker series exploring the role different types of strategic design, like service design, human-centered design, and design thinking, can play in improving end-to-end government services. Strategic design philosophies and methods are used by organizations to create people-centered and insights-driven strategies that guide commonsense reforms to policy, infrastructure, back-end processes, and public-facing service experiences. The speaker series, entitled BY DESIGN: Transforming public sector services, includes seven lectures and panels throughout 2017 which are open to City of Philadelphia employees and the public.

“We’d like to grow the number of people, in and outside of City government, who are interested in using strategic design methods to improve policies and service delivery. This is a great opportunity to gain new skills and learn from each other,” explains Liana Dragoman, User Experience Strategist from the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation.

There’s a growing movement inside the City of Philadelphia where City agencies are using evidence-based methods to enhance policymaking, back-end processes, and public-facing service experiences. For example, the Chief Administrative Officer created the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation to collaborate with City agencies, the public, and other stakeholders to transform city services. GovLabPHL is a multi-agency team led by the Mayor’s Policy Office and stems from City Accelerator, which is an initiative of the Citi Foundation and Living Cities to promote innovation in local government. The groups employ behavioral economics, human-centered design, and other strategic design methods to improve interactions among the City, the public, businesses, and other stakeholders.

“A key component of GovLabPHL’s work is cross-sector collaboration and cross-agency knowledge-sharing. GovLabPHL sees this speaker series as a great opportunity to trigger robust conversation throughout the year around what strategic design is, why it’s valuable, and how design methods can play a critical role in enhancing policy and service delivery,” says Anjali Chainani, Director at the Mayor’s Policy Office and GovLabPHL.

This shift towards design-driven policies, programs, and services is not unique to Philadelphia. Government-supported design offices at the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Veterans Affairs, 18F, and the United States Digital Service (USDS) have been working to develop more people-centered public sector services. Nonprofits like the Public Policy Lab; universities, including University of the Arts and Parsons DESIS Lab; foundations; and private sector companies are collaborating with governments to improve service delivery through a strategic design lens as well. And the movement is global. Governments in Australia, U.K., Finland, Singapore, and Denmark—to name a few—have been co-designing services with community members, policymakers, and advocates for some time.

The speaker series is funded by the City of Philadelphia with a grant from Living Cities and support from the University of the Arts Design for Social Impact Program. The series is organized by the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation, GovLabPHL, and the University of the Arts Design for Social Impact Program, a graduate program that teaches social design processes to facilitate actionable models and scenarios that create sustainable change.

Event details, speaker bios, and tickets are available online. Please note that some panels are for City employees only.

An overview is listed below:

  • March 30, 2017 — Service delivery and policy-making for the people, by the people (Public lecture)
    • Chelsea Mauldin, Executive Director, Public Policy Lab


  • April 24, 2017 — Designing people-centered service transformation (Public lecture)
    • Sarah Brooks, Former Chief Design Officer, United States Department of Veterans Affairs


  • June 2017 — Creating accessible government digital services (Panel open to City employees only)
    • Panel Lead: Stephanie Waters, Digital Director, City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office
    • Orlando Almonte, Language Access Program Manager, City of Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs
    • Jennifer Kobrin, Director of myPLACE and Digital Initiatives, City of Philadelphia Office of Adult Education
    • Whitney Quesenbery, Co-Director of Center for Civic Design and Author of A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experience
    • Kel Smith, Principal of Anikto LLC and Author of Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind
    • David Dylan Thomas, Senior Experience Designer at Think Company, Head of Content Strategy Philly, and Host of Cognitive Bias podcast


  • July 2016 — Digital service standards: What are they and why are they valuable? (Panel open to City employees only)
    • Panel Lead: Tim Wisniewski, Chief Data Officer, City of Philadelphia, Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation
    • Angela Colter, Strategy Lead, 18F (U.S. Web Design Standards)
    • Product Manager, City of Philadelphia Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (City of Philadelphia Digital Standards)
    • Masha Gindler, Deputy Digital Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Digital Strategy (NYC Digital Playbook)
    • Brad Nunnally, Experience Design Supervisor, 18F (Federal Front Door)


  • September 28, 2017 — Driving organizational change through human-centered design (Public lecture)
    • Arianne Miller, Deputy Director, Lab at OPM (United States Office of Personnel Management)
    • Sean Baker, Creative Director, Lab at OPM


  • October 2017 — Design innovation and complex service environments (Panel open to City employees only)
    • Panel Lead: Andrew Buss, Deputy Chief Information Officer, City of Philadelphia Innovation Management Team
    • Sara Hall, User Experience Designer, Center for Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience at Jefferson
    • Michelle Histand, Innovation Director, Independence Blue Cross
    • Matt Van Der Tuyn, Manager of Design & Strategy, Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation


  • November 16, 2017 — Designing for financial empowerment (Public lecture)
    • Jessica Brooks, Assistant Director, Financial Empowerment Centers at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment
    • Lee-Sean Huang, Co-Founder and Creative Director, FOOSSA
    • Marshall Sitten, Vice President of Communications, Policy and Research, Citi Community Development
    • Eduardo Staszowski, Co-Founder and Director of Parsons DESIS Lab