What is it about?

There is a lot of talk about the promise of design, design thinking or design methods for public administration. But how have scholars thusfar been applying design in their work? This article presents a systematic literature review looking at applications of design in journal articles published in public administration journals between 1989 and 2016. We distinguish six different approaches to design, representing different goals, methods and outcomes.

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Why is it important?

Thus far the discussion on design has been mostly normative, stating that the way of thinking design represents is what public administration practice & research needs. But there are many unanswered questions as to how apply design, design thinking and methods in a political-administrative (research) context. Our article sheds light on current approaches and how to improve upon them to fulfill the promise of design.


This article showed me how big the variety in research methods, topics and goals is within public administration and it showed me that they all relate to public administration practice in different ways. Rather than advocating for one approach or the other, it is valuable to work on a broad, well-supported portfolio of methods that scholars can use to better connect their research to the context they are studying.

Margot Hermus
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Applying design in public administration: a literature review to explore the state of the art, Policy & Politics, January 2020, Policy Press,
DOI: 10.1332/030557319x15579230420126.
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