Designing with Government Partners + Hidden Design Phases with Chelsea Mauldin — DT101 E98

Chelsea Mauldin is the Executive Director of the Public Policy Lab and an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. 

Listen to learn about:

  • The work of the Public Policy Lab
  • How design and design thinking can help governments make better public policy
  • Human-centered design in public policy
  • The preparatory work that often goes underrecognized in the design cycle 

Our Guest

Chelsea Mauldin is a social scientist and designer with a focus on government innovation. She directs the Public Policy Lab, a nonprofit organization that designs better public policy with low-income and marginalized Americans. 

The Public Policy Lab partners with government agencies and NGOs to develop more satisfying and effective policies and service delivery through ethnographic research, human-centered design, rapid prototyping, and formative evaluation. Find out more on PPL's website, or on Twitter.

Chelsea is a frequent keynote speaker and panelist at global conferences, and she serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Previously, she consulted to municipal and federal agencies, directed a community-development organization, led government partnerships at a public-space advocacy nonprofit, and served as an editor for publishing, arts, and digital media organizations. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Economics.

Show Highlights 

[01:02] Chelsea’s journey from book editor to information architect to designer.

[01:44] Getting a graduate degree in design and social policy.

[02:03] Founding the Public Policy Lab in 2010.

[03:34] What happens when you start using design in the context of creating public policy and services.

[04:38] The disconnect between those who set policy and those who use the results of the policy.

[05:31] Chelsea talks about some of the ways design is currently being used by U.S. government agencies.

[07:07] The need for a more holistic, less digital approach.

[09:09] Public Policy Lab’s “Layer Cake” framework model.

[09:45] The four layers of government.

[12:46] How Public Policy Lab begins work with a new government partner.

[14:34] Our first responsibility is to the public interest and need.

[16:12] Considerations when recruiting members of the public to interview.

[19:08] Some of the challenges of working with government agencies.

[20:45] Chelsea and Dawan offer advice for working with attorneys.

[24:27] The prep work needed before launching a test of a prototype or solution.

[26:07] Designating pilot leaders to help with launch.

[27:32] Next steps after a successful test launch.

[28:34] Handing the work over to the partner.

[29:59] The process of finishing and closing a project.

[31:23] Project storytelling.

[32:08] Design is change management.

[33:14] Chelsea makes an interesting observation about how those in the public sector measure their success and seniority.

[37:13] Designers can be so excited about the new thing they forget the loss that can be associated with it.

[38:18] Things that Chelsea is excited about right now in public policy design.

[42:21] Where to learn more about the Public Policy Lab.



Chelsea on Twitter

Chelsea on Columbia | SIPA

The Public Policy Lab

The Public Policy Lab on Twitter

Innovating Gotham: Interview with Chelsea Mauldin of Public Policy Lab

An Evening with Chelsea


How the Public Policy Lab

uses design thinking to create better policies


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