Democratizing Design: Using Collaboration and Consensus Building as a Principle of Good Government

By Andrew Buss, Ashley Del Bianco and Lindsey Keck.

Published by The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During urban financial crises and bureaucratic downsizing, government’s traditional role as a provider of citizen services and programs becomes more challenging. Because the focus of urban governments during economic adversity tends toward maintaining basic citizen services such as picking up trash and filling potholes, program and policy initiatives are frequently under-resourced and reduced. As a result, implementing a working model for program design that leverages the knowledge and resources of stakeholders outside of government becomes critical to the success of major initiatives. At the same time however, making program design visible and participatory for the public has proven challenging and sometimes awkward for urban governments. How can government involve citizens in the decision-making process while retaining at least some level of control over the ultimate outcome? This paper will highlight a successful collaboration between government and constituents in a major United States city. We will discuss the design process involved in forming a strong working group of outside partner organizations and relying on that partnership to create, compile, and ultimately win a substantial federal grant for public computing centers. The authors argue that by acting as facilitator during program design, rather than an overarching decision-maker, government can redefine public sector leadership. This model allows creativity and logistical planning to originate among external stakeholders who, as a collaborative group, often possess more expertise and resources than government itself. This case study provides a framework for urban governments to democratize design by engaging and empowering constituents, making them valued partners, and understanding the power of their diverse experiences.

Keywords: Collaboration, Collaborative Design, Program Design, Good Government, Government Partnerships

The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.47-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 261.935KB).

Andrew Buss

Director of Public Programs, Division of Technology, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Andrew Buss is the Director of Innovation Management for the Office of Innovation and Technology in Philadelphia. After beginning his post-graduate school career in the City’s housing office, he moved into information technology as a project manager, followed closely by roles in finance and procurement. In his current role managing public technology programs, Andrew has been responsible for a large scale implementation of technology-enabled community centers in Philadelphia and has also been closely involved with the Open Access Philly movement. Andrew earned a Masters’ Degree in Geography from Temple University and continues to teach there as an adjunct professor. He also writes and publishes papers about interdisciplinary teaching and civic collaboration.

Ashley Del Bianco

Program Manager, Division of Technology, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Ashley is a program manager with the City of Philadelphia for the Freedom Rings Partnership’s KEYSPOTs program. Bringing a background in professional development, program evaluation, applied research design, strategic planning, and adult learning and literacy, Ashley has worked in education and community-based contexts in Philadelphia and at the state and national level. Ashley received her Master of Arts in Government Administration and a Master of Science in Education (Reading/Writing/Literacy) from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Bachelor of Arts from Smith College.

Lindsey Keck

Program Manager, Division of Technology, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Lindsey Keck is a program manager for the Office of Innovation and Technology in the City of Philadelphia, and is responsible for implementation and oversight of the Public Computer Center grant awarded to the City through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Before beginning her tenure in city government, Lindsey worked in marketing and development roles for both large and small performing arts organizations. She is currently pursuing a Masters’ of Public Administration degree at Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. Lindsey is the recipient of the Fels Institute Stephen B. Sweeney Award, recognizing her outstanding commitment to local government and public service.