Public Policy Lab


New York, United States

Actors involved

Public entities, citizens, profit companies

Thematic areas

Innovation in the public sector


Public Policy Lab (PPL) is a non-profit design lab based in Brooklyn, New York. PPL was launched in 2011 as a policy and service design innovation lab for the government, with the basic idea that services are most effective when they work for everyone involved: from policymakers to front-line staff to the citizens they serve. To improve public services, PPL works closely with government agencies, foundations and community organisations to design policies and services for and with the public sector. Applying human-centred design methods at both the service delivery and policymaking levels, expert researchers, designers, and strategists work closely with government agencies to frame goals, conduct research with stakeholders, prototype new service programs, and plan implementation with confidence. Since its founding by David Gibson, Sylvia Harris, and Chelsea Mauldin, PPL has been dedicated to improving the design and delivery of public service. Its work has been based on the following two beliefs: services provided by government agencies are crucial tools for ensuring the well-being and success of individual Americans and society as a whole; methods and approaches from the design professions have the potential to improve the delivery of these public services significantly. To deliver on these beliefs, PPL tries to bring service design competencies to the public sector, working with it and transferring knowledge.

PPL believes that by collaborating with design professionals, government agencies can better

understand how public services are used and experienced by the public; in turn, agency staff can then apply that knowledge to create, test, and refine service delivery and make low-risk improvements. PPL’s mission can be summarised as follows: “create better public services for all

Americans by changing how public policy is created and implemented.” In an innovative approach to policy design, PPL’s team pursues strategic working partnerships with government agencies.

Working in teams with selected agency employees, PPL can increase their capacity and effectiveness while also promoting buy-in within the agency, making it more likely that the project will be continued and scaled. When PPL designers work with agencies, the team must learn about the institutions themselves and how they operate on a day-to-day basis (for example, understanding procurement processes and timelines). They also must understand the complexity of the service delivery system by mapping all stakeholders involved and their competing requirements and needs.

It’s crucial that designers understand the mandate given to a particular agency, and what kind of tax dollars are available for specific services. PPL designers must understand the culture within the agencies and their openness to collaboration and experimentation. All this deepening work allows PPL to bring the agency partner to develop new services in the best way both for agencies and beneficiaries.