Applying design thinking to municipal planning
Capstone Graduating Project
Partners: Intelligent Futures, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, Mitacs Accelerate
Supervisors: John Lewis (Intelligent Futures), Jordi Honey-Roses (UBC SCARP)
Date: March – August 2020
This research explores how design thinking can generally be applied to municipal policymaking. More specifically, it explores how a sprint methodology—a three to five day intensive workshop that employs design thinking—may be applied to the municipal planning process. As the challenges facing our cities become more uncertain and complex, local governments must respond to urgent and ever-adapting demands. The recent onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the uncertainty and complexity of the modern world. The structure of bureaucratic organizations—which were built for a different reality in past centuries—inhibits the ability for municipal planners to keep up with complex, ever-changing challenges. Design thinking offers a set of processes, tools and methods that can help public servants respond to such problems. It can also help maintain a focus on empathizing with citizens, which can easily get lost in the ‘churn’ of typical planning processes. Through an extensive literature review and interviews with 27 planners and designers, the research revealed four key insights.