Alessandro, you worked as Policy Analyst – Design for Policy at the European Commission and more specifically at the EU Policy Lab. Can you tell us what role design played in that context?
When we opened the EU Policy Lab, seven years ago, the mission was to create a collaborative and experimental space to reframe values & concepts shaping policies. Since then, the EU Policy Lab has been working in a transversal way, supporting all Directorate-Generals (DGs) of the European Commission. Coming from different disciplines, at the beginning of our journey, my colleagues and I did not have a shared vision of what ‘design for policy’ meant, nor the role it could have played in our Lab. With time, my colleagues and I worked on increasing the role of design as a culture that creates safe spaces for productive conversations, allowing several allowing other disciplines to work in parallel. We, the designers, build on the expertise present in the Lab to help our colleagues to reframe problems brought to us via projects’ briefing.
You mentioned design as a culture. What do you mean by this? And how does this culture relate to the world of policymaking?
A culture embeds specific values and expresses itself through concrete practices, outputs, objects, and so on. When it comes to policymaking, this is also a culture. It is expressed via policy documents and their recognisable text-heavy and formal layouts. These documents are the results of negotiations and, therefore, of compromises. Here lies one important opportunity: the outputs of the design culture are often more than compromises, and they, therefore, represent shared positions. How so? Policymaking culture defines questions and suggests solutions, whereas the Design culture co-creates questions, developing a solid base to reach shared solutions. But merging two different cultures is not an easy process, it requires a revision of both values and what the expression of those values is.