From the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ policy design: design thinking beyond markets and collaborative governance

Michael Howlett


Policy design as a field of inquiry in policy studies has had a chequered history. After a promising beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the field languished in the 1990s and 2000s as work in the policy sciences focused on the impact on policy outcomes of meta- changes in society and the international environment. Both globalization and governance studies of the period ignored traditional design concerns in arguing that changes at this level predetermined policy specifications and promoted the use of market and collaborative governance (network) instruments. However, more recent work re-asserting the role of governments both at the international and domestic levels has revitalized design studies. This special issue focuses on recent efforts in the policy sciences to reinvent, or more properly, ‘re-discover’ the policy design orientation in light of these developments. Arti- cles in the issue address leading edge issues such as the nature of design thinking and expertise in a policy context, the temporal aspects of policy designs, the role of experi- mental designs, the question of policy mixes, the issue of design flexibility and resilience and the criteria for assessing superior designs. Evidence and case studies deal with design contexts and processes in Canada, China, Singapore, the UK, EU, Australia and elsewhere. Such detailed case studies are necessary for policy design studies to advance beyond some of the strictures placed in their way by the reification of, and over-emphasis upon, only a few of the many possible kinds of policy designs identified by the 1990s and early 2000s literature.


Policy Design

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@Annual Review of Policy Design ISSN: ISSN 2291-6989