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Thinking Outside the Circle: Moving beyond the policy cycle in design for policy

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Policy & Governance

Erin McAuliffe

Design for policy scholarship has relied heavily on the policy cycle as a central organising model or heuristic in its work. While the policy cycle is used by the public policy field to organise its research and subfields, it is not an explanatory model of policy change and has been the subject of much critique. This paper explores how design has used the policy cycle and reflects on the way in which this has affected the development of the field of design for policy. It argues that the focus on the policy cycle has contributed to design for policy focusing too strongly on public institutions and not enough on other actors, activities and dynamics of policymaking. It proposes that design for policy ought to engage more with theories of the policy process arising from the policy sciences, which may—with their greater nuance and focuses on politics, power and policy system dynamics—provide a richer ground for future design scholarship. In particular, it suggests three areas where theories of the policy process might point to new opportunities for design for policy research: taking an expanded view of agency in policymaking, understanding the relationship between framing and problem brokering, and better appreciating the complexity of policy landscapes.

KEYWORDS: design for policy, policy cycle, policymaking, theories of the policy process

RSD TOPIC(S): Policy & Governance

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Citation Data

Author(s): Erin McAuliffe
Year: 2023
Title: Thinking Outside the Circle: Moving beyond the policy cycle in design for policy
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/beyond-the-policy-cycle
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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