Special Issue on

Design in and for the Public Sector
Full Paper Due: 31 May 2024

Call for Papers

Design has become an increasingly recognized element of public sector innovation in terms of strategy, process, and methods for addressing complex social and policy problems. Governments and municipalities have turned to design and participative approaches for addressing growing financial pressures, digitalization, wicked problems, and providing a better understanding of the social needs and values through citizen engagement. However, bringing design to the public sector is still a relatively recent phenomenon with significant challenges, such as transforming the way governments work, creating a sustained impact, and effectively engaging publics. For this special issue, we invite the submission of articles that foster discussion of the challenges and opportunities of embedding design in public sector development. Specifically, we seek to highlight design issues in the organizational context of design; design for and with multiple stakeholders; power and politics; design in the context of digitalization of public services; and the limits and possibilities of design methods.

Suggested Research Themes

We invite theoretical and empirical contributions from all areas of design focusing on adoption, practice, results, and impacts of design in the public sector. Specifically, submissions on all types of designerly interventions in the public sector are welcome, including, but not limited to:

  • Institutioning: How can designers and stakeholders (re)engage with public organizations and develop new relationships? What challenges designers face as they build design capacity in the public sector? What coping skills and strategies do they develop?
  • Power and Politics: How does design act when it meets power and politics? What impact, if any, does it have on the existing power structures? What challenges does it face? Can public sector design sustainably navigate those challenges, finding and maintaining the right balance between opposing forces?
  • Policy Design: What is the potential and limitations of design as a viable approach to policymaking under uncertainty? What challenges exist in applying design to policymaking?
  • Digitalization: What are the challenges for design brought by the rapid digital transformation of the public sector? How should design approach the emergence of the digital citizen? How would AI and other emerging technologies change the nature of government-citizen relationship?
  • Just, Equitable, and Inclusive Design: How to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion into public service design and policy design work? How to resolve systemic barriers built into the existing public services and systems? What are the designerly ways of enabling equitable conditions for underprivileged and underrepresented?
  • Participatory Design: Who gets to participate and how? How could we ensure inclusive and sustained participation? What socio-technical infrastructures could be used to support and possibly scale out and/or scale up participatory design in the public sector?
  • Public-Private Collaboration: How to orchestrate the collaboration between public and private service providers in public service design?


  • Full Paper Due:
  • Notification of Review Results:
  • Final Version of Paper Due:
  • Notification of Acceptance:
  • Special Issue Publication Date:

31 May 2024
10 September 2024
10 October 2024
10 November 2024
31 December 2024

Special Issue Editors

Suzan Boztepe
Linköping University, Sweden
Amalia de Götzen
Aalborg University, Denmark
Turkka Keinonen
Aalto University, Finland
Jörn Christiansson
IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Leigh-Anne Hepburn
University of Sydney, Australia

Suggested Readings

  • Bason, C. (Ed.) (2014). Design for policy. Routledge.
  • Costanza-Chock, S. (2020). Design justice: Community-led practices to build the worlds we need. The MIT Press.
  • Deserti, A., & Rizzo, F. (2014). Design and organizational change in the public sector. Design Management Journal, 9(1), 85-97. https://doi.org/10.1111/dmj.12013
  • DiSalvo, C. (2022). Design as democratic inquiry: Putting experimental civics into practice. The MIT Press.
  • Huybrechts, L., Benesch H., & Geib, J. (2017). Institutioning: Participatory design, co-design and the public realm. CoDesign, 13(3), 148-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/15710882.2017.1355006
  • Junginger, S. (2017). Transforming public services by design: Re-orienting policies, organizations and services around people. Routledge.
  • Kimbell, L., Richardson, L., Mazé, R., & Durose, C. (2022). Design for public policy: Embracing uncertainty and hybridity in mapping future research. In D. Lockton, S. Lenzi, P. Hekkert, A. Oak, J. Sádaba, & P. Lloyd, (Eds.), Proceedings of the conference of the Design Research Society. Design Research Society. https://doi.org/10.21606/drs.2022.303
  • Čaić
  • Moore, M.-L., Riddell, D., & Vocisano, D. (2015). Scaling out, scaling up, scaling deep: Strategies of non-profits in advancing systemic social innovation. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 58, 67-84. http://www.jstor.org.zorac.aub.aau.dk/stable/jcorpciti.58.67
  • Morelli, N. (2015). Challenges in designing and scaling up community services. The Design Journal, 18, 269-290. https://doi-org.zorac.aub.aau.dk/10.2752/175630615X14212498964394
  • Pirinen, A., Savolainen, K., Hyysalo, S., & Mattelmäki, T. (2022). Design enters the city: Requisites and points of friction in deepening public sector design. International Journal of Design, 16(3), 1-19. https://www.ijdesign.org/index.php/IJDesign/article/view/4576/1003

Submission of Papers

Manuscripts should be prepared using the template file and guidelines found at the AuthorGuidelines page. Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. A double-blind review process will be employed for this special issue.

Manuscripts should also be sent through the online submission system. Authors should choose “Special Issue on Design in and for the Public Sector” as the Journal Section when submitting papers.