DIY Policy Design

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See the article on Design and Policy Design for background.


Elizabeth Tunstall:

"The old model of policy design was one of getting a centralized group of smart experts in the room to solve problems. Yet the complexity of globalized politics requires decentralized problem-solving approaches that can operate locally, inexpensively, and be distributed widely across lay knowledge networks. A model for design’s role in generating these networks is Sussam Preja’s Kit-o-Parts developed for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Because the environmental graphics of the LA Olympics was highly distributed across the city, too much for one or two design firms to handle, and did not have a lot of money, Sussam Preja created this Kit-o-Parts that design subcontractors could use and assemble in any way they thought appropriate, yet still result in a unified look and feel for the Olympics. I propose the creation of a Policy Design Kit-o-Parts that lay people could locally adapt, yet still result in a unified visual language to support sharing and comparison of policy problems and solutions." (

Discussion: Challenges to DIY Design=

Developping a participatory language

Elizabeth Tunstall:

"The first challenge of this future model would be to define the tangible visual symbols that are universally identifiable and relevant to the five aspects of policy design:

1. Social relations/identity mapping parts that are based upon Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram’s (1997) grid of the social constructions of social groups as deserving and undeserving, politically stronger and weaker.

2. Common experience modeling parts to construct a common experience model, which is a visual representation of processes, which allows one to describe the differences of experiences as a social group/individual goes through that process.

3. Desired outcomes parts consisting of the symbols of the core material and symbolic values that a group holds and how they imagine them leading to desired futures or better experiences.

4. Structural constraints parts made of symbols of the structural constraints that a group experiences regarding their desired futures or experiences.

5. Design artifact/service identification parts that consist of symbols for the types of design artifacts or services typically created to address specific policy issues.

The Kit would consists of the parts, paper patterns for creating one’s own parts, and an illustrated guide of how to use the symbols to form and communicate policy." (

Distribution model

Elizabeth Tunstall:

"The second challenge is to create a distributed creativity network in which the viral distribution of the DIY Policy Design Kit-o-Parts to local communities would aid in their policy design activities. The distribution model would be based on the Copyleft movement of GNU systems of software development in which the work is made freely available on the condition that all modified and extended versions of the work remain free as well.

The distribution of the Policy Design Kit-o-Parts would contain three additional requirements: one must

(1) document and share the results of meetings and the local “grammar” of the parts used via You-Tube and Flickr-like sites or mailed;

(2) replicate a local version of the Policy Design Kit-o-Parts, and

(3) give the original kit to another group to use. In this way, the DIY Policy Design Kit-o-Parts will virally grow in its development, use, documentation, and hopefully, positive social outcomes." (


Elizabeth Tunstall:

"Design/design plays an intermediary role in people’s relationships to government policy. It is the way in which people see, smell, taste, touch, hear, and feel how government affects them materially and symbolically. Design is the stuff of government. Yet, designers should not play an intermediary role between people and their government, at least in democratic society. Distributed creativity has the potential to democratize the process of policy formation from legal, economic, and even design expert systems. The DIY Policy Design Kit-o-Parts is a proposed model for how this can work in the area of policy making, thus politics, because it is adaptable to local lay knowledge, yet can form a common vocabulary for sharing and understanding the scale of socio-political policy implications. In this way, it represents the potential future of both design and politics in general." (

More Information

Read the full article at

Read the P2P Foundation article on Peer Production of Public Policy


  1. Schneider, Anne Larason, and Helen Ingram. Policy Design for Democracy. Kansas City, MO: University of Kansas Press, 1997.
  2. Tunstall, Elizabeth. 2007. “In Design We Trust: Design, Govermentality, and the Tangibility of Governance,” International Associations of Design Research Societies 2007 International Conference Proceedings Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong: School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.