Design Thinking proves to be a good methodology for public policy

IcARUS has been in motion for over three years now. During this time, our six partner cities have gotten accustomed to the ins-and-out of the Design Thinking methodology. Now the time has come for real-life testing through the schemes developed by these cities through IcARUS, and for the team to observe and report on how the methodology is being implemented.


The IcARUS project is led by the Design Thinking approach: a problem-solving methodology that prioritises a user-centric approach to innovation. Specifically, it involves empathising with end-users and on this basis defining problems, ideating solutions and prototyping and testing them. The IcARUS project six partner cities – Lisbon, Nice, Riga, Rotterdam, Stuttgart and Turin – have been using the methodology to design and implement schemes that tackle a security issue they deem a priority.

A good match for public administrations
In the development of IcARUS, it became evident that Design Thinking needed to be adapted rather than just adopted. The dynamic framework that this approach embodies matches with the iterative nature of public administration, making it the ideal methodology to ensure that unique contextual factors are taken into account. Anticipating and accommodating local stakeholders’ attitude towards innovative solutions allows for a better approach to defining their roles as well as the problem at hand and the project’s life cycle, too. Adapting the methodology means setting a strong organisational foundation that foresees leadership changes as well as strengths and weaknesses within the team. Indeed, given that Design Thinking focuses upon collaboration and the co-creation of ideas, it is essential to tailor the methodology to the contexts, needs and culture of the stakeholders involved.

Validation workshops
Validation workshops are one of the activities that have underscored the importance of adapting Design Thinking rather than copy-pasting the approach from a textbook. In the project, they have been relevant to fine-tuning Design Thinking principles and how they are applied in the real world. In this way, we have been able to observe instances in which Design Thinking ought to be further adapted and we are devising recommendations accordingly. Methodology adaptations in IcARUS encompass contexts, communication, structure of workshops, timelines and many more aspects.

Emphasising the integration of Design Thinking within IcARUS enhances the practicality and relevance of this framework in the realm of public administration, offering a fresh and innovative outlook. IcARUS’s ongoing efforts showcase the tangible application of the Design Thinking methodology in real-world scenarios, providing a concrete model for others to follow. Crucially, it illustrates that projects and their teams can uphold their vision while effectively navigating the practical aspects of the Design Thinking process and its objectives.

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