Go Deeper: Toolkits, Research, & More

Because of human-centered design’s relative newness and limited use in policy design, the rigorous academic research base on its ability to create more effective policies is thin. Evidence is limited to a small number of journal articles, case studies published by design firms and their clients, and opinion articles. Below is a curated list of provocative and helpful toolkits, research, case studies, and commentary to help you dive deeper into the topic. Some are more directly related to the education sector and public policies than others, but all hold lessons for education policy professionals seeking to make their practice more human-centered.

If you have a high-quality resource that you think should be added below, please email Jason Weeby at jason.weeby@bellwethereducation.org.


Designing for Public Services: A Practical Guide 
This guide brings together in one place a collection of practical tools and methods for using design in public services. Created by Nesta and IDEO as part of Design for Europe, it offers ways to do things differently by introducing the process of design thinking, and provides guidance on how to introduce this new approach into day-to-day work in the public sector. Best for people working within government agencies, but the process applies to policymakers and researchers.

The Service Design Playbook (PDF)
The Service Design Playbook was created by the Government Communications and Public Engagement office of British Columbia. It goes in-depth on service design in the public sector, including numerous case studies and example documents.

Design Kit
Created by IDEO.org, this design kit provides a one-stop shop for design mindsets, methods, and case studies. Not surprisingly, it’s easy to navigate.

Open Policy Making Toolkit
This manual from the U.K. government includes information about open policy making as well as the tools and techniques policymakers can use to create more open and user-led policy.

D.school Bootcamp Bootleg (PDF)
The design school at Stanford University compiled many commonly used design methods into a single PDF.

Liberatory Design Toolkit (PDF)
The K12 lab at the d.school and the National Equity Project created this handy toolkit to practice liberatory design — designing for equity. It includes three sections: liberatory design process, liberatory design mindsets, and liberatory design “do now”s.

Service Design Toolkit
This toolkit provides a number of tools that you can use in your own workshop. For each technique, you can find material to help you. The workshop materials can be found under “downloads.” This toolkit is the outcome of a partnership between Namahn and Flanders DC.

D.school Resources
A searchable repository of design resources from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (d.school).

Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit
This IDEO toolkit contains the process and methods of design adapted specifically for the context of K-12 education. It offers new ways to be intentional and collaborative when designing, and empowers educators to create impactful solutions.

Civic Service Design Toolkit
This toolkit created by the New York City Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity provides human-centered tools and tactics, case studies, and downloads in the context of government-run or funded services.

Nesta Toolkits
A range of guides and practical tools from Nesta, a global innovation foundation focused on the public sector.

Service Design Tools
An open collection of communication tools used in design processes that deal with complex systems. The website is the result of the research activity done by Roberta Tassi during her graduation thesis, further developed within the framework of the cooperation between DensityDesign research group at INDACO Department – Politecnico di Milano and DARC – the Research & Consulting Center of Domus Academy.

An Incomplete List of Resources for the Equity-Centered Designer by Isabelle Yisak
A compilation of exercises, frameworks, and thoughts that serve to advance the design field’s relationship with systems that perpetuate oppression.



Because of human-centered design’s relative newness and limited application to policy design, the rigorous academic research base on its ability to create more effective policies is thin. Evidence is limited to a small number of journal articles, some of which are below.

Christian Bason, Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society (Bristol, UK; Portland, OR: Policy Press at the University of Bristol, 2010)

Emma Blomkamp, “The Promise of Co-Design for Public Policy” (Australian Journal of Public Administration, March 2018)

Mark Considine, “Thinking Outside the Box? Applying Design Theory to Public Policy” (Politics & Policy 40, no. 4, 2012)

Michael Mintrom and Joannah Luetjens, “Design Thinking in Policymaking Processes: Opportunities and Challenges” (Australian Journal of Public Administration 75, no. 3, September 2016)

Jason Weeby, “Creating More Effective, Efficient, and Equitable Education Policies with Human-Centered Design” (Bellwether Education Partners, February 2018)


Case Studies

The Public Policy Lab has three excellent education sector case studies and many more in other social sectors.


This Evidence Safari Case Study by the U.K.’s Policy Lab shows what an evidence safari looks like in practice and different variations that can be used to orient a group to a large amount of data.


Articles & Commentary

Good Design is Good Policy by Sara Hudson (Fast Company)

Design Thinking Origin Story Plus Some of the People Who Made It All Happen by Jo Szczepanska (Medium)

Racism and Inequity are Products of Design. They Can Be Redesigned. by Caroline Hill, Michelle Molitor, & Christine Ortiz (Medium)

Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience by Adam Richardson (Harvard Business Review)

Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power by George Aye (LinkedIn)

Why Human-Centered Design Matters by Dave Thomsen (Wired)

Human-Centered Research in Policymaking by Chelsea Mauldin and Natalia Radywyl (Epic)