In an ever-changing world where more people are living in cities, facing rising inequality and challenges posed by climate change, with newer innovations brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Asia-Pacific Region is expected to play an even more crucial role in this “New World Order.”
In order to sufficiently address these trends, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has introduced “Design Thinking”—an innovative user-oriented approach to public administration and public decision-making which also encourages country-to-country learning.
Students from KDIS were given a chance to learn about this new approach to governance through a virtual seminar organized by the KDIS Development Research Center (DRC) last March 14.
Through video conference, participants were able to listen and interact in real-time to the special lectures UNDP Regional Innovation Lead Alex Oprunenco and Economics Specialist Taimur Khilji, both based at the Knowledge and Innovation Regional Hub all the way in Bangkok, Thailand.
Among the key features of Design Thinking which they highlighted were the “Design Labs” across the region where policymakers can carry out the necessary knowledge exchange and experimentations needed to develop policy prototypes. The design labs apply the latest knowledge on data innovation, finance, behavioral insights, among others, to solve everyday problems. Inspiration is taken from different countries across both private and public sectors.
Design Thinking has already been used to promote South-South exchange. For example, through support by UNDP, city officials from Bangladesh designed one-stop social services centers inspired by the ones being used in call centers, railway stations, and even financial services in China. Learning from the experience of China, the Bangladeshi officials were able to tailor-fit their own one-stop centers to their own context.
This innovative methodology is being used to introduce new ways to solve old problems such as the Penang Island Project which seeks to decongest and build urban resilience in Malaysia. Design labs in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other countries have already been off to a promising start.
With their participation in the virtual seminar, KDIS students were able to hear directly from the experts how they can possibly apply this new approach to future projects they may face as development specialists and public officers in their home countries and across the world.