Approach

Our Mission

We design policy and services that help the American public build better lives.

We believe that people should have the opportunity to pursue a healthy life, a good education, rewarding work, and a secure retirement— and that government can offer public services that help all members of our society  improve their well-being and prosperity.

 

PPL researchers meet service users and frontline providers where they are, including their homes, civic spaces, and places of work, like this NYC shelter.

Our Partners

We partner with government agencies and providers to research, design, and test new public policy and services. We also work with philanthropies and research institutions to develop human-centered strategies for social innovation.

Government Agencies

We’ve created research-informed policy guidance for mayoral offices and executive-agency leadership. We’ve conducted dozens of design projects with government partners to improve policy and service delivery.

Foundations

We’ve developed strategy and research to inform grantmaking—for example, we’ve helped funders explore how social marginalization affects community well-being. We’ve also gratefully received philanthropic support for our work with government and service providers. 

Service Providers

We’ve partnered with community-based organizations—particularly providers of publicly funded services—to create strategy and program models and to improve operations and staff capabilities.

Research Centers

We’ve taken part in working groups at leading think tanks and academic centers to develop human-centered frameworks and recommendations around digital policy, municipal regulation, and government transformation.

Over the years, we’ve worked with dozens of partner organizations, both in our home base of New York City and across the United States.

A close up of two individuals facing a wall of yellow post-its and one individual taking notes in his notebook.
Five individuals listen, take notes, and laugh while sitting in a circle in front of two large flipcharts.
A woman in a white cap and mask, with a laptop on her lap, holds up both hands in front of her as she speaks.

Our Clients

We partner with public-interest organizations—but we serve the American public, especially those who historically have been marginalized.

People with Limited Access to Basic Needs

People who have access to steady wages, secure housing, and robust support networks are able to weather occasional setbacks. However, members of the public who struggle to secure housing, healthcare, or other requirements often risk not meeting their basic needs. Unfortunately, they may also face barriers to accessing public services. We’ve worked with people experiencing homelessness, mental-health issues, justice-system involvement, and other challenges to redesign policies and services to better meet their needs and aspirations.

People Not Represented in Power

Elected officials and leadership teams at public agencies are often diverse, but may not fully mirror the populations they serve. To create policies that respond to a range of American experiences, we collaborate with members of the public who are not well represented in positions of power—low-income people, immigrants, people of color, young people, people with disabilities or limited English proficiency, among others—and design systems and services that respond to their life circumstances.

Our Methods

We use human-centered methods from design, social science, and technology to design in and for systems.

Government is not one static entity, but a dynamic network of policymakers and providers who use policies, protocols, and tools to deliver valuable services to the public.

We believe that if you want to transform a system, then you need to support behavior change with and for all of these people. That’s why we design suites of holistic interventions that target people and touchpoints across policy and service landscapes.

The 'Layer Cake'

All service systems are made up of layers of people and power. By seeing who has power over what, we can identify intervention points for design and bring the voices of members of the public into decision-making processes that they normally would not be able to influence.

Our Results

Our partnerships with government agencies and service providers result in improved policies and services for millions of Americans.

Impact

Since our founding in 2011, we’ve used our human-centered approach in collaboration with government and public-interest partners that have real authority over delivering public value. Through genuine engagement among our teams and the public, we’ve developed policies and programs that help people across the country, from tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries and American veterans, to hundreds of thousands of New York City tenants and schoolchildren. 

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Completed projects

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Project partners & funders

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Front line staff engaged

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Americans reached

Evaluation

We’ve developed standard processes and criteria for measuring the success of our projects. At the start of the project, we work with partners to define success in terms of desired outcomes for users and agency ‘business owners.’ The team then develops a behavior-linked theory of change connected to project deliverables. We use the defined project and social outcomes to identify success metrics that can be tracked over time. We also return to these metrics during research, ideation, design, and iteration to measure the value of our work.

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The Public Policy Lab is a tax-exempt

501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.