“Design and Policy: A Pragmatic approach to policymaking”

Marzia Mortati, Research

My name is Marzia Mortati and I am a Researcher at the Department of Design of Politecnico di Milano.

I have worked here for more than 10 years, having followed a path strongly characterised by an international dimension: from my training to the research I am conducting these days, I have studied and lived for a long time abroad, in several countries in Europe and in the world. The first experience that has marked my path in this connection, which I always remember with great affection, is the MEDes - Master of European Design programme, a network of 7 design schools in Europe, which I attended as student and which I currently coordinate on the Politecnico side.

Marzia Mortati
Since 2007 I have been teaching with continuity in the Master in Product-Service System Design of Politecnico, confirming in it, too, the international and multi-cultural approach to my work, and dealing in particular with Design Innovation, Product Design and Service Design.

My research interests concern the relationship between Design and Innovation, with a special focus on the value design brings into the innovation process in both the public and the private sectors, linked to the Design for Policy Making and to the methods and approaches to facilitate systemic and social innovation.
The Design for Policy Making, in particular, has increasingly affected my research in recent years, both internationally and locally. This is related to the manner in which the design process might support the development of a new way of creating the policies that is more Pragmatic, i.e., more experimental and participatory and more focused on the real needs of the beneficiaries of the policies themselves. This is combined with the need to create policies based on real evidence of what works, with an interest in a hybridisation of innovation models from private to public and vice versa.
It is a field of work particularly relevant for design today which, having always concerned itself with the transformation of existing situations into other, improved ones, beginning with the viewpoint of people, currently parades itself also as a linking element between citizens, politics and public administrations in a novel fashion compared to the radical avant-gardes of the past. New focus of this approach are the public administrations and their growing need to operate in a new and more experimental manner in a world with increasingly more complex public problems, and this is the reason why for a year, along with a small group of colleagues from the department, we have been working towards the establishment of a research lab called Design Policy Lab, to deal with these topics more officially.

These research interests have been made concrete by a process that to date has evolved through two researches co-funded by the European Commission (DeEP - Design in European Policy, from 2012 to 2014 and DfE - Design for Europe, from 2014 to 2017) and a research, more recent, co-funded by Fondazione Cariplo, headed Includi.Mi (Local Government and Social Entrepreneurship for an Inclusive Milan), in collaboration with the Municipality of Milan – Department for Labour Policies, Productive Activities, Trade and Human Resources, commenced in May 2017.

Relying on the prior experiences, Includi.MI – which is run in collaboration with the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering – focuses on improving the public-private partnership to stimulate social innovation in the Municipality of Milan and thereby ascertain the potential of finance instruments with innovative social impact in this context (such as the Pay-by-Result programmes - PbR). This is so because of some main reasons: firstly since, with the colleagues from the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering (DIG), we believe that the public side needs to strongly review the manner in which it provides supports and contributions, interacting more effectively with the private sector; in addition, we are of the view that the innovative public finance instruments with social impact might benefit from a co-design approach that centralises the needs of players involved in the process, in particular, in this instance, public administration and social entrepreneurship.

The project unfolds itself in three main phases: the first one for mapping and observing the needs of public administration and social entrepreneurship, with the aim of sketching the geography of interventions by the Municipality of Milan in support of social innovation and identifying gaps and points on which to invest better through the proposed approach; the second one for sharing the knowledge acquired and the value of such new policy tools as the PbR programmes combined with a design approach through an experimental learning process with public administration and social entrepreneurship together; and the third one for validating the results of the action undertaken, eventually succeeding in formulating guidelines for the Municipality for the launch of new policies in support of social innovation.


Via Durando 38/A - 20158 Milano
Reception02 2399 5837


Marita Canina,  Paola Checchi, Alberto Colorni, Annalinda De Rosa, Giulia Gerosa, Ilaria Mariani, Francesca Piredda, Lucia Rampino, Anne Schoonbrodt, Carlo Emilio Standoli, Lia Tagliavini

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