NEW YORK, August 29, 2012 | The Parsons DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) at Parsons The New School for Design and the Public Policy Lab were recently awarded a 2012 Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund grant for Public & Collaborative, an innovative partnership with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The project explores ways to engage community residents in the development of services related to city-supported affordable housing development and preservation in neighborhoods with significant public and private sector investment leveraged by HPD.

“Over the past six months, we have worked closely with Parsons and the Public Policy Lab in a series of activities to explore opportunities to think differently about our services and public engagement, and this initial work has already provided us with valuable insights,” said Kathryn Matheny, HPD Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning, Technology & Administration. “We are genuinely impressed by the design talent and creative thinking on display, and believe that there is the potential to address real needs at HPD and in the wider New York City community.”

The project is focused on how HPD markets affordable housing in cooperation with development partners, and on the methods and tools HPD uses to communicate a broad range of services to New Yorkers. Building on HPD’s recently launched online housing application, Public & Collaborative will, for instance, explore ways to improve the clarity, usability, and effectiveness of the printed and online materials that HPD and its development partners use to guide applicants through the affordable housing lottery. The project team will also propose new mechanisms for involving residents and potential tenants in the design and implementation of services for affordable housing. Through a series of interactive workshops, the team will solicit perspectives and ideas from both residents and service providers, and work collaboratively to develop improvements.

“Public & Collaborative is grounded in the assumption that public services can be improved by bringing designers and residents into the room to sit side-by-side and collaborate with agency staff as they conceptualize, design and implement city services” said Eduardo Staszowski, director of the Parsons DESIS Lab. “This project also explores how the development of New York City neighborhoods can incorporate more substantive citizen participation; how public services can be better shaped by the desires, knowledge, time and energy of these stakeholders; and how city agencies can facilitate citizen participation in the design and delivery of public services, and what the benefits might be of this model.”

“Public & Collaborative exemplifies how policymakers, designers and the public can work together to improve the delivery of public services,” said Chelsea Mauldin, executive director of the non-profit Public Policy Lab. “Our team of fellows is excited to explore how public services, when they are thoughtfully designed to serve the needs of their users, and to be engaging and easy to use, are more satisfying for the public, as well as potentially more effective and cost-efficient for government.”

Public & Collaborative launched this past spring with a lecture series featuring leading international voices in the field of service design in dialogue with New York-based designers and public policy makers. In addition, the Public Policy Lab awarded project fellowships to six design and policy experts, who will be engaged in the next phases of the project: Liana Dragoman, Lead Experience Architect, NTT Data’s Experience Design Group; Kristina Drury, principal, TYTHEdesign; Yasmin Fodil, principal, BYO Consulting; Kaja Kuehl, principal, youarethecity; Andrew Eickmann, senior analyst, HPD’s Division of Strategic Planning; and Ben Winter, adjunct faculty in Design and Management and alumnus in Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons. This past spring, the fellows worked with Parsons faculty and students, who analyzed existing conditions and developed a catalog of ideas for customer service enhancements and community engagement opportunities in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area, in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx (presentations on these proposals can be viewed on the Public & Collaborative website under “Academic Courses”).

The second phase of the project, made possible through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, will enable the team of fellows to prototype and test service design concepts with HPD staff and New York City residents. An illustrated how-to guide of pilot proposals will be published in early 2013, and a two-day conference, targeted for late 2013, will bring together academics, designers and policymakers to discuss public sector innovation. For more information, visit

Public & Collaborative is affiliated with a global research effort of the DESIS Network, an international network of design schools and organizations focused on design for social innovation and sustainability, in which research labs based in cities in the United States and Europe are developing parallel projects at the intersection of public services, social networks, and design. For more information, visit

About NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)

HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by the close of the 2014 fiscal year. Since the plan’s inception, more than 130,770 affordable homes have been financed. For more information, visit

About Parsons DESIS Lab

Parsons The New School for Design is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, please visit

Parsons DESIS Lab, housed in the School of Design Strategies at Parsons The New School for Design, brings together faculty and students from across the disciplines at Parsons and The New School to research, promote, and amplify community-based solutions for sustainability in New York City. The lab is the coordinator of the U.S. chapter of the DESIS Network, a global consortium of design schools, private companies and nonprofit organizations that support the use of design to generate social change. For more information, visit

About the Public Policy Lab

The Public Policy Lab is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping New Yorkers and all Americans build better lives by improving the delivery of public services. We provide technical assistance to help public agencies design services. By working with service designers, agencies can better understand how a public service is used and experienced by citizens and by agency staff – then apply that knowledge to create, test, and refine service-delivery improvements, at low cost and with low risk. Our goal is to help government be more efficient, while also providing services that the public will find satisfying and easy-to-use. For more information, visit