Collaborative Project With Public Policy Lab and NYC Housing Preservation and Development to Explore and Support Community Engagement

NEW YORK, March 12, 2012—The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) at Parsons The New School for Design and the Public Policy Lab have announced an innovative new partnership to explore ways to facilitate community engagement in the development of housing-related services in New York City. The research effort will be led by a team of Public Policy Lab Fellows, and Parsons faculty and students, who will target specific neighborhoods where HPD programs and initiatives are most active. The program will kick off with a series of lectures at Parsons focused on the nexus of design and public policy.

Through its initiatives and programs, HPD delivers a broad range of housing services to the residents and neighborhoods of New York, including enforcement of the City’s Housing Maintenance Code and protection of tenants’ rights and, by providing significant capital and leveraging substantial investment, undertakes the preservation and development of hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing. “Under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, HPD’s New Housing Marketplace Plan is having a transformative impact on neighborhoods in all five boroughs,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “This new partnership among HPD, the Parsons DESIS Lab and the Public Policy Lab will bring new insight to the processes by which the agency engages the public, and will inform how we continue to foster that vital link to communities and neighborhoods.”

The team will begin its work by exploring housing and community services in an area that has seen major investment by HPD in recent years: the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx. Under the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area plan, HPD has worked with for-profit and community-based partners to develop over 2,800 new units of affordable housing since 2000. In the coming years, HPD anticipates the completion of an additional nine hundred new units of affordable housing, bringing the total to 3,700 units in the Urban Renewal Area alone.

“The core of HPD’s mission is to improve the quality and availability of housing in New York City,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “Through this collaboration we hope to gain authoritative insight from an external perspective as to how people view, access and take advantage of the services we provide. I look forward to a fascinating and engaging partnership with the Parsons DESIS Lab and the Public Policy Lab.”

“This partnership builds upon the work of the Parsons DESIS Lab over the past several years, where we have researched socially innovative activities that develop organically within communities and help to amplify them to affect change on a larger scale,” said Eduardo Staszowski, director of the Parsons DESIS Lab. “Through this project, we hope to replicate the success of this approach by helping HPD identify and enable positive social innovations already occurring within their program areas. The ultimate goal is to improve public services, particularly for New York’s low- and moderate-income communities, by facilitating greater collaboration between residents, designers and City agencies.”

This partnership was initiated by Parsons and the Public Policy Lab, a nonprofit organization committed to helping New Yorkers and all Americans build better lives by improving the design and delivery of public services. To fulfill that mission, the Public Policy Lab offers fellowships to private-sector designers. Fellows work with agency partners and citizens to collaboratively develop and test pragmatic plans to improve public-service provision.

“Some of the world’s most talented researchers, designers and policy strategists are based in New York, and many of them share a desire to put their skills to work in the public interest,” said Chelsea Mauldin, executive director of the Public Policy Lab. “We’re delighted to connect these experts with HPD and Parsons to investigate ways to enhance how New Yorkers engage with the agency and access housing services.” For this initiative, fellowships have been awarded to Liana Dragoman, Lead Experience Architect at NTT Data’s Experience Design Group; Kristina Drury, principal at Tythe Design; Yasmin Fodil, principal at BYO Consulting; and Kaja Kuhl, principal at youarethecity. An HPD senior analyst in the Division of Strategic Planning, Andrew Eickmann, will also serve as a member of the Fellow team.

With assistance from HPD and Parsons DESIS Lab, the team of Fellows will work over the course of 2012 to develop proposals for enhancing and expanding HPD’s profile in the community and the mechanisms it employs to engage with potential and current residents. The Fellows will assess the way that HPD interacts with New Yorkers through the process of marketing affordable units and through online information channels and physical offices, and will offer ideas for improving those interfaces to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. Proposals may include, for example, the development of mobile apps or design enhancements for service delivery locations.

Working with Parsons faculty and students, this spring the Fellows will conduct an initial phase of exploration that will include an analysis of existing conditions, generation of resident-based concepts for facilitating community engagement in meeting neighborhood needs, and development of a "catalog of ideas" to promote customer service enhancements. Over the summer and fall of 2012, the team of Fellows will synthesize and document their findings, select the most promising ideas to further refine, and develop preliminary implementation proposals for pilot projects.

This initiative is part of Public & Collaborative, a global effort of the DESIS Network in which more than a dozen academic design labs around the world will explore how to enhance the connections between citizens and public services. To kick off Public & Collaborative, Parsons will host a series of four lectures in March and April of 2012 that will bring together leading European and New York City designers with New York City policymakers to explore the intersection of social innovation and public service. The lecture series is being organized by Eduardo Staszowski and Ezio Manzini, the founder of the DESIS Network, who is serving as a visiting professor at Parsons this spring. “The United States and Europe have been test beds for a large variety of initiatives focused on social innovation and public services,” said Manzini. “Given the different contexts, the European and the American initiatives have followed different paths and arrived at divergent results, which make it useful to evaluate their similarities and differences.”

Following are the speakers in the series, which will also feature panels of respondents comprised of public-sector leaders, designers, and other experts selected by Parsons, the Public Policy Lab, and HPD. All four lectures will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Kellen Auditorium, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, at Parsons The New School for Design, located at 66 Fifth Avenue. For more information, please visit the project website,

Tuesday, March 20: Ezio Manzini, “Active and Collaborative People”
The need to radically re-think public services can be challenged by the question of what public services could become if they were conceived as platforms to trigger, enable, and support citizens’ active and collaborative behaviors. From this framework, Manzini introduces European experiences of participatory and community-centered design. Manzini is a professor at the Politecnico di Milano, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. For more than two decades he has been working in the field of design for sustainability and social innovation, considered as a major driver of sustainable changes. Manzini was recently awarded 2012 Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education.

Tuesday, March 27: Christian Bason, “Design for Public Sector Innovation”
Design holds massive potential as a way to achieve more significant innovation in public policies and services, but to generate real system-wide change, design must also be anchored and practiced within governmental agencies. Bason is Director of MindLab, which for more than a decade has functioned as part of the national administration of Denmark as an innovation platform for the ministries of Business & Growth, Employment, and Taxation. Its mission is to involve citizens and business in co-creating new public policies and services. He is the author of four books on leadership, innovation and change in the public sector, most recently Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society (Policy Press, 2010).

Tuesday, April 10: David Boyle, “Co-Production: A Preventive Welfare System”
Why do public services get increasingly expensive yet often decreasingly effective? Boyle explores how the ideas of co-production, developed in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, have been brought into the debate in Britain. He explains what happened when the National Health Service began using these processes, and looks to whether co-production might provide a clue to the Holy Grail of welfare reform: services that are able to reach upstream and tackle causes, rather than just waiting to deal with symptoms. Boyle is a fellow at the New Economics Foundation, the pioneering think-tank in London, and has been at the heart of the effort to develop co-production in Britain as a critical element of public service reform.

Tuesday, April 24: Francois Jegou, “From the Design of Public Services to the Design of Public Policies”
Building on the experience of a series of recent action-research projects, Jegou, founder of the sustainable innovation lab Strategic Design Scenarios, will question the current way public action is conducted and discuss opportunities and limits for design to support a co-evolution between social innovation and public innovation. Jegou is active in various fields and research projects from investigating Creative Communities for Sustainable Living in China, India, Brazil and Africa, to European research projects diffusing social innovation to support sustainable transition and exploring the future of innovation. He is also the scientific director of the public innovation lab 27e RĂ©gion in France and the coordinator of DESIS Europe, the European branch of the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability network. He teaches strategic design at ENSCI Les Ateliers Paris, La Cambre, Brussels and Politecnico Milano.

About the 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 2014. Since the plan’s inception, nearly 126,990 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, visit

About Parsons The New School for Design and 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

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Media Contacts:

Deborah Kirschner, Parsons
212.229.5667 x4310
[email protected]

Eric Bederman, HPD
[email protected]

Chelsea Mauldin, PPL
[email protected]

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