Taipei’s urban transformation movement

The reforming power of design thinking takes root in the city government

In 2012, Taipei City became the first government entity in Taiwan to lay on a series of courses in design thinking for departmental heads, laying a foundation of design thinking among city administrators, and also doing the groundwork for Taipei’s bid to host World Design Capital, and enabling design thinking to gradually take root within the city government. Over the past two years, the Taipei City Government has also encouraged its various departments to invite designers and professionals from different fields, as well as citizens at large, to join in the collective, collaborative process of embedding design into city governance.

To date, more than 645 interdisciplinary design workshops and project office brainstorming sessions have been held, with the participation of more than 800 designers and professionals from different fields. Forty-five bottom-up “Stir Design” projects and 26 top-down “Public Policy by Design” (PPD) projects have been initiated, broadening the role of design in public affairs and achieving genuine urban innovation through the involvement of designers.

Two-track urban transformation movement boosts user needs awareness in public policymaking

From the start of Taipei’s WDC bid process, we clearly defined the WDC project as a collective transformation movement for the city of Taipei. Therefore to broaden opportunities for participation we set up an operating platform with two mechanisms: a “top-down” approach whereby city government agencies invite designers to participate, and a “bottom-up” approach that encourages private-sector organizations to get involved on their own initiative. This two-track model aims to maximize the power of mobilization for participation.

The top-down “Public Policy by Design” project is not only the first such initiative in Taiwan, but is also a thoroughgoing expression of the spirit of applying “design” to urban governance and transformation. During the planning stage of all kinds of public policies, the city government commissions professional design workers such as industrial designers, architects and graphic designers to participate in the planning process by conducting cross-disciplinary integration and thinking on the basis of users’ needs, in order to develop policies that more closely meet users’ needs.

For the bottom-up approach, on the other hand, through the “Stir Design” project we invite citizens, designers, design firms, and design-related educational institutions and departments, as well as related non-profit organizations, to take the initiative to put forward their own innovative proposals to bring design into various urban issues, to join with us in advancing Taipei’s urban transformation movement. In 2013, public attendance at Stir Design project events reached more than 400,000, and 730 designers and 255 design-related businesses took part.