Design with care Seminar - Year 1 27th region: context and inspiration

Stéphane Vincent discusses the use of design in bureaucracy and public administration. He sees design not as an end, but as a means of transforming the public sector. In this session, he presents the “27th region” as a concept designed to create a space for research, development and reflexivity in the public service; as a pragmatic utopia, this space should enable methods to be tested in the field.

In an overall context of a disconnect between the public sector and the general public, the “27th Region” project draws in particular on the work of Warin, who presents a socio-political analysis of the public’s reception of policies: public policies are often insufficiently utilised by the citizens who could most benefit from them; the question is how to enable people to take full advantage of them. Faced with the increasing complexity of public policies, the paradigmatic method of action modelled on consulting firms and the commodification of public transformation are part of the problem: hence the decision to develop the “27th region” as a project that falls outside this logic.

Methods, practices

With Thévenet, a designer, Vincent moves from what he characterises as an ideal of excellence “à la française” to an ideal of practical ingenuity, characterized more by the values of resilience and innovation. With the public interest as the focus of their project, it is not a question of treating people as clients, but rather as citizens. However, it is important to distinguish between the stated expectations of the latter – collected, for example, during surveys – and their actual behaviour, observed during field observations.

They thus move from a paradigm of resolution to one of reformulation: before attempting to respond to problems that may be poorly posited, they begin by reformulating them. They also seek to understand how issues affect each other as they are addressed. Furthermore, they prioritise an approach that moves from action to understanding – as opposed to the more common approach of moving from understanding to action: the test is thus the place for a privileged discussion with the ecosystem being addressed. The team, made up of about ten people, is involved in three main activities, the most important of which is action research on long-term programmes whose protocols are frequently evaluated and validated in the course of partnerships with academic researchers.

Case study: the creation of a new media library in Lezoux

Inspired by Dewey’s pragmatism and his theory of inquiry, the actors of the “27th region” carry out social experiments in the field – bearing in mind Stiegler’s words that “every technical object is pharmacological”: every action has an effect on the environment being studied, and responsibility must be taken for it. Beginning by questioning the concept of the term “media library”, a team of four people participated in three successive action phases: the simulation of a mock media library intended to make the project more tangible, a research phase into the cultural practices of the inhabitants, followed by a week of outreach, in the form of discussions with the public affected by the project’s implementation. Vincent discusses one successful project – here, this one -, for two that failed: these projects are thus Proof Of Concept. He ends his session by evoking public policy projects that are conceptually similar to his own, before quickly moving on to the controversies that these projects can raise today