Design Thinking for Administrative Redress: Some Preliminaries

I am presenting a working paper at an event—‘Contemporary Challenges in Constitutional Theory: International, European and Domestic Perspectives’—at the University of Liverpool (19 – 20 June 2017). The paper builds on work by Lorne Sossin, applying design thinking to administrative justice. The abstract for the paper is as follows:

While many details of administrative functions may be parochial to the context in which particular functions are being carried out, some issues are universal. One such universal issue is: how can it be ensured that there is effective redress against administrative bodies? Despite the universality of the issue, there has been a lack of integrated, transnational dialogue, and thus shared learning, on administrative redress (this is in sharp contrast with constitutional design, which is now a vibrant transnational field).

This paper suggests that a useful framework for building a transnational discussion on administrative redress systems can be found in a ‘design thinking’ approach. Design thinking has been applied in many fields in the past few decades, and its influence is currently expanding. In a recent, innovative study, Lorne Sossin set out a framework for evaluating tribunal reform in Canada based on design thinking. As part of the study, Sossin claimed that ‘design frameworks will transform how we think about administrative justice’. While Sossin’s work offers novel insights, it also sits comfortably with themes in the work of other administrative law scholars who have conceptualised administrative redress as a design problem.

While I think it is only a matter of time before the administrative redress context sees design thinking influences operating as strongly as they have in other fields, the discussion here is not focused directly on the extent that design thinking can and should be applied to issues concerning administrative redress. Instead, this paper considers some fundamental questions which precede the application of a design thinking approach to the administrative redress issue. In other words, this paper suggests that there are some issues that must be clarified before we can extend the sort of work Sossin conducted on Canadian tribunal reform to a more ambitious, transnational plane.

The issues considered, which are distinct but interconnected, are as follows: (1) who are the designers of administrative redress systems?; (2) what are the instruments that designers use?; (3) what motivates designers to design redress?; and (4) what constraints do designers operate within? Each of the parts of this paper consider each of these questions in turn, constructing a preliminary framework for the application of design thinking to administrative redress issues.

This paper concludes by suggesting that it is now important—using the framework proposed—to explore thoroughly how far design thinking can be and should be applied to administrative redress issues. And, presuming there is some scope for such application, consider how tools can be developed to support the use of design thinking in the administrative redress context.