Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 341–375 | Cite as

Design Theory for Generating Alternatives in Public Decision Making Processes

  • Irene PluchinottaEmail author
  • Akin O. Kazakçi
  • Raffaele Giordano
  • Alexis Tsoukiàs


Literature about public decision making experiences, including stakeholders’ engagement, offers best practices but also reports of unsuccessful case studies. Meaningful participation activities require direct integration of stakeholders into all the phases of the public decision process to unleash innovation. Often, policy making incorporates participation late in the process, after the problem definition has occurred, alternatives have been defined, without considering stakeholders’ knowledge and problem understanding. The early stage of policy alternatives design is essential to the development of policy. Our research presents an extensive literature review with respect to policy design and design theory in order to show that the formal process of generation of alternatives has been little investigated. There is a demand for methodologies aiming at supporting policy makers and relevant stakeholders during policy design. In this regard, this paper introduces (and explores) the operational role of design theory in the policy making process for the generation of policy alternatives. Design thinking, as a way to inform a collective problem definition leading to innovation, highlights the value of early stakeholders’ engagement. The aim of this paper is to understand, from an operational point of view, what “design” means in a policy making context, developing an innovative approach for assisting the formalization of policy design. The paper uses the results of a pilot case study to illustrate the application of the Concepts–Knowledge (C-K) theory framework to support the innovative design of policy alternatives for the groundwater protection policy of the Apulia Region (southern Italy).


Decision analysis Policy design Participatory process Policy analytics Policy co-production Design theory 



The research activity described in this work have been financially supported by the INNDOPP (Innovative Design of Public Policies) Project, funded by PSL Research University. It has been developed in cooperation with the National Research Council-Water Research Institute (CNR-IRSA) of Bari (Italy) and the Centre de Gestion Scientifique of the Ecole des Mines ParisTech, Paris (France). We would like to thank the institutional and non-institutional stakeholders that provided their knowledge and expertise at the base of this work. Moreover, a great thanks goes to the Capitanata Irrigation Consortium (Consorzio di Bonifica di Capitanata) and to Dr. Luigi Nardella for their general support, engagement and availability during the work sessions.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene Pluchinotta
    • 1
    Email author
  • Akin O. Kazakçi
    • 2
  • Raffaele Giordano
    • 3
  • Alexis Tsoukiàs
    • 1
  1. 1.LAMSADE-CNRSPSL Research University, Université Paris DauphineParisFrance
  2. 2.Centre de Gestion Scientifique, MINES ParisTechPSL Research UniversityParisFrance
  3. 3.Water Research InstituteNational Research CouncilBariItaly

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