Announcing the 6th edition of the Design Public Conclave : Citizen Participation and the Business of Governance

It brings us great pleasure to announce the 6th edition of the Design Public Conclave, themed Citizen Participation and the Business of Governance. This edition will be held on Tuesday, the 3rd of November, at the Vihara Innovation Campus in New Delhi.

Since the very first edition in March 2011, Design Public has emerged as a premier location for high-level conversations about the public role and social impact of design and innovation in India. It has attracted speakers and discussants from all regions of the world, from all estates of society and from diverse sectors of industry. There has been wide coverage of the themes and ideas emerging from Design Public in the media and blogosphere, including in the New York Times, Economic Times, Times of India, and Mint Newspaper. In August 2014, the Bihar Innovation Lab, held the first ever Health edition of Design Public.

dpbl3For almost a quarter century most Indians have looked on with despair at the increasing disparity between the country’s private and public sectors. First, the private sector began mastering technology, then it acquired new skills in user experience design, creating mobile and now social technologies used by millions, within the country and around the world. Where the private sector has continued to add new skills and sophistications, the public sector has by contrast changed almost nothing about its way of working. This disparity has caused some to lose all hope in governmental processes, instead call for almost everything to be privatized. On the other hand, we have seen citizen groups in cities across the country mobilizing on their own, to pick up garbage, repaint walls and reclaim urban spaces that have fallen into disrepair.


The challenges and opportunities associated with India’s cities have grown alongside the nation’s broad shift in demographics from a largely rural nation to one that lives in its cities. The challenges of cities are complex and the solutions urban administrators are looking for are not already available somewhere else — rather they must be discovered and devised for the first time in each megacity. In every sector of urban administration, moreover, be it traffic, transit, pollution, water pollution, rivers management, or land use administration, the private sector is already involved, often in several different modalities. If the major challenges of cities are a result of the success of the private sector, then it also follows that the large solutions to the challenges of Indian cities will also come from working with the private sector in new ways.

More recently, however, there are some promising developments at the municipal level that might suggest that India’s public sector is in fact changing the way it thinks and runs things. In Delhi, for instance, there is a new push to listen to the voice of the people in the design and provision of services. In Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad there have been municipal election campaigns that have sought to bring forward a new kind of candidate, who might engage with their urban constituency in more enlightened and engaged ways. We are also seeing new kinds of urban institutions growing, including Think-and-Do tanks, which serve to formulate urban challenges and work on them in partnership with government in new ways.

Taking all the above-mentioned challenges and problems of public sector in account CivicLabs brings the sixth edition of the Design Public Conclave on 3rd of November in New Delhi. Design Public is conceptualized and hosted by CivicLabs, an initiative of the Center for Knowledge Societies, aims to create the platform through which urban administrators can engage with a wide range of expertise representing innovation, public policy, development, technology and entrepreneurship. The event brings together leading global and Indian practitioners representing these fields, to share and exchange best practices, learnings, approaches and philosophies in an attempt to chart a way forward for an ecosystem for civic innovation for India’s cities.

Design Public will bring together global expertise on civic innovation in dialogue with the Indian public sector and civic entrepreneurs to begin charting out an agenda for civic innovation in the urban Indian context. This event will dovetail into the Social Innovation Exchange Summer School to be held in Mumbai from the 4th-6th of November, bringing together thinkers and practitioners from around the world.

Over the past four years, Participants at prior editions of Design Public have included Arun Maira (Planning Commission), Sam Pitroda (National Innovation Council), Ashok Alexander (BMGF), Rohini Nilekani (Arghyam), Yamini Aiyer (Accountability Initiative), Prashant Bhushan (Lawyer), Ashwin Mahesh (Lok Satta Party), Samanth Subramanaian (Writer), Vish Palekar (Mahindra Group), Jeby Cherian (IBM), Riku Makela (Tekes), among many others.

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