by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

This story is part of a series of design fiction that explores what a new era of public service could look like in 2025, five years after COVID-19. Learn more here.

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Protagonist: Taniel
Position: Public Servant
Government: City of Nashville, USA
Illustration by Violet Hill

Taniel gets a laugh whenever they tell anyone what it’s like to work at the DMV. “You work in hell” is a typical reaction. To which Taniel replies, “Hell is a world without the DMV.”

This is the truth. During the COVID-19 crisis, every DMV office in Tennessee closed down, including Taniel’s branch in the Pie Town…


by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

This story is part of a series of design fiction that explores what a new era of public service could look like in 2025, five years after COVID-19. Learn more here.

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Protagonist: Sander
Position: Freelance Worker
Governments: Nations of Estonia & Britain
Illustration by Nigel Sussman

“It’s complicated.” That’s Sander’s stock answer whenever anyone asks him about his visa. As a citizen of Estonia and an in-demand journalist, Sander has had just about every kind of visa you can get: student, working holiday, employer-sponsored. …


by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

This story is part of a series of design fiction that explores what a new era of public service could look like in 2025, five years after COVID-19. Learn more here.

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Protagonist: Sue
Position: Public Servant
Government: Nation of Australia
Illustration by Lia Wesp

Sue is an Enabler. No, that doesn’t mean she encourages bad habits in her friends. And it doesn’t mean she’s a pushover as a mom — though, to be fair, it’s hard to say no to her twin boys. …


by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

This story is part of a series of design fiction that explores what a new era of public service could look like in 2025, five years after COVID-19. Learn more here.

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Protagonist: Lyn Li
Position: “Office” Worker
Government: City of New York, USA
Illustration by Leah Jarrett

Lyn Li loves her job. She started as an administrative assistant at a physical therapy clinic, but these days, she wears multiple hats. One week she’s untangling IT snarls, and the next she’s doing the books and keeping the clinic financially fit. Lyn Li has become a critical member of the team, and she’s proud of it.


by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

This story is part of a series of design fiction that explores what a new era of public service could look like in 2025, five years after COVID-19. Learn more here.

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Protagonist: Alberto
Position: Public Servant
Government: State of Texas, USA
Illustration by Jonathan Mueller

Alberto lives to give back. In elementary school, his favorite activity was show and tell: Alberto loved sharing what he’d learned with his classmates. At the end of fifth grade, his teacher Mr. Wilcox had said, “When you grow up, you should be the teacher.” And for many years, that was his dream. …


by Nazlican Goksu, Sue-Jean Sung, Jason Baker, Peter Jackson, and Kyle Cheon

The year is 2025…

Five years ago, COVID-19 gripped global communities and exposed cracks in many of our foundational systems. But today, there’s a new era of public services — and governments around the world have redesigned how they meet the emerging needs of people. At national and local levels, governments have reallocated existing resources, incentivized internal mobility and learning, created contactless options, and reinvented how they deliver services. …


When designing for the circular economy, we must bring different groups together and combine the seemingly contradictory.

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By Holly Bybee and Lauren Yarmuth

Today’s most intractable challenges require collaboration across companies and industries. Solutions can’t be achieved in isolation, and the best ideas will come when leaders join forces to drive progress.

Last year, 50 people from 11 organizations joined the Circular Economy portfolio at CoLab, IDEO’s platform for collaborative impact. The CoLab brings together stakeholders from across industries, from sourcing to distribution, packaging to retail, waste to finance, and more, all with the goal of designing for collaborative impact. With common needs, different perspectives, and shared skin in the game, representatives from major organizations rolled up…


Mitigate potential negative outcomes

This is part of a series to provoke dialogue and provide concrete ways to help teams ethically build and design intelligent systems. Read our introduction.

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Intelligent systems are dynamic, constantly learning from information that is being generated and touched by humans. They don’t live in isolation, but connect to and reflect the ever-changing contexts around them. This means that our designs are never static, and that over time they will veer off the course we originally set. Good intentions aren’t enough. …


Guard against undesirable uses of data

This is part of a series to provoke dialogue and provide concrete ways to help teams ethically build and design intelligent systems. Read our introduction.

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Knowledge is power. You may gather information about people and communities, intending to use it for their benefit. But at some stage others may have less benign intentions for using the same information. Competitive forces, misaligned incentives, outside partners, hostile takeovers, and bankruptcy might strip away the original purpose and intent of a design. Teams change, corporate strategy pivots, and data may be lent or sold to other agents, groups, and companies. …


Provide reciprocal value to people who share their data

This is part of a series to provoke dialogue and provide concrete ways to help people ethically design intelligent systems. Read our introduction.

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In many cases, human systems rely upon clear, fair, and discrete exchanges of value between people and a product or service (e.g., I give you money and you give me pizza). Other human systems may rely upon contributions from participants and highlight evident in-kind benefits of collaboration (e.g., a potluck dinner). …

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