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Evaluating NYC’s Service Design Studio


  • NYC wanted to enhance city services by promoting service design through its Service Design Studio.
  • Through employee surveys and interviews, Abt evaluated the Studio’s promotion of service design.
  • Abt found NYC employees who engaged with the Studio believe their work will be more human centered.
The Challenge

The Service Design Studio (the Studio) is a novel approach to enhancing the capacity of New York City (NYC) municipal staff to adopt service design—sometimes referred to as human-centered design or design thinking—as a strategy to improve city services, especially for low-income residents for whom city services have been less effective and efficient. Abt conducted an evaluation of the Studio to understand the benefits and challenges associated with implementing service design in a municipal setting.

The Approach

The one-year evaluation explored how NYC staff learn and use service design via a mixed-methods methodology that included observation of Studio offerings, a survey of NYC staff that attended Studio offerings, and in-depth interviews with Studio staff and NYC staff that participated in Studio offerings. The evaluation focused on three of the Studio’s six total offerings: Office Hours, Tools + Tactics in Action Workshops, and Designing for Opportunity projects.

The Results

We found that the Studio has educated over 1,200 NYC staff across more than 60 agencies about service design. Participants were overwhelmingly satisfied with the Studio and many shared what they learned with colleagues. Participants in Office Hours and the Designing for Opportunity project reported their work has changed as a result of collaborating with the Studio and using Tools + Tactics, or that they expect it will change their work in the future. Of those reporting their work has already changed, 80 percent believe their work is now more human-centered, and 66 percent believe their work is now poised to deliver more positive program or service outcomes.