Design Atelier

Faculty: ESSB    
Educational theme: Didactical model
Project lead: William Voorberg
Faculty Liaison: Jasper Eshuis
Duration: August 2020 – April 2022
Status: Running


In the Design Atelier, public administration students gain experience in the ever-changing practice of the public sector and learn skills to make an impact in that practice.

Course set-up

In the Design Atelier, students work in groups on a design assignment that is provided by a client from the public sector. The students design a substantiated proposal for a possible solution to a pressing issue that the client is struggling with. The Design Atelier is characterized by the fact that it deals with contemporary issues in and around public administration and that the issues are tackled by means of a design approach in collaboration with various stakeholders. One of the assignments of the past academic year came from the Municipality of Rotterdam and focused on how residents could be encouraged to green their gardens.

During the course, students are introduced to the principles of design thinking and are guided by teachers and designers. The students themselves shape their design route and choose which design methods they use. In addition, during the course, students are given workshops (so-called skills labs) to learn certain skills that support them in their process.


In the academic year 2020-2021, the Design Atelier has been expanded from one master's specialization to three master's specializations. This edition has been evaluated with the teachers and the involved stakeholders. This evaluation showed that expectation management towards the stakeholders is important and that teachers need tools for the assessment. Impact at the Core helps with the further development of the course, for example in the field of supervision and assessment. Due to the self-regulatory nature of the Design Atelier on the one hand and the working on authentic and complex problems with stakeholders on the other, students work on 21st-century skills. For that reason, a good supervision and assessment structure that supports the learning process of students is very important. From Impact at the Core it is also interesting to investigate which precise skills, knowledge and attitude the students develop.

To enable upscaling within Public Administration, lecturers without design experience are trained by designers (by means of a Train the Trainer program) to supervise a design assignment. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a 'Plug and Play' module of the Design Atelier that can also be integrated into other (master) programs outside of Public Administration.

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