Policy Design Studios

What Is a Studio?

A studio is normally thought of as a space in which architects, artists, photographers, or dancers, work. In other words, it is a place where the arts make things, integrating their knowledge, tools, and skills in an environment of experimentation, speculation, and imagination. Pardee RAND's studios focus on public policy; students do not work in the domain of the arts, but instead wrestle with complex multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional problems in the context of policy and action.

How Do Studios Fit into Pardee RAND?

Pardee RAND policy studios draw on the tools and methods of an architecture studio married with complexity science. First prototyped in 2017, policy studios are now a central part of the learning experience. As both a place and a community of practice, policy studios are intended to accomplish two things:

  • They encourage learning in an integrative, experimental, and speculative environment; and
  • They do this within a problem framework that contributes to making tangible positive progress on complex problems.

Pardee RAND offers three classes of studios that increase in complexity and in their degree of structured direction:

  1. Teaching studios focus on complexity as a topic.
  2. Mentored research studios take on various topics already well-framed by ongoing research.
  3. Inquiry-based studios focus on topics that are more complex, harder to articulate and, in general, ones for which progress has been elusive.

How Are Studios Structured?

Studios meet two times a week: one session is a 1-hour seminar block and the second session is a 2-hour studio block. In the seminar piece, faculty introduce new content or tools that are of interest to the studio generally. In the studio blocks, students work on projects under the guidance of the studio director. This guidance is in the form of progress analysis and critique.

In critiques, the studio director and fellow students look for value in provisional work and speculates on next steps: missing questions; other experiments and actions; even different tools and methods/processes to engage. Critiques offer mentorship and camaraderie, not instruction.

What Sorts of Projects Result from Studios?

Studios are project based. The first two required first-year studios integrate with other first year coursework around a topic that will be engaged with over two consecutive years. The inquiry-based studios cover a range of multi-disciplinary topics that derive from more specific questions in which Pardee RAND faculty have expertise.

Each studio results in a project that has been well scoped, framed, researched and engaged with through design. These projects take different forms, from strategic game design, to actions for shaping better real world outcomes, to specific mechanisms and policies, to full blown speculative futures around topics.