By Betsy Gardner Stephen Goldsmith • November 4, 2019

This post is part of the Innovating for Equity series.

Applying for government services, going to the dentist, and visiting the in-laws: not activities that tend to spark joy in the majority of Americans. But for many, dreaded government forms are more than an inconvenience. Difficult or tedious forms can have a negative impact on people who often interact with government for things like food benefits, small business permitting, and school enrollment. And often these poorly designed forms, systems, and processes most significantly impair underserved and traditionally marginalized groups. 


We know that good design can nudge people to make healthier choices, but it can also help counteract bias. And many legacy processes, systems, and forms have biases that unknowingly slipped in. Thankfully, innovators across the country are starting to unearth these biases and are restructuring processes and designs that have long marginalized certain groups. 


Over a series of articles, we’re going to examine how nudges, thoughtful design, and diverse outreach have raised the standards of government. Our research will look at specific cities and states and their respective projects that show how design can provide efficient and equitable services for everyone. 


In this series, we will make the case for redesigning the interactions between residents and their governments to break down inherent biases. When government establishes a form, process, or program that implicitly erects a barrier between needed services and marginalized groups, there are serious consequences for those communities. Trust and engagement deteriorates. Government has an obligation to provide the best possible quality of life for all constituents, and through our series we’ll demonstrate how these nudges and designs can clear the barriers for everyone.