How might we ignite the power of human-centered design and creative leadership within the UAE government by building creative capabilities and establishing new creative roles?

In 2019, ATÖLYE joined kyu Collective members IDEO and Palmwood to design a transformative learning journey for the government of the UAE with the project “Design Gov.” The project addressed the nation’s goal of transforming towards a human-centered approach by empowering future leaders, aiming to embed creative mindsets and skills into the ways government officials think and work—enabling them to imagine and co-create meaningful solutions together with the people they serve.


Project Team
Aslı Sevinç Daver, Kerem Alper, Nazlı Cangönül, Onat Vural

Project Lead
Mert Çetinkaya

Özgür Önurme (videography), Murathan Sırakaya (video editing), Mischief Makers (facilitation), DSIL (learning design, facilitation)

Project partners
IDEO, Palmwood

A cultural movement towards design

Design Gov aimed to bring radical creativity into the UAE government by empowering creative leaders of the future with Human-Centered Design (HCD) mindsets and skills. Through two new roles of Chief Design Officers and Civil Designers, the UAE government is transforming itself as a nation of designers. The guiding principles for designing and delivering transformative learning experiences was through experiential learning, reflective processes, and emergent facilitation. The mindsets and skillsets of HCD have shaped our learning objectives, desired outcomes, tailored curriculum, and the overall experience design.

A community of practitioners transforming into design leaders: Through a 17-week long learning journey, the program Learn & Design equipped 35 future creative leaders from a number of bodies within the UAE government who are dedicated to creating inclusive and long-lasting impact. By applying HCD on the pressing local challenges, we weaved a collaborative community of Design Practitioners.

During the 10-month co-design journey with the government, ATÖLYE designed and executed transformative learning experiences for high-potential “change agents” across government entities. The program aimed to unlock the creative potential of future “Chief Design Officers (CDO)”—an unprecedented title in the government of a nation.

To date, the program trained 35 Chief Design Officers dedicated to creating inclusive and lasting impact in their institutions and wider communities. The program engaged participants in discovering, actively practicing, and continuously reflecting on the mindsets of empathy, collaboration, creative confidence, growth, and responsibility—fundamentally transforming government processes. Participants applied their learnings to pressing local challenges, specifically those relating to disadvantaged communities. The radical approach to collaboration also seeded a community of design practitioners across the government, gathering around the design principles of experiential learning, reflective processing, and emergent facilitation.

As a parallel example of a radical collaboration within the kyu Collective, ATÖLYE’s unique value surfaced when ATÖLYE activated its local and international community—where it would simply not be possible for a traditional consultancy to be tasked with—and curated a multidisciplinary team among which were coaches, facilitators, learning designers, videographers. Two key partners in the design and delivery of the program from ATÖLYE’s international Community were the facilitation agency Mischief Makers and the design education company DSIL Global.

The project is one of the UAE government’s longer-term initiatives to further permeate its body with human-centered design mindsets and skillsets in order to build ecosystems and connections that would embody cross-departmental collaboration and align different perspectives. We are proud to have played a part in helping a nation shape its future by putting human-centered design at the core.

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