Democracy is a design problem

Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 7:00pm
MIT Room 32-G449 (Kiva)
Dana Chisnell
Lecturer Photo

Every great designed experience starts with the stories of individual humans. At the Center for Civic Design, Dana Chisnell and her team collected thousands of stories from U.S. voters from 2010 to now. The stories revealed two massive gaps in the process.

First, people who administer elections and voters have very different mental models of the process of voting. The second gap was between privileged voters and burdened voters. These gaps explained why it's harder than it should be to vote in the U.S. and showed that policies meant to make things better had unintended consequences that actually make it worse.

Dana Chisnell relentlessly works across government pushing teams to sincerely care about the needs of the people they're serving through and by design. She does this by asking hard questions to help teams know whether they're working on solving the right problems and solving the problems right.

Dana brings professional design practices to thousands of election officials every year through presentations and workshops on how to improve ballots, voter guides, web sites, and other election materials to ensure voter intent. Her team at the Center for Civic Design was the first to map the experience of American voters. She's now a founder-partner of a new civic incubator working on user-centered policy design at the National Conference on Citizenship (

This joint meeting of the Boston Chapter of the IEEE Computer Society and GBC/ACM will be held in MIT Room 32-G449 (the Kiva conference room on the 4th floor of the Stata Center, building 32 on MIT maps) .

This talk will be webcast on the MIT CSAIL Youtube channel beginning at 7pm.