Make permits about people


Permitting processes tend to be designed without taking the permit seeker into account. The result: rigid pro forma requirements that increase costs for permit seekers and municipalities and constrain city staff’s ability to make process improvements. By adopting a more human-centered approach that incorporates the insights of city staff and permit seekers, cities can increase efficiency, effectiveness, and equitable outcomes in the permitting process.

Create better processes with human-centered design

Human-centered design aims to improve people’s interactions with a given product or process by identifying and addressing their needs and pain points. After mapping out the current permitting process, conducting on-the-ground research, and identifying problem areas, city staff can engage in iterative redesign, which will allow them to adjust processes based on user feedback and real-time data.

Empower staff to innovate

Permitting staff have first-hand knowledge of key pain points, inefficiencies, and redundancies in the permit process. With the right encouragement and support, they can draw on these experiences to devise solutions. Permitting departments can cultivate a problem-solving culture by offering training in human-centered design and regularly inviting ideas from staff.

Audit processes for equity

Equitable outcomes require intentional action and ongoing attention. Auditing for equity can help ensure that processes do not disadvantage particular groups. One example is the Racial Equity Community Survey fielded by the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI). RSJI was able to gather information on the status quo and work with other city agencies to improve processes and track progress on key equity goals.