Toi Āria: Design for Public Good

Our mission at Toi Āria is to improve lives by reforming the design and delivery of public services. Harnessing the research power of Massey University, Toi Āria brings together leading design researchers, practitioners and policy makers, to deliver design-led, evidence-based, service innovations.

We use human-centred design because it is the most potent agent of positive social change. It ensures the voice of citizens is heard in policy creation and the needs of service users are met through the design process. Our focus on public good means that every project Toi Āria undertakes adds to a repository of open and shared knowledge for the public sector.

By operating in the ‘third space’, neither public nor private sector, Toi Āria can leverage the creative and intellectual freedom of the university environment, while ensuring innovation is grounded in rigorous method and research. At a national level, Toi Āria is a New Zealand-first for a tertiary provider and is part of a movement, already underway, to radically re-design government services to better understand and meet people’s needs.

We also believe that New Zealand can be a test-bed nation. By designing and prototyping solutions at small scale in Aotearoa, we can make a positive contribution to global practice.

Toi Āria is delivering projects in partnership with:

  • Data Futures Partnership
  • Letting Space
  • Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Grow Waitaha (Ministry of Education and others)

Clients include:

  • Masterton District Council
  • Inland Revenue
  • Office of the Clerk
  • The Team

    Anna Brown (Director)
    Andrew Tobin
    Ana Reade
    Tim Parkin
    Nina Boyd
    Jhana Millers


  • Project Summaries

    Data Futures Partnership

    In February 2017 Toi Āria was commissioned by The Data Futures Partnership to engage a broad cross-section of New Zealand people in meaningful conversations about how they feel about their personal information being used and shared by different kinds of organisations. The Data Futures Partnership is an independent advisory body tasked by the Government to draft guidelines for private and public organisations seeking to use people’s personal data, Because it was vital that these guidelines were informed by the views of New Zealanders Toi Āria developed Our Data, Our Way – an engagement programme involving 27 face-to-face workshops throughout New Zealand, where a diverse sample of over 400 people participated in a game-based conversation to understand what was most important for the guidelines to address. These workshops were supported by an interactive online tool which gained feedback from a further 4,000 New Zealand people.

    This is the first time people in New Zealanders have been given an opportunity to have their say on how their data is used and shared. For both face-to-face and online applications Toi Āria designed a unique engagement process based around compelling and easy-to-understand data use scenarios, which were applied interactively to understand people’s comfort levels and to assess how they weighed up trust and benefit where their personal information was concerned.The data use scenarios were co-designed by Toi Āria and the DFP to be relevant to a broad cross-section of New Zealand people, modelling three areas of direct interest to the DFP and/or to the government’s social investment programmes – health data, education data, and data gathered through the Internet of Things. The resulting guidelines (Path to Social Licence: Guidelines for Trusted Data Use, August 2017) were directly informed by New Zealanders’ feedback on these data use scenarios.

    Through Our Data, Our Way Toi Āria has developed a unique engagement process based on social licence principles, which enables in-depth assessment of overall comfort with the use of personal information for specific data uses and contexts. The findings from this feedback provide a robust and qualititatively rich framework that decision-makers can use to ensure that their data initiatives and policies will meet the needs of the people who are most affected by them.


    Our Future Masterton (Masterton District Council)

    Toi Āria has been working with the Masterton District Council on the development of a citizen-led design strategy that assists in the public reimaging and rejuvenation of Masterton Town Centre. We are undertaking this project in partnership with Letting Space, a Wellington-based national independent urban art and revitalisation programme.

    Our strategy supports the creation of a quality, compact, vibrant, and connected CBD characterised by integrated, liveable, efficient and sustainable community spaces and places. A Masterton that celebrates the personality and identity of its people.


    Public Transport Segmentation Workshops (Greater Wellington Regional Council)

    Toi Āria is engaged by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to undertake a series of Public Transport workshops with various sectors of the population: Students, Working Adults, Retirees, Off peak travellers etc.

    As part of GWRC’s commitment to being a more customer-centred organisation, this project took a customer-centred design approach to ensure we design services people want.

    This work set out to understand the customer needs and expectations about public transport information, travel needs, expectations and obstacles, as well as the expectations around public transport payment.

    ePetitions & eSubmissions (The office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives)

    The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives is exploring ideas for electronic petitions to Parliament. Currently parliamentary petitions can only take the form of signatures on sheets of paper. The Office turned to Toi Āria for help in developing initial concepts. We have been really impressed with the Toi Āria team’s energy and ability to engage with different groups, bring structure to unstructured thoughts and ideas, define the issues confronting us, establish themes and suggestions to explore, and report on the outcome. In particular, Toi Āria very quickly took us out of our usual thinking to connect us with the needs of users, and gave us very firm priorities to pursue as we seek to make the case for change. This has been an invaluable step on our quest to make Parliament relevant.

    Grow Waitaha (Ministry of Education)

    Grow Waitaha, initiated by the Ministry of Education, is a partnership between the Ministry, iwi, schools and their communities, and four providers, including Toi Āria. Many schools in Canterbury are being rebuilt — completely or partially — after the earthquakes. Rather than simply rebuilding those schools as they were, we have an opportunity to look ahead and construct innovative physical environments that enable future-focused education for all learners and their communities. Building new learning environments means developing new ways of working in those environments and Grow Waitaha is supporting schools through this process of change.