In order to design policies that actively respond to the needs of users, policy stakeholders in high income countries (namely advanced Western economies) have increasingly drawn on insights from design thinking.1 Innovative problem- solving exercises, user consultations, and rapid trialing procedures have been among the many elements that have recently found their way into policymaking practice. The possible extension of design-thinking to different development and political contexts has been little explored. The goal of the Cairo Policy Lab is to apply elements of design thinking in the Egyptian context in order to address dimensions of policymaking that have received less analytical scrutiny: the definition of policy problems and identification of evidenced based solutions.
This inaugural policy innovation case study discusses the ongoing efforts of the MENA Social Policy network and their partners to establish the Cairo Policy Lab. It describes the first roundtable meeting of stakeholders in a series of events designed to untangle the problems posed by social assistance and subsidy reform efforts in Egypt. While building bridges between academics and policymakers has presented challenges to all involved, the good will of many policy actors gives reason for optimism. Through nurturing relationships of mutual trust and encouraging innovative approaches to problem-solving, the Cairo Policy Lab has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change.