Policy Design Studio: Sustainability

Professors: Marlier and Miro
Units: 1.0
Elective Course
Concentration: Social and Behavioral Science Science; Policy Analysis

Some of the most pressing challenges facing the globe sit at the confluence of urbanization, equality, climate change and resource management. Together these dynamics present policy makers, planners and scientists with an increasingly complex decision-making space that necessitates integrated, multidisciplinary and systems-based solutions. Across the broader Los Angeles region, water resources management exemplifies such a challenge.

This course will teach the skills and tools required to approach interdisciplinary problems through the lens of water management, scarcity and justice in Los Angeles. We will explore the physical, political, social, economic and technological perspectives surrounding water management through the expertise of local practitioners and policy makers, as well as with on-the-ground experiences. Students will apply skills learned in the fall studio and SBS I courses in a real-world setting, gaining both the depth of knowledge and set of skills required to develop pragmatic and effective policy solutions.

Students will partner with local non-profit organizations for an experiential studio project that collaboratively seeks to address a water policy challenge facing their non-profit partners, ranging from water scarcity to environmental justice concerns. Course studio projects will be presented to an expert water management panel comprised of sustainability leaders from the Los Angeles region.

Resulting Commentaries

Students who took this Summer 2019 course worked in teams to research a topic and write commentaries for The RAND Blog about water policy challenges.

  • Woman with arm around a child, looking at a lake, photo by Image Source/Getty Images

    More Than Stormwater: Students Explore Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure for Los Angeles Communities

    Jan 29, 2020

    California faces shortages in water supply amidst droughts, wildfires, and other natural disasters worsened by climate change. Students Joan Chang (cohort '18), Pau Alonso Garcia ('18), and Jonathan Lamb ('17) argue that taking a systems thinking approach, in particular applying a systems framework, is essential to addressing complex problems for the sustainability of water resources that affect individuals, communities, and broader populations.

  • Looking west along the Los Angeles River from the Fletcher Drive Bridge, <a href="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Los_Angeles_River_from_Fletcher_Drive_Bridge_2019.jpg">photo</a> by Downtowngal / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>

    Los Angeles River Revitalization: Students Encourage Taking Inspiration from Near and Far

    Feb 4, 2020

    Currently a predominantly concrete channel running through the city, the Los Angeles River has great potential to revitalize Los Angeles's water resources, landscape, and identity. Students Keren Zhu (cohort '17), J. Luke Irwin ('16), and Stephanie Tanverakul ('18), along with Prof. Timothy Gulden, explain that creating a new vision for the river presents a complex challenge for policymakers, engineers, and urban planners.

  • Students Recommend an 'Olympian Feat': Green Infrastructure in Los Angeles

    Feb 11, 2020

    Los Angeles has an opportunity to reinvent itself by harnessing the collective spirit of Olympics development, climate activism, and Measure W funding. Students Noah Johnson (cohort '18), Karishma Patel ('17), and Jarrett Catlin ('18) write that no single project can address all LA's environmental needs, but many diverse projects could provide an opportunity for synergies and to create a new “city feel,” the way palm trees, traffic, and movie-touting billboards do now.