The Center for Policy Design was founded in 1981 as the Center for Policy Studies when Walt McClure left the Minneapolis-based Interstudy, a health policy think tank where he had worked under the leadership of Paul Ellwood since 1969. At the Center McClure developed Large System Architecture, both a general theory of why organizations do what they do and a set of methods to design and carry out system redesign strategies to redirect the system incentives, when necessary, to align with goals society has for the system.
With these methods he and his colleagues at the Center developed a health care system reform strategy to get better care for less, and developed a National Health Insurance proposal consonant with this strategy. McClure assisted Medicare, Pennsylvania and Cleveland to implement the first step of the strategy, severity-adjusted outcomes assessment of providers, before his retirement in 1990 for medical reasons. That work was chronicled by the Wall Street Journal in 2009. Documents pertaining to this early work are located on the publications page of the Center’s healthcare project Healthcare|Evolving.
Around the time of McClure’s retirement the Center became active in public education system redesign under the leadership of Ted Kolderie, through the project Education|Evolving. Kolderie and his colleagues established themselves as influential thought leaders and actors in American education reform by working with states and national policy makers on the architecture of the K-12 system, and recently have become involved in the redesign of schooling.
Beginning in 2010 the Center became home to the Minnesota Education Policy Fellowship Program, facilitated in partnership with the Washington-based Institute for Educational Leadership. Begun in 1975 the fellowship program has almost 500 alumni in the state. (Until 2010 the fellowship had been hosted by the University of Minnesota.)
In 2014 the Center launched a new project Healthcare|Evolving and other initiatives aimed at furthering its mission of leadership in redesigning important systems. That same year the Center changed its name to the Center for Policy Design to reflect its focus on development of actionable policy strategy.
The following people were fellows of the Center at the time of this change: