Finalist 2020

City of Melbourne, COVID-19 Reactivation and Recovery Plan

City of Melbourne

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the most significant public health, economic and social challenge Melbourne has faced in over a century.

Early on, it was acknowledged that how the City of Melbourne (CoM) responded to this crisis would influence our city’s long term prosperity. CoM committed to designing a plan for Melbourne’s regeneration out of this crisis that was driven by our community’s aspirations for their future.

The result is the COVID-19 Reactivation and Recovery Plan, which highlights the immediate actions we must take to support Melbourne’s recovery and shape the future Melbourne we all aspire for.

A link to the COVID-19 Reactivation and Recovery Plan for City of Melbourne –

Design Excellence

Utilising CityLab’s design-led innovation and transformation process, a series of participatory design and futures activities were undertaken.

A variety of methods were deployed, ensuring the project incorporated a diversity of voices from community and experts from across Melbourne, Australia and the globe.

This strong evidence base was used to create a consolidated understanding of the current crisis and uncover key opportunity spaces, resulting in seven recovery initiatives that form the foundation of the plan.

The resulting plan sets the benchmark for using design-led innovation and transformation processes in public strategy development. It was unanimously endorsed by Council in September 2020.

Design Impact

The plan was unanimously endorsed by Council in September and received $50 million in funding from the Victorian Government to fast track delivery.

Seven initiatives outlined in the plan drive our immediate response to the crisis and our city’s longer term regeneration:

  • Prioritise public health and wellbeing
  • Reactivate the city
  • Build economic resilience
  • Expand equal opportunity and access
  • Transform our spaces and buildings
  • Strengthen community participation and align with others
  • Evaluate, measure and progress

Linking actions we take in the short-term with outcomes we want to see in the future, we can use our resources to target initiatives that deliver maximum benefit for our city and its citizens.

Design Transformation

CoM’s support for CityLab, an in-house innovation and transformation consultancy, showcases the value of investing in a function that responds with agility in the face of change.

This project sets a precedent for the benefits of design-led problem solving and policy development, particularly in highly uncertain circumstances. Utilising a design-led approach in understanding the unique needs of a wide variety of people ensured a shared vision for the city was delivered.

As a team, CityLab aspires to be a benchmark for global public sector organisations showing how design can transform cultures within large organisations and be an enabler of public sector innovation and change.

Design Innovation

The approach taken by CityLab exemplifies an emerging public sector innovation and futures practice, enabling CoM to solve complex problems quickly in ambiguous and uncertain circumstances.

The team leveraged remote working to enable deep, rapid and global engagement of experts, community and organisational stakeholders. They developed a new mindset for recovery by embedding experimentation, iteration, connectivity, flexibility, and creativity to build a lasting legacy for future generations.

Sharing the early development of the project the team presented the approach and early trends work to the World Economic Forum. The enthusiasm and continued commentary from global thought leaders in response demonstrated the innovative nature of this approach.


“During my 45 years as a design professional, there are projects that stand out as career-defining. This project is one of them. It was a privilege to be involved in work which I believe will benefit the city now and for years to come.”
– Rob Adams, Architect and Director, City Design at City of Melbourne

“Developing this plan in such a complex and uncertain environment provided the challenge and opportunity that a design-led process can help navigate. I’m proud to have implemented an innovative process that I believe will help Melbourne regenerate to meet its future aspirations.”
– Alison Leighton, Deputy CEO at City of Melbourne

Design Strategy 2020 Finalists