I can't think of a more impressive testimony to the use of designers - and by extension the design process - in problem solving than is pointed out in an article by Justin McGuirk in The Guardian about some processes happening overseas - in Finland, to be exact.
The Finnish Innovation Fund advises governments on ways to solve pressing social problems (and Finland has its share). What's unique about this group is that it incorporates designers (whether from web and interactive, urban planning or architecture) into its process for their ability to redesign systems and improve the user/customer experience - and keep their eye on the long-term picture through implementation. It may be a way of avoiding the kinds of social disasters we're all so familiar with, when policies are implemented by bureaucrats who don't think through problems.
It's all about human-oriented outcomes. As McGuirk points out:
"While strategic design can't necessarily find the perfect answer, it at least begins by asking the right questions.