KL supports the Government in transition

Kennisland strives to promote social equality and a government that works for everyone. There are increasing calls for a more inclusive, sustainable and democratic society, which puts shared well-being before economic growth – a society that celebrates differences, because bringing together a variety of perspectives greatly benefits us all. We contribute to the major transitions of our time and to restoring trust and understanding between authorities (the system world) and citizens (the world people live in).

KL supports the <span>Government in transition</span>
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Rainbow bicycle path in Utrecht

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Rainbow bicycle path in Utrecht

The Netherlands is undergoing a transition++TransitionWe define a transition as a structural change in society resulting from interdependent ecological, social/cultural, economic and technological developments.. There are major challenges in healthcare, education, the labour market, housing, public space and, perhaps most urgently, climate change. To tackle these challenges, national, regional and local governments must transform from centrally managed authorities focused on efficiency and enforcement into organisations with a greater focus on trust++TrustThe child benefits scandal, the approach to the corona crisis and gas extraction in the province of Groningen have shown that authorities can easily lose sight of the human element. Digitalisation, an efficiency-driven mindset and neoliberalism have exerted a major influence on government policy and actions in recent years. In its 2020 annual report, the Dutch Council of State concluded that trust between citizens and government has eroded and is in need of attention. , a people-centred approach, co-creation, bottom-up initiative and collaboration. We help authorities tackle the following challenges:

Democratisation and inclusion

While authorities are doing their best to involve citizens++Involve citizensThere are many good examples of successful citizen participation. However, little research has so far been carried out into why some citizens’ initiatives fail, claims Marlies Meijer (University of Utrecht). in solving social problems, they have made insufficient progress towards finding better solutions and sustainable outcomes through co-creation, shared ownership and giving citizens a greater say++VoiceThe municipality of Amsterdam is experimenting with instruments designed to give a greater voice to the city’s residents, such as neighbourhood budgets. Kennisland has investigated what is necessary to make this bottom-up partnership between residents and the municipality a success. . The usual toolbox of questionnaires and consultation evenings is outdated and has proved difficult to replace, and it is often the ‘usual suspects’ whose voice is heard. It is important that we hear from everyone, especially those whom the authorities have difficulty reaching.

Kennisland approaches complex social problems from the perspective of the world people live in. We begin by asking the people closest to the problem to share their stories and the knowledge they have gained through experience.We begin by asking the people closest to the problem to share their stories and the knowledge they have gained through experience. We use these insights to study bottlenecks in the system world of (government) organisations and to work together to find solutions that can count on broad support.

One example is the Amsterdammers, Maak je Stad! (People of Amsterdam, Make your City!) challenge, which gave residents a greater say in and greater ownership of their living environment. We investigated how a partnership of equals could be created between residents and local government officials. In the Proeftuin Moslimdiscriminatie melden (Test bed for reporting Islamophobia), we worked with municipalities, Muslim organisations, the central government and citizens to fight anti-Muslim discrimination. This partnership between the government and committed citizens resulted in effective solutions with broad support.

A fair and inclusive energy transition

One of the greatest challenges of our time is the transition towards sustainable energy generation. Kennisland believes that more attention should be paid to the social aspect of the energy transition. Government and business have a leading role, but rely heavily on many other stakeholders: housing corporations, agencies with responsibility for implementing policy, residents, energy co-operatives and SMEs. 

We help government organisations plan and implement the energy transition so that everyone can take part and benefit, not just the ‘happy few’, by developing strategies that appeal to people’s creativity and motivation. The objective is to generate new solutions based on co-creation and partnership between all levels of society – in short, strategies based on social innovation++Social innovationRead more about this in our case study ‘Social innovation essential in the energy transition’ (in Dutch)..

In the Nieuw narratief voor de energietransitie (New narrative for the energy transition) project, we use design thinking to develop a new story for the energy transition that focuses on opportunities. We helped five municipalities tackle the transition away from natural gas in residential neighbourhoods and studied how residents experienced the transition to living without natural gas. In the Samen vooruit met energie (Moving forward together with energy) project, we helped parties from the physical and social domain in the municipality of Stichtse Vecht tackle energy poverty together for the first time.

Innovation in public services

Public trust in the government is eroding. The answer is better public services, particularly for those most dependent on the government. One of the most important preconditions for restoring trust is to involve citizens and front-line professionals in the development and evaluation of policy.

Kennisland helps government organisations develop and test new ways of working, partnerships and policy together with all stakeholders (patients, residents, families, professionals, informal carers, policy makers, legislators), with the objective of making systematic improvements to the support they provide.We help government organisations develop and test new ways of working, partnerships and policy together with all stakeholders, with the objective of making systematic improvements to the support they provide.


At Kennisland, we use our extensive experience to help authorities develop policies that are better suited to implementation in practice. This began with the Kafka Brigade++Kafka BrigadeCitizens struggling with unnecessary bureaucracy: unfortunately we are aware of many examples, and they are not simply one-off incidents. The Kafka Brigade began as a Kennisland project in 2006 and became an independent company in 2010.
in 2006, which tackled excessive bureaucracy. Kennisland later established a network of innovators++Smarter NetworkIn Slimmernetwerk (Smarter Network), innovative government officials could work together towards solutions for problems faced in daily practice. These professionals from the sector searched for better and smarter ways of working in partnership with TNO and the Kafka Brigade. within central, provincial and local governments to promote smarter working. Since 2015, we have organised social labs++Social labsExperimental spaces for tackling social challenges that at first appear intractable. The lab makes complex issues manageable by bringing together the perspectives of citizens, professionals and policy makers, and involves these groups in carrying out research, analysis and in developing problem-solving capacity by using the Feed Forward-method. with municipalities across the country, where we work with diverse groups (young people, elderly people, social workers, professionals, police, local businesses) on issues including youth unemployment, safety and security, social cohesion, loneliness and care in the community. In recent years, Kennisland has primarily focused on setting up and supporting learning communities of public officials and citizens who use design thinking and action research to devise improvements for public services++Shoulders to the WheelOne example was the Schouders Eronder! (Shoulders to the Wheel!) project, in which we helped municipalities develop more effective debt counselling. This focuses on the perspective of people with debt problems..

How Kennisland helps authorities innovate

In the coming years, Kennisland wishes to contribute to these urgent social transitions while supporting authorities at all levels as they implement the changes needed within the system. We do so by:

  • Setting up learning networks of residents, professionals, policy makers and administrators and helping them learn from – and with – one another about how to tackle urgent problems.
  • Setting up and supporting experimental spaces for social innovation.
  • Deploying new forms of (action) research, challenges and pioneer programmes to mobilise the knowledge in society to make co-creation possible for professionals in the public sector and citizens. 

We would be happy to discuss how we can help your organisation tackle a transition-related problem.

If you would like to know more, please contact Dave van Loon on dl@kl.nl or 020-5756720.

Deze tekst heeft een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-licentie (CC BY) en is gekopieerd van de Kennisland-website. Ga voor de volledige versie met afbeeldingen, streamers en noten naar https://www.kl.nl/en/news/how-we-work-towards-a-government-that-is-there-for-everyone/

This text has a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) and has been copied from the Kennisland website. For a full version with images, streamers and notes go to https://www.kl.nl/en/news/how-we-work-towards-a-government-that-is-there-for-everyone/