Government in transition

The transition towards stronger local government is a positive step on the road towards a social environment in which made-to-measure services are provided and people themselves take the initiative more often. However, it cannot be assumed that this significant change in the structure of public administration will be equally beneficial to all. The current administrative burden and dynamic give rise to the risk that too little attention is paid to those who will directly feel the consequences of this change. The authorities cannot allow a situation to emerge in which larger groups or entirely new groups are left behind. We have three strategies with which to support central and local government in the search for a new role and new approaches.

<span>Government</span> in transition
The Hague

Maker: Udo Geisler




The Hague.

Innovate inwards from the outside

Innovating inwards from the outside means beginning with the users of public services in their own environment. It is important to be able to ascertain whether the services offered connect with what people really need and with what they are able and willing to do themselves. We employ a number of working principles in doing so. We work in multidisciplinary teams consisting of professionals and citizens who work together during all phases of a project. In addition to figures and specific policy themes, we devote particular attention to the personal stories of the target group, since these give a much clearer picture of their social context and the local dynamic. We give preference to fieldwork over working behind desks. We don’t provide recommendations and reports, but instead carry out in situ experiments in order to determine what works and what doesn’t. We call this the Social Lab approach++Social labsTest beds of the terra incognita. What does the decentralisation from central to local government mean for (vulnerable) citizens? See the case.

These include the Beleidslabs (Policy labs) on the themes “the quality of new-build developments” and “saving energy in the owner-occupied sector”, which we set up together with officials from the Dutch ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Two multidisciplinary teams of officials, thematic experts and citizens searched for new insights and solutions for these two topics. We spent two weeks in the Amsteldorp district of Amsterdam with a team consisting of Kennisland, officials and residents in order to determine what it means to grow old comfortably in the district and what must be put in place in order to make this possible. This project allowed us to experiment with the Social Lab approach. We have organised and attended several international meetings on social labs. The results of this include the critical essay Lab Matters and the book Lab Craft.

Organise the correct support and capacity for innovation

We are continuously on the lookout for ways in which to ensure that government can innovate and improve effectively. This is something that will not happen on its own. The way in which government tries to renew itself is often rooted too deeply in classic bureaucratic structures. In order to provide an answer to this we construct platforms and support networks in which we attempt to improve the capacity for innovation and the capacity to solve problems of organisations and individual professionals.

With Slimmernetwerk (Smarter network) we developed a platform and the Doetank (Do-tank++Do-tanksA Do-tank is a multidisciplinary group of innovators from the public sector who work together on current and relevant problems related to “smarter working”. Do-tanks are concerned with new ways of working together and organising. The focus of Do-tanks is learning through doing. Read more) methodology to support and conduct research into public professionals striving to innovate themselves. We have also been an active partner of the Kafkabrigade since 2005. The Kafkabrigade carries out interventions and research into combating bureaucracy and preventing unnecessary bureaucracy. The most recent example of this is the two-year programme commissioned by the lower house of the DutchThe way in which government tries to renew itself is often rooted too deeply in classic bureaucratic structures. parliament and the ministry of Education, Culture and Science with the aim of ensuring that children, parents and teachers do not fall through the cracks in the passend onderwijs (special needs education) system.

New initiatives outside existing frameworks

We want not just to improve existing systems but also to work towards the construction of a new system. This will allow us to make even better use of the inventiveness and creativity of peopleWe can make much better use of the inventiveness and creativity of people who travel off the beaten track in order to make a positive difference to society. who travel off the beaten track in order to make a positive difference to society. That’s why we search out, connect and support so-called “radical innovators”: individuals, entrepreneurs and social collectives who have developed substantially different approaches to solving complex social problems. It is important to create a lasting connection between these radical innovators and government, not just as inspiration but most of all as a contribution to the debate around the question of whether the government should continue to do everything if others are capable of acting much faster and more innovatively. Another example is the crowdfunding platform Voor je Buurt (For your Neighbourhood), which we have set up in order to make it easy for local neighbourhood entrepreneurs and initiatives to innovate.

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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

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