This piece was posted (in Dutch) on Saturday, May 15 in Het Parool .
The government is under pressure. Direction is needed to tackle complex problems such as climate change, but at the same time society is crying out for more say. Consider the recent commotion about the installation of wind turbines. Both sides can be united when the division of roles between government, business and citizens changes. Over the past thirty years, we have become trapped in an increasingly tighter straightjacket of the market economy. The adage became: the government sets policy objectives and steers through traditional economic market incentives and legislation. The market exports and the citizens watch.
This tight division of responsibilities has resulted in the government losing its grip on the implementation of policy. More and more tasks have been transferred to the market and local authorities. Citizens hardly have any influence on this anymore. This can and must be done differently.
Collaboration on mattresses, diapers and circular textiles
With network management, for example. Network management (publication in Dutch) brings citizens, businesses and government together to achieve such a complex change in practice. Over the past ten years, I have been actively involved in numerous bottom-up initiatives. What all these initiatives have in common is that citizens and companies unite because they see that something has to change.
For example, they want to make their neighborhood more sustainable or make their product chain circular. I worked with many different types of organizations on the collection and recycling of, for example mattresses and diapers and to increase sustainability of the textile chain . In such initiatives, the government is not a remote policymaker, but an equal partner. Although the government sketches the national policy frameworks, it also receives continuous feedback on them through its involvement in implementation. In this way, it can adjust policy and / or rules more quickly if necessary and take appropriate supporting policy measures.
Of course, parties have different interests and it can lead to chaos if an initiative is poorly organized. But if you properly connect the wishes of people, organizations and government and you focus on jointly established goals, such a network can bring about major changes. Note: network management is not an informal ‘let’s-see-how-it-goes’ collaboration. It is an approach with a clear structure in which everyone has their own role and from which all participants ultimately benefit. All parties in the network make agreements about this.
An example of network management is 02025: a movement of residents and businesses in Amsterdam (020) who are working together on a clean and affordable energy supply in their own neighborhood by 2025. They combine this with creating jobs for people in their neighborhood. Good examples are the initiatives for clean energy in Amsterdam Southeast, where residents unite in the CoForce foundation, and the switch from gas to its own heating network on the former WG site in Amsterdam West.
A second example is the ‘Beton Akkoord’ (Concrete Agreement) between a network of companies in the concrete supply chain, clients and the national government. The Beton Akkoord has ambitious goals. It has been calculated that in 2030 at least 50 to 60 percent CO2 reduction will be possible with innovations and that all demolished concrete will become circular, so it will be prepared for reuse in construction. Everything has been prepared to include the entire concrete chain. The only thing that is still missing is a procurement policy for clients, coordinated by the national government. In this way, the government can ensure a level playing field and certainty about the necessary investments.
At the Amsterdam Economic Board, of which I am a member, network management has now become the starting point of every initiative. There and with the other initiatives mentioned, I see that it yields a lot of good things. When an entire chain or a whole network of companies, researchers, governments and citizens is working on a change, there is automatically more support for that change. Moreover, we make use of everyone’s knowledge, skills and experience, including that of people who are not professionally involved in the change but who are affected by the initiative – for example when installing wind turbines. This means that network management strengthens our democracy.
Board is working on network management
Read how the Board uses network management to support the initiatives and programs we are working on with our many partners. Joint agreements and a shared self-interest are key.
Jacqueline Cramer recently wrote a book about network management and the circular economy.