How can we effectively guide and coordinate the relationship between internal governmental processes and structures, and civil processes and activities? To find out, the do-democracy team of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked DRIFT to research the following question: how do municipalities arrange their organization and processes, in response to the changing relations between government and civilian?
From a transition viewpoint, connecting capacity is a strategy for local governments, to respond effectively to transitions. We define the connecting capacity as the proficiency of local authorities to connect internal processes, structures, practices, values and attitudes to the external processes and activities of civilians.
To conduct this study, we interviewed 20 people, organized 5 meetings and wrote a report that elaborates on the results of this exploratory study in 4 Dutch municipalities: Groningen, Hoorn, Oldebroek and Utrecht. We found that the four municipalities studied have the potential to strengthen their connecting capacity, by paying more attention to three aspects.
The first aspect, awareness of the system, refers to the recognition that we are part of a larger system. The second aspect, reflexive monitoring, supports learning in and by experiments and explorations. Reflexive monitoring can build upon the collection of learning experiences and connects content to processes, which contributes to the development of connecting capacity. The third aspect concerns plurality, and paradoxes in particular. Looking from a transitions perspective, thinking in terms of paradoxes, instead of thinking in terms of dilemma’s, shows the plural sides of situations. A paradox is an apparent opposition: in contrast with a dilemma, the different aspects and sides of a paradox are reconcilable.
When civil servants and official manage to incorporate plurality and paradoxes in practices ánd in governmental and learning styles, they are expected to navigate through current societal tensions and changes more easily.
Marieke Verhagen and PJ Beers
Rapport ‘Verkenning van aansluitingsvermogen van Nederlandse gemeenten. Omgaan met nieuwe rollen en verhoudingen – hoe organiseer je dat als gemeentelijke overheid ‘intern’?’
The complete report (Dutch).
January 1, 2016