De wijsheid van Pippi Langkous

Pippi Langkous is ons idool, omdat zij altijd het volle vertrouwen in alles heeft. Zij neemt vanuit haar woonhuis Villa Kakelbont vrienden en vriendinnen mee in nieuwe avonturen, die altijd goed aflopen. Dat is mooi.

Haar lijfspreuk: “Ik heb het nog nooit gedaan, dus ik denk dat ik het wel kan.”

Voor politici, bestuurders, managers, organisaties, bedrijven en burgers kan het denken en handelen vanuit deze lijfspreuk een frisse wind doen waaien door de gestaalde kaders en afgebakende silo’s. Het kan de angsten verdrijven en nieuwe hoop geven op snelle oplossingen. En er liggen bovendien nogal wat maatschappelijke vraagstukken op ons bordje, die redelijk nieuw zijn en die we nog nooit gedaan hebben.

Wij denken aan Pippi Langkous. Ideaal concept ook voor een training in het openbaar bestuur, zo lijkt het de Heren van Oranje toe.

De stad en de woestijn

Schrijver en filosoof Albert Camus had een zwak voor woestijnen. Hij werd verliefd op de woestijn, de Sahara. Het overweldigde hem. Het was een plek waar hij tot zichzelf kon komen.

Steden waar in zijn ogen ook woestijnen, moderne woestijnen wel te verstaan. Hij zij eens: “Als remedie op het leven in de samenleving zou ik de suggestie willen doen: de grote stad. Tegenwoordig is het de enige woestijn binnen ons bereik.”

Het lijkt een contradictio, de stad als bruisend en sociaal centrum en toch een woestijn, maar in de ogen van Camus  zeker het geval. Een bijzondere gedachte. De Heren van Oranje gaan zijn werken herlezen. Vanuit onze ervaring als city manager een waarlijk retrospectief.

Verandering van Tijdperk

Toch weer eens uit de boekenkast gepakt. Het boek van Jan Rotmans. “Nederland zal de komende decennia transformeren naar een nieuwe samenleving waarin de machtsverhoudingen zoals we die nu kennen radicaal zijn omgegooid. Dit is geen idealistisch vergezicht, maar de onontkoombare uitkomst van de kantelperiode waarin Nederland zich nu bevindt.

In ‘Verandering van tijdperk’, de opvolger van de bestseller ‘In het oog van de orkaan’, beschrijft Jan Rotmans ook de nieuwe sectoren onderwijs en financiën en geeft daarmee een compleet beeld van Nederland in transitie.

Rode draad is dat alle maatschappelijke sectoren hun houdbaarheidsdatum naderen, omdat de mens niet langer centraal staat. Mensen ontwikkelen zelf alternatieven en voeren die uit. Samen vormen zij de beweging van onderop, essentieel voor de transitie naar een beter aangepaste samenleving en economie.

Jan Rotmans geeft in ‘Verandering van tijdperk’ een concreet en soms ontluisterend beeld van de heftige botsing tussen de gevestigde orde en de opkomende nieuwe orde. Dit boek laat zien wat ons te wachten staat en biedt inspiratie omdat in deze kantelperiode ieder individu en elk initiatief telt; eenieder kan juist nu het verschil maken.”

*Rotmans, Jan en Martijn Jeroen Linden, 2014, Verandering van tijdperk: Nederland kantelt. ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Aeneas Media, 180 pp.

De koffer naar Oranje-Stad

Een oranje koffer vol wijsheden over de besturing van de stad. Dat zou mooi zijn. Een koffer om alle kennis, kunde, ervaring en wijsheid in mee te kunnen nemen op reis door de stad.

Een koffer die elke politicus, bestuurder en manager bij zich heeft om hem te kunnen openen als dat nodig is. Mobiel meesterschap onder handbereik. Dat zou mooi zijn.

Wij, Hans Redert en ik, gaan op reis en nemen mee: stimulerende kaders, organisatiekracht en investerend vermogen. De basis voor elk bestuurlijk succes. Wat neemt u mee naar Oranje-Stad?

Steden en klimaatverandering

Met het Parijs klimaatverdrag gisteren ondertekend door 175 landen gisteren is het tijd voor steden om te acteren. Met de ondertekening werd een begin gemaakt met een wereldwijde beweging.

Deze wat oudere publicatie van 2009 door de Wereldbank kan gemeenten helpen. Het is na 10 jaar nog steeds actueel en goed bruikbaar voor begrip van de omvang van het vraagstuk en de wijze waarop besturende processen door bedrijven en met name overheden vormgegeven kunnen worden.

Het is gebaseerd op het 5de stedelijk onderzoekssymposium inzake steden en klimaatverandering en adresseert de urgentie van een stevige agenda. Het werd gehouden in Marseille. Het gaat in op hoe klimaatverandering en verstedelijking geleidelijk bij elkaar komen om één van de grootste uitdagingen van onze tijd te adresseren.

Over de rentmeester

Jan van Brouchoven, vooruitstrevend rentmeester van Rijnland, 1540-1588

Het begrip rentmeester heeft op het eerste gezicht weinig connotaties en directe associaties met bestuur en management van publieke organisaties zoals gemeenten, provincies en waterschappen. Er zijn wel snel directe verbanden te leggen met de Bijbel, ecologie, duurzaamheid en het beheer van landgoederen, maar denkend over een integrale en holistische benadering van het management van steden – waarin de systeemwereld en de leefwereld nog steeds een gescheiden leven leiden – is het begrip niet of nauwelijks ingeburgerd. Soms wordt het begrip gehanteerd door politieke partijen voor onderdelen van hun programma’s, maar consistent over de volle breedte van besturing is dit dan weer niet of slechts ten dele uitgewerkt.

De Heren van Oranje willen bevorderen dat het begrip rentmeester geladen worden in de context vanuit het perspectief van het besturen en managen van steden. Dit dan niet in louter wetenschappelijk zin, maar vooral in de context van hun maatschappelijke relevantie en binnen de kaders van en met respect voor het natuurlijke milieu. Een start.

Van Daele geeft de volgende betekenis:

rent·mees·ter (dem,vmeervoud: rentmeesters)

1. iem. die voor zijn heer de pachten of huren int

2. beheerder van een landgoed

3. de mens in zijn verantwoordelijkheid voor de aarde

Er zijn vele synoniemen en associaties met het beroep of vak van rentmeester. Een eerste inventarisatie:

hoeder, manager, vertrouwensman, administrateur, inspecteur, meier, ontvanger, opzichter, drost, drossaard, baljuw, schout, gebiedsregisseur.

Wat opvalt is dat de rentmeester de focus te allen tijde heeft:

op de  lange termijn, op continuïteit, de waarden van het beheerde gebied of domein en zeker niet op eigen gewin.

Frank Lloyd Wright tried to solve the city

Picture: Frank Lloyd Wright. Broadacre City. The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).

Morgan Meis |The New Yorker

Frank Lloyd Wright hated cities. He thought that they were cramped and crowded, stupidly designed, or, more often, built without any sense of design at all. He once wrote, “To look at the plan of a great City is to look at something like the cross-section of a fibrous tumor.”

Wright was always looking for a way to cure the cancer of the city. For him, the central problem was that cities lacked essential elements like space, air, light, and silence. Looking at the congestion and overcrowding of New York City, he lamented, “The whole city is in agony.” Read more >

The  article has been written related to the ‘Density vs. Dispersal’ Architecture and Design Collection Exhibitionat the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal celebrates the recent joint acquisition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s extensive archive by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanization of the American landscape titled “Broadacre City.

Simpler: The Future of Government

Book by Cass R. Sunstein

How can government be more “user-friendly”, simple and efficient by streamlining and reforming government regulation and rule-making?

This book is about making things simpler, how governments can be much better, and do much better, if they make people’s lives easier and get rid of unnecessary complexity. “…simpler government can be found in new initiatives that save money and time, improve health, and lengthen lives” (Simon & Schuster).

In this book the author Cass R. Sunstein shares his experiences from 2009 to 2012 when he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration. His theories shaped and continue to shape the Obama administration and the American nation. In this interview (Brookings) Sunstein lines out his main findings and focus.

Published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Read more >

If Mayors Ruled the World

Book by Benjamin R. Barber

“Challenges of our time—climate change, terrorism, poverty, and trafficking of drugs, guns, and people—the nations of the world seem paralyzed. The problems are too big, entrenched, and divisive for the nation state. Is the nation state, once democracy’s best hope, today dysfunctional and obsolete? The answer, says Benjamin R. Barber in If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, is yes.

Barber asserts that cities, and the mayors that run them, offer the best new forces of good governance. Why cities? Cities already occupy the commanding heights of the global economy. They are home to more than half of the world’s population, a proportion which will continue to grow. They are the primary incubator of the cultural, social, and political innovations which shape our planet. And most importantly, they are unburdened with the issues of borders and sovereignty which hobble the capacity of nation-states to work with one another.” (Source: website author)

In his TedTalk in Edinburg, Scotland, he outlines is argumentation for this new approach.

“Democracy is in trouble. No question about that.

And it comes in part from a deep dilemma in which it is embedded.  It is increasingly irrelevant to the kind of decisions we face, that have to do with global pandemics (a cross-border problem), with HIV (a transnational problem with markets in immigration, something that goes beyond national borders), with terrorism, with war. All now cross-border problems all now. In fact we live in a 21st century world of interdependence and interdependent approval, interdependent problems.”

And when we look for solutions in politics and democracy we are faced with political institutions designed four hundred years ago. Autonomous, sovereign nation-states with jurisdictions and territories separate from one another each claiming to be able to solve the problem of its own people. 21st Century transnational world of problems and challenges seventeenth century world of political institutions.

In that dilemma lies the central problem of democracy. And like many others I’ve been thinking about what can one do about this. This asymmetry between 21st century challenges and archaic and increasingly dysfunctional political institutions like nation-states.

 

The need for an holistic approach

One of the characteristics of the public domain (as a whole) is the multitude of stakes, roles, interests which should all fit in that one society, city, village or community, we live in. The matching of stake and interests is a constant balancing act, on every level of society, between citizens and for our natural environment. It is a constant switching pattern between the different governmental layers (country, province, municipality), politicians, experts, managers, scientists, businessmen and the media.

This demands for an holistic approach of the public domain and of course for  a – on this principle based – approach of governance.  This implies a binding approach of all organizations active within a certain geographical entity. Government could (as steward) fulfill this role and be in charge of creating relevant connections and alliances. And take the lead for carrying out the direction of this multidisciplinary form of management. An holistic approach of meeting, connecting and cooperating is needed, more than ever.

The multitude and diversity of stakes are essential characteristics for democratic societies as we know them. Like ecosystems can develop into more complex and biodiverse systems, so does society. If the stability of the system as a whole is a starting point we accordingly need to address the involved public values and risk from this perspective, the very essence of holism. In this the city as concept, as entity is the perspective.

The increasing biodiversity of society seems to demand a more advanced ‘steering wheel’ to keep the right balance in approaching, thinking and handling. Fragmentation and even disintegration of public values are looming if we don’t.

Is the fact that today many social and environmental risks looming and emerging a hint for the fact that growth of complexity, quality of governance and quality of life are less balanced than before? Is Public Governance in for an update? And in need for  a far more advanced way than the present segmented and clientele driven roads we walk.

I think yes. Less segmented, less individual clientele driven. Would be conditional in my view if we truly and still want a more sustainable and balanced society. For that we have to work on fitting in more intelligence into our public governance. Invest in an holistic approach. Within this frame we will have to learn to combine knowledge from the many scientific fields, truly are prepared to analyse the relevant stakes and interests involved with that of the eagle eye of the practitioner who knows what will work at the end and what will not.

Photo by Louise G.S. Kruf ©

Sharing knowledge

Lucius Annaeus Seneca:

“Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself… and if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it… No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it”.

* Letters from a Stoic

The City and the Natural Environment

By Joel A. Tarr for the Carnegie Mellon University

While cities and their metropolitan areas interact with and shape the natural environment, it is only recently, as Martin Melosi and Christine Rosen have observed, that historians have begun to systematically consider this relationship.

Geographers and urban designers such as Ian Douglas, Spencer W. Havlick, and Ann Spirin, however, had previously laid foundations for this work. Just as urban history developed as a field in reaction to a growing societal focus on and awareness of urban problems, so has urban environmental studies grown with the evolution of the environmental movement.

During our own time, as Ian McHarg was one of the first to demonstrate, the tension between natural and urbanized areas has increased, as the spread of metropolitan populations and urban land uses has reshaped and destroyed natural landscapes and environments. The relationship between the city and the natural environment has actually been circular, with cities having massive effects on the natural environment, while the natural environment, in turn, has profoundly shaped urban configurations. Read more >

Photo by Louise G.S. Kruf ©

Bees & Government

Honey bees are brilliant at collective decision making”, according biologist Thomas B. Seeley on the Harvard Business Review Blog. It is evident that all leaders can learn from the way bees communicate, debate and decide.  How to mobilise all available knowledge, expertise, insights, views and opinions within the organisation in the process of choosing the right direction. This is all about strategy. In its highest form. The bees seem to be masters in this. Seeley lines out the next crucial factors for optimal decision making:

  • Remind the group’s members of their shared interests and foster mutual respect, so they work together productively.
  • Explore diverse solutions to the problem, to maximize the group’s likelihood of uncovering an excellent option.
  • Aggregate the group’s knowledge through a frank debate.
  • Minimize the leader’s influence on the group’s thinking.
  • Balance interdependence (information sharing) and independence (absence of peer pressure) among the group’s members.

The boundaries between ecology and public governance seem to fade here by cross-overs like this study. Not so surprising. After all we can learn from governing systems in nature. The good news is that the  knowledge of ecosystems is more and more entering the world of managers.  This bee-example is ‘proven technology’ after all and ‘polished’ during millions of years. As if it is ISO Certified and ready for implementing in our public and private organisations . Maybe we can learn from the bees in finding our way out of the financial, social and economic crisis. Read more >

Picture: Louise G.S. Kruf ©

Public Steward

Or steward of the public domain? Who at the end is taking care for our society as a whole? Bringing balance between the political world (according Machiavelli the domain of power and influence’), society, the natural environment, relevant public values, science, media and business. Is it the system of human society itself, democratic or not, functioning or not, which is actual self-governing? Or maybe is it the King as steward, guarding us, and not being part of the political system. Can the popularity of Kings and Queens (still) be explained by the fact that we actually are in serious need for a  steward which is guarding and guiding? Or are they a sublimation of our own personal feelings about lack of security and safety in the big world?

Etymology

In old English stiward, stigweard means “house guardian,” from stig “hall, pen” + weard “guard.” So  meaning “overseer of workmen”, attested from c.1300. The sense of “officer on a ship in charge of provisions and meals” is first recorded mid-15c.; extended to trains 1906. A stewardwas the title of a class of high officers of the state in early England and Scotland, hence meaning “one who manages affairs of an estate on behalf of his employer” (late 14c.). The term developed during centuries, step by step, from the level of household to that of the public domain. What emerges here is the fact that government should not only deliver products, services, enforce rules, collect taxes and making regulations but also act as a steward. Taking care. Guardian angel.

Religion & Thought

The thoughts of stewardship are embedded in many beliefs, ideologies, philosophies and religions such as Buddhism, CatholicismGaiaHinduismHumanism, IslamismJudaismProtestantism and many more.  According David Horrell the oldest and most influential source for the idea that humans are meant to be stewards of the earth is the Bible, and in particular the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.

Government

Within public governance though – scientifically as well as from practitioners perspective – stewardship is still in development, and compared with the “world of” beliefs, ideologies, philosophies and religions relatively small and not well elaborated. The role ofsteward– to underline the focus and feeling of this role I use the term public steward – has been defined by several institutions and scientists as one of the roles of government. This role can only be carried out by government, many say.

O yes, government. That is actually us. At least in the democratic societies. With as main – and generally acknowledged – considerations the attainment of the society’s (public) values and quality of life for citizens. I would like to add nature here. This mostly is not considered as part, rather as environmental aspect of society and defined as our natural environment. Nature though is a core in the conceptions of stewardship, but in public governance still in the background. Of course it is linked somehow with sustainability, but not truly embedded in the processes and architecture of public governance.

Embedding

In my view stewardship is not that easy to embed in governing the public domain – at least being a challenging task – due to the always rich palette of  stakes, views, levels of government, political parties, beliefs, backgrounds and interests. Society is complex, stewardship in this regard a true profession.

What could be helpful is a more holistic approach (by government) of any issue, topic, plan or project; actually meaning placing strategies and policies in the larger perspective of total of values of the public area domain, for instance a city, as a whole. Not always easy zooming out from direct interests, stakes and clientele.

Moreover it becomes more and more important that also citizens and organisations living, working and acting within the public domain, truly embed the values of the public domain (as a whole) in their own behaviour. And act in the spirit of.

Ownership

Public stewardship contains on one hand a balanced holistic approach of public matters and a behaviour of citizens expressing their responsibility for the bigger picture on the other hand. So not only government as steward – with for cities Mayor, Aldermen and The City Council in the lead. No, everyone of us can be (and should be, but maybe  that is too normative) a public steward and act from the responsibility for the mainframe of discussed, confirmed and decided public values.

Necessity

For example a clean city (as chosen, confirmed and decided public value). Many cities have expressed this public value in their strategies and policy plan, that is way I use it as an example – is not only the guarding task of government, but in my view for everyone of us, regardless our background, belief or personal circumstances. Public Stewardship can in my view be very successful (not only as concept but as truly effective way of governing) when government and citizens act as one (the essence of democracy). For that a more holistic approach of public governance is desirable. No it is more than that: necessary.

Picture by Renée A.M. Kruf ©, Morocco.

 

 

Ideas…

Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison:

“Ideas without execution are hallucinations.”

From Tree to Shining Tree

A forest can feel like a place of great stillness and quiet. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city at rush hour.

In this story, a dog introduces us to a strange creature that burrows beneath forests, building an underground network where deals are made and lives are saved (and lost) in a complex web of friendships, rivalries, and business relations. It’s a network that scientists are only just beginning to untangle and map, and it’s not only turning our understanding of forests upside down, it’s leading some researchers to rethink what it means to be intelligent.

Produced by Annie McEwen and Brenna Farrell. Special Thanks to Latif Nasser, Stephanie Tam, Teresa Ryan, Marc Guttman, and Professor Nicholas P. Money at Miami University.

Listen

“Suzanne Simard:

The fungus has this incredible network of tubes that it’s able to send out through the soil, and draw up water and mineral nutrients that the tree needs.

Latif:

Wait. I thought, I thought tree roots just sort of did, like, I thought, I always imagined tree roots were kind of like straws. Like, the tree was, like, already doing that stuff by itself, but it’s the fungus that’s doing that stuff?

Jennifer:

Yes, in a lot of cases it is the fungus. Because tree roots and a lot of plant roots are not actually very good at doing what you think they’re doing.

Robert Krulwich:

She says the tree can only suck up what it needs through these — mostly through the teeny tips of its roots, and that’s not enough bandwidth.

Jad A.:

Wait. So, okay. So the fungus is giving the tree the minerals.

Robert Krulwich:

Yeah.

Jad A.:

What is the tree given back to the fungus?

Robert Krulwich:

Remember I told you how trees makes sugar?

Jad A.:

Yeah.

Robert Krulwich:

So that’s what the tree gives the fungus. Sugar.

Jennifer:

The fungi needs sugar to build their bodies, the same way that we use our food to build our bodies.

Suzanne Simard:

They can’t photosynthesize. They can’t take up CO2. And so they have this trading system with trees.”

Landscape as Infrastructure

As ecology becomes the new engineering, the projection of landscape as infrastructure―the contemporary alignment of the disciplines of landscape architecture, civil engineering, and urban planning― has become pressing. Predominant challenges facing urban regions and territories today―including shifting climates, material flows, and population mobilities, are addressed and strategized here.

Responding to the under-performance of master planning and over-exertion of technological systems at the end of twentieth century, this book argues for the strategic design of “infrastructural ecologies,” describing a synthetic landscape of living, biophysical systems that operate as urban infrastructures to shape and direct the future of urban economies and cultures into the 21st century.

Pierre Bélanger is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Co-Director of the Master in Design Studies Program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. As part of the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Advanced Studies Program, Bélanger teaches and coordinates graduate courses on the convergence of ecology, infrastructure and urbanism in the interrelated fields of design, planning and engineering.

The book is published by Routledge.