Participative management requires learning municipalities

Published on 30 March 2017

Participative management in which society and administration work together on solving social issues, is a promising development for municipalities. However, this requires municipal councils, boards, organisations and society to actively learn how to deal with the changed relationship between municipalities and citizens. A great deal is still to be gained in this area. That is the key conclusion of the book Pionieren in participatieland (Pioneering in the World of Citizen Participation) published by the Dutch Association of Mayors and the management consultancy firm Berenschot, and presented at a symposium bearing the same name on 29 March.

The book addresses an issue that many municipalities are struggling with: how do we connect the world within city hall with developments outside its walls? Berenschot researchers Frederik van Dalfsen and Marijke Synhaeve interviewed some forty experts, including mayors, alderman, public servants, former politicians, academics and organisations such as the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP).

On the basis of the results of these interviews, the researchers formulated conclusions, recommendations and six dilemmas for municipalities. “Knowledge and access to information is essential for effective participative management. This calls your role as a municipality within the information society into question. In addition, the principle concept of the participative society is that everyone participates as much as possible. The figures show that this is by far not yet the case,” says Marijke Synhaeve. “Participative management consequently requires a different attitude on the part of the political establishment, administration and the organisation.”

Pionieren in participatieland (Pioneering in the World of Citizen Participation) sketches a picture of a lively local democracy in which everything is not yet finalised. In addition to challenges and dilemmas, the researchers also devote attention to problem-solving approaches and tips. “Our most important recommendation to municipalities is: start working on citizen participation, because one way or another you will become involved in it. Right now there is room for experimentation, acquiring experience and discovering what best suits your municipality,” says Frederik van Dalfsen. “Participative management is inextricably linked to policy-based variations in approach. This is why every issue and every local society requires its own participative management approach.”

Pionieren in participatieland (Pioneering in the World of Citizen Participation) (ISBN 978 94 904 2308 7) consists of 168 richly illustrated pages, with an afterword by Ronald Plasterk, Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The book is available in the Netherlands for € 24.99.

Frederik Dalfsen

Frederik van Dalfsen

Managing consultant