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A new administrative culture starts with us

A new administrative culture. Renewed vigour. More transparency. Will it become reality with the new government? And how do you go about achieving it? By all of us striving to change together: not just politicians, but also stakeholders, civil servants, media, and civilians. That was the conclusion of last Monday’s online meeting on stakeholders and the new administrative culture organised by the Centre for Professional Learning (CPL) and the Public Affairs Academy.

Caelesta Braun, Professor Public Governance and Civil Society and Chris van Dam, former Member of Parliament on behalf of the CDA (Christian Democratic Party) and currently working as an independent advisor took part in a discussion with approximately 50 participants. The much discussed administrative culture and the opportunities and possibilities for stakeholders were approached from both an academic perspective and with input from the work field.  

Responsivity and accountability

For Caelesta Braun concludes: These types of processes take time. You’re dealing with deeply ingrained patterns. I truly hope things will changes but, for me, it remains to be seen.’ According to the professor there are two dots on the horizon when it comes to the new administrative culture. Responsivity and accountability. If both the government and the midfield, in other words social organisations, become responsive This means: soliciting wide ranging feedback on issues and listening to citizens, knowing what is going on and taking stock of all interests and point of views before coming to a decision. Braun: ’And for a new administrative culture, you’ll need GENUINE, in capital letters, political accountability. Minsters have to hold firm on the decisions that have been taken. Be clear and transparent. Explain what has and what hasn’t been done. And be brave enough to bear the consequences.’

What happened to the human dimension?

Chris van Dam hoops that civil servants, advisors, and everybody really, will try to find and reclaim their personal spirit. ‘The moral sincerity has been missing for quite some time. Have a look at the human being you’re working for and at the colleague you’re working with or for whom you’re working. We’ve lost sight of them because we’ve become some kind of machine that steam rolls ahead busy with keeping aldermen and minister in power. But what happened to the human dimension? There’s so much we can do on our own. I really believe that everybody should take a step back and reflect in order to figure out what their contribution to the new administrative culture will be.’

Van Dam also believes that the road to a new administrative culture is only a few simple changes to the system away. ‘You’ll notice that the execution has been tucked away behind policy. Don’t make it into a 3-in-a-row but a triangle. So that implementing organisations have more access to the representative bodies to keep administrators informed of what’s going on. It’s no longer about selling a story, but about managing a problem.’

Participants asked Van Dam and Braun questions about, among other things, the learning capacity of the government, the media’s role, how to reach citizens, and the importance of holding up a mirror to your own organisation in order to remain in touch with your followers. The main thread that kept recurring during the discussion also became the main conclusion at the end of the session. It is up to us to change things. Dare to be critical and raise your hand, even if it is likely to cause a barrage of criticism. Braun: ‘Our democracy’s something we need to defend with our heart and soul.’

Public Affairs Next Level

This webinar was also a preview of the spring edition of the in-depth Public Affairs Next Level course, a collaboration between the Public Affairs Academie and the Centre for Professional Learning at Leiden University. This course will be taught in Dutch. 

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