Provincial governments in the Netherlands seek a role of active involvement, rather than that of a mere funding agency. To this end, the Province of South Holland have assembled a team of experts to assist in developing a network approach. As part of this team, I bring the tools of the FAN approach. The two other experts are Elsbeth Roelofs (Learning Histories) and Rosa Lucassen (Sustainable development).

 

Provincial officers took the initiative to find different ways the role of local government could be performed. They were looking for inspiration, and got the support of top management, who have recently launched “Focus With Ambition,” a programme aimed at improving management culture within the organisation. The initiative fitted in nicely with this agenda.

 

Three projects have been selected in different policy areas, with government officials experimenting with a facilitation role in processes of change which depend largely on the contribution of various stakeholders in the province.

 

One is a group of farmers who want to experiment with a new system involving citizens in the production cycle and maintenance of the rural landscape. Who can take part? What could lower the threshold for interested people to engage? How could the Province be of assistance here, other than through subsidy?

 

Another project is based on reducing traffic congestion.  It is certainly in the interest of many; less traffic jams, cleaner air, more efficient use of public transport and better use of working time. Large companies and institutes with many workers commuting twice daily are interested but cannot take the lead in joint endeavours. Perhaps the Province can, but how?

 

The project leaders in each case are assisted by two facilitators: one for the strategy and the other for documenting the learning process, both Provincial officers. The expert team provides methodology, collegial consultation, and ensures that the lessons learnt become tangible and are shared in the organisation.

 

In November 2011 we started with a meeting with the project teams, as well as their line managers and those responsible for the “Focus With Ambition” programme. We made a Timeline of the initiative for networking. This provided a good basis for sharing expectations.

 

 

The next step was a 24 hour workshop with the facilitators and project leaders in December 2011, held in a cosy accommodation in Sluipwijk (at the Reeuwijkse Plas). The aim was to get a feel for the network approach and the learning history method.

 

The projects are ongoing. In March 2012 a “Get Connected” meeting was held in The Hague for everyone involved, where they exchanged progress updates and questions. It was rewarding to see in the Timeline of the Initiative Group (which had since renamed itself the “Inspiration Group”) that my presentation of the Blue and Red Columns of inducing change had  helped to refresh the process with new energy.

 

 

The first lessons learnt should become visible this summer...

 

Links:

Elsbeth Roelofs:  TNO  &  "Ten Lessons in Learning" (article in Dutch)
Rosa Lucassen
The Timeline Method
The Blue and Red Columns