Need for municipalities, education and corporations to innovate in network society

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Need for municipalities, education and corporations to innovate in network society

  • Municipal authorities evolving into brokers in the network society
  • Education as an innovative organisation still in its infancy
  • Housing corporations back to their core mission

Municipal authorities: connect individuals, companies and knowledge institutions

Municipal authorities face major challenges in the social domain. More and more core responsibilities are being transferred to lower governments, and individuals are being asked to become increasingly self-reliant. At the same time the outlines of a network society are becoming visible, lending added importance to the ability to work together, learn together and live together. The role of municipal authorities is increasingly evolving into one of a broker and hub in local networks, ABN AMRO concludes in its Vision on Municipalities, Education and Housing Corporations, published today. Municipal authorities can serve as guides for citizen initiatives and social entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions. This will help initiatives emerging from the local community to better reflect the needs of individuals and businesses.

Education: invest in qualities, not in facilities

The existing range of education choices available is preventing development-based learning. The driving force behind tomorrow’s curriculum is an emancipating movement of teachers, school leaders and parents seeking a form of education that is dictated by young people’s development, not by the system. The concept of the school as a professional and innovative organisation is still in its infancy, ABN AMRO believes. At present the emphasis is still on investing in quality systems and accountability, i.e. investments for ‘checks and balances’. A broader perspective is needed, one that that includes improving the quality of education rather than investing in large-scale facilities, IT and teaching materials. ABN AMRO expects that this will release additional scope for investments to improve the primary process. The bank believes that education can benefit from an increased focus on professionalism.

Housing corporations: show where you stand

The new Dutch Housing Act (Woningwet) lays down a series of tight regulations for housing corporations, with a clearly defined set of responsibilities and strict rules for governance. ABN AMRO stresses the need for corporations to return to their core mission: building, letting and managing government-supported rental homes. The act also assigns municipal authorities and tenants a larger role in defining performance targets. Corporations should provide the municipal authorities with more information about their operations and the financial underpinning. Tenant organisations should also be given a voice, and among other roles are given a right of approval on mergers. This requires corporations to make new strategic choices, ABN AMRO believes: they need to think about a new income model and their available financing. This too should be discussed with the municipal authorities and their tenants.

‘The public sector is facing new challenges, and municipal authorities, education institutions and housing corporations all need to rethink their organisations’ setup. This demands new choices for the future. The most important common denominator is that focusing on innovation and increased professionalism is unavoidable and that old structures will have to be abandoned. The ability to work together, learn together and live together has to improve,’ explains Eric Zwaart, Sector Banker Public at ABN AMRO. ‘This might be given shape through connections: municipalities’ greatest strength lies in connecting individuals, the local business community and civil society. For education institutions, it is a matter of connecting parties that wish to work together to create an innovative learning environment where young people utilise their qualities and have the opportunity excel. Housing corporations need to reinvent themselves and learn to connect with the municipal authorities and their tenants to justify their existence in the homeowners’ market.’

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