‘How can experimentation as a form of governance become more systematized?’
The Urban Futures Studio engages in ongoing action research on the topic of ‘experimental governance’. In collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, we investigate various experimental practices in the public domain, and design and implement cutting-edge interventions to bring these practices further. In October 2019, we published our new book ‘Experimental Governance’ (Potjer, 2019), for more info see this link.
The great potential of experimentation
To many of today’s complex challenges, we do not have clear-cut solutions. Although big issues like climate change or the energy transition require a coordinated response, simple or single solutions will not do. Instead, they require a multitude of solutions, that are constantly renewed. That is why experimentation is so important. In experiments, diverse actors work together in practical settings to try out new ideas and solutions. In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of experiments on the local level. Although these experiments greatly contribute to finding innovative solutions on the local level, their overall impact is still limited: as small-scale initiatives, the ultimate value of experiments lies in their ability to influence their wider system, but exactly that often turns out to be difficult.
The need to systematize experimentation
If we want to realize the full potential of experimentation, we must look beyond local experimental contexts, and start thinking about how the system as a whole can experiment and learn. With our philosophy of ‘experimental governance’ we offer such a perspective. The philosophy in essence states that experimentation and learning should take place on three levels:
On the local level, where experiments can generate innovative ideas and solutions for complex societal issues.
On the horizontal level, where experiments can learn the most from each other if investments are made in a wide variety of experiments.
On the vertical level, where institutions can create the ideal environment for experiments to thrive. The lessons learned from experiments are used for institutional change.
Day of the City 2019
The Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, Maarten Schurink received 'Experimental Governance' at the Day of the City 2019. Researchers Suzanne Potjer and Maarten Hajer presented the book on 28 October in The Hague. 150 city counsellors and provincial deputies also received a copy during an 'executive lunch'.
Book launch at Hof van Cartesius
On 4 October 2019, the Urban Futures Studio launched the publication ‘Experimental Governance' at Hof van Cartesius. This expermential coworking space in Utrecht is also one of the cases of experimental governance within the book.