Policy making in a changing society

In our first blog post we introduced the challenge of improving the quality of life in the context of an ageing society. We discovered that an ageing society is a changing society that affects all citizens in different ways, not just older adults. To what extent are these challenges related to policy making?

In the 21st century, and especially since the King’s Speech of 2013, the Netherlands is aiming to make a transition from a welfare state to a participation society. Citizens are expected to take responsibility for their own lives and environment. Although there is not one clear and all-encompassing definition, terms like participation, public engagement and citizen involvement are now widely used in both national and local policy documents. This is both a result of cuts in government spending and of a gradually changing perspective on how a healthy and sustainable society should function. Society is changing not just in terms of age, but also in terms of how citizens and policy makers interact. It brings new challenges for both citizens and policy makers.

For our co-creation journey, we looked for a village or city where the challenges of ageing and shrinking are very prominent AND where citizen participation has a central place in the local policy. Through our network, we established contact with the municipality of Voerendaal. This small municipality of about 12.500 citizens is part of the greater city region of Parkstad Limburg (255.000 citizens), which also includes Heerlen and Kerkrade. As can be read in their municipal council agreement 2018-2022, Voerendaal embraces public engagement and bottom-up approaches. Therefore, they were very enthusiastic about the idea of going on this journey and learning about co-creation.

On the 17th of May 2019, we organized a co-creation workshop with 8 policy makers from the social domain of the municipality of Voerendaal to explore their perspectives on the challenge. We zoomed in on the context of the village of Ransdaal, which is part of Voerendaal and known for a strong social cohesion. We used ‘Frameboards’ (which we will explain in more detail in our next blog post) to help frame the challenge in different ways and open up new perspectives. We learned a lot about the local situation, but also started to realize that changing perspectives and thinking and acting beyond their current existing frames for many people is rather difficult. This is where multidisciplinarity and co-creation between different stakeholders might help: to broaden perspectives and explore new future possibilities.

 

– written by Anja Köppchen – 

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