Looking Back on 2017

Seven years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment. Borrowing from Ernst, from whom I copied this habit in 2010, I call them the annual Tadaa!-list (see the 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am always looking forward to doing the next thing, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during a year. Sometimes I forget things completely (I once forgot I organized a national conference, because I left for an extended period of travel the next day). Although I have worked on improving that sense of awareness this year, it is still a good way to reflect on the past 12 months. So, a bit shorter and more personal than earlier years, and in no particular order, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • Ten years ago, just before Christmas, I handed in my resignation and started my own business. It feels both longer and shorter. I’ve never looked back, it is the air that I breathe. I’m looking back on a decade of freedom. Even if always being the one committed to make things succeed and ends meet, especially when you hire people, is a relentless responsibility. There have been one or two short-lived rough patches (like when in 2010 three big contracts fell through at the same time). It brought the freedom to follow interests and emerging topics, to work with whom I choose, to travel extensively (with Elmine) and work anywhere, to continuously make up my own job. It, at least as importantly, brought the freedom to follow emotional needs, to stay at home for four months when our daughter was born, to spend time with my parents in the last weeks of their lives. Thank you to all who shared part of that journey with me this last decade. Looking forward to the next ones!
    Defining moment
    Me sending in my resignation, December 2007
  • Early this year I designed and helped (with the Frisian library and Frysklab team) run an experimental collaborative ‘design and make’ process with a primary school class, based on my Agency model. It was a great experience, and the children involved got inspired and changed by the experience. (By coincidence I met one of the children and his parents on a campground in Austria during the summer, he was still very much inspired by it)
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    Group pic at the end of the ‘Impact through connection: at school’ project
  • I continued my coaching sessions that I started last year. The coaching brought focus and awareness by providing a sense of calm, made me kinder to myself, and improved my effectiveness.
  • We moved house in April from Enschede on the German border, to Amersfoort in the middle of the country, reducing a lot of trips with 80 minutes one way. Extra time I can spend at home with the family, and the reduced commutes also make it possible to stay in closer touch with family, friends, peers, clients and go to events. I really enjoy our new spacious home, although leaving a city I’ve lived in for almost 30 years means a lot of routines need to be re-established. Exploring our new surroundings, by going out for lunch for instance, is now a standard part of our week. The move was the timely culmination of a goal set in 2013 to be ready to move by the end of 2016.
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    Farewell party for our Enschede friends and neighbours.

    Building activity in our new home, and hanging out on the waterside terrace below the garden
  • Opened up our new home to friends and family. This bodes well for a new ‘Stuff that Matters’ unconference in 2018.
    Ready for garden party
    Ready for the first party in our new home, a garden party for Yfke’s 1st birthday
  • Evaluated the relevance, effectiveness and impact of an NGO over the past 5-6 years. In the process I’ve used several complexity management and narrative inquiry methods with good results, and involving the NGO’s staff in a meaningful way. They not only changed focus as a result but also want to continue to use the evaluation and reflection methods for themselves. Doing the evaluation was useful for my own reflection as well, in terms of the strategic issues emerging for my own company.
  • I spent every Friday at home to be with our daughter. A joy to watch her develop.
  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Helped create and launch a unique collaborative open data portal, the Frisian regional data platform. Initiated by the Province of Fryslan and the city of Leeuwarden who share the initial costs, the Province ensures its existence, and local governments can participate through a subscription. From the start the regional historic center and archive Tresoar participates on this basis. The unique aspect is that the Province ensures a base line service provision, so that the many small local governments can easily participate, who otherwise would see the need for data publishing infrastructure as too big a hurdle to start publishing open data. At the same time, data from any participant makes the data of the others more useful as it becomes easier to correlate or cover a wider area. This increases the likelihood of people using the data.
    Fries Open Data Platform / Connect.frl
    Launching the Frisian data platform during the Connect.FRL conference
  • Presented the results of the national open data readiness assessment to the Malaysian government (in May) and helped launch the Malaysian open data user group (bringing together government entities, citizens, civil society, business and academia. In November). Now discussing an 18 month collaboration to help move the Malaysian open data efforts forward.
    18622422_10154638415937957_2512170809972614048_n Malaysia Open Data User Group
    Supporting Malaysian open data efforts
  • For the first time discussed a licensing deal, opening up the perspective of passive income.
  • Spent a day in London in April and September meeting with old friends. In remembrance of Tim who suddenly passed away early in the year, and as a consequence of our grief in recognition of how valuable it is to just spend time together sharing experiences and stories from our lives and our companies, discussing plans, doubts, and having a laugh with peers. Looking forward to a repeat in 2018. Thank you Patrick, Tony, Johnnie, Matt. Thank you Tim.
    Hanging out
  • Started taking steps to reduce my Facebook usage in favor of blogging more (resulting in 28 posts the last 3 months, versus 8 the preceding 9).

I’ve worked 1727 hours this year (in 46 weeks, 2 weeks of illness, 4 of vacationing, averaging about 38hrs/wk), which is more or less the same as last year. It is a significant reduction from the over 2400 hours a few years ago, but still about 200 hours above target, given I’ve spend a day per week at home with our daughter. The average should get closer to 32 hours per week in the next year. Being better equipped to choose, focus and say no, will help reach that goal.
Over the year I succeeded in keeping a good pace of reading fiction, 55 books in total. This is a good sign, as usually if I feel stressed I drop (and severely miss) my reading. I tried to find new (to me at least) authors to read. The books by Nnedi Okorafor, Chimamanda Adichie, Linda Nagata (the Nanotech Succession) and Tricia Sullivan I especially enjoyed, while the Bobiverse books, with AI Von Neumann probes going off script, were a lot of fun with its wide variety of storylines and angles to explore.

As per usual we will spend the last days of the year with dear friends, this time not in Switzerland as we often do, but in our new home in Amersfoort.
For 2018 a few exciting plans are already lined up, partly on new topics, in new countries and with some new clients and partners. Onwards!

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