Following the political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan with interest, the only proper but still fragile democratic republic in Central Asia. I worked in Kyrgyzstan during a few years, 2014-2016, and met a people fiercely proud of their democracy. A democracy that is not easy to maintain in a country where poverty is significant (22% below the poverty line last year), and where Soviet era aspects still echo in the legal framework and in the attitudes towards power of some. We worked on using open data to overcome some of those hurdles, and I encountered hihgly motivated people everywhere, from the then prime minister and the state secretary for economic affairs, members of parliament, officials in data holding government institutions, to the local IT companies, a struggling free press clamoring for access and transparency, NGO’s, and all the way to local primary school teams wanting to use open data to better show parents which schools still have space for more pupils in their free lunch provision programs (remember, poverty). All of those I met want Kyrgyzstan to be better. To function better and more equally, to reduce corruption, to provide agency to people, to provide better public services, to get out of poverty. It seems from afar they are at a new inflection point on their still young path of democracy. Reading the headlines I think of the many people I met and their energy and intentions. I just got a message from Kiva I have room to provide more micro credits again, and will, like I do frequently for countries I’ve worked in, spend it on supporting underbanked (budding) entrepreneurs and students in Kyrgyzstan.

And then think of the fragility in democracies elsewhere, here in and adjecent to the EU.

Replied to Filtered for Small Groups by Matt Webb (Interconnected)
It’s a crucible for exploration and creation… but this isn’t a team on working on a single project together. It’s about independent work and feedback. Says Mulholland: "An ongoing relationship provides more effective advice, allowing the use of shorthand for concepts and a two-way conversation that autodidactic education lacks." He asks: "What is the SMALL GROUP for the 2020s?" – and gives some boundaries: around a dozen members; mutual accountability on personal projects through regular presentations. It’s a powerfully engaging question.

Came across this in Peter’s favourites. I think a useful perspective on the described small groups is community of practice, which opens up a range of aspects you can address to steward such a group.

Groups like that are imo key for some of the things Matt describes because they provide the right kind of instrument right at the organisational level where complexity resides, somewhere between the small scale/individual and the statistical. The level of interdependent factors where new ideas, momentum, innovation, and feedback emerge.

It’s also why in networked agency I see a small group as the unit of agency. A small group of people with mutual connections in a specific context and with a specific interest or issue, getting their hands on the tools and methods right for them. People, a shared context/domain and issues one cares about are the three pillars of community of practice again.

Bookmarked The Tethered Economy (
As sellers blend hardware and software—as well as product and service—tethers yoke the consumer to a continuous post-transaction relationship with the seller. The consequences of that dynamic will be felt both at the level of individual consumer harms and on the scale of broader, economy-wide effects These consumer and market-level harms, while distinct, reinforce and amplify one another in troubling ways. Seller contracts have long sought to shape consumers’ legal rights. But in a tethered environment, these rights may become non-existent as legal processes are replaced with automated technological enforcement.

Bookmarked for reading (found in Neil Mather’s blog). Actual cases of ‘tethered’ economic transactions where a buyer is bound into an ongoing relationship with the seller with an uneven power balance, are already easy to find: John Deere suing farmers for tinkering with their tractors (with Deere claiming they never sold a tractor but a license to operate the software on one), insurance and credit companies remotely disabling a car upon a late payment, or Amazon removing books you bought from your Kindle (1984, actually, of all possible books!)

Outright ownership, the right to fix, the right to tinker, are all essential things, and key ingredients to keep your (networked) agency. While I understand the business model decision behind software subscriptions, it does make me increasingly uncomfortable because of the forced ‘eternal’ relationship with the seller.

Mooi woord van Karin Spaink, de nippertjeseconomie. Hier wat afschaven, daar een bochtje afsnijden, voorraden minimaliseren en alles just-in-time. Op het nippertje gaat alles goed. Meestal.

In complexiteitsdenken betekent een ver doorgevoerde efficiëntie wel het afbreken van veerkracht en wendbaarheid. Dat is niet zo erg voor heel voorspelbare zaken (als A dan altijd B), maar wel als complexe vragen zich aandienen. Ik spreek dan vaak over de broosheid van systemen. Broos omdat ze geoptimaliseerd zijn voor een hele smalle groep situaties, een heel specifieke niche. Broos omdat ze het niet meer aan kunnen, of erger nog, volledig in de weg zitten zodra er iets buiten dat spectrum gebeurt. Dan kieper je ineens van voorspelbaarheid in de chaos: heb je net in een paar jaar tijd de IC bedden in Nederland met zo’n duizend verlaagd (in 2017 hadden we er nog zo’n 2100, dit voorjaar net over de 1000) want dat is efficiënter, gebeurt er iets wat meer van je verlangt en wordt de zorg zo overbelast dat alleen drastische maatregelen het nog enigszins kunnen inperken.

Die chaos ontstaat uiteindelijk niet door de zich aandienende verandering, maar juist door de starre efficiëntie van je eigen structuren en systemen. Was je bij voorbaat al in het complexe domein gebleven, het domein van voortdurend waarnemen, bewustzijn van samenhangen en wederzijdse invloeden, en bovenal voortdurend situationeel schakelen, was ‘rolling with the punches‘ waarschijnlijk makkelijker geweest tot nu toe. Dat vergt wel op voorhand wat bewegingsruimte, dingen op reserve, niet alles op 1 paard zetten, maar op meerdere en zelfs ook tegenstrijdige paarden tegelijkertijd wedden.

Omdat je op die manier meer leert over de aard van de vraagstukken die je op wilt lossen, en een verscheidenheid aan oplossingen ontdekt in plaats er op voorhand eentje kiest en in beton giet. Energie overhouden om ineens van koers te kunnen wisselen, of een sprintje extra te kunnen trekken. Dingen achter de hand houden. Maar dat is, tot het nodig is, niet efficiënt op de kortere termijn.

Ik had ooit een manager die het verschil niet zag tussen efficiënt en effectief. Dat is het begin van broosheid. Want het verbeteren van de opbrengstenkant heeft altijd meer ruimte in zich dan wat is te winnen met het beperken van de kostenkant, want die heeft een harde ondergrens die meestal vrij dichtbij ligt. Een van die opbrengsten is handelingsruimte, en juist die wordt in de nippertjeseconomie vaak drastisch beperkt.

Het maakt een veelheid van onze systemen broos, doordat we de onderlinge afhankelijkheden tussen allerlei zaken uit zicht poetsen en negeren, om op ons specifieke stukje van een vraagstuk efficiënter te kunnen zijn. Omdat ze geoptimaliseerd zijn voor druk uit een bepaalde richting maar niet uit een andere. Zoals een been wel goed kan tegen belasting van bovenaf, maar niet goed tegen torsie en draaien. Broos omdat we in een nippertjeseconomie leven. Mooi woord.

A public sector client announced last week that working from home will be their default until September 1st for certain, and maybe until January 1st. I can imagine why, there is no real way to house their 1600 staff under distancing guidelines, and the staff restaurant (that usually caters to some 1200 people in 90 minutes each day) has no real way of accomodating people for lunch in meaningful numbers. Three similar organisations in a different part of the country announced they would keep working from home until January.

I wonder how this may shift modes of working over time, now that centralised working is replaced by distributed working. When will public sector organisations realise they now have eyes and ears on the ground everywhere in their area, and put that to good use? In our experience not ‘going outside’ for real stories and feedback from directly involved people often reduces the quality of choices and decisions made, as observations get replaced by assumptions. This is true for any type of larger organisation I think, but now we all of a sudden have turned them into a distributed network.

If you’re in a larger organisation working from home, do you have a notion of where all your people are, and is that geographical spread a potential instrument in your work?

Ever since the Dutch government uttered the words “herd immunity” after the UK gov framed it as meaning doing mostly nothing, internationally the Netherlands is mentioned in lists of countries that are supposedly taking a wait and see approach. That isn’t what’s happening of course. The country is in lock-down all but name, but as is the Dutch way it is implemented as an appeal for collaboration and solidarity (and people are indeed complying), and isn’t implemented heavy handed from the top down yet. It doesn’t mean that in the background there are no emergency decrees signed allowing the enforcement of every measure by police and even military police (it’s just that these are done on regional level, signed by the mayors in that region, so it isn’t on the radar of most people these things have been signed.) It also doesn’t mean no enforcement in practice.

One such example is Tomas Pueyo ‘Hammer and Dance’ piece. I’d have commented there, but it needed jumping to all kinds of hoops to be allowed to comment on Medium, and posting it here anyway is easier for future reference. He writes “Some countries, like France, Spain or Philippines, have since ordered heavy lockdowns. Others, like the US, UK, Switzerland or Netherlands, have dragged their feet, hesitantly venturing into social distancing measures.” “Governments around the world today, including some such as the US, the UK, Switzerland or Netherlands have so far chosen the mitigation path.

The French and Dutch measures are actually much on the same level, only with different cultural accents on the role of central authority, and from what I can see the same is true for Switzerland.

The Netherlands isn’t following a ‘mitigation strategy’ in the ‘weak tea’ meaning in the article as such, but doing much as Pueyo’s article suggests. Bring down the transmission rate, and then release and tighten the measures for the coming months to keep the transmission rate low.

Two quotes from the director of the infectious disease unit (RIVM) who is in charge from an interview (in Dutch).
Based on infection models we use, we estimate the effectiveness of interventions. If we add up the current interventions we conclude from those models that the transmission rate is reduced sufficiently. That is the most important goal.. (Dutch: “Op grond van de infectiemodellen die we hanteren, kunnen we het effect van de interventies inschatten. Als we de huidige interventies optellen, volgt uit die modellen dat de overdracht van het virus voldoende teruggaat om de verdere toename te doen afnemen. Dat is het belangrijkste doel,….”)

…That is why we must align everything, and next to interventions research their actual impacts. It could be we can reduce measures, and later need to introduce them again. It could also be we’ll introduce additional measures, it can go both ways. (Dutch: Daarom moeten we alles zorgvuldig afstemmen op elkaar en naast interventies ook onderzoek doen naar het effect daarvan. Het zou kunnen dat maatregelen versoepeld worden en later weer worden ingevoerd. Het zou ook kunnen dat er dan nog éxtra maatregelen volgen, het kan beide kanten op.”)

Actual behaviour of people will determine this mostly he adds. In short, it’s the ‘hammer and dance’ suggested in the linked article.

In conclusion, what you assume to see from further afield based on choice of words (‘herd immunity’ e.g.), headlines and your own cultural reference points, isn’t necessarily what’s happening on the ground. The same is true here inside the country, many people are making very different assumptions based on what they perceive the RIVM and government doing or not doing. Part of it is that the RIVM isn’t very pro-active in getting information and data out there to put it mildly. The interviews with its director in the past week have provided me with much more clues and understanding of what they are working on than their press communiques or their own website. I assume the director has better things to do than give interviews, so there’s room for much more pro-active disclosure and transparency, as it would free up his time at least. RIVM doesn’t have a knowledge, data or decisiveness issue, they’re clearly following every bit of available science, it has a communication and transparency issue. Key question for me is what we can do to assist RIVM in taking on their data publication and communication needs.