The first Groninger Bestuursconference (Groningen Governance Conference) was held on 23 September 2022. It was organised by Provincie Groningen and Sustainable Society, and attended by more than one hundred Groningen government managers - mayors, councillors, experts, and the King's Commissioner.
Marijke Roskam welcomed the Groningen government managers in the Statenzaal of the Provinciehuis in Groningen. It was a conference that marked the start of a tradition, if it were down to the hosts René Paas, King’s Commissioner for the Province of Groningen, and Jouke de Vries, President of the RUG. Those were their words at the close of the conference.
The day started with a fascinating presentation by the National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen. With plenty of verve and panache, he talked to the participants about governance on the basis of many practical examples. What went wrong and what could be better?
After a strong cup of Groningen coffee, the day was continued with four sessions. There was a choice of sessions by Erik Pool, Programme Director of Ethics and Dialogue of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Marc Pauly, researcher and lecturer of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen; Nephtis Brandsma, Chief Data Officer of the City of Groningen; and Albert Jan Kruiter, of the Centre for Public Values and Ethics. It was a shame that participants had to make a choice, as the sessions provided many experiences, insights and inspiration.
After a delicious lunch, which for many proved to be their first introduction to a real Scotch egg, the participants reviewed the start of the day with a panel, consisting of ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen, Provincial Executive member Fleur Gräper, author Erik Pool and Albert Jan Kruiter on behalf of the Centre for Public Values and Ethics. The panel entered into discussion with each other and the hall about the day’s themes. That produced one concept to be remembered for next year: ‘the Albertjansaysyoucancommittee.’ This refers to a proposal from Albert Jan Kruiter to increase the democratic content of Groningen democracy by allowing ordinary citizens a say on finances.
‘An interesting day that is worth repeating,’ is how Jouke de Vries summarised the Governance Conference at the end of the day.
‘I’m a little euphoric about what I have seen and heard today,’ said René Paas at the end. ‘The eagerness to get to work was truly wonderful. I enjoyed listening to all the suggestions for retaining and improving democracy. Are we jumping headfirst into a massive democratic experiment?’
The organisation looks back at a successful day with good attendance and inspirational speakers. The aim is to organise a second Bestuursconferentie (Governance Conference) in 2023 for government managers from the three northern provinces.
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