via Flickr user Jess Have

A Danish Relationship

In Copenhagen earlier this week I was struck when Jorgen Clausen, the chief executive of Odense (Denmark’s third largest city) began his presentation talking about the cities’ 1,000 leaders and 16 thousand employees – the people that make his city sing and might attract other people and things to happen.

I am so used to the British context where every leader feels compelled to start by framing their local challenges in terms of financial indicators, a ranking on a deprivation index and the number of people unemployed, that I was immediately gripped by what Mr Clausen had to say.

Of course Odense has its challenges, which include a welfare system that is no longer affordable and on which his citizens are too dependent  – this is why Mr Clausen has teamed up with MindLab, Denmark’s cross ministerial innovation lab, believing that radical change is needed.

Mr Clausen asked how politics and public service works when we no longer have the answers and the old ways of doing business are bust.  His answer is genuine dialogue – the better the dialogue, the better the solutions will be.

So Mr Clausen sees that the solutions lie not in his institutions but with the citizens themselves and the extent to which he can foster better bonds, better conversations and better co-operation between them.  It’s a very different starting point for public service reform.

My hunch is that if we want to see how a municipality centred on relationships might work we should keep our eye on Mr Clausen, Odense and his partnership with MindLab.

Hilary Cottam is Founder and CEO of Participle. 

Read Part 2 of “A Danish Relationship”

3 thoughts on “A Danish Relationship”

  1. I was rather surprised, and definately honoured when I read Hillary Cottam’s blog “A Danish Relationship”.

    Most of all, I’m happy that I have been able to contribute to the discourse on welfare and societal change, and even more happy to bring back valuable discussions that will benefit Odense’s strategy “New Reality, New welfare”.

    In short New Reality, New Welfare is our strategy in Odense Municipality to empower citizens, stakeholders, leaders and personnel to release the potential within the individual and the civil society. The mind set must change from rights to resources, to unfold our indvidual potential as well as our societal potential.

    The crisis fostered New Reality, New Welfare. Faced with expectations of continuous development of our welfare under the condition of constant decreasing  economic resources, we realised that we much think differently – have higher ambitions than to cut expenses at the rate of cuts in finances.

    Therefore, our vision is to deliver more quality for less resources. It a very motivating and helpful vision. However, not an easy one. It is a shift of paradigm in the understanding of the “public delivery model”. For one thing; it is beyond our span of control. If we want to empower the citizen, the network, the society, we must enter a dialogue and use professional empathy to truely understand what will empower them, and be able to systematically transfer that into new welfare solutions. Furthermore, we have to motivate the citizen and engange the society in general in our strategy. Convince them that we want them to take charge of their own lives and the development of the welfare model. Not to abandon our responsibility as local authority nor to solve our economic challenge, but to support better quality of life.

    Thanks to Hillary Cottam for facilitating such interesting and important discourse at this site. I was inspired by her article “Relational Welfare” that tunes our minds in on new understandings of our methods and perceptions in the welfare production.

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