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Public Administration students write consultancy report for municipality The Hague

How do you transition from research to advising an organisation? A new twist on the first-year public administration course ‘Integrative project: the responsive government’ gives students the opportunity to put their knowledge from the past year into practice. For the municipality of The Hague, they wrote a consultancy report on customisation.

Bernard Bernards, assistant professor at the Institute of Public Administration, and Marit Schubad, PhD candidate with the municipality of The Hague, have redesigned the course ‘Integrative Project: The Responsive Government’ this year. Both are involved in the research project ‘Maatwerk & de Menselijke Maat’, where they investigate customised solutions in public organisations. They provided students with the opportunity to work with the data from this project. Students are challenged to conduct their own research on customisation within the municipality of The Hague. This allows them to apply what they have learned to an actual case. By actively involving students in practical work, they get a preview of a possible career after their Public Administration studies. 

'Research isn't worthless if you find nothing'

On paper, much seems clear, but what does customisation and consultancy look like in practice? During the course, organisational advisors from the municipality of The Hague gave a guest lecture on how the concept of customisation is implemented. First-year Public Administration students Leann Paauwe and Jeroen Minnes share their experiences of the course.

Jeroen enthusiastically talks about the freedom they had: ‘we were allowed to shape the research based on the data ourselves. We wanted to know to what extent rules and procedures influence customisation carried out by professionals within the municipality of The Hague. During the research, we discovered that customisation starts with efficient rules and procedures. These form the basis and turn out to be much more important. If the municipality focuses on this, customisation ultimately becomes unnecessary.’

For Leann, the data yielded less than she had hoped. ‘We researched the influence of education level and employee engagement on customisation. I thought that a more engaged employee would provide better and more customisation. However, this turned out not to be the case. It is disappointing not to find anything, but that does not mean your research is worthless. We were then challenged to think outside the box. Why do engagement and education level have no influence? In our consultancy report, we recommended looking beyond these two factors, and for example, considering space for innovation as a factor.’

'All the courses from the past year came together'

For Jeroen, the course ‘Integrative Project’ was the first to really come close to the work he wants to do. ‘I probably want to go into consultancy, so it was interesting to work with the municipality of The Hague. You get a preview of the issues a municipality faces. Everything I learned over the past year, I could now use to write a professional consultancy report.’

An extra motivation for Leann was that she was working on a practical case. ‘I constantly kept this in mind. It helps to know that your advice will actually be read by the municipality. It is nice to be able to contribute something and experience how things work in practice.’

Text: Julia van der Elsen 

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