‘The times they are a-changin’. Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize and Trump won the US presidential election. At my own micro level, such more or less disruptive changes seem to take place in areas where I have been active during later years.
Take for instance my ten-year’s work with CARE International. We and the other large (corporate) INGO’s in the international “development aid business” are doing an important and much needed job fighting poverty in the Southern hemisphere. We are all modernizing our governance structures and raising cost-effectiveness in our aid-delivery systems. Looking a bit further ahead, it could however be in vain, because the whole paradigm of development aid transferred from rich to poor countries via INGO’s might be in a process of radical change. As we see in other businesses, one can question whether such service-delivering middlemen will be needed in the future.
The same question can be – and certainly is being - asked concerning the future of ‘Public Service Media’ in a new age of an individualized media-use served by the Internet. In the last two years, I have worked with a commission set up by the Danish parliament asked to present a number of scenarios for the future Danish Public Media system. Our report was published in the beginning of November and illustrated dramatic consequences of a radical dismantling of the present system. It will be interesting to see, if the report will have any effect on the political process up to the coming media agreement in parliament. I am considering to follow that closely, also from an academic, more analytical perspective. It was for instance the theme of a paper I presented at the RIPE@2016 conference in Antwerp in September (see >> here).
A third example is the future development of the Danish public management system. Very few seem to be satisfied with the ‘New Public Management’ system, which to varying degrees has dominated the public sector in Denmark for decades. It’s a subject I have been writing and lecturing about for years gradually realizing that the problems – and probable solutions – are not to be found in the management systems themselves. Rather it’s the whole, combined political-administrative system, that’s at stake. It has evolved through the last 150 years in symbiosis with the development of the Danish agrarian and industrial society and is now challenged by a new global economic system. We might be on route towards a paradigm shift. Not initiated from the top, but growing up from beneath in civil society. This is of cause a bit naïve, but never the less a perspective that a couple of month ago made me join the board of consultancy company, ‘ParticipatoryDenmark’, working along these lines. Also it's one of the reasons for my 'visiting researcher' engagement at the Center for Civil Society Studies at Copenhagen Business School.
Well - enough of all this 'après nous le déluge’ talk. To give it a twist. It’s a privilege for an old man to be working in areas of great upheaval together with younger and more open minded people, optimistically looking ahead rather than staring in the rear mirror only to see your own pessimistic profile.