Governance in times of crisis

Pakhuis de Zwijger and VU Amsterdam are organising the livecast ‘Stad in Spagaat’ (‘A split city’).

03/31/2020 | 1:17 PM

VU Amsterdam, in collaboration with Pakhuis de Zwijger, is organising a series of online reflection sessions in which academics, administrators and professionals engage in discussion about governance in times of crisis. ‘ Especially now, it’s important to examine what administrative decisions are being made and what effects these will have in the future’, say initiators Joris Rijbroek and Jacquelien van Stekelenburg from VU.

‘Since a physical meeting isn’t really a possibility at the moment, we and Pakhuis de Zwijger came up with the idea for a ‘digital reflection chamber’ in which administrators, professionals and experts come together to share their insights and dilemmas in a public manner’, explain Van Stekelenburg and Rijbroek. In the first livecast on education, for instance, Amsterdam’s alderman for Education, school principals, teachers and academics are considering the challenges presented to us by the corona epidemic. What dilemmas are they encountering and what can they learn from each other’s best practices? According to Rijbroek, Director of the Institute for Societal Resilience, this allows an important exchange of experience. ‘The Corona crisis is a game changer and it also gives us a unique opportunity to grasp and tackle complex social issues from other perspectives. With this initiative we aim to contribute to this process.’

Inequality, poverty, public safety and a deterioration of our healthcare system. According to Van Stekelenburg, Professor of Social Change and Conflict, the corona epidemic confronts us with new challenges regarding existing social issues. ‘Due to the corona epidemic, less attention is currently being devoted to these social issues and this is turn is increasing the breeding ground for social instability. That’s a worrying development, because the coronavirus is having precisely the effect of increasing inequality in our society and making this clearly visible. One example is that all schools are closed and children are having to do their schoolwork online at home. But not everyone has WI-FI or a computer or a suitable space for home study. In this way inequality gets the chance to grow even more. The existing deficit for some pupils will be even bigger when the schools soon open again.’

So Van Stekelenburg and Rijbroek believe it’s important that, especially in these times, we don’t lose sight of the less visible members of society. ‘I’m really concerned about people who disappear from the radar during this crisis. People who are sitting at home with depression and who withdraw even further, victims of domestic violence, lonely elderly people and young people. That’s why it’s important to consider this shadow crisis as well’, says Van Stekelenburg.

The kick-off for the series, provisionally planned for five sessions, took place on Thursday 2 April. Professor of Identities, Diversity and Inclusion Maurice Crul and educational sociologist Iliass El Hadioui discussed with participants such as Marjolein Moorman, the Amsterdam alderman for Education, and teacher Emin Kececi. The other livecasts on Governance in Times of Crisis will address, among other subjects, formal and informal care in the city, stay@home when one is homeless, and social housing with regard to social and physical safety and insecurity in vulnerable neighbourhoods. For the full programme and to check past livecasts, please visit the Pakhuis de Zwijger website.

Governance for Society
‘Stad in Spagaat’ is one of the initiatives being developed by VU Amsterdam as part of the profile theme Governance for Society. Here, VU Amsterdam contributes to a strong and resilient society by examining how organisations and societies are structured and governed. The Faculty of Social Sciences is realising the Governance for Society programme in collaboration with the Faculty of Law and the School of Business and Economics.