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Conflicts between citizens and government: Towards a pro-aktive, solution-driven approach

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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Award nominee

Both the private sector (citizens and businesses) and the government spend countless hours and millions of euros every year on complaints, objections and appeal procedures against government decisions. Of the total amount of administrative burdens (red tape) for citizens in the Netherlands, 11% is caused by these types of procedures. Usually, citizens who do not agree with a government decision, discover mistakes, or do not understand a decision, only have the possibility to address this through a formalistic, legalistic and written complaint, objection or appeal procedure.

This showcase project, however, provides a fundamental change in complaint handling and conflict resolution in public administration. This project initiates, stimulates and supports a pro-active, personal, open and solution-driven approach for all government organisations. This new approach consists of two possible interventions: 1. Upon receiving an objection against a government decision; a public servant ensures quick and direct personal contact with the citizen concerned (telephone call or informal meeting) - the public servant uses communication skills such as listening, summarising and questioning from an open, unbiased approach and through the use of certain conflict intervention models that can lead to de-escalation and conflict resolution. The public servant uses communication techniques that are derived from mediation (hereinafter mediation-like techniques). However, no other neutral person is involved and no actual mediation takes place. 2. During the preliminary phase of the decision making (before a government decision is made) that has (negative) consequences for a certain person, the citizen concerned is contacted to test, among other things, that the information on which the decision will be based is correct and complete, and in order to explain why a certain decision is about to be made and to explore possible alternative solutions. This is done in order to invest in the quality of decisions made and so as to avoid future objection procedures wherever possible.

The pro-active solution-driven approach shows a reduction in the number procedures, reducing the administrative burdens for individuals and businesses by 23%, thus saving the authorities time and money (27% cost reduction), increasing customer satisfaction for individuals and businesses, and improving job satisfaction for government employees both by 20%. In 50% of the cases where mediation-like techniques were used by civil servants, a solution was found and the objection procedure was cancelled. The use of mediation-like techniques also showed a positive effect on the processing time of objection cases.

Considering the research results, implementing mediation-like techniques on a much larger scale (national and local level within the different government domains) showed great promise. Therefore a follow-up pioneer project was set up in order to ensure, monitor and support the implementation of mediation-like techniques on a much larger scale (national and local level) within a larger number of different government domains.

Award info
Award category: public service delivery
Award type: nominee
Award year: 2009
Project type
Sector: Public administration, modernisation, institutional affairs, reform
Type of activity:
Keywords: Reduction of administrative burdens for citizens, improving the quality of public services, pro-active approach, alternative conflict resolution, mediation like techniques, citizens at the centre of government services
Short English description: The pro-active solution-driven approach shows a reduction in the number procedures, reducing the administrative burdens for individuals and businesses, thus saving the authorities time and money ,increasing customer satisfaction for individuals and businesses, and improving job satisfaction for government employees.
Further information
Organisation: The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
Other applicants: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences & Faculty of Law, University of Leuven, Belgium, Faculty of Law, University of Tilburg, the Netherlands, Department of Work and Organisational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Sira Consulting B.V., Nieuwegein, the Netherlands, Koetsenruijter Conflictmanagement & Bemiddeling, Leiden, the Netherlands
Homepage:
Level of government: national level
Size of organisation: >100
Number of people involved:
Country: Netherlands
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


Conflicts between citizens and government: Towards a pro-aktive, solution-driven approach (52.0779637° N, 4.3204036° E)
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