Dutch ‘Polderen’ as the Foundation of Co-Creation – Example of the Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth

What about co-creation being a Dutch invention? Already for decades, complicated issues in the Netherlands are being solved in a process in which politics, employers, and labor unions are collaboraitng. This process is in Dutch also known as ‘polderen’. Unfortunately, there is not proper translation for that, but there is a definition available: “‘polderen’ is to seek a compromise (particularly but not necessarily, within a political context) in order to come to an agreement”. Polderen is a typical Dutch concensusmodel. This ‘polder-model’ is deeply embedded in the Dutch society. The fact that this concensus-approach is so typical for the Netherlands, helped the fast integration of co-creation in that country. But what differentiates this ‘polderen 2.0’? Let us discuss this based on a typical Dutch example.

Polderen 2

The Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth is a good example of co-creation in which the initiative wasn’t provided by the government, but by society. Recently, 40 organisations from economy, industry, labor unions, politics, and environmental parties signed an agreement about the use of energy in the Netherlands. Until then, there was a lot of dissatisfaction within society about the ongoing energy policy; it was not ambitious enough and was very often subject to change. With the guidance of the Sociaal Economische Raad (Social Economic Counsil; SER) and Nederland Krijgt Nieuwe Energie (New Energy for the Netherlands; NKNE) foundation there were active discussions and negotiations between all different parties.

Critics thought this again was the traditional ‘polderen’. However, there were some clear distinctions this time. First of all, there were many more parties involved in this process, second the initiative was not political, thirdly it was highly transparent, and finally the process was much more complex than previous ‘polder’ issues.

In the beginning of this blogpost I mentioned the term ‘Polderen 2.0’. This term seems to be correct. A ‘polder-model’ means that every stakeholder brings up his own concerns and try to get to the best outcome through intense negotiation. However, in co-creation there is an overall goal, exceeding all individual concerns. The collective group of parties, or the society has a certain concern for its own. ‘Polderen’ means that all parties agree on an outcome with which all indidvidual parties agree based on their own concerns and goals. In a co-creation process, all actors act not only based on their own perspective, concerns and needs, but also in favor of the collective interest.

In many parts of the creation of the Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth, there really was co-creation instead of the traditional ‘polderen’. This example shows that co-creation can also exist in society, politics and industry. Co-creation goes far beyond the current digital landscape and is always based on several parties. The Dutch showed that co-creation can also be based on a consensus-based discussion, and can be used to achieve a higher goal. So thanks to the Dutch for creating ‘polderen 2.0’, also known as the foundation of co-creation.

De Herontdekking van de Polder in De Groene Amsterdammer, 23/10/2013

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