After a week full of exciting discussions and new impressions our study trip is coming to an end. On a cold and rainy summer morning in Bern we were welcomed in SECO/ WEMU with warm coffee and croissants.
SECO is a government organisation focusing on ensuring sustainable economic growth by putting the necessary regulatory and economic policy conditions and frameworks in place and acts as an interface between business, social partners and the government.
After the warm greeting we had the pleasure to meet Jürg Vollenweider who is responsible for Macroeconomic Support of partnering countries within SECO. He introduced us to WE/WEMU, Economic Framework Conditions for Sustainable Development and providing strategical macroeconomic support to partner countries.
The next session was led by Jennifer Anthamatten who is a Program Manager South Africa working in Macroeconomic Support Unit. She presented an evidence-based approach called PEFA. Last but not least we had the chance to gain more insights of the exciting work of Carlos Orjales who is providing macroeconomic support in Peru together with his team.
After the sessions we gathered outside the building for a debriefing and feedback round. We reflected on the insightful presentations and events of the week and appreaciated the chance to have some insights of the daily work in public and non-profit management and inspiration for our future careers.
After the cosy evening at Altes Tramdepot, surprisingly, everyone arrived on time at University Bern. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the forthcoming presentation that got everyone excited. And we would not be disappointed.
The program started with Peppino Giaritta, Federal and Cantonal Commissioner for Digital Public Services Switzerland. Digital Public Services (DPS) formally exists since March 2021 and acts as a network administration organization. It is intended to foster coordination between the federal government, the cantons and the communities with regard to digital transformation projects, the definition of standards in the area of data management, the consistency of processes, and the identification and provision of basic services such as identity services. Biggest challenges are missing digital services and the dynamics of digital transformation, mainly regarding a lack of speed in institutional process compared to the fast technological development. Thus, DPS is directly seed funded by the Federation of Switzerland. The success of the Swiss Covid Certificate might be an enabler for DPS in its further development.
After a short coffee break we got blasted by the stunning performance of Isabelle Emmenegger, Assistant Director of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA). She gave an insight in the DaziT programme, probably the most advanced digital transformation project of the Swiss administration. Apart from the digitalization, DaziT also contains a reorganization process, aiming to merge customs and border security sections to become the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security. Therefore, cultural change represents the biggest challenge besides the usual technical issues. Learnings from the project so far are a clear user focus, need for radical simplification, a holistic approach rather than patchwork solutions, going step by step and establishing a culture of error, and last but not least, integrate the cultural transformation.
After lunch we left Berne for the first time heading straight to Biel where summer 2021 stroke back with its never ending rain. We were awaited at the city council building in the old town of Biel by Silvia Steidle. The current finance director of the city surprised us with a political role play. We formed a fictive city council and parliament. We then were handed a real interpellation, motion, and postulate and were advised to debate them in the two committees. The FDP politician Steilde provided some first-hand information about the ongoing financial and political situation of the city.
Our last visit was truly the icing on the cake of a very insightful and exciting day.
Wednesday greeted us, the PNP HS20 class, with hot sunshine as we met at 8.45 am on the campus of the University of Bern. The 6th session of the week was an input presentation by Prof. Dr. Caroline Brüesch on the topic of “Digital Transformation in Administration”. She explained the important factors for a digital administration as a transformation and the latest findings and results from current research. A major sub-topic of the presentation was the user journey, which will play a major role in the digital processes of the administration in the future. In this approach, the user is brought into focus. The entire process is rethought from the user’s point of view. This leads to attractive e-government solutions being offered to the population. Switzerland’s situation was highlighted in the international ranking, which shows that there is still a need for action in some areas of digitalisation. Particularly in comparison with its direct neighbours Germany and Austria, it becomes apparent that there is a significant gap in the key enablers.
Shortly afterwards, a presentation by the president of the Swiss Telecommunications Association (asut) named Peter Grütter awaited us. First, he showed the big picture of digitalisation in recent years, with the thesis that we have left the industrial age and are now moving into a knowledge age standing out. On the current state of network technology, he gave us an overview of current and future technologies. For example, the market volume of the Internet of things (IoT) is expected to double every two years. As a good final statement, Peter Grütter mentioned the necessary willingness to take risks, because without it there would be no transformation.
After a well-deserved lunch break on the banks of the beautiful Aare, we had the pleasure of visiting the Swiss Federal Railways. We were given a guided tour around the railway station of Bern, where we learned more about the infrastructure and logistics. We also got an insight into the new waste disposal system, which was introduced to successfully solve the littering problem in Swiss railway stations. Finally, we got insightful information about the prestige project of the reconstruction of the railway station. The renovation is urgently needed, as commuter flows and the number of visitors to the shops are increasing every year and the current infrastructure is reaching its limits.
After the daily debriefing, we were able to enjoy the sun until we met in the evening at the Tramdepot for an informal get-together, where we could share our impressions of the first half of the week. We are excited about what the next two days have in store for us.
Our second day started at 8:15 am at the Europaplatz in Bern. As usual, the leader of today’s group informed them of their schedule and what institutions we would be visiting today. Our first stop on this beautiful, sunny Tuesday began at the SDC, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation of Switzerland. We were escorted to the presentation room by one of the employees exactly on this day as the demolished entrance doors had to be repaired. Our stay started with a general introduction about the organization and its goals by Ursula Keller. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030 agenda are the foundation for the work of the SDC in the coming years. One of these goals promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provides access to justice for all and builds effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Reduction and sustainable development is the aim of the International Cooperation Strategy 2021-2024 by the SDC. For that to be achieved it is detrimental that the needs of the population are understood. In a second step the interests of Switzerland are taken into account. The four priority regions for the bilateral development cooperation of the FDFA are Eastern Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and the Sub-Saharan Africa. They include the 35 priority countries of the SDC.
After this instructive introduction we were divided into three groups and were allowed to dive deeper into three topics for 20 minutes each. Andrea Iff focused on the topic of governance. In order to understand the development of Governance abroad, it is important to take a look into the past. In the 90s, the approach was to transfer our Western ideal 1:1 to these fragile countries. Over time, we had to learn that this is not sustainable. Rather, context-specific work must be carried out. Nathalie Vesco presented the global partnership for effective development cooperation. A major approach in this area is the cooperation with various organizations and institutions. Developed countries and non-developed countries must work together, not only financially but through sharing knowledge with open communication establishing a general a know-how. Mattia Poretti introduced the UNDP, which was founded in 1965. Their objectives are poverty reduction, governance rule of law, organizational effectiveness, gender equality and fragility.
Our visit at the SDC flew by. We could have easily spent the whole morning there learning about all the exciting and important work they do. In the end we had to leave in a hurry and lost a part of the group during our transfer to the university campus of Bern. For our second stage Karin Brunner Schmid joined the group. With a short delay we enjoyed the presentation by Sylvain Grünig. The presentation was about internal administrative coordination processes using the example of sanctions policy.
The afternoon started in the Federal Finance Administration Building (Bernerhof) where our group gave a short briefing about the Federal Finance Administration (FFA). After we were warmly welcomed by Martin Walker, Vice Director of “Ausgabenpolitik” in the same room where state representatives and presidents are welcomed. They firstly explained that the build was a hotel till 1920 and today it hosts three government offices. The first presentation of the afternoon was about “Grundlagen der Haushaltführung”, held by Aurelia Buchs. The second presentation was given by Martin Walker focussed on “Ausenpolitische Leitsätze”. Before the third presentation we enjoyed a lovely break on the beautiful balcony with a stunning view over the Marzili district. Lastly Theo Haldeman presented the “Neuses Führungsmodell für die Bundesverwaltung NFB”.
The highlight of our day was the Q&A with Ueli Maurer, Federal Councillor of the Federal Department of Finance. We had a lively discussion on various topics with him. For example the streamlining of the administration or crypto currencies. Of course also the financial consequences of Covid-19 were part of the discussion.
Overwhelmed by the impressions of the day, it’s now time for an afterwork drink and we are looking forward to our third day tomorrow.
Today, after one year of home studying, the class PNP HS20 has gathered for their study trip. First stage in the morning was in Zurich to visit the Smart City Lab of the Stadt Zürich. This innovation hub is mainly focused on finding solutions for creating an innovative ecosystem within cities. Topics discussed are the future of cities, reduction in motorized mobility and social diversity. Hence our presentator, David Weber, Head of Smart City Zurich, emphasised their importance to urban social life where the citizen is in the main scope instead of architectonic and digital aspects. Projects in current scope are: 1) Pikmi- on demand öV, 2) Micromobilityplatforms and 3) Züri Mobility. These mobility focused projects aim to increase to use of big data, on a transparent manner, to research better conclusions of current offerings and to support innovation projects drafted from citizen and entrepreneurs. Futhermore, the Lab has launched a project to laserscan top- and sub-terrain structures to strenghten the efficiency of the urban building department among many more. On the bottom line, the Smart City Lab is striving to set a standard for other departments within the “Stadtverwaltung Zürich” and to source innovation by providing a supporting platfrom for entrepreneurs and innovators from various backgrounds. We have to come to know this hub as a leader in contributing into our future, to enable development and to provide strategies to further enhance life and long-term development within the city of Zurich.
After lunch, our group met at Lessingstrasse in Zurich to visit the “Dezentrum”, a think-tank founded in 2017 that focuses on the impact of digitalization in society. On the roof-top terrace behind the office, Flurin Hess gave us a detailed insight into the work of the team of about twelve, which is made up of digitalization experts with diverse professional backgrounds. In doing so he pointed out that the group diverts from formal hierarchies and instead places a high value on transparency and expertise when making important decisions. He began by explaining the idea and intention behind the founding of the company and the various topics that the Dezentrum deals with: 1) Decentralization, 2) Future of Work / Work of the Future, 3) Digital Participation, 4) Digital Literacy. Using concrete example projects, he then explained their special approach to the implementation of projects from the acquisition of knowledge to the elaboration of scenarios about a possible future to the testing of these considerations through prototypes and experiments. He underlined that the Dezentrum intends to contribute in a positive way on how digitalization will eventually have an impact on civil society. After a tour of the office, the first day of our study trip ended with a debriefing by Alexander Mertens and Pascal Horni.
The ZHAW School of Management and Law organizes an annual study trip to China and Vietnam. This year, the trip could not be carried out due to the Corona pandemic. In the alternative program, experts from Asia and Switzerland held online lectures via video link for the ZHAW students. Two groups of students produced vlogs on the Swiss pharmaceutical industry and the textile and garment industry. The key research questions focus on the business relationships and supply chains between Switzerland, China and Vietnam. The experts explain the profound and long-lasting changes which the pandemic imposed on supply chains in these industries.
Is Switzerland dealing with more than one pandemic? – The Dutch Disease
As our study (trip) week is coming to an end, the class meets on Zoom for the last international guest lecture: Frans van Schaik, professor of accounting at the University of Amsterdam. He taught us about Public Financial Management in the Netherlands and Switzerland by comparing the two countries in general but with a focus on public accounting systems. The topic of Covid-19, being ever-present this week, was touched upon, as F. van Schaik presented us with juxtaposing numbers and theories about how it played out in the Netherlands and Switzerland in the past six months. Beside that, active discussions were held about the benefits and repercussions of (compulsory) military drafts, the different healthcare systems of the two countries and their expenditures as well as whether Switzerland suffers from the Dutch Disease.
Last but not least, our class concluded this week reflecting on the various praxis oriented and highly interesting inputs. Additionally, there was an active discourse regarding the circumstances of this week, feedback given and taken and thus our study week has come to an end. Everyone agreed that our week was a success, especially given the unpredictable hurdles during the planning process. Even though it was not quite the same as travelling to Amsterdam, as intended, the class appreciates and values the efforts of the ZHAW and the study week organisers to put together an interesting and diverse programme that allowed us to gain insights into the practical world of nonprofit and public organisations on a national as well as international level.
By Muriel Baumer, Manuela Odermatt & Damaris Fischer
One highlight chases the next
Time passes in Study week: On the fourth day, we first met online for one of the highlights of this week: representatives of the Netherlands Court of Audit agreed to talk to us in an online session about different aspects and current affairs of their work.
The session was opened by Ewout Irrgang, a member of the Board, which was a great honour. During his introduction, he told us about how the Covid-19 crisis could not have come at a more stressful time for the Court of Audit, with some of the major audits due in March. At the same time, the Court of Audit also took on new tasks in order to support the fight against the Covid-19 crisis: for instance, by means of so-called rapid reports, the Court of Audit analyses the distribution of funds among different actors during the Covid-19 crisis. Obviously, all this was not easy, but still, it has been successful. With a smile, he concluded his introduction by saying that sometimes one simply has to act and ask for forgiveness later.
Next, Gijs Koop’s lecture on the Court of Audit itself and Laurens Niens and Rogier Zelle’s presentation of a study conducted by the Court of Audit on the price of medicines followed. The two presentations gave us a better understanding of how the Court of Audit works: summarised briefly, the Court of Audit undertakes studies to find out whether the taxpayers’ money is being used efficiently and effectively and whether the ministries have achieved their objectives.
In the second part of the session Rudi Turksema first introduced us to the world of data. In an exciting presentation he showed us that on one hand, data is a challenge for the government and SAIs but on the other hand also an opportunity for new approaches to policy evaluation. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to meet Hans Benner and Max Verhoeven. They presented us their current project on vehicle tax and how it is used as a policy instrument.
In summary, we can look back on an informative, educational and practice-oriented session, which had to be digested during the lunch break. At this point, we would like to thank the Court of Audit for taking the time to share some insights into this traditional yet modern institution!
The second highlight of this study week followed in the afternoon: A social event was planned for us, together with the Health Economics and Healthcare Management class. No sooner had we gathered than the action-packed afternoon begun: there was a murder in the city of Winterthur and the murderer is still on the run! In teams it was our task to put the murderer behind bars as quickly as possible. In the following hours, clues, alibis and traces had to be checked and evidence for the arrest of the suspected perpetrator had to be secured. Time flew by and at the end of the day, luckily, the murderer was convicted! As the search for clues made us hungry, we were all the more than pleased about the delicious aperitif with which the fourth day of the study week came to an end.
by Andreas Beck, Veronika Janosik and Jessica Silva Vitorino
On the third day, firstly, we focused on digital participation and cooperation processes. Secondly, various experimental approaches in public sector innovation and service design were introduced. Finally, we received a short insight into Public Financial Management (PFM). The theoretical frame was supplemented more with practical examples.
Our first session was dedicated to the topic of eParticipation. Miro Hegnauer and Ramón Casutt from Konova AG gave us insights into practical examples of digital participation and cooperation processes. Recently, the complexity of public projects has increased. Therefore, the urgency of digital platforms, which enforce the collaboration between various parties (political, social, financial etc.) is essential. The most important part of efficient solution according to Konova AG is the access of qualitative expert-networks. On the practical case “Ortsplanung Gemeinde Goldach” was presented their standardized solution to the functionality. Additionally, we had a possibility to use their system product in a live case and experienced its different functions.
During our second session on afternoon the presentation was held by Raphael Nerz from Innohack.Gmbh. They test ideas, which are breaken down into smaller testable hypotheses. They design business experiments to validate the riskiest hypotheses with minimum of resources. This allows them to gain insights and prepare a suitable solution. Raphael Nerz showed us one example of testing approach for one product with two different competitive virtual brands in terms of customer acceptance. Furthermore, in practical part we tried to suggest some ideas, how to transfer this approach on public and nonprofit sector, which brought up an interesting discussion.
Final part of the day was focused on the preparation for following session in the field of PFM. Antonia Ida Grafl gave us first insights in a complexity of the topic regarding to key elements and core functions.