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.
Contrary to the first day of our study week, today’s sessions were held in an online setting through Microsoft Teams starting at 08.30 a.m. Seeing all these little screens one still needs to get used to it. However, this shows the degree of flexibility that our society has achieved compared to only one decade ago. Due to the imminent danger of infection this is a part of our new reality.
The center stage of today’s first session was again taken by the topic of projects related to smart city, more particularly to the ones in Amsterdam. After a short introduction round, Marije Poel (Project Manager Smart City Amsterdam) presented the concept of Amsterdam Smart City, which includes over 297 projects. Over the years, Amsterdam Smart City developed into a bigger and bigger network with different partnerships. They own a wide range of expertise in innovation, ecosystems, entrepreneurship, user involvement and data analysis. The students showed again a great commitment in the topic and started an interesting discussion about Smart Cities by asking questions which could be communicated via the chat box in MS Teams.
The rest of the day was more focused on NGO’s and possible approaches to evaluate the impact of their projects. We continued with Session 4 of the study week where we got to know Aflatoun International. Wendy and Tetiana, two representatives of the organization, introduced us to the mission and programs of the NGO. Aflatoun is based in the Netherlands offering social and financial education to children and young people worldwide. They also mentioned that the impact evaluation is done together with the project partners in the field.
After the lunch break it was already time for a short wrap up of the different topics we focused on in the first couple of sessions. It was underlined that we only had a descriptive approach yet related to the smart city concepts and that scientific research is needed in order to establish a further understanding on the various approaches and differences of the degree of implementation between countries or even cities within the same nation. In the discussion it could already be identified that critical junctures are a leading factor for a starting signal for such projects.
Oriana Ponte held the last session of the day where she shared revealing insights into the evaluation, monitoring and learning of development aid projects. After an overview of the basic concepts and methods behind the impact evaluation of aid projects such as randomized control trials and the theory of change the presentation mainly focused on the education in the humanitarian context. The session was complemented by a very interesting Q&A with a dedicated involvement by the students.
After the first session in the morning the focus today shifted onwards NGO’s and their impact evaluation. This was a great opportunity to gain some further understanding on the topic and to connect knowledge of previously attended modules in our master studies with deeper insights directly from the field.
by Bernadett Gàl, Shara Hofmann and Pascal de Courten
This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic our Study Trip was unfortunately transformed into a partially remote Study Week that did not take place in Amsterdam but in Winterthur. Nonetheless the Kick-off meeting was held in a not so unfamiliar environment in Winterthur where we were informed about the interesting week program laying ahead.
After going through the formalities of the program, we heard an informative opening lecture about digital governance and Switzerland’s latest developments in this field. Futhermore, the international efforts on a European level were presented and discussed by Prof. Dr. Caroline Brüesch. Following we received interesting insights by guest lecturer Onur Yildirim about the Smart City strategy of the city of Winterthur and all their promising, ongoing as well as future projects. Onur Yildirim explained the central ideas of a Smart City concept and how Winterthur is developing towards a smart direction using various technologies and networks.
To round up the afternoon we were taken on a tour, which led us through the facilities of the next door Technopark area. Technopark is a financially independent public limited company that was developed through a public private partnership project. Technopark offers financial support and office spaces to startups. Amongst these startups is also Fleco Power AG. Fleco Power AG is devoted to sustainability and therefore they provide their consultancy services to various clients in the Swiss energy sector. Recently they designed and carried out a pilot project in cooperation with Zurich’s electricity provider EWZ where they developed a smart solution to meet the complex needs of the EWZ to close communication gaps within their grid systems.
As a main take away from the first day of our Study Week it can be said that in order to develop a resource oriented smart city strategy it is important to connect and work together with different stakeholders and partners using technologies and resources efficiently and sustainably.
ZHAW School of Management and Law organizes an annual study trip to China and Vietnam. 25 SML students visit subsidiaries of Swiss companies in Asia and learn first-hand about international business relations. This year the trip could not be carried out due to the corona pandemic. In the alternative program of this elective module, experts from Asia and Switzerland gave online lectures via video link for the students. Four groups of students produced vlogs on Swiss industries that are particularly affected by the corona crisis in economic business relations with Asia:
We already started to get nervous during breakfast and discussed intensively about the upcoming group presentation. During the whole week we worked on a business case with field research, which we had to present today. As expected, we all found each other in the hotel facilities finalizing our presentations.
At 14:00 all groups met in a conference room in the hotel and were ready to present their results and conspicuous features. In the following sections we summarize our findings:
Group 1 has worked on the research question: Which payment methods are mainly used in Singapore and how do they work? As a result, Singaporeans use credit and debit cards most, followed by cash and wireless payment such as wallets and QR-codes are becoming more popular.
The second group dealt with the topic of the App economy in the food delivery sector. They presented Grab’s concept, which combines delivery services with driving services, scooter rental and other services in one app. Opportunities for the Swiss market were also highlighted.
Group 3 explored the government’s ability to tackle declining health and rising health costs through digital data collection. In conversations with locals, they tried to find out how Singaporeans integrate fitness into their stressful daily lives. Surprisingly, they learned that the Singaporeans are having a different attitude than Switzerland. They are very open about sharing personal data.
Singapore is listed on the Ease of doing business report on the second place and hold for years the first place. But is doing business in Singapore really so easy as we think? This question had to be answered by the fourth group. For that purpose we had the pleasure to meet several startup founders. Although the administrative process to register an entity is very easy, the challenges lies in the money raising, client acquisition and network establishing. The spirit of those founders was overwhelming and impressive to all of us.
Group 5 investigated about individual transportation in Singapore. We found out that the majority of people use the app Grab, with which you can order a taxi to a certain place within a few minutes. We wondered whether the app was also very popular with students. Because of that, we interviewed 30 students at the National University of Singapore. According to our research, students do not use “Grab ” that often and prefer public transport for cost reasons.
All groups received feedback from Prof. Dr. Petra Barthelmess and Mr. Andri Färber. This was a great moment to thank Ms. Anika Wolter for all organization during this trip and Ms. Michelle Stegmann (Swiss Economic Forum) for joining us and taking all photos and videos.
Afterwards we were able to demonstrate our acquired knowledge about Singapore in Online game with a Kahoot and reflecting the week during a feedback session.
We set off for our last dinner together, delicious seafood, before we went to the airport.
Compared to our lively breakfast, we ate the food in the plane very calmly, almost sleepy. Were were quite tired and snuggled up in the blanket right after the start and slowly dawned thinking about all fascinating impressions of this week.
Thank you for this wonderful and exciting time in Singapore.
The fourth day of our study trip was very intense. After a delicious breakfast from the wide range of options of the buffet – as usual – we had time for individual fieldwork and research.
Our subject is “Ease of doing business for SMEs and micro-businesses in Singapore”. The difficulty of this topic lies in the development of a methodology to collect data in the field, given that statistics on the topic are rarely available in the internet. We decided to focus on personal stories and anecdotes. The day before, we had called and sent out E-Mails to various startup-businesses, hoping we could interview them during our time in Singapore.
Since none of the startups responded to our request, we decided to (re-)act and headed to the JTC Launchpad at one-north, which they themselves describe as a “site that offers a conducive environment and nurturing ecosystem for startups.”
We were surprised by the openness of the team. We had the chance to spontaneously interview Vincent, a Co-Founder of the socially engaged startup “WateROAM”. This startup is engaged in the production of water filters for areas in the world where a proper and healthy water supply is not guaranteed (mainly developing countries with wars or other crises).
After this interview, we had the opportunity to visit the office of the German Accelerator for Startups in South East Asia. The German Accelerator is a program of the Federal Government from the Republic of Germany to support startups in South East Asia. They bring together experienced business leaders with startups in their very early phase. We were lucky to meet three founders who kicked off their business just two weeks ago and got a sense of the issues one might face when considering establishing a business in Singapore or the nearby region.
We would like to say thank you to the assistant marketing manager of the German accelerator for enabling us to talk to the German startups present on-site and filming our interview with them. This really helped us to finalize our group project.
The second part of the day was an intense cultural activity with a 6h guided tour through the ethnic quarters of Singapore. We started the tour at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, an impressive building housing the tooth relic of Buddha, located in the Singaporean Chinatown district. Like in most Chinese temples, there are three entrances: the central entrance is meant for the gods and is blocked by a golden pole; the left entrance represents masculinity and is reserved for the Emperor or blue-blooded individuals; the right entrance represents femininity and is open to everybody. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple contains 420 kg of pure gold in total, which amounts to 18 million S$.
After exiting the temple, we walked along Sago Street, named after the local cake “Sago”. In the earlier times of Singapore, it used to be called the “Street of the death”, due to the large number of retired Chineses immigrants that didn’t have any family to go back to and would pass away in the hospices lining the street.
Even though graffitis were forbidden in Singapore in 1966, the government has since then relaxed its laws and some mural paintings are now allowed:
We then headed via metro to the Kampong Glam, the quarter of the Malay-Muslim residents. We strolled through Haji Lane, a now hip street that used to be lined by all sorts of shops selling items necessary for the Malays’ pilgrimage to Mecca. The street is now full of shops and bars, and we were given some time to either go shopping or enjoy a coffee in the so-called selfie café, a coffeeshop in which one can have their face “printed” onto their coffee with food coloring.
We continued our tour of the city by visiting the Arabic Street, home of Masjid Sultan, the largest mosque in Singapore. Legend has it that when the builders called for donations to enable the constructions of the mosque, the poorest citizens of Singapore gave them old soy-sauce containing bottles for lack of money. Truly honoured by the generosity of these people owning so little (an old bottle could otherwise be traded for a few pennies), the constructor incorporated all the bottles into the building, more precisely into the black band below the big golden dome.
Our guided tour of Singapore ended in Little India, the Tamil neighbourhood, where we enjoyed a delicious Indian meal consisting of small shareable plates. The end of another busy day with so many learnings about businesses, cultures and religions.
This morning we were able to meet Ms. Bui Ly, a Vietnamese entrepreneur, who opened a coffee store with high quality coffee from Vietnam (Robusta beans) and Vietnamese food and culture, here in Singapore. After her academic studies she taught herself the art of coffee roasting. Through the help of investors, she was able to open her start-up-business. Bui has big dreams and her goal is to expand on an international basis. She is planning to open a branch in China with chinese investors and then one coffee store in each major city of Asia. You can feel the passion for her business in the ambiance and in the preparation of the dishes and the coffee specialities.
In the afternoon we visited CXA Group, Asia’s AI-driven population health platform. This company is strongly engaged in health promotion of employees through data tracking. CXA Group provides their clients (companies) with a tool for the collection of personal data of their employees. This allows CXA to give individual recommendations to each and every employee to increase their health.
The so called benefit porgrams allow employees in Singapore to receive money back. CXA transforms the benefit selection process into a online shopping tool. Out of over 1000 products you can then buy health supplements, gym equipment, products for children or even vacation. Interesting!
We had the chance to see the whole working space and Ms. Rosaline Chow Koo, CEO of CXA explained us the startup’s business model.
Our day started with a company visit at Standard Chartered Bank. The bank focuses on the Asian and African market. The Presentation was opened by Dr. Michael Gorriz, Chief Information Officer, who explained more about the concept of Open Banking. Followed by Nitin Bhandari, Managing Director & Global Head – APIs, Blockchain & Platform Partnerships and Dr. Sebastian Wedeniwski, CIO Technology Strategy & aXess at Standard Chartered Bank. We gained insights into their strategic global business and their view towards the future of the banking industry in the digital transformation, ie. open banking trends, their technology strategy and aXess platform to apply API’s.
After a short lunch break, we returned to the hotel, where we had the honor to meet Birgitta von Dresky, Partner and Attorney-at-Law at the law firm Luther LLP. She is responsible for clients emerging to Asia and informed us about the legal situation to start a company in Singapore. In comparison to Switzerland the process is much faster and requires 1 SGD only as share capital. We had some time to ask her questions regarding our business cases and we found her visit very helpful and eye-opening.
After learning about the legal aspects, we started to work on our business cases in our groups. At first, we analyzed the topic and prepared a questionnaire for the upcoming field search. We finished the second day with an individual dinner in the local restaurants of Singapore.