Study Week Day 5

By Nastassja Illi and Nicolas Schärmeli

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.

Study Week Day 4

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!

online meeting with the Netherlands Court of Audit

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.

witness interview

Study Week Day 3

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. 

Study Week 2020 Day 2

The new reality

by Qendrim Dauti and Jonas Ayoub

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. 

Online meetings: the new reality

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.

Study Week 2020 Day 1

Crossing borders? Not literally this time!

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.

Getting used to wearing masks during lectures 😉

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.