25+ years risk management

Why 75 essays spanning more than 25 years have been brought together in the e-book ‘Publiek Risico: Essays’: to inform and to inspire

Eric Frank en Jack Kruf | August 2020

The principles of risk management are inherent in every ecosystem and, as far as humans are concerned, are some 300,000 years old. Every human still has stored in his brain the early stages of development. To survive as a group or as individuals. It occurred to us that these basic principles are palpable in the thoughts expressed in this selection of essays. Much of it is essential.

Now, anno 2020, we look back. For 15 years (period 2006-2020) we have been alternately responsible for the establishment, control and management of the Dutch branch of PRIMO, the Public Risk Management Organisation. A good time to present a selection of essays that gives a picture of the origin, the functioning and the development of the risk management profession. This is the introduction to the e-book Publiek Risico: Essays (in Dutch).

It is a personal selection, in which, in our view, the various angles of the field are most strongly displayed. It is a selection, which we know is selling people short, of course. But the choice of a limited set of essays and pages forces one to choose. It is 75 essays and 723 pages. Bundled in this e-book.

Risk management as a profession is as old as the road to Rome

Risk management as a profession is as old as the road to Rome (and actually much older as already indicated above), but the starting point for the Netherlands is laid in 1995, in the run-up to the process whereby the central government in the Netherlands planted the first seeds. Not really for itself, no, not really, but to devise a construct in which it could decentralize tasks to lower governments and then to enforce supervision of their execution. So divest and see that it goes well. A special reason, then, which is not so much the public good but rather the mechanism of control. That is the first thing that strikes one.

The selection of articles shows the interpretation of this approach, also shows that many experts and scientists have contributed many new ideas to it, but the central government has not really changed its mind in terms of position and approach in those 25 years. There is actually the paragraph on resilience as the only real framework. Although this is legally complied with, many municipalities hardly apply it as a real steering instrument.

What is also striking is that the municipalities, provinces and water boards are actually not at all organized in this regard, even after 25 years. Everyone works with their own approach, with their own frameworks, models, consultants and even their own scientists. There is hardly a corporate framework with which municipalities, provinces and water boards work.

Only 25 years after the government made the decision to work this way, the umbrella organizations are showing, albeit sparsely – incidentally, on a project basis and usually facility by facility – a sign of life on this issue. This is noticeable in the selection. Essays from these are lacking. The essays come mainly from a few front runners in the public domain, scholars or external consultants.

A search of the public administration itself has very moderate results

Risk management has not landed, it is for many directors and top managers a fremdkörper. It has not become a management tool for sailing sharply to the wind, innovating and looking ahead. It is a must, and sometimes even a washing-up job.

Risk management is still a push model, actually an unwanted child of the government, in which consultants and commercial parties have of course provided a breath of fresh air, but also in which they came up with special ideas, approaches and models. And above all, the diversity of definitions and explanations is enormous. It seems to have become a polluted term, a container. This causes great confusion and hap-snap business. This is where the shoe pinches with regard to public risk management. The playing field is divided and there is no unified language.

Our selection of articles is a call to really take up the gauntlet and re-evaluate the wealth of knowledge and ideas before us, to use them and above all to get to work. The ball is in the court of the board and top management. This requires authority and, above all, support and consistency from the top of the ministries.

After 25 years, we are still kind of where we were 25 years ago: most directors and top managers don’t feel like adopting this profession profession professionally at all. Their explanation is that it is negative, inhibiting, not motivating, avoiding. Of course, this is nonsense, but perception is sometimes stronger than reality. The core of the profession is knowingly not understood. There is work to be done, a lot, indeed a lot. This selection contains the ingredients.

In front of you is a journey of more than 25 years, which also shows that good ideas have been launched and many attempts have been made to broaden the profession and make it mature. Some of these, in our view, are worth sharing and deserve to be put on the drawing board for the continued development of the profession. We wish you a reading with pleasure and inspiration. Ω

Lees in Nederlands


Editorial: Eric Frank (language editor, Dutch) en Jack Kruf (final editor). With thanks to all authors for their contribution.

ISBN/EAN: This book has been registered in 2013 and published in 2020 at Centraal Boekhuis as Publiek Risico: Essays, with ISBN-number 9789491818011.

Publication: This e-boek is exclusively and on personal insights of the editors composed and curated. It is published by Governance Connect. On the 1st of January 2022 the rights have beeb taken over by Civitas Naturalis Foundation. The publication has been disseminated in the network of public managers in The Netherlands and Flanders and is used by PRIMO Nederland and PRIMO Europe for support in their education programs.

Rights: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system of transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording and/or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers. This publication may not be lent, resold, hired out of otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form, binding or cover other than that in which it is published, without the prior consent of the publishers. No rights can derived from the contents of this book.