The Colours of Climate Change

Following the Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change is despite Covid-19 not forgotten. More so, the last is seen by scientists, managers and experts as an omen what we can expect when we keep disrupting the Earth ecosystem. Goal 13 is Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. This goal has 5 targets:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible.
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.

My personal expression of climate change is displayed above. I imagined the canvas of our world as a chess board with 8*8 fields and estimated the most hurt ecosystems due to change: coral reef (Pantone Living Coral ) and tropical rainforest (Pantone Forest Biome). Government (Pantone Imperial Blue) is a tiny spot on the canvas and is not doing too much with many public leaders which are still in denial of what is happening (why? Interest and stakes!). Government, steered by people we as citizens elect to be our representatives (how difficult can it be!), need to take the lead. But, to be frank, its influence anno 2020 can not be marked as substantial. Storm (Pantone Storm Gray) is coming. 

It is a personal art impression – or maybe better an expression of an impression – to remind me that we will loose precious life if we continue this way. The myriad of life is so abundant in coral reeds and tropical rainforests, we can hardly imagine. If you have seen it, and understood, you fall in love immediately. And if this happens you want to protect and want to stay it forever. I am in love, still (it is actually since 1978, the year I met Professor Roelof Oldeman and with him discovered the forest, almost 32 years now).

I am a realist, not a pessimist. I hear you thinking. I did my homework (daily) as Wageningen University ecologist. Believe me, storm is coming, if we keep sitting on our hands. Maybe this small expression is a small contribution to one of the targets of this sustainable development goal. The colours of climate change are printed in my mind.

Cultural heritage

Kruf, J.P. (2019) Cultural heritage

Jack Kruf

Cultural heritage (Pantone Pastel Yellow) is the felt DNA of society. It most of the time contrasts as an light in depth perspective on past days with the hectic world of the city of today (Pantone Chili Pepper) and the governing system of rules and regulations (Pantone Jet Black).  The white fields (Pantone Snow White) are the opening spots to the new world, the pristine fields to be discovered. Fields of equality and respect.

It is this composition which comes into my mind when society is ignited to reorient and even redesign itself, when society is at the brink of rewriting and rethinking its own history, its past, but more than that, its future. Society changes in color palette from heritage pastel yellow into chili pepper, the hot variant. History has to and will be rewritten. My mother taught me from my early years: you are no more (but also no less) than someone else. Have respect for every human being. So equality and respect, always.

This design is available as fine art print.

Representative democracy

Kruf, J.P. (2018) Representative democracy.

Jack P. Kruf

Playing chess late afternoon yesterday, I considered the black pawn as the representative of the white pawns. Welcome in the new world. She or he is elected by the people, the fellow citizens, in an election for a legislature. The power of her or him is (usually) curtailed by a constitution or other measures to balance representative power. We know how it works with power. People sometimes forget about the starting points and constraints.

In principle, overseeing this team on the chess board, they are of the same height. O, yes. The black pawn as a representative of the group, of the people, accessible, transparant, communicating, never forgetting its background and working for the people. Wouldn’t that be great!?

Niches in City Governance

Fragment Metamorphosis II by M. C. Escher.

Jack P. Kruf

A niche is the match of a component in an ecosystem to a specific environmental condition within that, the habitat. Here it is an organisation (in the City Ecosystem® defined as biotic component) linked with its physical and biological environment. The niche is the role the organisation has in the city. Most of the niches in modern cities are regulated, but sometimes something unexpected can happen and shake-up the existing palette. As we know, every ecosystem is in constant change. So do cities.

There are different perspectives to consider niches. It can be related to chains and cycles – for instance that of energy, food or water -, related to specific functions – such as safety, care, sport, culture -, related to specific services within the city – information, communication, transport, media – or related to the elements of governance – like strategy, planning, finance. Here we focus on the latest, niches in governance.

In principal all niches can be taken by all organisations. Per organisation it can though highly differ and depend on time and place of value and related factors. Sometimes it can have more than one niches at the same time, depending of time and phase change roles. Laws, rules, regulations and above all the Constitution has lead to a more strict attribution of niches.

A usable set can be found in the work of The Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING) and is summarised by Aardema et al. (2005). It is a set of interconnected roles from governance perspective (system world) with roles as steward, law maker & enforcer, tax collector, developer, service provider and representative and from governed perspective (living world) with roles as inhabitant, servant, tax payer, partner, client and voter. The pieces of chess are added by me, to make roles and connections more visible and understandable:

Overview of niches (roles) according Dutch Government related to the pieces of chess.

Steward (black king): symbolise, identify, connect, show compassion, taking care, welcome, strengthen cohesion, carry rituals, guard.

Regulator (black queen): decisiveness, power, threaten, demand, courage, persevere, set things right, constrain, discipline, set the rules and enforce them.

Collector (black bishop): go-between, facilitate, contract, collect tax, process.

Developer (black knight): involve, sense of community, strengthen cohesion, share and distribute, (letting) participate, co-create.

Service provider (black rook): deliver, serve, provide, distribute, front office.

Representative (black pawn): chosen by the people during election in councils, representing the people as citizen.

Inhabitant (white king): citizen, live in city and neighbourhood.

Servant (white queen): obey and follow laws, rules, regulations.

Contributor (white bishop): tax pay, contribute, donate, volunteer, support, finance, fund.

Partner (white knight): develop, contribute in knowledge, feelings and insights, co-create.

Client (white rook): receive products and services, indicate choice.


An ecosystem does not have a separate governing department, as cities have. It is self regulated. In other words, if we do want the city to consider as an ecosystem than all times politics, elected and governing councils as well as civil servant organisations are perceived as an integral part of the system. Government is the in principal within the box of the ecosystem, not outside the box. And governance is an integral part of the city as a whole. Most governments though consider themselves as the governing part. It is this dilemma, that causes the need to redesign the used governance-governed, the system world-living world approach. For now we work with it.


Aardema, H. en A. Korsten (2005) De Staat van de Gemeente: Op weg naar een handzame, landelijke gemeentemonitor. Den Haag: VGS, BMC, PON, Open Universiteit Nederland, InAxis. Link

Escher, M.C. (1939-1940) Metamorphosis II [Woodcut]. Den Haag: Paleis.

Multi-level governance

Symbol multi-level governance. © Jack P. Kruf

Jack P. Kruf

Multi-level governance is an approach in political science and public administration theory that originated from studies on European integration. According Piattoni (2001) the political scientists Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks actually developed the concept of multi-level governance in the early 1990’s. 

It has become one of the key processes for good public governance in international context. In fact always was, but never defined or considered as such. The link between all levels of governance in every ecosystem is essential to be effective and efficient in its functioning. The layering of governance seems in general to follow the principles of the ecological pyramid in natural ecosystems, so some logic can be derived. It must be said though, that from the perspective of city management, there is a wide range of opinions, feelings, views and thoughts around it. It exists, but is not generally accepted as the best way forward. What is multi-level governance?

Multi-level (or multilevel) governance is a term used to describe the way power is spread vertically between many levels of government and horizontally across multiple quasi-government and non-governmental organizations and actors. 

Cairney et al. (2019)

This situation develops because many countries have multiple levels of government including local, regional, statenational or federal, and many other organisations with interests in policy decisions and outcomes. International governance also operates based on multi-level governance principles. 


In 1996 Hooghe edited a sustained study of cohesion policy in the European Union. The central question was how policy makers can develop a common European policy, and yet give attention to the variation in practice, institutions, and players in the member states. 

Later in 2001 Hooghe et al. (2001) explain why multi-level governance has taken place and how it shapes conflict in national and European political arenas and go into the dual process of centralization and decentralization. At the same time that authority in many policy areas has shifted to the supranational level of the European Union, so national governments have given sub-national regions within countries more say over the lives of their citizens. 

At the forefront of scholars who characterize this dual process as multi-level governance, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks argue that its emergence in the second half of the twentieth century is a watershed in the political development of Europe. According the authors it gives expression to the idea that there are many interacting authority structures at work in the emergent global political economy: “… illuminates the intimate entanglement between the domestic and international levels of authority”.


Cairney, P., Heikkila, T. and Wood, Matthew (2019). Making Policy in a Complex World (1 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hooghe, Liesbeth (ed.) (1996) Cohesion Policy and European Integration: Building Multi-level Governance. Wotton-under-Edge: Clarendon Press Oxford.

Hooghe, Liesbet and Gary Marks (2001) Multi-Level Governance and European Integration. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Piattoni, Simona (2009) Multi-level Governance: a Historical and Conceptual Analysis. European Integration. 31. 2: 163–180. 

Compliance and Credibility

Jack P. Kruf (2017) Compliance [Fine art print]. Breda: Governance Connect, Q Dock.
Based on the magic square by Albrecht Dürer (Melencolia I).

Jack P. Kruf

One of the main processes in public governance is focused on acting in compliance with existing rules and regulations. Even in times of Corona, where top-down crisis management is the dominating way of governance, leaders will be accountable on compliance. Whatever is needed for the safety and well-being of the city, its people, organisations, nature, values, challenges, compliance at the end is key.

Compliance (with something) is the practice of obeying rules or requests made by people in authority (• procedures that must be followed to ensure full compliance with the law, • safety measures were carried out in compliance with paragraph 6 of the building regulations).

Oxford Dictionary

People in authority is broadly to be interpreted. Compliance is one of the major conditions, constraints, starting points, boundaries or frames where the credibility of every public leader or civil servant finds it ground. It starts with the Constitution.

If the system world (that of public governance and government) and the living world of daily life in the city and society can be showed as a balanced 4*4 field canvas, then compliance could be expressed by the overlying magic square, symbolising the mathematic correctness in all directions.

As in compliance all strategies, policies, implementations, rules, regulations and finance need to be tuned, connected, linked and accountable, at all time. The legal obligation of compliance leads for every governmental council – it is not that easy in the endless wood of rules and regulations – to an intensive and above average effort to make the yearly reports presentable and above all explainable and defendable towards citizens and stakeholders. Compliance is the magic key to credibility.

In itself compliance is figuratively a form of art. I was inspired by the genius of Albrecht Dürer. In his engraving Melencolia I this 4*4 magic grid with the sum of 34 is visible in the background. The magic square has a place in the rich history of mathematics. This fine art print hangs in the Classic Room of the house of one of my family members near Sherwood Forest.

Abiotic City Components

Kruf, J.P. (2007) Les couleurs de Normandie.

Jack P. Kruf

Abiotic components of the Ecosystem City® are components that can be considered as the nonliving, being the chemical and physical parts of it. They form more or less the conditions for all living components, as defined in Biotic City Components. They formed and still form the décor for how the city historically has developed, its present state, its growth potential, its maintenance and its future potential. It is an essential part of the habitat.

Abiotic components are climate (seasoning, humidity, precipitation and temperature), terrain (soil quality, availability of nutrients, mineral content, elevation, substrate, tides), water (availability and composition of freshwater, presence of specific chemicals, pollution, water clarity), atmosphere (air quality and composition, aerial exposure, concentrations of chemicals, pollution), light and solar energy, radiation, acidity, pressure and sound waves. Some of the components find their basis in the natural, some in human-made conditions. It is quite a palette.

Cities are based on and surrounded by abiotic components. Presence or absence can influence not only biodiversity, competition, way and rate of survival, culture, but also the over-all resilience of the city. Components can be of advantage for one organisation or group, and create pressure for another one. They influence the landscape of and ratio beween generalists and specialists.

Some cities have nicknames related to – sometimes are famous for – abiotic components. Some examples: Aberdeen and Berlin (The Grey City), Bordeaux (City of Wine), Cadiz (The Little Silver Cup), Chicago (The Windy City), Helsinki (The White City of the North), Honolulu (Sheltered Bay), Jaipur (The Pink City), London (The Old Smoke), Naples (The City of the Sun), Paris (The City of Light), Pittsburgh (The Iron City), Seattle (Rain City), Torino (City of Four Rivers), Venice (Bride of the Sea).

Cycles in the City

Kandinsky. V. (1913) Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles [watercolour, gouache and crayon on paper]. Munich: Stadtische Galerie in Lenbach, Lenbachhaus.

Jack P. Kruf

There are the natural cycles that flow through the streets of the city. The main are related to water, nutrients and energy. And there are man-made cycles related to the governance of the city, such as democracy, strategy and policy. They all relate to the core of public life, to resources, essentials and effects of decision making and city management. Cycles are essential in every ecosystem. A short overview as a first draft. All graphic designs by © Governance Connect, Q Dock.

Water cycle

Water cycle ∞.

Water is the key source for life because all humans and communities need it. There is the natural water cycle, which describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth: condensation – precipitation – collection – evaporation ∞.

Water cycle †.

But due to heavy water use by humans and businesses this cycle is heavily influenced and even interrupted in some area’s: condensation – precipitation – collection – consumption †.

Energy cycle

Energy cycle.

Energy is key in all what we do. And yes we constantly build, rebuild and recover because of expansion or recovery from disasters. Though not a real cycle, it behaves like one, almost. Better is to speak of energy flow, referring to the flow of energy through the food chain in a natural ecosystem. In general it shows itself as: energy (solar) – production – fixation (plants) – consumption.

Nutrient cycle

Nutrient cycle.

This is the cyclic nutrient movement and exchange of organic and inorganic matter back into the production of matter. Mineral cycles include that of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen that continually recycle along with other mineral nutrients into productive ecological nutrition: production –  allocation – consumption – decomposition ∞ .

Democracy cycle

Democracy cycle.

Democracy cycle is the process from election and representation to decision making and evaluation. Every 4 or 6 years the cycle is round. It is also called the cycle of power.

Strategy cycle

Strategy cycle.

The process of from sensing of trends, developing strategy and policy plan and implement and monitor them related to desired public value.

Policy cycle

Policy cycle.

The process of from sensing of trends, developing strategy and policy plan and implement and monitor them related to desired public value.

Resilience of what to what?

Pompen, Ludo (2015). Soil? No! ©Q Dock.

Jack P. Kruf

What is resilience? Well, there is no simple answer to this. The concept is in development in different sciences and recently entered the public governance domain related to the social-ecological system of society. Resilience is the new buzzword. Millions of years it played an essential role in natural ecosystems, now it has been launched as new concept for thinking and acting from government perspective. But where is it about? The ability to endure stress and still be able to perform or the capacity to recover after a catastrophe? Maybe both?

The question can not be answered or even is meaningless without putting it in the context resilience of what to what? In our approach we focus on the resilience of the ecosystem city to specific external (abiotic, climate change)) or internal (biotic, virus attack) caused disturbances.

“Resilience has multiple levels of meaning: as a metaphor related to sustainability, as a property of dynamic models, and as a measurable quantity that can be assessed in field studies of socioecological system (SES). The operational indicators of resilience have, however, received little attention in the literature. To assess a system’s resilience, one must specify which system configuration and which disturbances are of interest.”

Carpenter et al. (2001)

C. S. Holling (1973) introduced the word resilience into the ecological literature as a way of helping to understand the non-linear dynamics observed in ecosystems. Since then the concept diversified in all directions. Resilience is wide interpreted and used, it is difficult to understand and therefor possibly of limited use for precise governance. Like accountability, new normal, alignment, roadmap, risk, streamline and sustainability it can become a container concept and a buzzword.

“Resilience,” like love, is difficult to define, yet everyone – from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to government agencies, company boards, and community groups – is talking about how to build or maintain it. So, is resilience a useful concept or a meaningless buzzword?

Brian Walker (2015)

For the core definition of resilience we go back to the forest. It is a simple and therefor generally applicable definition.

‘Resilience is the ability to bounce back, basically in the face of disturbance, maintaining functions and structures of the system and recovering from the disturbance.”

Rupert Seidl (2019)

The resilience of the ecosystem city is telling the story of the balancing act of the population in the present habitat of the city. Of course there are many layers of habitats within the city and some justify to zoom in and consider resilience on a lower level. In general it is like when you have plans to investing your money in stocks and funds: results in the past are no guarantee for the future.

It is with resilience like looking into the mirror: you know where you are and where you come from, not so much about where you are going and what will happen. It is hard to predict how future external developments influence the habitat of communities and whether they will exceed the resilience of the system and whether the system is able to tackle change properly.

To let resilience successfully – and Brian Walker (2017) from Resilience Alliance underlines the (urgent) need for this – enter the stage of public governance it is wise to start with using it always in the context resilience of what to what (Carpenter et al., 2001).


Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Anderies, J. and Abel, N. (2001) From Metaphor to Measurement: Resilience of What to What?. Ecosystems 4, 765–781.

Holling, C.S. (1973) Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 4:1-23 (Volume publication date November 1973).

Seidl, Rupert (2019) Voices of Resilience

Walker, Brian (2015) What is resilience? Project Syndicate.

Walker, Brian (2017). Brian Walker at Resilience 2017. Stockholm.

Habitats in the city

Kruf, J.P. (2019) My home in the city [Fine art print]. Breda: Governance Connect, Q Dock.

Jack P. Kruf

It was this picture I took from The Shard that underlines well the fact that the city has habitats in all forms and sizes for its citizens, communities and organisations. It is a view westwards over London at the end of the day, with these astonishing apartment as habitat. It feels as my home in the city, as a personal habitat within that of the overarching habitat of the city.

What is a habitat? In natural ecosystems it can be defined as an area with uniform environmental conditions, that is inhabited by an organism or a community. It is a type of place, a biotope, that is associated with a particular community, of plants and animals, in the city of men. It is made up of abiotic (physical) factors such as soil, moisture, range of temperature, and light intensity as well as of biotic factors such as the availability of food, culture and (in nature) the presence or absence of predators.

The Online Etymology Dictionary about habitat: “area or region where a plant or animal naturally grows or lives,” 1762, originally a technical term in Latin texts on English flora and fauna, literally “it inhabits,” third person singular present indicative of habitare “to live, inhabit, dwell,” frequentative of habere “to have, to hold, possess”.

In case of Ecosystem City® we consider communities and organisations as the City Components. They exist, live, work and perform in the city as main habitat. Habitats and communities together form the systems. The habitat (or biotope or eco-unit) of the city forms with food, water and shelter the the life constraints for communities and organisations within.

Consider the habitat as a kind of giving, water and shelter decor and stage in one for life.

The city has a built-up of habitats in layers. Upwards it is part of a higher systems as region and province, downwards most used in urban planning are the following four layers:

  • District or area (center, industrial, residential).
  • Neighbourhood.
  • Streets and parks. 
  • Mini-habitats (homes, offices, walls).

Important in city governance and management is the knowledge of the construction of the web of habitats, their position and interaction as well as of the intrinsic status and working. It is good to think of the city as a set of layers, like the forest has many layers, and in fact also like our brains. The real wisdom is found in the knowledge how subsystems are constructed with intelligence to higher levels. Intelligence is built bottom-up. When ecologists diagnose the forest, they like to know how habitats and their communities are linked, how the layers upwards and downwards are connected and what carries the cohesion. Without this no true understanding of the system.

“Higher levels of systems contain not only its subsystems, but also the information serving to keep the subsystems together in an orderly manner: system = subsystems + cohesion.”

Roelof Oldeman (1990)

This is in essence the holistic approach of diagnosis, where the highest and the lowest layer in the system can be connected. A detail of wall somewhere in the city can indicate what the state of the city actual is, what living conditions, welfare, customs and culture and how the city is ruined by its government. It can guide us upwards to get the bigger picture.

If the city is considered as an ecosystem it could be wise for public leaders and city managers to learn from the extensive knowledge and experience of ecologists how to analyse complex systems. And with that actually listen to the system. The acceptance that intelligence of the ecosystem always is constructed and developed bottom-up can be helpful to avoid and prevent contra-dictionary top-down decisions. Knowledge for government of the habitats in the city is key for good public governance. It actually should be a starting point for every decision.


Oldeman, R.A.A. (1990) Forests: Elements of Silvology. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.