Dutch Code for Good Public Administration

Principles of proper public administration, published by the central government of The Netherlands in June 2009


In finding the tone of the city it is essential to also determine thecharacter and quality of the governmental navigation by the involved players, such as there are the responsible actors and the objects of governance (citizens, businesses and society). What criteria could possibly be developed for measuring and monitoring. In The Netherlands in 2009 the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations published the principles in a code.

Minister Dr G. ter Horst in her foreword in 2009: “In The Netherlands, the principles of the democratic constitutional state form the framework for our functioning. Citizens and government must give substance to them together. The government cannot do this without the citizens; the citizens cannot do this without the government. This reciprocity requires the right balance of rights and duties between citizens on the one hand, and the government on the other.

The rights and duties of citizens are laid down in formal laws and regulations. In addition, the Charter on Responsible Citizenship makes an informal, moral appeal to citizens to be active and responsible members of society.

There are also many formal laws and regulations governing the functioning of public administration. Precisely because of their formal nature, these laws and regulations do not necessarily invite self-reflection. As a result, we would almost lose sight of why we have all these laws and regulations: to meet social needs within the framework of the democratic constitutional state.

The Code of Good Public Administration sets out the basic principles of good public administration in our democratic constitutional state. It is an informal instrument that appeals to the individual responsibility of administrations to conscientiously fulfil their tasks and responsibilities in public administration. It invites self-reflection and translation into daily practice.

I ask that special attention be given to integrity. We can lay down as much as we like in formal laws and regulations and informal codes; ultimately, the individual and collective integrity of directors is essential. Just like the individual and collective integrity of those who control them. Unfortunately, even in public administration there are occasional examples of lack of integrity and the negative consequences thereof.

It is precisely the people who fulfil individual and collective tasks and responsibilities in public administration, who serve all of our interests; it is precisely they who must set a good example. This is how we earn the citizens’ trust in the government. This is how we stimulate active and responsible citizenship. This is how government and citizens together can give substance to the functioning of our democratic constitutional state.”


Good public administration is essential for the functioning of our democratic constitutional state. Without good public administration, there cannot be a healthy interaction between government and society and the government cannot meet social needs.

This code describes what good public administration means for the boards of individual organisations in the public administration in the Netherlands, both at central and decentralised level.

Good public administration, even in a prosperous and developed country such as the Netherlands, is not a matter of course. Even the fact that political and social interests are democratically legitimated does not offer an absolute guarantee in this respect. This code urges boards of organisations in public administration to make and keep alive the principles of good governance in their daily practice, and offers a frame of reference for others to call them to account on this.

The code does not contain any legally enforceable standards. There is already a great deal of legislation and regulation regulating government action, including the general principles of good governance. The values underlying these laws and regulations are made explicit in the code. They are the shared values on which public administration operates. The code invites people to translate these values into their own situation and to take action: to actively disseminate them within and outside the organisation, to set an example and to be accountable for good governance. Existing initiatives can be used for this purpose.

The principles should be seen in connection with each other. In practice, principles will sometimes need to be weighed against each other. For example, a legitimate decision need not always be the most effective decision. It is important that boards make their considerations consciously and are open about them. The public interest always comes first: public administration is there for and on behalf of citizens.

Good public administration requires maintenance and continuous attention. The code ‘lives’ when boards apply it conscientiously and report on it publicly on a regular basis.


    1. Openness and integrity: The board is open and honest and makes it clear what it means by this. The board sets a good example in its behaviour, both within the organisation and externally.
    2. Participation: The board knows what is going on in society and shows what it does with this. 
    3. Appropriate contacts with citizens: The board ensures that itself and the organisation behave properly in contacts with citizens.
    4. Goal-orientation and efficiency: The board announces the goals of the organisation and takes the decisions and measures necessary to achieve the goals set.
    5. Legitimacy: The board takes the decisions and measures it is entitled to take and which are in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations. The decisions can be justified.
    6. Learning and self-cleansing ability: The board improves its performance and that of the organisation, and organises the organisation accordingly.
    7. Accountability: The board is prepared to regularly and generously account for its actions to those around it.

Resilience of what to what?

Resilience is relatively new in public governance thinking. Can it be of help in finding the tone of city, society and nature?


What is resilience? Well, there is no simple answer to this. Especially not regarding that of the ecosystem of a city. The concept, you might say, is in development in different sciences and recently entered the public governance domain related to the social-ecological system of society. Can resilience as indicator of the state of an ecosystem be measured? And if so, how are the living and non-living factors within and outside the measured system be calculated? Can it create true insight in the tone of city, society and nature. A first exploration of definitions.

Resilient City.

The resilient city can bounce or roll back to its equilibrium. The red dot is the metaphoric colour for the city. It is Poppy Red, inspired by the resilience of the City of Ypres.

Resilience is the new buzzword under public leaders and managers. Millions of years it played an essential role in natural ecosystems, now it has been launched as a 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)

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 a difficult to understand concept and therefore possibly of limited use for precise diagnosis and related public governance. Like accountability, the new normal, alignment, roadmap, risk, streamline and sustainability it can become a container or 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 might to go back to the forest. It is a simple and therefore 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). There is lots of work to be done for bringing in a proper landing place for resilience into the public domain. The first steps are there.

One thing stands out. In finding the tone of city, society and nature, the measurement of resilience can be helpful. But it is very complex. For that it has to develop further towards a more complete and refined concept. The of what to what question has to be built in.


Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Anderies, J. and Abel, N. (2001) From Metaphor to Measurement: Resilience of What to What?. Ecosystems 4, 765–781. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-001-0045-9

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). https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.es.04.110173.000245

Seidl, R. (2019) Voices of Resilience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=755F__a5agM

Walker, B. (2015) What is resilience?. Project Syndicate. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/what-is-resilience-by-brian-walker?barrier=accesspaylog

Walker, B. (2017). Brian Walker at Resilience 2017. Stockholm: Omställningsnätverket Transition Network Sweden.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G2-IFfRwzM

Image: Kruf, J. (2020) Resilient City. Breda: Civitas Naturalis.

The Essence of Tree Roots

Are tree roots to bring in analogy of what happens on election day?


The wisdom of life, the book with all its guidelines and secrets, the codex, can actually be found in the forest. Codex is derived from the Latin caudex, meaning “trunk of a tree”. The lowest part of the trunk, that connect to the roots, is where two worlds meet in the binding principles of life, that of ‘above ground’ and that of ‘under ground’.

It is here where the soul of the forest can be found, the market place where all traffic streams from earth (upwards, water, minerals) and sun and air (downwards sugars, after photosynthesis) are exchanged, the roundabout on the highway of life.

It is this meeting point where growth and development are coordinated, the place where past, present and future meet, the counterpoint where life starts. Vincent van Gogh painted this meeting point, Tree Roots, as only he was able to do so: colourful and straight to the heart. He understood. It was his last painting, ‘digging deep’ into the essence of life.

Translating, transposing or transforming the scene from forest to society. Is it a thought that an election day can be considered as the trunk/root meeting point of our democracy, and therefore be perceived as the soul of the ecosystem of society?

The upward stream – empowering votes followed by (tax) money – can be imagined as that of water and minerals. In the downward stream giving power to the trees – the public leaders and politicians – to build, protect and care. It is a dream scenario. Daily practice proofs otherwise.

In finding the tone of city and society it is here, at the trunk-roots interface where the determinants and indicators can be found in the process of democracy, of governing and be governed. Studying the promises before and the realisations after election day creates insights into the tone. The trunk and the roots lead us to the codex of measuring the tone.


Gogh, V.  van (1890) Tree Roots [oil on canvas]. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum.

The City Colour

About a city, it’s essence and the intrinsic colour.


Ypres is the symbol of the ultimate resilience and dynamics of a city ecosystem. It refounded itself, from the ashes, recreated, rebalanced and resurrected from the immense losses on the dark battlefields of the Big War. If there is a city which can be given a distinctive colour, then it is Ypres in West-Flanders, Belgium. The city has the name City of Peace.

The poppy (Papaver spp.), in abundance growing among the graves of war victims near the city, has become the symbol for the remembrance for those who lost their lives. The remembrance poppy, the artificial flower and first created by Madame Guérin, is often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day on the 11th of November, the day in 1918 when the war was ended.

The poem In Flanders Fields, by Canadian and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, brings us all back to the day it was written, the 3rd of May 2015:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

– John McGrae

The most abundant flower – among other species of papavers – near the graves of the soldiers is the Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.). When florists speak about the poppy they often mark it with the colour scarlet.

Within CINETONE® we link the poppy colour Pantone® Poppy Red 17-1664 TPG to that of the city.

McCrae, J. (1918) In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. Salt Lake City: Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.

Image: Kruf, J.P. (2019) City, Ypres, Poppy Red / Ecosystem [fine art print]. Breda: Civitas Naturalis.

Zooming out, getting the picture

By zooming out, connections can be laid. By zooming in, connections come to life.


One of the crucial skills of public leaders and managers is to be able to get the bigger picture of society, and from there to connect things and to act accordingly. Mayors and city managers among others need to keep the main focus on the bigger picture, while aldermen and directors have their specific discipline, craftsmanship and portfolio.

Overview and content go hand in hand, both complementary pieces of the puzzle of public governance. Zooming out is a form of art, necessary to understand the city as an ecosystem. For this art, Alexander von Humboldt and Roelof A.A. Oldeman have been of great inspiration. The ability of zooming out is the essential skill for true knowledge, they say. Two quotes.

Idealer Durchschnitt eines Teils der Erdrinde. From Berghaus (1945) vor Alexander von Humboldt Kosmos.

Naturalist, explorer and geographer Alexander von Humboldt (1856) concluded that zooming out leads to more overview and offers the possibility to interconnect things (and even sciences). Von Humboldt gave guidance on the relation between ecosystems and abiotic factors. He came to this fascinating conclusion in Cosmos, actually revolutionary for that time.

“Physical geography…, elevated to a higher point of view, … embraces the sphere of organic life…”. – Von Humboldt (1856).

The atlas by Berghaus (1945) gives more insight into the range and character of connections. This atlas was used to illustrate Alexander von Humboldt’s CosmosThe latest saw the connection between the life in the ecosystems and the constraints of soil, water, energy and climate. Nobody before him had done this. Also in cities these connections between in fact habitats and communities are all over the place. So we can learn here from the discoveries of Von Humboldt.

“The principle impulse by which I was directed was the earnest endeavour to comprehend the phenomena of physical objects in their general connection, and to represent nature as one great whole, moved and animated by internal forces. Without an earnest striving to attain to a knowledge of special branches of study, all attempts to give a grand and general view of the universe would be nothing more than vain illusion.” – Von Humboldt (1856)

Alexander von Humboldt’s vegetation of the Andes (Buttimer, 2015).

Connection between sciences seems to be necessary to find the real answers. It is about the ability of sharpening one’s view from different angles and principles. Oldeman et al. (1990) underlined, in cross-border studies of forests, the need for such an holistic approach in diagnosis. He always encouraged, within the fragmented landscape of sciences, the necessity to cross the by universities and faculties so heavily guarded boundaries. For most of the city challenges, the process of policy making and service delivery needs to be based on a cross-border view, to come to well-founded decisions.

“The group that was responsible for the forest components theme decided to accelerate the process by starting an ambitious project, the writing of a common book. There is no way in which cooperation can be stimulated better, but this way has to be learned and practised too. The result is now before you. The book is not yet ideal in our opinion because it still contains too many traces of the old University tradition of researchers working, each apart, on such narrow subjects as they know best.

This way of executing the research of course is necessary to reach sufficient depth. But it carries the risk of loss of vision of the whole system, parts of which are studied. Still a little bit unbalanced, but on its way to improve along lines that are more clear now, this presentation in a pluridisciplinary way is a first step, however, to overcome both the limits of individual researchers and the shallowness of groups. We trust, however, that it is exactly this wrestling with integration of broad views versus the deepening of restricted views that may be as interesting to the reader as the facts, figures, conclusions and hypotheses on forests and their components which are presented in the following pages.” – Oldeman et al. (1990)

Von Humboldt and Oldeman are inspiring in this cross-scientific and pluridisciplinary discovery. Zooming out is crucial to get the picture. For finding the tone a systematic process of zooming in and out is necessary. Proper and sharp observation is in the heart of this all.


Berghaus, H. (1945) Physikalischer Atlas. Gotha: Verlag von Justus Perthes.

Buttimer, A. (2012) Alexander von Humboldt and planet Earth’s green mantle. European Journal of Geography. https://cybergeo.revues.org/25478

Humboldt, Alexander von (1856) Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe, Volume 1. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. 406 pp.

Oldeman, R., Schmidt, P. and Arnolds, E. (1990) Forest components. Wageningen: Aricultural University, 111 pp.

The Tone of 2020

How color tells us the story of the tone of society.


The Pantone Color Institute has selected the 2021 colours for design and fashion. It illustrates the tone of society at the end of the year 2020. The choice of the institute works as a mirror.

It is obvious that it seems to indicate that society is in need for the illuminating yellow and the anchoring gray of nature. It is clear that a more integrated and transdisciplinary approach is the way forward. Pantone Color Institute:
“Two independent colors that highlight how different elements come together to support one another, best express the mood for Pantone Color of the Year 2021. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union of Ultimate Gray + Illuminating is one of strength and positivity.
It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly. A message of happiness supported by fortitude, the combination of these colors is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter – this is essential to the human spirit.
As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity, and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality.
Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.
Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.”
It seems clear where the needs and wants in public values lie, underlining the focus and content of good public navigation.

View on Delft: ecosystem ‘city’

How a painter catch the essence of the city.


This painting of the city of Delft, made around 1660, is from the master hand of Johannes Vermeer. More than inspiring. A place to live. Around 360 years back in time. With View of Delft Vermeer created an iconic image of the city: the city as an entity, the city as an ecosystem.

The overarching cloudy sky gives the city the insight and dimension that it is part of a larger world, maybe that of nature. It puts Delft in perspective. It humbles. At the same time, the citizens in the foreground remind you as watcher that the painting is also about everyday life. It sketches the city itself as comprehensive and offering a higher dimension to its inhabitants. That of a place where you may belong, where you can live, love, meet and work.

View on Delft is a holistic image in which Vermeer shows us the multiple layers of the ecosystem ‘city’: citizen, group, street, neighbourhood and city. In ecological terms he shows organism, group, niche, habitat and system at the same time. And that under the clouds of a much larger dimension, the sky, the world. A masterpiece.


Vermeer, Johannes (1660-1661) View on Delft [oil on canvas]. The Hague: Mauritshuis.

The Tone of Liverpool

About a time travel and catching the tone of a city.


The painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is best known for his moody urban landscapes. This impressionistic painting of Liverpool in 1875 is an inspiration in how tones, spheres, moods, perspectives and contexts can be found and fixed.

This scene is impressionistic and direct at the same time. It is easy to imagine you actually are there, transcended with your personal time-machine 147 years backwards to one of the most developed cities of Europe, Liverpool. Talking of ‘finding to tone’, this painting is an accurate example. No words are needed to describe what the tone of the city was.


Grimshaw, J.A. (1875) Liverpool Docks From Wapping Wharf. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

Finding the Tone

About a time travel and catching the tone of a city.


This website is about finding the tone. For good navigation, public navigation, knowing the tone is key. It is the general character, quality, trend, frame of mind, color, mood and with showing the essence of a subject, object, group, organisation, city or nature area. You simply can not navigate to a target, value, goal or destination, if you do not know where you are. 


Central in the approach of finding and diagnosing, is considering the object of study as a living organism, as an ecosystem like that of a forest. For that CINETONE® was designed. It functions as a camera with a set of lenses, filters, films, pixel settings and perspectives to capture the tone.

CIvitas Naturalis Ecosystemic TONE forms the acronym. It is registered as trademark. 

This site is about finding, sensing, studying and diagnosing the determinants of the system, like there are components, processes, cycles, roles, interactions, traits and factors. It is about getting socionomic and ecologic insight in compositions, patterns and structures. 

In the displayed works on this website there are the field views as well as the eagle (hovering) views. For the first set of observations transects, paintings, texts, drawings, designs and photos are used.

For the second set, the chess board is used as a basic canvas, functioning as a grid, a layer over the object of study. For each field (out of the 64) the most present components (read: organisations) are measured and mapped. And there are schematic and conceptual drawings and diagrams. We make use of a specific set of colours, symbols and codes.

Let us find out, what the world has to offer in terms of impressions and expressions related to finding the tone. Personal observations are added.

Posted on Categories Essay

Raamwerk Planetaire Grenzen

Het Planetary Boundaries framework werd voor het eerst gepubliceerd in 2009. De planetaire grenzen bakenen de veilige operationele ruimte voor de mensheid af. Het raamwerk, dat integraal beschouwt en meet, neemt de draagkracht van de aarde zelve als uitgangspunt.
Onze stichting markeert het integraal en holistisch belang van dit raamwerk. Zij denkt dat er correlaties zijn met de bestuurlijke benadering inzake publieke risico’s, scenario’s en resilience van steden en regio’s. Wereldlijke ontwikkelingen hebben immers invloed op lokale en regionale economie en leefbaarheid, vice versa.
Een herbeoordeling van de planetaire grens voor zoet water is gepubliceerd op 26 april 2022 in het tijdschrift Nature. Het is aanleiding het raamwerk nog eens onder de aandacht te brengen. Het essay geeft aan dat deze grens nu ook lijkt te zijn overschreden. Dit concludeert een team van onderzoekers onder leiding van het Stockholm Resilience Centre, in samenwerking met het Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Lead author Lan Wang-Erlandsson from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) at Stockholm University:

“Water is the bloodstream of the biosphere. But we are profoundly changing the water cycle. This is now affecting the health of the entire planet, making it significantly less resilient to shocks.”

Water is een van de negen regulatoren van de toestand van het aardsysteem en is de zesde grens die wetenschappers hebben beoordeeld als zijnde overtreden, dit naast die van klimaatverandering, biosfeer-integriteit, biogeochemische cycli, verandering van het landsysteem en, in 2022, nieuwe entiteiten, waaronder plastic en andere door de mens gemaakte chemicaliën. Ω


Wang-Erlandsson, L., Tobian, A., van der Ent, R. J., Fetzer, I., te Wierik, S., Porkka, M., Staal, A., Jaramillo, F., Dahlmann, H., Singh, C., Greve, P., Gerten, D., Keys, P.W., Gleeson, T, Cornell, S. E., Steffen, W., Bai, X., Rockström, J., (2022). Towards a green water planetary boundary. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-022-00287-8

Afbeelding: ontworpen door Azote voor Stockholm Resilience Centre