The civil servant that went to design school

Diary Entry #1

“What is an agricultural policy advisor doing at a design school?” Since the start of February, I’ve been getting this question. Since then, every Tuesday, I trade the office of the Ministry of Agriculture in The Hague for the DSS Clubhouse in Amsterdam. There, I am enrolled as a “Transformation Owner” in the Transformation Leadership Programme (TLP). That means I lead a team of trainees to develop an innovative product for a partner. Indeed, at first glance, my work at the ministry seems to be quite far removed from the learning programme at DSS.

Let me tell you how I think my experience at DSS is going to help me in my working life in The Hague.

I believe that the complex governance questions that I work on can benefit from a design approach. As a policy advisor, I work on complex governance issues around sustainable land use. I really love the tough topics that I get to delve into every day surrounding the questions of sustainable farming. Such as nitrogen excess, biodiversity protection and water quality measures. Solving these issues not only takes understanding the science, but also involves working with many people who have a lot of different interests and emotions about the matter. I think the tools of DSS such as the SCREAM methodology and design thinking can help me unravel this complicated tangle of facts and feelings, and help me organize.

Me (in the middle) at DSS


Creative meeting design and facilitation is another thing that I think can help me and my colleagues in the ministry. Since I came to work here 2 years ago, I feel like we tend to focus too much on the what and not enough on the how. Because many topics we work on are urgent, it’s easy to organize ourselves in the way we’ve always done. But we might miss creative insights that way, or opportunities to improve our processes.

Lastly in TLP I get the opportunity to practice my leadership skills in a very multi-cultural environment. I consider this an enrichment to my professional life. Unfortunately the ministry that I work for is a quite homogenous environment. I hope this changes soon! In the meantime, practicing inter-cultural skills can only make me a better communicator.

Are you curious about how I’ll be getting along? And if all these high hopes for the programme will actually come true? Over the coming months I will make new diary entries about my learning journey at DSS. Check back in to learn along with me!

– Lisa

(Lisa Deijl works as a senior policy advisor for Nationaal Programma Landelijk Gebied at the Ministry of Agriculture of the Netherlands. She holds a BA in anthropology and an MSc in sustainable food systems.  She is 30 years old and lives in Rotterdam.)

[Transformation Owner Diary is a series of articles dedicated to reflecting on the experience during the Transformation Leadership Programme. Stay tuned for the upcoming diary entries!]