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HCSS 10 years: past lessons for our future

November 6th 2017 - 11:06

Many of my colleagues have already contemplated 10 years of HCSS. By looking at our past achievements over that period of time by Stephan De Spiegeleire and Sybren de Jong. Or by examining the changing state of the world in the past decade by Karlijn Jans and Willem Oosterveld. And by highlighting the specific characteristics that HCSS’ research and analysis contributed to provide our customers meaningful guidance to these changes by Rob de Wijk and Hannes Rõõs.

Winston Churchill said “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” In that respect, our relatively short existence could use at least a second decade to extend our strategic antennas even further. But at the same time, HCSS has already built up sufficient and, may I say, impressive material to continue developing its strategic foresight and prepare our clients for what is to come. As, in the recent past, we have done for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, the National Police , the City of Amsterdam, and companies like Thales, for whom we have conducted broad outside-in analysis, combining a wide array of sources, methods, and disciplines.

And in our ten year life span, we also have recognized that what occurred in the past will re-appear in our present. In 2007, the Netherlands government presented the Balkenende IV coalition agreement. Highlights of the agreement were the building of a constructive role in the world, stimulating sustainable development, and promoting an innovative, competitive and entrepreneurial economy. On each of these themes, HCSS has widely published over the past years and these subjects remain relevant in the newest 2017 coalition agreement “Confidence in the Future” four Dutch cabinets later. Looking back at these reports might allow the current government to look far, far ahead.

Or what to think about Rutte III’s ambition to formulate a security strategy for dealing with domestic and foreign threats. In May 2007, the aforementioned PM Balkenende presented in his fourth resurrection the National Security Strategy to Parliament. This strategy was exactly aimed at providing a regular, comprehensive, and systematic evaluation of what disasters and crises can occur and what impact they have on society. Interestingly enough, the lack of a comprehensive approach and the need for a systematic strategy were the fruits of analysis by the founders of HCSS. Our newly emerging Dutch Foreign Relations Index is but one instrument that the newest strategy could consider making part of its approach. So some things never change.

However, not everyone agrees with Churchill’s earlier mentioned adagio. The 19th century American political philosopher Henry David Thoreau suggested to “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” And this is, indeed, how we would like to prepare our clients for new, exciting, and uncertain times ahead. More so than we have done in the past. We don’t live in an era of change but in a change of eras, according to Transition professor Jan Rotmans. And we tend to agree. The enormous developments of recent years but especially those still to come regarding Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Distributed Ledger Technologies to only name a few, will not only affect the way our clients will have to start thinking, deciding, and acting on their future. It will also influence our own way of conducting analysis in a major manner. As such, it will strengthen the capabilities of HCSS in which we have modestly but unquestionably invested  upward to our first major anniversary!

Erik Frinking, Director of the Strategic Futures Program

This post is part of a series on the HCSS 10 year anniversary. Throughout the year analysts, experts and former colleagues will publish a post reflecting on the past 10 years. 

Read the post by Paul Sinning, Executive Director

Read the post by Rob de Wijk, founder and non-Executive Director 

Read the post by Stephan de Spiegeleire, Principal Scientist 

Read the post by Karlijn Jans, Strategic Analyst 

Read the post by Sijbren de Jong, Strategic Analyst

Read the post by Michel Rademaker, Deputy Director Market and Operations

Read the post by Willem Oosterveld, Strategic Analyst

Read the post by Hannes Rõõs, Data Scientist 

Erik Frinking is the Director of the Strategic Futures Program at HCSS. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University. For almost twenty years, he has been involved in addressing high-level, complex policy issues for a wide variety of European countries and international organizations. Mr. Frinking worked for more than 13 years at the Leiden branch of the RAND Corporation, where he was director of the Education, Science & Technology, and Innovation program.