For the Greater Good: Bringing People Together in the Arena of Public
Public security and safety remains a topical issue: from natural disasters to terrorism to cyber threats; governments, organisations and individuals need to work together in tackling these difficult problems. These various stakeholders, however, are often not well connected to each other or to the public. This is where RSM’s Centre of Excellence on Public Safety Management (CESAM) comes in, contributing with proven managerial insights in the field of public safety management.
“The unique position of a university is its neutral stance. Universities can play a vital role in societal debates by bringing people together who normally don’t talk to each other. This is of crucial importance in the sensitive topic of public safety.”
– Gabriele Jacobs, director of CESAM
“When you talk about safety and security, you need all stakeholders. You need people to talk together and to be genuinely interested in each other’s values,” says Gabriele Jacobs, Associate
Professor at the Department of Organization and Personnel Management at RSM and member of ERIM, and director of CESAM. Without any vested interests, CESAM can talk to any party
involved: prisoners, ministers, journalists, and heads of private industries or public institutions.
By bringing these stakeholders together, CESAM can offer the parties involved the opportunity to look at problems differently. The centre is involved with numerous projects at a local level as
well as with international collaborations.
One proven implementation of CESAM’s contribution in knowledge dissemination and cooperation on an international level is their involvement with policing. Project COMPOSITE (Comparative Police Studies in the EU) looked into how and what European police forces could learn from one another. Crime has increasingly become more international due to factors like new technologies and open borders. In response, national police forces have implemented ambitious change programmes in order to modernize and streamline their operations. CESAM brought 27 police forces from across ten countries together with government agencies, consultancies, and scientists, in order to examine the factors that contribute to the success or failure of these large-scale change processes. The investigation focused on several key issues, namely, analyzing police internal resources and their capability in handling external challenges, researching knowledge sharing and technology trends to gain insights into organizational structures that promote change, and gaining an understanding of the role of organizational culture, identity, and leadership in the management of change. Acting in the world of law enforcement agencies and hard technology projects, CESAM provided a hub for multidisciplinary
research and collaboration and brought social-psychological and cross-cultural management knowledge into the area. During and after the completion of the four-year project, which ended in the summer of 2014, the insights on policing strategies collectively gained from these meetings were shared in numerous training sessions and workshops. For example, a twoday conference was hosted by RSM in June of 2014 to bring all parties involved together and discuss the main topics under question, such as the emergence of new technologies, differing views on police identity across the countries involved, and implementing successful leadership in times of change.
On a national level, CESAM, together with the Erasmus faculties of law and public administration, recently completed an evaluation of the Dutch police force to gain insight into whether the reforms implemented were working for all the relevant stakeholders in the way legislators intended. Working at the highest political level, the results were presented and discussed with mayors and the government. Recognizing that every actor has their own perspective on the situation, CESAM adopted a constructivist approach to the evaluation in order to address the multitude of viewpoints. The group’s work consisted of a multidisciplinary approach that combined expertise from business, management, organisational psychology, social psychology, and criminology. Using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, CESAM looked over all the statements and documents produced during the investigation as well and conducted interviews with all the parties involved to gain a full picture of the changes resulting from the restructuring. The main outcome of the research concluded that frustration resulting from organisational change fatigue must not be underestimated, as it can have long-term negative consequences. Additionally, the internal and external trust placed in the police is of paramount
importance, as the potential unrest within the police force with respect to its ability to perform is considerable.
On a local level, CESAM is actively contributing to the further development and innovation of technology in the field of safety and security. Project CRISADMIN (Critical Infrastructure Simulation of Advanced Models on Interconnected Networks Resilience) focused on developing models for simulating and evaluating the effects of a crisis and its processes, whereby a key element is knowing how people will react and what affect this will have on a particular situation. IT specialists developing these tools typically have a very simplified idea about people’s behaviour, and so psychological and management knowledge is needed to achieve more realistic predictions. The result was a prototype IT application in the form of an algorithm that can simulate how people behave in crisis situations; for example how they react and communicate with each other, and what influence this has on the surrounding critical infrastructure. This and similar crisis-predictor models were then made freely available and
customisable for use by various public and private organisations.
Currently the centre is working on another project, UNITY, to develop a mobile app that can be used by police forces and their communities to facilitate a more informal communication between the two. In this way, the public can inform the police if they see something troubling or have any questions, and likewise, the police can react more personally or connect with the public on a more personal level. This is particularly the case with groups that have generally been harder to reach, such as youth, the elderly, and minorities. In this instance, CESAM carried out the necessary background research in eight European countries to identify current practices, the stakeholders involved, how the tool could be implemented, which communities were communicating with the police and how, and then it brought the representatives of these groups together.