Organisation - October 20, 2010

‘Economic Affairs pays more attention to the commercial side’

The merger needs to harmonize the cultures at the ministries of Economic Affairs and Agriculture.

The proposed merger of the ministries of Agriculture and Economic Affairs is not just an organizational challenge. The two departments' cultures and ways of working also need to be made to fit, says Kees de Gooijer, who has experience of both organizations through his job as director of Food & Nutrition Delta.
For instance, the ministry of Agriculture focuses on the entire food sector whereas Economic Affairs concentrates primarily on the top segment, the ten to fifteen per cent best performing companies. De Gooijer: 'Economic Affairs works on the principle that if we boost the top segment, the rest will follow automatically.' For Wageningen UR, that may mean that future research proposals will need to be aimed more at individual businesses and less at 'the sector' as a whole, says De Gooijer.
Stereotypes are not important
He thinks that Economic Affairs 'pays more attention to the commercial side' than Agriculture. 'You need a sound description of economic perspectives in your proposal if you want it to be accepted.' He also expects Economic Affairs to have an impact on the extent to which knowledge is made publically available. The ministry of Agriculture works in the interests of the sector and feels that participants in knowledge development projects should share the results with their colleagues. Knowledge development projects for Economic Affairs often involve confidentiality.
And then of course there are the visible cultural differences. Economic Affairs has more of a corporate look while Agriculture has a green image. But De Gooijer is not afraid of such contradictions. 'There are big differences already, even within Economic Affairs: some jacket-and-tie types and some tree-huggers. These are stereotypes. Who cares?'
 

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