The essay ‘Learning by doing’ is a follow-up of ‘The Energetic Society’, a report published in 2011 by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The essay raised the following question among policymakers: What should be the role of government in facilitating and mobilising the energetic society in light of current societal challenges?. This question was one of the seven themes on the Strategic Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2012–2016 of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.
In their joint essay ‘Learning by doing - government participation in an energetic society’, The Netherlands School of Public Participation (NSOB) and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency present the first answers to this question. Special attention was paid to proper governance, organisation, politics and the professionalism of government. The energetic society does not call for ‘less government’, but rather for ‘another type of government’. The essay argues, on the basis of several empirical sub-studies, for a government that is able to skilfully combine classic governmental roles (legislation, providing significance to measureable performance agreements) and new roles (networking, participatory and facilitating). ‘Learning by doing’ also pays attention to practical options for the individual civil servant to take action.