Not long ago I was invited to give a talk about some lessons we might be able to learn from Switzerland’s pandemic crisis management. The invitation provided a welcome opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what’s been happening since all of this started.

Much of this piece is also based on a Twitter thread, which turned out to resonate quite strongly with many and helped me think through the argument.

1. We’ve got this pandemic business — or so we thought

Heading into this pandemic, one could have thought that Switzerland should be able to nail this. …

This piece was previously a thread I wrote on Twitter in January 2021. It seemed to resonate quite a bit, which is why I’ve turned it into a blog post. I’ve only edited it lightly.

I’ve been cleaning out my notes and wanted to share a short note with four things I’ve learned, I’ve been wrong about and I’ve been surprised by in the context of the pandemic.

The usual disclaimers apply: This is a short blog post (and formerly a Twitter thread), i.e. there isn’t a huge amount of nuance in what follows.

1) Narratives are (much) more stable than I would have ever thought possible.

Switzerland is, by any sensible metric…

Update 13 March 2020:

The current situation around the coronavirus epidemic is evolving rapidly. Switzerland, where I’m based, as of March 7 2020, has 228 confirmed cases. The overwhelming odds are that this number will increase rapidly and with it will the number of seriously affected individuals.

In some of my social circles the…

This is my last week at the Centre for Public Impact after five wonderful years. I feel privileged to have been part of an organisation with such an ambitious purpose.

Part of the challenge of being in an organisation with a remit as broad as “shaping a new future for government” is that it can be difficult to wrap your head around what exactly you’re doing and why.

As I’ve been reflecting over the past couple of weeks on my time here I came across a post on Medium by Cassie Robinson which introduced me to the Berkana Institute’s Two…

Our emerging vision for better government is based on three core beliefs:

  • Most of the challenges we face as society are complex in nature
  • The quality of human relationships matters a great deal
  • Progress is best achieved through continuous learning

As we have been developing our views on the future of government and the Shared Power Principle we have come across a large number of excellent books and reports that have helped shape our thinking.

The books below are a selection of the many we have come across. Taken together they form the latticework that supports our emerging vision, although…

Control versus Shared Power — which cards will you play?

Government is no child’s play, it’s serious business because the stakes are so high.

So why is it that we’ve been playing the same tired, worn-out cards?

We use target-driven managing — even when we know full well that making people accountable for results they don’t actually control inevitably leads to all kinds of gaming and dysfunction.

We insist on knowing ‘what works’ — even though for complex problems knowing ‘what worked’ somewhere else won’t tell us much at all about whether it will work here.

We build transactional services — despite the fact that we know that it’s relationships…

I have been involved in a few recruitment rounds over the past years. There are recurring, easy-to-avoid mistakes people make which unnecessarily but very significantly diminish their chances.

Sometimes those mistakes correlate with a lack of competence. But a lot of times it seems to be more due to a #hiddencurriculum issue. People may have never had the benefit of being told these things (or of being in an environment where these are taught as self-evident).

A few remarks upfront:

I’ve seen all of the things listed below happen a lot. These aren’t cherry-picked. All quotes are made up.


In January this year we, the London-based team of the Centre for Public Impact, began moving from being a hierarchical, conventional organisation to one that’s built on self-organisation. I described some of our experiences and a few of the things I learned in a Medium post a few weeks ago.

That blog post seemed to resonate and a number of people asked for more details on how exactly we do this. I’ve sketched the contours of our current model of self-organisation below. Four notes before we start:

First, the list below is highly incomplete and the descriptions of our practices…

“Most people imagine that the present style of management has always existed, and is a fixture. Actually, it is a modern invention — a prison created by the way in which people interact.” W. Edwards Deming

We need paradigms to understand the world around us. There is no such thing as “simply seeing what’s in front of us” or “just using common sense”. We always require some frame through which to interpret what is going on.

One such paradigm —which exerts much influence in business just as in public administration — is managerialism, the belief that all kinds of problems…

In January this year we, the London-based team of the Centre for Public Impact, began moving from being a hierarchical, conventional organisation to one that’s built on self-organisation. We collectively determine the projects we take on as an organisation, we individually decide where our skills and judgment can contribute most and each project team is empowered to make all decisions it needs to. There’s more detail to it, of course, but this is the gist of it.

Before moving to self-management we operated the way most organisations do: we had a hierarchy, line managers, and all the other features you’d…

Danny Buerkli

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store