Customers share their dreams and ambitions for the Netherlands

‘Available at #rabodialoog to discuss the challenging social developments in the Netherlands and the role that @Rabobank can play’, is the tweet from one of the more than 500 participants regarding the dialogue sessions on the future of the Netherlands and the contribution of Rabobank. This dialogue is being conducted with members, customers, employees and representatives of the public.

Society in dialogue with Rabobank

The findings of these sessions, occurring at the end of May and beginning of June 2015, give an impression of what Dutch society could look like in ten years’ time, what needs to happen for us to get there and what role Rabobank can play, both locally and nationally. ‘Banking for the Netherlands’ is the theme of the Rabobank General Members Council on 18 June 2015.

‘This dialogue expresses who we are: a cooperative bank in discussion with the nation. What challenges do we face as a nation? What role do we have as a bank? The answer is here today in this hall,’ Chairman of the Executive Board Wiebe Draijer stated at the start of the dialogue session in Utrecht. Several hours later, after the close of the dialogue session, he said: ‘Thank you for giving up an afternoon to Rabobank and thus also to the Netherlands.’

The 150 participants today, spread across fourteen tables, were mostly invited by local Rabobanks. Chairmen of local Boards of Directors and Supervisory Board members of local Rabobanks were also in attendance. The participants came from various regions and brought a diversity of perspectives to the meeting. What was said in each dialogue was carefully recorded.

‘We had a dialogue today regarding the future of the Netherlands. We were made to listen, discuss and think! #rabodialoog’

What are the developments that concern people? Many issues were raised at the fourteen tables: the labour market, basic income, life course, health care, young people, nature, ….

‘Our children are already overweight; where will this end? With all the knowledge that we have, you’d think we would be able to feed them properly. We are one of the world’s richest countries.’

Food supply and especially the relationship between food and health was a topic of discussion on table 14. With the question of how is it possible that people still eat too much, and eat too much fat and too much salt and sugar, despite all the warnings. This is all the more striking considering that farmers and horticulturists ‘do their best to be responsible producers’.

‘Will people soon be cared for in care homes by robots? People can be cared for for longer, the robot can take over repetitive treatments, so you can devote more real attention to people.’

It sounds good, say the people on table 14, but will it work? One way or another, financial considerations mean that care is increasingly about efficiency. Then someone raises the question of whether one can really express the value of a chat between the carer and a patient in monetary terms. It is acknowledged that there are local examples of care where things are going well, because carers are given responsibility for making good decisions.

The discussions provide interesting insights as to what motivates people. A collection of the comments on table 14:

‘I am still too attached to comfort, but I am trying to change this.’

‘Nobody innovates because it is planned. I innovate because I want to.’

‘The focus of innovation is too much on high-tech developments; the baker on the corner also has to innovate.’

‘All the laws and regulations in the Netherlands stand in the way of progress.’

One constant theme in the discussion on table 14: regulation that frequently does not help to change things in the economy and society.

‘I drive a Toyota Prius for a reason.’

Rules also have a function: they encourage behaviour. ‘Intrinsic motivation is the best, but how can you encourage people further?’, asks the Prius driver. Another says: ‘They could also have said to you: your CO2 footprint should be zero, it’s up to you how you do that.’

‘In 2025 I will live and work in Silicon Utrecht. There is no poverty and no criminality there. Everybody lives and works independently, with 50 percent less rules. Everybody is responsible. Free education and infrastructure is great,’ as a participant describes his dream of the Netherlands in 2025. To which another, in the best traditions of dialogue, says that in Silicon Utrecht it’s no longer about owning things, it’s about use and re-use.

And what can Rabobank contribute to making these dreams a reality? In any case, setting a good example, is the message from this table. For instance with fewer rules. These could include penalty-free additional repayments, but also the flexibility of not having to repay if a person is unemployed for a while or does not have enough work.

‘In 2025 we will have a serving government and a service-oriented bank.’
‘Rabobank provides the cement that binds the Dutch business community together. Rabobank should embrace a number of core themes and invest money in them.’

The final minutes of the dialogue at table 14 offer the insight that Rabobank should not only return to its traditional cooperative mission (‘the Rabobanks were created in response to the social problem of poverty in the countryside’), but also to the traditional meaning of a ‘bank’: considering and deciding whether something can be relied upon.
A Rabobank employee at this table reminds us of the Rabobank logo with a man walking on a sundial choosing his direction, and concludes:

‘The Rabobank logo is still very much up to date.’