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International Relations (Political Science)

Frank Reniers: 'Working amid competing forces'

Alumnus testimonial

Frank Reniers graduated in Political Sciences in 2007

Frank Reniers at ‘Decentralisations Day’ – a major conference for aldermen, officials and councillors Photo: J. Serge Ligtenberg

Recently, more than 1000 officials from over 200 municipalities joined to attend a conference on the implementation of the government's three decentralisation initiatives in the social domain. The changes involve a transfer of duties in the spheres of work, youth care and health care from the national to the municipal level. This vast decentralisation project, with regards of finance and responsibilities presents various complexities as well as political challenges. The conference was the fourth edition of the ‘Decentralisations Day’ that I helped to organise for the Ministry of the Interior together with four other ministries. Last year, we've been able to personally reach more than 4,500 aldermen, councillors and municipal officials with our message about the decentralisations. As communication project leader, I'm responsible for providing municipalities with the information they need to prepare the transition. That's a big job. This transition is widely seen as the largest change in public administration in decades, and will be a considerable challenge for municipalities. Which makes my job quite interesting!

Challenging playing field

The decentralisation project in itself already makes for a challenging intellectual subject, and then you also have to add in the interdepartmental reality of four ministries that have to work with each other and with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, individual municipalities and other stakeholders, each of which have their own list of wishes and ideas. My background in Political Science helps me navigate between all these competing forces, both contextually – with the courses in public administration, political theories and so forth having given me a clear map of the current political and administrative landscape in which I'm working – as well as practically, in terms of the presentation, writing, analysis and networking skills it taught me. As a student, I decided to specialise in International Relations, where I was fortunate to have very inspiring lecturers. This specialisation might seem less relevant now since I’m working for the Ministry of Interior, but the ability to balance different interests, evaluate stakeholder strategies, negotiate and, of course, collaborate with different partners, are all very valuable in my daily work. Most of my colleagues have a background in public administration, international relations, or political science, and I can see why these fields are a good foundation for our work.

Exotic working visits

The UvA's Political Science programme has put me on the road to an exciting career. Starting from an amazing work placement at the Ministry of Defence to a course in International Relations at the Clingendael Institute, to exotic working visits during my job at the TNO Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. And from complex security issues at the Ministry of Security and Justice to where I am now, at the heart of the Ministry of the Interior's local administration. I was even nominated for the ‘Young Civil Servant of the Year’ election, in which I've made it into the top 10! My tip to students is to start experimenting with your career plans early on. When you're still a student, graduation seems far away, and prospective employers even further.

Even though I didn't have any firm ideas on my future either when I was studying, I quickly started scoping out the field. Looking back, I'm immensely grateful for the experience I gained during my Bachelor's work placement at the Ministry of Defence and I highly recommend this type of work experience. But there are other ways to explore your options to. You could ask an employee, in a field you are interested in, to tell you what it’s like to work there. Say an alderman, an official, someone working for the military or an NGO, etc. they're often happy to talk about their work and will hopefully even take you along, for a day at the office with them. This is a great way to get an inside look at possible professions after you graduate.

I wish you the best of luck in finding your own way to a future career!