Page 1

Arjan van Venrooy and LĂŠon Sonnenschein

CHAIN UNITS: GETTING TO GRIPS WITH PUBLIC CHAINS Practice as the source of inspiration

commissie innovatie openbaar bestuur

CHAIN UNITS: GETTING TO GRIPS WITH PUBLIC CHAINS Practice as the source of inspiration

Practice as the source of inspiration

Foreword We proudly present this publication of the Commission for Innovation in Public Administration, InAxis, and Verdonck, Klooster & Associates called: ‘Chain units: Getting to grips with public chains’ to you. It is a special booklet describing a new concept of organising chain cooperation based on practical examples, which have developed in our cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Enschede, separately from one another. Our three cities are all wrestling with complex issues in the field of persistent offenders, juvenile unemployment and multi-problem families. These issues are often interrelated, but part of the problem is that there are many different agencies all dealing with persistent offenders, juveniles or families in one way or another. Even we, as administrators, can sometimes barely see the wood for the trees. Restructuring in this forest of agencies is a tempting thought, and may even be necessary, but could never be the only solution. It so happens that, quite often, very different bodies are involved, such as education, the police, welfare work and social services, which, from their specific knowledge and skills, have to make a contribution to the solution of the problem. Over the last years, the concept of ‘chain cooperation’ has become a fashionable one for organizing the cooperation amongst this multiplicity of agencies. This has not always been successful. Good initiatives too often get bogged down in noncommitment, or consultation structures which reduce motivation. All three contributors to this publication have searched for solutions to this problem; in Amsterdam with the Chain Units for Juvenile Crime and Persistent Offenders, in Rotterdam with the Open Window for Juveniles, a project for the young unemployed, and in Enschede with the District Care Teams for the handling of multi-problem families. We have scored some success with these approaches; InAxis, the Commission for Innovation in Public Administration, recognised the connective thread throughout these solutions and, in partnership with Verdonck, Klooster & Associates, has described it for you in this booklet. The essence can be summarized easily: create a joint team with representatives from the main chain partners. Give a mandate to this team to make binding decisions about the desired approach and make sure that they can enter into binding agreements with the field. This sounds simpler than it is. It’s the administrators who have the responsibility of entering into agreements at an administrative level and, where necessary, to keep the chain partners alert. This is not something you can do ‘as a sideline’. It requires maintenance, attention and the willingness to invest time. If you have this willingness, then this booklet is meant for you! Job Cohen, Ivo Opstelten, Peter den Oudsten

Practice as the source of inspiration

Table of Contents 1



1.1 Immediate cause


1.2 Booklet marker



What is chain directorship?


2.1 What are chains?


2.2 What is chain directorship?


2.3 An outline of the practical problems for which a chain approach can offer solutions.


2.4 Complexity of chain cooperation and chain directorship



Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units


3.1 What is a chain unit?


3.2 Working method of chain units


3.3 Controlling and dividing tasks, powers and responsibilities: Every man to his trade!


3.4 Difference between front and back office: Who directs whom?


3.5 Articulating and controlling demand


3.6 ‘Concrete’ chain versus chain flexibility


3.7 Shared information infrastructure: shared services for flexible chains



Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice


4.1 Politico-administrative aspects


4.2 Financial and economic aspects


4.3 Legal aspects


4.4 Socio-organisational aspects


4.5 Content related aspects


4.6 Information and technology aspects








The Commission accepted all three applications, as they wanted to try out a new solution to a persistent problem which occurred in many chains: the lack of commitment and decisiveness.



1.1 Immediate cause In 2005, InAxis received three applications for experiments to be conducted in the field of chain cooperation, namely: ‘Amsterdam chain units’ on the handling of persistent juvenile offenders, the ‘Rotterdam Open Window for Juveniles’ for the tackling of juvenile unemployment, and the ‘Enschede District Care Teams’ for the handling of multi-problem families. The Commission accepted all three applications, as they wanted to try out a new solution to a persistent problem which occurred in many chains: the lack of commitment and decisiveness. What was special was that whilst the solutions were tried out in various policy domains, they all revealed many similarities at a conceptual level. It is now three years later and the experiments are fully fledged. The concept has crystallized and led to this publication: ‘Chain units: getting to grips with public chains’. Mindful of our motto, ‘practice as the source of inspiration’, we have described the concept on the basis of the experiences of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Enschede. The administrative and organisational aspects of the chain units are central. Through this publication, InAxis wants to offer administrators who are working in municipalities and social organisations in the public domain, a challenging perspective on organising chains that are concentrated on complex social issues, more effectively. Additionally, the booklet offers a comprehensive inside view of the process of establishing this method, which the trailblazers or project leaders who are given the task of setting up a chain unit, can take advantage of.

1.2 Booklet Marker In Chapter 2 we will discuss the concepts ‘chains’ and ‘chain directorship’ in more detail and provide insight into the complexity of chain cooperation and chain directorship. In Chapter 3 we will introduce a new organisational set-up for chains, the so-called chain units. We position the use of chain units as a methodology for getting to grips with public chains. We will also demonstrate how chain units function and illustrate a few of the important preconditions for their effectiveness. In Chapter 4 we will present a few success and failure factors of chain units based on the experiences gained in the experiments so far. In Chapter 5 we will end with a few important conclusions.


“In a chain, autonomous organisations work together and try to coordinate their activities for the client’s benefit or for the solution of complex social issues.�


What is chain directorship?

2.1 What are chains? In the various government policy areas, there are many services and products offered by many providers (Central Government, province, municipality, private and (semi)-public organisations) which, in the main, operate separately from one another. The central question, with regard to this basic problem of fragmentation, is how policy, implementation and information supply about the complex problem situations of citizens and companies can be sufficiently coordinated so that effective and client-oriented public services can be provided. How is it possible, when solving complex social issues, to structure cooperation amongst the organisations which are involved, in a meaningful and effective way? To offer a solution for this type of question, a number of alliances have emerged over the previous years, which we started calling ‘chain cooperation’. Chains and chain directorship highlight cooperation and the process of providing services for clients. They are aimed at connecting the activities of various organisations and institutions from the public and/or private sector [1]. The chain approach is based on integral management across organisational boundaries, while the chain is comprised of the links between the duties, responsibilities, powers and roles of separate organisations [2]. A chain can thus be defined as a ‘coherent sequence of activities of many organisations and individual persons aimed at a joint product’ [3]. The joint product must not be conceived as a separate product for a certain client, such as, for example, a subsidy or a permit, but rather as a set of various interconnected activities, products and services which can translate the needs of certain clients and/or client groups into practice. For example, one could perceive the product ‘safety’ as one which is provided by the judicial operating chain, the product ‘social security’, as one provided for by the social structure chain through the Work and Income Implementation Structure (SUWI), or the product ‘care’ as one which is provided by various health care providers in the health care chain. Cooperation between organisations from various chains is often also necessary to be able to handle complex social issues. Examples of this are the handling of multi-problem families, and the handling of persistent offenders, and young people who need help and services which are related to training, work and income.


2.2 What is chain directorship? In a chain, autonomous organisations work together and try to

there are also juveniles who can take advantage of this situation and cause a nuisance.

coordinate their activities with one another for the client’s benefit or to solve complex social issues. Controlling a chain (from the

Multi-problem families

inside and outside) is a complicated task because of the autonomy

Usually, there are many agencies concerned with the handling of

of the parties involved. Consequently, controlling and manag-

so-called multi-problem families: ‘father an alcoholic, mother a drug

ing within chains is predominantly about consulting, negotiating

addict and son in jail’. Sometimes as many as fifteen care providers

and persuading and not imposing or enforcing. For that reason

from every life domain swarm around such a family, and can include

it is referred to as chain directorship, as the terms ‘control’ and

(youth care, mental health care, employment & income support

‘management’ have too directive a connotation. Chain directorship

agencies, criminal law, education), each of which knows nothing of

can be described as ‘developing (better) services, as experienced

the other or what they are doing. The activities of all the bodies

by the client, by inviting the (potential) chain partners to coordi-

involved are not tailored to one another, resulting in an insufficient

nate their activities more effectively’ [4].What is essential here is

insight into the integral approach to the set of problems which is

the notion of inviting, as opposed to enforcing and imposing. The

required. Consequently, the effectiveness of the approach is poor

possibilities of controlling from above are limited when it comes to

and promotes ‘shopping behaviour’ (moving around between


services) amongst problem families. Often, these problem families also cause a lot of nuisance in the neighbourhood.

2.3 An outline of practical problems for which a chain approach can offer solutions.

Persistent offenders Many different organisations occupy themselves simultaneously with

An outline of the practical problems for which a chain approach can

the problems of juvenile crime and persistent offenders, such as the

offer solutions is given below.

Youth Care Agency, the Child Care and Protection Board, the Halt Bureau, the Public Prosecution Service, the Police, the Probation and

Premature school-leavers and unemployed juveniles

After-Care Services, and the Municipal Medical and Health Service. In

Several organisations working with, and for the benefit of, prema-

addition, there are various organisations carrying out activities for the

ture school-leavers and unemployed juveniles do not collaborate

benefit of the young people and persistent offenders at a distance.

properly. Because of this poor level of cooperation, many juveniles,

The essence of the fight against juvenile crime and persistent offend-

who need help with their education or work, either fall by the

ers is to find the right balance between adequate punishment and

wayside or are approached simultaneously by several organisa-

a suitable care programme. As the parties involved work at cross-

tions, in different ways and with different offers. The odds are that

purposes, this often hampers the approach and a safe environment

juveniles, for whom it is difficult to find employment, will be sent

may be at issue.

from one person to another with all its consequences. Additionally,


What is chain directorship?

and handling). • Financial and economic agreements (for example, awarding and deducting costs and benefits across all the parties concerned). • Information and communication technological (ICT) agreements (for example, protocols for exchange of data for the network, use of shared information systems). • Informatics agreements (for example, joint data definitions, security, identification, existence of authentic records). • Legal agreements (for example, agreements about the protection of privacy and the application of the Privacy Act). The complexity of the development and achievement of chain cooperation is particularly related to the large quantity of agreements which must be entered into in divergent fields amongst COOPERATION FROM MANY DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES MAKES HARMONISATION COMPLEX.

the organisations involved. When everyone has to be in tune with everyone else in each of the six areas of agreement, there will always be a high degree of complexity such as this, no matter what. If you add the autonomy of the parties involved and the compart-

2.4 Complexity of chain cooperation and chain directorship In chain cooperation and chain directorship, the organisations enter

mentalised control and financing, to it, it is hardly a surprise that bringing about chain cooperation and chain directorship is a complex task.

into agreements amongst themselves about the progress and the organisation of their work processes, and the way they tailor these to one another or reorganise them (organisational agreements). But entering into agreements on process organisation and process harmonisation is not enough. In other areas, too, the organisations concerned, enter into agreements amongst themselves. These agreements refer to various agreements, to wit [5] and [6]: • Politico-administrative agreements (for example, the protection of certain values of organisations, looking after the shared and chain purpose versus individual institutional interests and purposes). • Substantive agreements (for example, agreements about approach

What is chain directorship?


The client’s diagnosis and the articulation of his/her demands take place in the chain units. The decision-making process in the chain unit vis-à -vis the handling of the problem situation is normative for how matters will be handled.


Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units 3.1 What is a chain unit? It happens far too often that the efforts made to achieve chain cooperation do not produce the desired results. Actual practice proves to be hard to manage. Over the years, however, people have gained some experience with various forms of chain cooperation and chain directorship. The most important problems occurring with chain cooperation are [6]: • Compartmentalised control and financing of administrative agencies. • Lack of integral chain coordination at administrative level. • Lack of integral chain coordination at case level. • Lack of clarity in authority structures. • The large number of autonomous organisations involved in the cooperation. • The high degree of functional specialisation of the organisations involved. • The involvement of various administrative tiers. In the past three years Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Enschede have gained experience in overcoming a number of these problems. A new form of organising chains has originated from it, which we call the ‘chain unit’. On the basis of these experiences we define chain units as follows: A chain unit is an organisational form in which several chain partners collaborate and have the primary processes in their own parent organisations run from one shared work process. What distinguishes the chain units vis-à-vis other forms of cooperation is that the decision-making process is binding for all the partners in the chain unit. The client’s diagnosis and the articulation of his/her demands take place in the chain units. The decision-making process in the chain unit vis-à-vis the handling of the problem situation is normative for how matters will be handled. Although the partners retain their individual responsibilities [usually embedded in a legal framework], they agree on the necessity of putting these responsibilities into action by integrating


the activities of the chain partners into one common organisational unit, with one work process. Subsequently, the chain unit acts as the commissioning authority for all the organisations involved in the chain. Meanwhile, experiments have been conducted in various situations with various forms of the chain unit. The first experiences are positive. Enschede: District Care Teams for Multi-problem Families In the Enschede approach to multi-problem families, one team is created, the chain unit, from which the determination and coordination of assistance and restraint takes place.


Representatives of the various life domains are represented in the team, such as juvenile care, mental healthcare, work & income, criminal law and education, i.e. the Social Assistance

the chain unit, is to prevent school absenteeism and to tackle the

Foundation for care and welfare problems, the police for safety

problems of juvenile unemployment. In Rotterdam, various urban

and crime problems, Tactus for addiction problems, the Service

services, administrative agencies, sub-municipal projects and the

for Social Development, the Public Prosecution Service for the link

business community are active in supporting juveniles. The Open

to the judicial chain, and Mediant for psychiatric problems. The

Window for Juveniles agency, in which the activities of the primary

attention of the team is focused on the concurrence of problems.

cooperative partners JOS (Youth, Education, Society), CWI (connec-

This creates a good overall view of all the related sub-problems.

tion to the labour market) and SoZaWe (care, entry-counselling

The team draws up a plan of action for each problem family, with

stage and income) have been bundled together, covers the entire

objectives, results, priorities and an action plan. In this way, all the

field of operations in the area of work, income and education. Thus

‘street-level-bureaucrats’ are prevented from working too diligently,

the networks of the participating services are all assembled under

but, most of all, from working at cross-purposes. All the efforts are

the direction of Open Window. Open Window is a shared front

converted into coordinated, collective and productive action. At

office, which houses the back offices as well, in a recognisable and

the same time Enschede discontinued all the other consultation

specifically equipped location. Open Window for Juveniles oper-

structures. The District Care Team is the central axis in the support

ates as a commissioning authority for the chain.

structure of an area. Amsterdam: Juvenile Crime Chain Units Rotterdam: Open Window for Juveniles

The Juvenile Crime Chain Units in Amsterdam are alliances of

The goal of the Open Window for Juveniles project in Rotterdam,

organisations who are engaged in the fight against juvenile crime


Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units

and persistent offending. ‘The object of the chain units is to create

tions work with one another. The parent organisations operate as a

a safer living environment for the residents of the Amsterdam

sort of skin surrounding the chain unit, performing services for the

Amstelland police region by driving down juvenile crime and effect-

chain unit in their capacity as ‘contractors’. The decision-making

ing a personal-sphere approach to adult persistent offenders. It is

process with regard to the service delivery route for the client takes

characteristic of the working method of the chain units that they

place in the chain unit. The chain unit acts as a commissioning

ensure a fast, consistent and efficient handling of (juvenile) criminal

authority of the (parties in the) chain.

matters by offering a coherent approach’[7]. It is in the chain units that the decision-making process takes place on all juvenile

Additionally, we can also distinguish a second skin of organisations

criminal matters, from first offenders to hard core offenders. The

surrounding the chain units. These are organisations that do not

proper harmonisation of adequate punishment and a suitable care

participate in the alliance, but whose services are often very desir-

programme is the goal. The chain unit is partly a combination of

able, depending on the specific set of problems. The chain units

the existing Relief Team for Juveniles, the Judicial Authority in

keep in close contact with these organisations as well. They do not

the Neighbourhood and the Judicial Case Consultation, but it

take part in the binding decision-making process, but are consulted

also contains new elements as well. In the chain unit the following

in specific circumstances.

parties work together, inter alia: the Halt Bureau, the Youth Care Agency, the municipality of Amsterdam, the Municipal Medical and

3.2 Working method of chain units

Health Service, the Jellinek Clinic, the Salvation Army, the Public

Juvenile Crime Chain Units

Prosecution Service, the Child Care and Protection Board, the

In the Juvenile Crime Chain Units in Amsterdam, a juvenile who

Amsterdam-Amstelland Regional Police, and the Dutch Probation

gets in trouble with the police because of a punishable offence, will

Service. As all the partners work together at one location, all the

receive a response tailored to his or her personal circumstances.

information about the juveniles and their circumstances converge.

This concerns juveniles at various stages in their criminal careers,

That’s how a burgeoning criminal career can be quickly nipped in

from first offenders and petty criminals to hard core juveniles. The

the bud and all the work done is offender-focused. Additionally,

efforts of the partners who are collaborating with each other to

adult persistent offenders are personally handled in the chain units.

support the juveniles who have been in trouble with the police

The quality and the speed of the response to juvenile crime has

are bundled within the chain units. The central direction in the

increased by coordinating the working methods of the participating

chain units in Amsterdam is in the hands of the Public Prosecution

organisations even more tightly and making them run more closely

Service. Every juvenile who commits a punishable offence is report-

in parallel.

ed by the police to the chain unit. Depending on the nature of the offence, either the public prosecutor on duty takes a decision, or, a

In summary

referral is drawn up for the examining magistrate or the court.

It’s in the chain unit that the representatives of various organisa-

With first offenders or petty criminals, the decision as to whether

Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units


any care or assistance should be given is considered within the

court. The shared housing and the joint working method promote

chain unit. Juveniles who have committed criminal offences before

the group process and offer insight into one another’s responsibili-

and who are known to the chain unit, have their background


information with regard to social assistance and crime, recorded in a personal file, the so-called chain chart. The chain chart is submit-

Handling of multi-problem families

ted to the public prosecutor and (juvenile) court and recommends

In Enschede the chain unit has drawn up a number of working

what punishment might be imposed and care-giving measures be

documents and a joint working process for the handling of multi-


problem families. The working process consists of clear-cut steps, a clear division of duties, powers and responsibilities, a certain

In addition to the partners within the chain unit, cooperation also

degree of standardisation, and, at the same time, enough freedom

exists with external partners. These partners are not physically

and mutual trust amongst the collaborating partners. As a result of

part of the chain units, but they do carry out work for the benefit

the working process protocol and the filling in of a comprehensive

of juveniles and persistent offenders who have the chain units’

intake form (the ‘life domains scan’), followed by the drawing up of

attention. Each chain unit has a care coordinator who supervises

a customised plan of action, it is now clear what the client system’s

the harmonisation of supply and demand with the city districts.

(multi-problem family’s ) problem is, what should be done with it

The care coordinator, furthermore, keeps in contact with the staff

and who should head up the implementation of the intervention.

in the field of education, youth care, youth work and other local (youth) projects. No longer is the offence being punished, but one

The District Care Team is led by an independent team leader

now looks for the most suitable response to a juvenile slipping into

from the municipality and consists of representatives of the chain


partners who are involved and who have received a mandate from their parent organisations. The decisions made by the team are

The joint approach is based on an intensive exchange of informa-

binding. The team leader has a deciding vote if there is no agree-

tion, compiling so-called personal files, preparing scenarios for indi-

ment amongst the parties. In this way the speed of the intervention

vidual persistent offenders and treatment route supervision. A core

is increased, the number of care providers is reduced per case and

role of the chain units is to deal with all the matters involved when

the problem re. lack of commitment is out of the process.

a young person is a suspect. And with ‘dealing with’ we mean both the settlement by a criminal court and the care programme that might be necessary. The central activities are: collecting information

In the District Care Teams two types of processes are recognised: 1. The case-oriented process re. the handling of a set of multi-

to facilitate decisions and aftercare monitoring; taking decisions

problems. After a referral has been received about a problematic

(concerning settlement and care); and preparing the scenarios in

case, the team leader of the District Care Team appoints a problem

support of decisions taken by the public prosecutor’s office and the

holder. After this assignment the problem holder then organises


Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units

a Multi-disciplinary Consultation Meeting (MDCO). This MDCO

Rotterdam Open Window for Juveniles

consists of a ‘pool’ of professionals from the affiliated agencies who

The Open Window for Juveniles consists of a front and a back

are deployed for the benefit of a case, supervised by the problem

office: the front office is occupied by consultants from SoZaWe,

holder. A plan of action is drawn up in the MDCO to handle the

JOS and CWI; and offers information about education, trainee-

set of multi-problems. The team leader of the District Care Team is

ships, income, work and assisted working, making it available to the

always present at the first MDCO, to ensure quality management.

target group. The front office consultants conduct a clearly struc-

The problem holder, however, is the one in charge. The District

tured intake interview with the juvenile and draw up a programme

Care Team adopts the plan of action and decides whether a case

profile, which is then sent to the back office. The cooperation

can be closed, whether it must be entered on the parallel list, or whether extra efforts are still required. The District Care Team

pertains to: -

convenes every month. In practice this implies that, following a referral, the District Care Team’s team leader plots certain actions

Substantial aspects of, amongst other things, a joint intake process, a diagnosis and drawing up a programme profile.


and it is often only afterwards that he or she submits these to the

Making vacancies, work placements and educational possibilities accessible to juveniles.

District Care Team. In the District Care Team the problems are


Linking data files and exchanging information on clients.

viewed and analysed from the partners’ own expertise but analysis


Following the juveniles’ progress by monitoring the programme

does not stop at the boundaries of an individual’s own discipline.

profile drawn up in the front office, in order to reach the objective

Five life domains are represented in the District Care Team. For

of the Open Window for Juveniles, namely: achieving economic

example, the life domain ‘Living’ is represented by one corporation,


but this corporation is also authorised to take decisions on behalf of the other corporations. 2. The policy-based process re. the handling of a set of multi-

Initially, the back office consists of offices for the young of SoZaWe, CWI and the RMC [Regional Notification and Coordination Centre].

problems. In the District Care Team one discusses cases that may

The ultimate back office is an organised network of agencies which

give rise to a change in working methods, terms and institutions

is wider than the cooperative partners SoZaWe, CWI and DSO

involved, or that must be passed on as district referrals to the urban

[Rotterdam Urban Education Service], with which agreements are

district manager. If desired, one can also discuss specific cases in

made about the programme to be executed, the registration, and

more detail. The objective is to improve the case-oriented process

the feedback given to the front office. This feedback is crucial for

and to adjust it, wherever necessary. Decisions about adjusting the

the monitoring function to be well implemented.

process are taken in a steering committee which convenes twice a year under the chairmanship of the municipality. In this committee the core partners discuss the working of the chain and make proposals for improvements.

Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units


3.3 Controlling and dividing tasks, powers and responsibilities: Every man to his trade!! The chain unit: commissioning authority of the chain The professionals in the chain unit are all-rounders and work on the basis of one work process. The supervision rests with the chain unit, which acts as a ‘commissioning authority’ and monitors the development of the provision of services. The back offices of the chain unit partners act as principal contractors in this respect. Each chain unit has a director, someone who takes the responsibility and who is capable, competent and accepted; harmonisation and integration takes place within the chain unit, whilst, simultaneously, the parent organisations are questioned sharply about their core duties. Initiator, director and binding decision-making In the Rotterdam Open Window for Juveniles and in the


handling of multi-problem families in Enschede, the initiator and director is the municipality. The municipality conducts the

responsibilities and the deputies of the organisations in the

supervision and the coordination. The municipality has an inte-

chain unit continue to be part of the parent organisations legally.

gral stake, it is impartial, and has an overview of the life domains

However, at the same time, the decision-making process in the

concerned. In Amsterdam too, the initiative for the Juvenile Crime

chain unit is binding on all parties, which implies that the represent-

chain units was taken by the municipality. However, the central

atives of participating organisations can bind their own organisa-

direction in the chain units in Amsterdam is in the hands of the

tions to any agreements made within the chain unit. It is, therefore,

Public Prosecution Service. The Public Prosecution Service, as

necessary that these representatives are authorised by their parent

the chain director, looks for a good mix between punishment and

organisations to make binding statements. Participation in the chain

care, along with the chain partners, so that a quick intervention is

unit without a mandate is meaningless. The representatives must

possible and the juveniles are prevented from sliding further down

have scope for action at an individual case level.

the dwindling spiral. The Child Care and Protection Board holds the case directorship over minors in Amsterdam. Despite this central

Definition of duties and escalation levels

direction, the participating organisations retain their individual

An important principle for working in chain units is the razor-sharp


Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units

demarcation of duties, roles and powers. For that reason Enschede

does not tamper with the existing responsibilities of the participat-

deliberately refused to choose an approach which, ultimately,

ing organisations, nor does it carry out the work of the participating

left a single care provider with the responsibility for one family or

organisations. The participating organisations retain their inde-

person. Enschede chose instead to harmonise the approach inside

pendence and deputies from the organisations continue to be part

the chain unit, in this case the District Care Team so each profes-

of the parent organisation legally. They fully retain all the duties

sional retained his/her own duties. There is, however, one problem

(often of a statutory nature) which they already had. Each partner,

holder/ owner. Each parent organisation is questioned rigorously

and not the chain unit, has the responsibility for carrying out the

about its core duties and responsibilities. It is crystal-clear who is

duties. Various matters have been set out as protocol to safeguard

responsible for what and what all the partners can expect from one

structure and security. Supervision, for that matter, includes more

another. The independent team leader has a coordinating role in

than just coordination: agreements are made with the participat-

this structure, and a mandate to take binding decisions granted by

ing organisations about the level and nature of the participation

the other organisations involved. In the meantime, the chain unit

(Service Level Agreements). The management of the chain unit has

in Enschede has become a fixed feature of the existing structure of

a co-deciding vote concerning the personnel who work in a unit

the municipality. The team leader does not deal with the specifics

on behalf of the participating organisations. The staff must be able

of problems, but acts as a process coordinator. The team leader is

to reason from an offender-focused approach at minimum (and

above all a ‘liaison’ person. He or she connects the staff members

therefore, not primarily from the point of view of their own organi-

of all the different organisations, the operational level of work to

sations), they must also be strongly focused on cooperation and be

the administrative level and the various separate duties necessary

able to forward the decision-making process at chain level back to

to implement the plan into one coordinated process aimed at the

their own organisation.

handling of multi-problem families. There are two types of escalation in Enschede. The first relates to the seriousness of the set of problems. Enschede has the option

3.4 Difference between front and back office: Who directs whom?

of ‘scaling up’ entrenched and very heavy cases to an intervention

If the full provision of services is taken into account, the chain units

team operating at a higher level; here too the municipality fulfils a

can be considered as front office and the parent organisations

central, leading role. The second type of escalation pertains to the

behind them as back office. Both the front office and the back

monitoring and performance of agreements made by the partners

office conduct actions that form part of the total provision of serv-

involved. If agreements are inadequately performed by one or

ices. The place where they separate services, determines which of

several partners, there will be an escalation in the line. At that point

the duties and functions are carried out in the front office and what

the line managers of the chain partners involved will be questioned

the burden of responsibilities and powers is in the front-office vis-à-

about their duties and responsibilities. In Amsterdam the chain unit

vis the full provision of services, compared to the back office. Thus

Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units


the difference between front and back office is often a difference in

the diagnosis is made and set out in a programme profile, which

powers and responsibilities.

is transferred to the back office. In some situations the control of the demand is strengthened by certain types of demand financing.

The relationship between the chain unit and the parent organisa-

For instance, Enschede has taken a step towards demand financ-

tions behind them is one of ‘commissioning authority’ versus

ing by, on the one hand, making the decision-making process in

‘contractor’. The problem analysis, the intake and the determina-

the District Care Team a leading factor in the care provision, and,

tion of the approach take place in the chain unit, the handling takes

on the other hand, by linking a budget to the District Care Team

place in the parent organisation. On the basis of their analysis and

through which care can be purchased, if desired. The independent

approach, the chain units instruct the parent organisations and

team leader has been given a mandate to spend money and to

monitor the progress of the handling of the case. The centre of

purchase care with it.

gravity of the provision of services shifts from the parent organisations to the chain units, In essence, what we have here is a chain reversal. Where, in the past, it was the supply from the back office

3.6 ‘Concrete’ chain versus chain flexibility

that was decisive for the process of the provision of services, it is

An important task of chain units is to remove compartmentalisation

now the citizen’s demand that has become decisive, mapped out

and to approach social problems in an integrated way. However,

by the chain units. In practice, it is not so black and white and there

even the chain approach can lead to compartmentalisation as,

is, in particular, an interactive game going on between all persons

in practice, chains often operate according to a pre-determined

involved in both the front and the back office, geared to the

pattern, and chain partners are insufficiently capable of responding

problem situation.

to the changing, social problems and the wishes of the citizens. To be able to respond to these changing, social problems and the

3.5 Articulating and controlling demand

dynamics of the environment, there is a need for a certain degree of flexibility and adaptability in the chains. We are talking much

Consequently, in the chain unit the (client) demand becomes a

more in terms of a network organisation here. Whereas the actions

leading factor instead of the (agency) supply. An important job for

in a chain often happen according to an established pattern, a

the chain unit is a good analysis of demands and problems. This

network will be fluid. It is, actually, a collection of continuously

function is aimed at the ‘question behind the question’, so that the

changing and adapting chains. These adaptations are not arbitrary.

entire problem situation can be determined. Subsequently, through

Alliances are being created in accordance with existing wishes and

a clear articulation of the demand, it can be determined which serv-

problems. An example of this is the distinction between a first and

ices and actions are required from which organisation. For example,

second skin of organisations surrounding the chain unit which was

in the Open Window for Juveniles in Rotterdam, an integrated

described above. The first ‘skin’ of organisations involves the parent

intake assessment is carried out in 8 life domains. After this intake

organisations that form a direct part of the alliance. The second


Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units

‘skin’ of organisations are more loosely connected to the chain

In Enschede VIS2 was selected as an information infrastructure.

unit and are actively deployed by the chain unit depending on the

This is intended to be an application with a user-friendly interface,

specific problem situation. The chain unit, therefore, should be

which a new care provider or chain partner can connect to without

considered as a pivot in a network of organisations. What is created

much trouble. So VIS2 actually functions as a shared service for

is not a new institution, but a form of organisation in which the

all the parties involved with the problems of the multi-problem

processes of the collaborating organisations are intertwined and

families and offers the desired level of flexibility, as any new partner

connected to each other, leading to a clear-cut provision of services

can connect to it. VIS2 facilitates cooperation. Without a client-

for the client. Which partners form a chain unit together depends

led system like this, the coordinated approach to multi-problem

on the social issue to be tackled. Chain units, in principle, are

families in Enschede would be impossible. At this moment, various

temporary in nature, until an issue has been solved or reduced to

VSI2 links to other shared basic provisions are under development,

acceptable proportions. The exact configuration will always change

such as the GBA [municipal personal records database], compulsory

and will always depend on the social issue to be solved.

education records, and the National Reference Index for Juveniles at Risk.

3.7 Shared information infrastructure: shared services for flexible chains Standardisation and the development of shared basic provisions are required the most at the level of information supply, in order to attain this flexibility at an organisational level. The government is working with an information structure for shared and common use, and must bid farewell to any fragmented solutions. Standardisation is a precondition for this and is therefore considered a strategic theme and not a technical instrument. For the information supply of the government, this means standardisation and the development of shared basic provisions in the form of shared services. These are the data and services that are used by all government bodies and are equally meaningful to all agencies, irrespective of their policy areas. Examples of basic provisions such as these are the Basic Records and DigiD.

Getting to grips with public chains: the chain units


“In the process of methodology development it is wise to make use of one another’s strong points. Most of all, working at the one location provides a lot of insight into each other’s work and, therefore, also offers the possibility of utilizing one another’s strong points.”


Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice In this chapter we offer an insight into the key success and failure factors of (the development of) chain units, based on practical experiences in Enschede, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. We have classified them according to the categories discussed earlier in this booklet: • politico-administrative aspects; • financial and economic aspects; • legal aspects; • socio-organisational aspects; • content related aspects; • information and communication technological (ICT aspects); • informatics aspects.


4.1 Politico-administrative aspects Administrative will A chain unit starts with administrative ambition. The first step towards a chain unit, therefore, is to answer three questions: -

Do I urgently want to have this social issue solved (administrative ambition and social urgency)?


Do I want to take responsibility for ensuring that the chain starts functioning (administrative input)?


Do I think that this chain cooperation should not be without commitment and am I prepared to create the preconditions for that at an administrative level (administrative commitment)? If these three questions are answered with an unambiguous ‘yes’, the administrative will is there and the chain unit is worth considering. Stakeholder selection and mobilisation In stakeholder selection, the central question is: with which players


the development of the chain units must be started and which players are relevant to a possible second skin. A successful arrangement of participating players depends on the correct assessment

stakeholders will also actually participate in the development of the

of which players are essential to a joint action and to what extent

chain unit. Stakeholders often do not know what they are letting

these players are willing to invest their time and money in the

themselves in for and where their participation might lead them, for

development strategy. An important comparative assessment to be

example, the impact of participation on their own autonomy and

made is the number of players involved versus the manageability

performance. Additionally, most players are usually not interested

of the development strategy. The more players there are, the more

in doing ‘preliminary work’, but only become interested in partici-

different interests and perceptions, leading to a greater complexity

pation when results are visible and within reach.

of the supervision and manageability. There are various strategic options possible for mobilising players. The central issue in stakeholder mobilisation is how to interest

1. The first one involves letting players feel that they are (also)

the relevant players and activate them to support the initiative.

problem owners, by making the specific problems clear. The

The selection of stakeholders will not guarantee that these same

dependency on the participation of partners in the chain unit is


Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice

considerable. If organisations decide not to join in, this could

approach, were becoming redundant.

reduce the possibility of a solid approach enormously. Visualise this. This makes it possible to demonstrate to them the necessity of

‘Working’ approach’ as development strategy


For the approach to the development of a chain unit, it would be

2. A second option is to choose a ‘working’ approach. At first, one

best to choose a step-by-step process using a ‘working’ approach.

tries to quickly achieve small results and display these to potential

A uniform and centralist approach as regards process and content

partners. The effect and added value of the chain unit are demon-

has no chance of succeeding in a politico-administratively complex

strated in actual practice and, in this way, potential partners can be

situation of a chain unit, in which so many parties are involved.

invited to participate.

Considering the complexity of regulations and work processes,

3. A third strategy is a power strategy. When potential partners

and the large number of organisations involved, it is impossible to

depend on other partners, they can be forced to participate in the

achieve this through a ‘blue print approach’. An open approach,

alliance. An example of this is the power that municipalities may

in which the chain unit is formed by mutual consent, has the best

exercise over organisations that are completely dependent on the

chance of succeeding. Work with a growth model, and don’t take

municipality for their financing.

any irreversible steps in the initial phase. Additionally, strike a good balance between top-down and bottom-up development. Bottom-

Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Enschede applied a combination of

up allows for the development of major working methods and

these strategies: after the first administrative consultative meetings

specific approaches originating from the specific professions. Major

were held (making the problem a common problem), a ‘coalition

choices should be made at senior level. By choosing in favour of a

of the willing’ was formed rather quickly, and a ‘working’ approach

growth model, it becomes possible to experience first how certain

was adopted. In Rotterdam, they had the advantage of two out

things will work out in practice, before the chain unit is developed

of the three partners being municipal services. In Amsterdam,

any further. Chain cooperation in and around the chain units is a

the Municipal Executive played an important part, but there was

shared learning process.

also the possibility of continuing an existing collaboration in the

handling of ‘Hard Core Youth’. In addition, the municipality made

Limited number of mandatory agreements

funds available to get the project off the ground. In Enschede,

Of course there is nothing wrong with setting out the administra-

both civil servants and administrators made their best efforts,

tive agreements in a covenant or management agreement. But

they got two pilot schemes off the ground, and the cooperation

the experiences of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Enschede teach us

in the District Care Teams was also set out in the regular subsidy

that one loses time waiting for a fully worked-out covenant. What’s

agreements. The municipality deployed the subsidy instrument to

important most of all is to create a climate of cooperation between

bring about a shift in the focus of a number of participants and to

the organisations and the people who work there, at short notice.

restructure a number of consultative structures that, with the new

The administrators are essential in this respect. The covenant then

Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice


becomes the conclusion of the development process of the chain

multi-problem families in Enschede, the Open Window for Juveniles

unit rather than its start. In the covenant a few basic agreements

in Rotterdam and the Youth Crime Chain Units in Amsterdam, this

are set out about the (operation of the) chain unit. This covenant

was the municipality. The municipalities were seen as the logical

can be considered as a declaration of the intent to jointly develop a

party to take on problems like safety, social care and juvenile unem-

chain unit and an integral approach to a set of problems. Additional

ployment and were therefore also accepted in their role of bringing

agreements are included in detailed covenants during the further

the parties together and initiating the chain approach.

development strategy of the chain unit and the integral approach. Thus a structure of covenants is created, with a covenant for the

The initiator of the chain cooperation doesn’t have to be the same

chain unit as a whole, and detailed covenants for specific subjects.

person as the chain director. That role can be fulfilled very well by another organisation. In the Youth Crime Chain Units in Amsterdam,

Shared vision and clear goals and ambitions

the Public Prosecution Service assumed that role, as it was directly

It is important to formulate a shared vision and clear goals and

linked to the core duties of the Public Prosecution Service. The

ambitions for the chain unit and the chain approach. This vision

naturalness with which these roles will be assumed and fulfilled by

offers an important frame of reference for choices to be made and

the organisations depends to a large extent on relationships within

for further elaborations of the shared approach and work proc-

and amongst policy domains. In many cases, however, the munici-

esses in the chain unit and chain cooperation. It is also possible to

pality will be able to assume these roles. The municipality often has

establish performance indicators and to measure and follow the

an integral stake, it is impartial, and has an overview of various life

working of the chain unit and chain cooperation on the basis of

domains as well.

clear, concrete and specific goals. Administrative ambitions, vision and goals can also be put down on paper concisely. For example,

Escalation levels

this is how Rotterdam did it: ‘every youngster under 23 has a job,

Once the decision has been taken to organise a chain unit, the

attends school or follows an action plan to work.’ Or Amsterdam:

administrators, or the senior management of the participating

‘every persistent juvenile offender knows within 24 hours what his

organisations, form a steering committee. The people on the steer-

follow-up programme will be.’

ing committee are capable of making decisions by themselves and of entering into agreements for their organisations. The members

Initiator and chain director

of the steering committee jointly direct the (development of the)

One of the basic assumptions in the development of chain units

chain unit. They establish the work process, the organisational

is that there is an organisation that considers itself as the agency

design, enter into agreements regarding the settlement of costs

responsible for the underlying (social) problems. That organisation

and investments and make decisions on matters which the chain

must also be in a position to define that role. This is nearly always

unit itself is not capable of solving. Conflicts, too, are settled in the

a politically legitimised government organisation. In the case of the

steering committee. This is important to realise. The success of the


Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice

and actively influence this network. In this respect it is important to know what you are selling. A clear concept and view of the progress of the operation definitely helps. The chain’s bounds In even a chain approach, it sometimes appears difficult not to lapse into compartmentalisation, in this case ‘horizontal compartmentalisation’. Sometimes, certain partners are considered by other partners in the chain unit to be ‘chain-unfriendly’. In these circumstances it requires energy to persuade the partners that the agency/agencies in question is/are necessary in order to handle the problems. In that respect it helps to highlight the set of problems and to view any possible partners from that angle. Working with a first and a second ring of cooperative partners, such as in the handling of multi-problem families in Enschede, is also an incentive


to approaching the problems and any possible solutions from a broader perspective.

4.2 Financial and economic aspects

chain sometimes calls for sacrifices to be made by one or more of the chain partners. Members of the steering committee must be in

As a result of the large number of organisations involved, the

a position to enter into agreements on the above independently.

financing of chain activities is a difficult issue. Within the public

The members of the steering committee also play an important,

sector the budget is often controlled by a municipality or the

interventionist role within their own parent organisations. They

central government. The budgetary systems of the various

assure that the parent organisations cooperate and represent the

organisations hardly allow for something like chain-controlling. In

commitment of the senior level of the organisation.

the main, one is judged by the output of one’s own products. This makes it difficult for organisations to continue releasing budgets,

Expectations management

also in the event of declining file sizes. These factors, almost by

Expectations management is found to be a key factor. Expectations

definition, cause costs and benefits to be apportioned unequally.

run high and there is enormous political pressure, certainly in the

A Central Organization for Work and Income that invests in chain

chain units’ initial stage. There are many parties and many interests

cooperation to help juveniles at risk to get work or training will

interconnected with each other and it is quite a large task to follow

see little of it back in financial terms. The gains usually end up at

Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice


the social security office in the form of fewer benefits paid out. It

tation of the separate tasks and increasingly more on solving the

requires administrators with vision and guts to opt for solving the

problems in the team in an integral way. They are increasingly ‘drift-

social issue, instead of maintaining an institutional interest.

ing’ away, as it were, from their colleagues in the parent organisations. For the parent organisation, participation in the chain unit is

In developing chain units and keeping them operational, one incurs

one of their duties, and, in a way, at odds with the other duties. It

roughly three types of costs, to wit (1) costs for the performance of

remains difficult for the parent organisations to get enough support

specific, content-related work, (2) supervision costs, and (3) general

on a more permanent basis for the chain units within their own

costs, such as computer and housing costs.

organisations. Not everyone in the organisation is informed about participation in the chain units, let alone that the work processes in

It is important to finance the first type of costs from the internal

the parent organisations are tailored to it. The representatives of

resources of the participating organisations, based on the recognition that the activities belong to their own core duties. Where the chain units strictly exercise core duties, these should be funded by the organisations themselves. The remaining types of costs are divided amongst the participating organisations by means of an allocation formula or financed from external sources such as subsidies from the central government and/or municipality.

4.3 Legal aspects The protection of privacy in privacy legislation may be a barrier to the exchange of personal data amongst organisations. In actual practice, it turns out that this can be taken care of using special privacy regulations. Examples of this are available, amongst other things, from the practical cases referred to in this publication.

4.4 Socio-organisational aspects Relationship between the chain unit versus parent organisations In practice tensions can arise between the team members in the chain unit and their parent organisations. The team members become enthusiastic and involved in the integral approach adopted by the chain unit. Their focus is increasingly less on the implemenTHE PEOPLE IN A CHAIN UNIT LOOK DIFFERENTLY AT THE SAME CLIENT; TOGETHER THEY HAVE A COMPLETE PICTURE.


Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice

the parent organisations in the chain units must therefore have a

Different cultures and working methods

mandate to be able to take decisions independently and be able to

In the chain unit people have to collaborate from different agen-

act upon them.

cies, with different cultures, different working methods, and, sometimes, also, different perceptions of the client. A police officer will

Additionally, when developing a new shared work process of the

look at a multi-problem family quite differently from a social worker.

chain unit, one should pay proper attention to making connections

And someone from the education sector will regard a young person

with the back office processes. One must examine which activities

quite differently from someone working in a social security office.

of the various partners will be carried out in the chain unit and

In practice arriving at a shared work process and joint action from

which ones will remain with the parent organisations. The basic

such a situation is found to be a difficult task. The basic assumption

assumption here is that every organisation reverts to its core duties,

behind solving these problems is that one should cooperate, for

and that duties, roles and powers are defined very sharply. Subse-

the most part, on the basis of trust, mutual respect and professional

quently, it is of crucial importance that the new work process ties

expertise. It is important to visualise the different perspectives on

in with the work processes of the parent organisations concerned,

the client and make these productive as the presupposition behind

with no link whatsoever being overlooked. Another possible solu-

chain cooperation is that the combined action of these different

tion to maintain communication is to have the staff members of

approaches contributes towards the solution of the problem. Expe-

the chain unit work part of their time on location with the parent

rience with one another in earlier alliances helps is this respect.


Additionally, it is important to recognise the significance of team training sessions and integrated training programmes. Participants

Giving mandates and making decisions

have also gained positive experience with chain games, on the

As we said before: participation in the chain unit is meaningless

basis of which different ‘blood types’ were put together and the

without a mandate from the representatives of the organisations

staff members of the chain unit got to know each other better.

involved in the chain unit. For a decisive chain unit it is necessary for binding decisions taken in the chain units, to be adhered to by

Different control levels

all partners. This implies that the representatives of the participat-

It is difficult when organisations are active at different levels and

ing organisations are capable of binding their own organisations

have different ways of exercising control. An example of this is

to agreements made within the chain unit. It is, therefore, neces-

when two partners are local, but one is managed nationally and is

sary that these representatives are given mandates by their parent

also product-driven. This makes it hard to enter into appropriate

organisations to make binding statements and that these mandates

agreements at a local level. Bring up any bottlenecks in this field

are set out at an administrative level.

at steering committee level as soon as possible and sort them out there.

Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice


Clear and established work processes

things, is the mobilisation of professional insight, aimed at improv-

It must be clear to everyone how the work processes in the chain

ing and increasing the effectiveness of the interventions. Former

unit run and how these work processes are tailored to the proc-

perceptions of one another are readjusted and common interests

esses in the parent organisations. Preferably, the work processes

are easier to find.

are set out in a so-called process book. Consequently, it is clear to all the parties concerned exactly what expectations are and the

In the process of methodology development, it is wise to make

amount of time in which certain tasks should be carried out. The

use of each other’s strong points. In the main, it is working at one

process book also offers an important induction tool to support

location that provides a lot of insight into one another’s work and,

new staff members. This implies that the process book must remain

therefore, the possibility of utilizing each other’s strong points as

user-friendly and should not contain too much detail.

well. It produces new strategies and approaches.

4.5 Content-related aspects Professional freedom versus standardisation

4.6 Informatics and technological aspects

In the chain units there is potential conflict between professional

ICT: bottleneck and enabler

freedom and standardisation. Various professionals of all types

Cooperation in complex chains requires intensive information trans-

and backgrounds, who pride themselves on a certain freedom of

actions to be made between the cooperative partners involved. A

action, participate in the chain units. However, a certain degree

good information supply is crucial to an integral approach in which

of standardisation in approach and methodology is desirable for

several organisations are involved as there is much more informa-

a coordinated integral approach. Standardisation and methodol-

tion available about the problem situation and its background. The

ogy teach the professionals to speak each other’s language, make

chain unit acts as an information node in that respect. Information

the professional actions transparent, and enable them to act more

from various agencies, disciplines and powers is bundled together

effectively as a team in the event of complex problems.

and shown over a longer period [8]. ICT should enable the information from all the partners involved to be linked, and to process data

The univocal orientation towards the client and the shared

from the various partners electronically as much as possible. This

approach within the framework of the chain units create connec-

information forms the basis for the coordination and handling of a

tions between people, which also strengthen the connections of the

multi-problem situation. Besides the necessity for ICT to ensure a

organisations behind them. People become more appreciative of

qualitatively good approach, the ICT input also contributes to the

one another and one another’s working methods. In the chain units,

reduction of the transaction costs in the chain. Consequently, the

different worlds get to know each other and learn to recognise

chain’s efficiency will be improved as well.

that they need each other in the client’s interest. There is a shared orientation on the problem. One major success, amongst other


Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice

Apart from the above, it appears to be difficult to get the information systems straight. The effectivity of information systems often turns out to be a problem. The information doesn’t come up as it was intended or as it was entered into the system. It happens too often that information is still missing. The results and figures are still often insufficiently reliable on account of entry and system errors. It also sometimes happens that representatives of the organisations in question have no access in the chain unit to the mother organisation’s own system. Our practical examples show that ICT plays an important and double role. On the one hand ICT is the ‘enabler’for new integral approaches of multi-problem situations and a far-reaching cooperation is only possible through innovative application of ICT. On the other hand it is found to be difficult to fully utilise new possibilities of ICT and it is an important bottleneck, certainly in situations where the approach is of an interorganisational nature.

Success and failure factors of chain units in actual practice


“The chain unit is, in principle, a temporary unit which is wound up when the scope of the social issue has been limited or the client demand has ceased to exist.�



It’s impossible to imagine life nowadays without cooperation in chains. More and more social issues demand a multi-disciplinary approach. In the past we used to create a new organisation for each new problem; new institutions, with new stakes, for, at times, very specific target groups. Chain cooperation seeks to overcome that problem by bringing the relevant parties together to solve the client’s demand or tackle a social issue. However, the big problem of many chains is the lack of decisiveness and commitment to the cooperation, or the time-consuming consultative structures. In this publication we have described a new organisational form that offers a solution to this: the chain unit. A solution tested in the difficult day-to-day practice of handling persistent offenders in Amsterdam, juvenile unemployment in Rotterdam and the handling of multi-problem families in Enschede. Characteristics of this new organisational form are: • The partners form one (temporary) shared organisational unit to which staff members of all the chain partners are seconded (interface). • The organisational unit works on the basis of one work process. • Demands are articulated and diagnoses are made in the organisational unit. • The organisational unit supervises, acts as commissioning authority of the chain and monitors implementation. • The back offices of the chain partners act as principal contractors. • Relevant client information is transparent for all partners. • Sometimes contains elements of controlling the demand by the purchase of necessary services. The chain unit is, in principle, a temporary unit, which is wound up again when the scope of the social issue has been limited or client demand


has ceased to exist. The chain unit is based on solid administra-

this publication at

tive agreements. Decisions in the chain unit are binding on the partners involved and, if necessary, the team leader or chain unit

We hope that this booklet will contribute towards a more effective

manager may make decisions if the professionals can’t solve the

handling of complex social issues.

problem. This is a way of organizing influence in order to utilise the partners’ expertise at an optimum level. You have also been able to read in this booklet that the setting up of a chain unit starts with administrative ambition. Begin this process only if this involves an urgent social issue that you, as an administrator, or, if you are a civil servant, your political bosses, are willing to personally dedicate yourselves to. You can find information about the practical cases in






[1] Aa, A. van der et al (2002) Towards a methodical framework for chain directorship in public administration. The Hague [2] Duivenboden H.P.M. van, M.J.W. van Twist and M. Veldhuizen (2000). Chain management in the public sector: introduction. In:

Duivenboden, H.P.M. van et al Chain management in the public sector. Lemma Publishing Company B.V.: Utrecht

[3] Grijping, J.H.A.M. [1997] Chain informatization, Sdu Publishers: The Hague [4] Aa, A. van der et al. (2002). Towards a methodical framework for chain directorship in public administration. The Hague [5] Bekkers, V.J.J.M. et al. Adaptive ability and architectural development in chains and networks. Center for Public Innovation; Rotterdam [6] Venrooy, A. van (2002). New styles of interorganisational public services. Eburon; Delft [7] Chain partners Covenant on the subject of Juvenile Crime and Multiple Offenders, Amsterdam


Arjan van Venrooy is a partner at Verdonck, Klooster & Associates. He has various publications to his credit, inter alia, in the field of public services and chain innovation. Arjan obtained his doctorate in ‘New forms of interorganisational public services’. Léon Sonnenschein is a deputy Programme Manager at InAxis and has supervised many experiments in the field of inter-municipal shared services and chain cooperation over the past years.


This is a joint publication of InAxis, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Verdonck, Klooster & Associates B.V. Authors: Arjan van Venrooy and Léon Sonnenschein Design: GAZmedia, bureau for graphic and interactive media Illustrations: Loet van Moll Date: August 2008 ISBN: 978-90-5414-161-7 © 2008, All rights reserved. Nothing from this publication may be reproduced, saved in a computerized data file, or disclosed, in any form or way, either electronically, mechanically, through photocopies, recordings, or any other way, without the copyright owner’s prior written permission.

Chain units: Coming to grip with public chains It’s impossible to imagine life nowadays without cooperation in chains. More and more social issues demand a multi-disciplinary approach. In the past we used to create a new organisation for each new problem; new institutions, with new stakes, for, at times, very specific target groups. Chain cooperation seeks to overcome that problem by bringing the relevant parties together to jointly solve the client’s demand or tackle a social issue. However, the big problem of many chains is the lack of decisiveness, and commitment to the cooperation, or to the time-consuming consultative structures. In this publication Arjan van Venrooy and LÊon Sonnenschein describe a new organisational form that offers a solution to this: the chain unit. This solution has been tested in the difficult day-to-day practice of the fight against juvenile crime and the handling of persistent offenders in Amsterdam, tackling juvenile unemployment in Rotterdam and handling multi-problem families in Enschede. Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

BROCHURE ON CHAIN UNITS | getting to grips with public chains  


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