Policy Formulation and Consensus Building: Something to Learn from Denmark

It was July 2009, when I got confirmation to start my masters study at Technical University of Denmark from September 2009 on-wards. That means, I was going to Denmark. By no means, I have heard much about Denmark. Except the university, I was not even aware of anything other than name of Copenhagen. And according to my father, ‘I can only see island and only island’, where are you going to live? That was the level of information, anyone had about Denmark prior to my admission into one of the top technical universities of the world. Like everyone, I used Google to get more information about my new home.

I have also joined few Facebook groups to get more information. To inquire more about the perception of other people, I have also searched newspaper websites to search news items about Denmark. Not much positive is written about Denmark at least from the people’s perspective, but I chose to ignore it. As, many people land in foreign country without willing to leave their previous land behind. Perception from such people may not help, when I was looking forward to travel to a land far away from my home.

That was also the first time, I got to know about large scale electricity production from Wind Mills. It was also the first time, I heard about Vestas. The New York Times article talked about importance of Wind Energy in securing future of Denmark. Let me not go into the wind energy sector, as that is not the purpose of this blog. But, a real question, is how wind energy became so huge in Denmark? Why it has grown so fast in recent years? and why other countries are taking inspiration from Denmark?

I will not comment on the direction of political parties of Denmark at present. But their thinking and mutual bonding about Wind Energy sector deserve some appreciation.

The article at New York Times highlighted, consensus built among the political parties to harness the wind energy potential of Denmark. When a long term plan was set, every political was brought on board. Very rarely, many parties come on board and sang in one voice. The long term plan has been finalized to give priority to Wind Energy sector. It has been agreed, that whichever party will come into power, the long term plan for Wind Energy sector will not be altered. If it has to change, then it has to be through mutual agreement. The subsidies provided to the farmers form the backbone of entire wind energy industry. It started a completely new style of thinking in gaining energy from the renewable resource.

There has been many examples, but arriving on discussion based on mutual discussions is very normal style of functioning in Denmark. In my view, building consensus in decision making has both pros and cons in larger global affairs. Definitely, it is not necessary need to true in other parts of the world as it slow down decision making process considerably. However, this style of working works very well in the land of vikings.

So, learn to build consensus by taking account with every stakeholders, when you are in Denmark.

[This blog post reflect my personal opinion]

Learn to DIY(Do It Yourself) @Denmark

Not long ago, I have written a blog post with title, ‘Help is always given to those in Denmark, who ask for it’. This current post is also similar to the previous one, albeit in slightly different way.
This goes also for asking the help. Asking for help in the need also a criterion for DIY(Do It yourself), because no one else is going to ask if things are going fine. Everyone is happy and busy with their lives. It is not just about taking initiative, but also doing it yourself.

There can be many other ways too to look on it. Starting from stated goals in the meeting, coming on time, and preparing for the meeting in advance, it can be the culture of DIY (Do it yourself). In meetings, once the goals are stated and you agreed for things. It is more or less DIY. Of course, you can always gets the help from the other people.

If you look around, most of the people in Denmark learn to do many things themselves. It is not surprising that many small things, people do it for themselves and it enables a sense of independence in most of the people. I seems to like this idea without any reason.

I am not sure, how it is like that, but lack of human resources can be the reason for many of the automation. From the time you enter into Copenhagen Airport, you starts to feel that there is hardly the need of anyone do manual tasks. Artificial intelligence or lack of manpower? I am not sure, what to say on this. But, many processes are automated and procedures have been simplified to reduce the need of human power.

This also goes for other activities. For example, processed food is very expensive in Denmark. But, if you buy raw material from the market and cook your own, you will find a huge difference. I am not suggesting you to avoid going out, just trying to make a comparison to validate my point.

I was living in a dormitory during the duration of my studies at Technical University of Denmark. Instead of hiring an expert; we cleaned, painted and even re-furnished entire dormitory kitchen ourselves. For the first time, I realized that there is no need to hire expert for such small thing. Normally, in my country, we pay some amount and ask someone else to do this. Coming from a very big country, I could always find someone to do such tasks. That does not apply so well in Denmark.

So, why it is like this in Denmark? Lack of manpower is definitely one reason. That is also one reason that hiring someone for small tasks is quiet expensive too. Some other reasons in my view:
– The work-life balance in Denmark allow anyone to have sufficient time for himself/herself. Why not use it to do small things on their own?
– Income inequality is very low in Denmark as well as in other countries of Scandinavia. Therefore, no-one is above or below in the income scale.There is no way you can hire endless amount of people to do small things, unlike many other countries.
– Feeling of independent is very high among the Danish people. This can also be the reason for doing so many such tasks on their own.
– From self-assembling chairs at IKEA store or automated queue system at the post, there is hardly much room left, where you need someone to do small tasks.
– Not just being independent, it also goes about sense of empowering everyone about individual responsibilities and freedom. I experienced it, when computer center of my university was open 24*7 for the study purpose.

Hope, you understood and give prime consideration to the culture of DIY(Do It Yourself), before and after arriving in Denmark.

(Based entirely on my personal experiences, it may not reflect opinions of everyone)

How to befriend with Danes-2: ‘Learn to discuss, not to debate’

‘Thank you very much’ to every reader of this blog. Thank you for your encouraging and praiseworthy comments on my previous posts. Before moving further, let me also clarify matter related to view points presented here. Each blog posts is based on my personal observations, experiences, and research. Such experiences may differ from person to person. Therefore I advise every reader to read my write-ups in the same way. Consider them as a supportive guide, not a definite rule to follow.

Last time, I discussed about the importance of being patient, while attempting to befriend with Danes. In this post, I will talk about importance of having fruitful discussions in increasing rapport with Danes. We can judge by a simple example.

I was sitting in a regular meeting of BEST (Board of European Students of Technology) chapter at DTU(Technical University of Denmark). We were discussing about an upcoming engineering competition. At one point, a native Danes said, ‘In Denmark, we love to discuss but not to debate’. It is not about arguing endlessly after taking one side, but trying to arrive on mutually agreeable opinions covering every side. It reduces the conflict and decision made at the end is acceptable to everyone. Not just about discussion with classmates, I experienced this phenomenon very much true during most of my interactions with Danes.

Being an avid reader of many different areas of life, I often found a common ground to interact with Danes. Danes are always curious to know, what a foreigner feel about their country. This can also be true for each one of us about our own countries. Often, this gave me possibility to initiated a conversation which, then lasted for a very longer duration.

Majority of Danes love to have a discussion about range of topics. For example, apart from interacting about chemical engineering; I discussed about Africa, Danish Film Industry, and Denmark’s position in EU with my university professor. Many Danes have good knowledge in range of fields. You may be wondering, why it is like that. There are some obvious answers.

Danish people travels a lot. There is very high chance to meet many Danes in Denmark, who have recently been to your native land. Danish economy counts on knowledgeable society as its biggest asset. Apart from traveling around the world, Danes also have a very good understanding of world affairs. Very high penetration of Internet and high individual usage of internet reflect this trend. They also have a reasonably clear picture of their government standing in important matters. This can also be true for employees of small firms aware of their management plans.

Forget about everything I have said so far; even during the ordinary meetings, Danes try to arrive on any decision through the process of consensus building. That is, through the process of discussion. Even if someone argus, it is not about creating conflict. It is rather more about raising opinions. Opinion of every individual present in the meeting is honored before arriving on final decision. This is contrary to top-down approach of decision making in some other places of the world. So, learn to have your opinion in matters not just related to your professional life, but also related to other areas of life. Because in Denmark, Danes love to hear your opinions.

What to discuss with Danes? Well, this is a very difficult question to answer. At the start, Danes may look bit reserved in communicating their ideas with a new person. Later, they become pretty straight forward in commenting, suggesting and even criticizing the view point. I found some people did not like fun-filled ways of commenting on others viewpoints. It is not about hurting someone but just the way of communicating opinion in slightly lighter manner. So, ff you are a sensitive person with less inclination to accept such approach in communication, then may be you can refrain from discussing topics sensitive to you.

It can be difficult to break ice with Danes. First patience and then ability to have your say in different matters will make you closer to them. In the next post, I will talk about some other interesting aspect of living comfortably in Denmark and socializing with Danes. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: This entire post is based on my personal experiences.And it has to be read in the similar context.

How to befriend with Danes-1: Eat the 'patience' pill first

[This is the first in the series of posts, where I will share some of my personal experiences on how to befriend with Danes]

During my stay in Denmark, I have often come across the question on how to make friendship with Danish people. I was aware about the reserve nature of Danish people even before moving to Denmark. I have studied a lot about the German culture during my IT job and somehow pre-assumed that Danish culture could be similar. I am an extrovert person in nature and easily engage into conversation with others. Coming from the society where being social is like a habit, I knew that is always need a little bit of extra work to work in different culture.
So, then I was in Denmark and how things went well? This series will talk about it.

First and foremost, you need to have a lot of patience to have a friendship with Danes. They are very open in normal and initial conversation but friendship is different than regular normal conversations.

I have already started my master studies at Technical University. And we used to go to Copenhagen sometime for a little walk or hanging out with other friends.During one such day, one of the person of our department suddenly found us roaming around the round tower in Copenhagen. He is in the same department as mine apart form the fact that he and his group members are were researchers and I was just a master graduate student Still, there is something particular about Denmark is no hierarchy while socializing. You can speak to anyone without difficulties.

Let’s get back to our topic. They invited me to join them for a coffee and I agreed for it. We sat in a coffee and I sat next to a Danish person. He was also a researcher, although he did not belong to the same research group as mine but working in the same department building. I had a very interesting conversation with him for over 2 hours related to many things especially about Denmark and how individual people are named in Denmark. He was very pleased to know about my curiosity of learning Danish of my own.

Our meeting ended, weekend was over and all of us returned back to our usual day to day schedule. I have seen this person again after 3 days, as usual I have raised my hand, waved it a bit and said hi with smile. He did not reply at all. ‘Really?’ How come a person do have such a short term memory? It was just 3 days and we had 2 hours long conversation over a coffee. In my mind, I thought may be Danes like to keep private and personal life separate, so may be if I meet him again in an informal setting, he will open up? Like the last time.

Anyway, it happened 2-3 time again as he work in the same building where my department is located. I did it again as usual this is my habit to just casual hi. In the 3rd time, he reply saying hi and did ask, how I am doing, how I am finding Denmark winter etc.

Somehow, I have realized that this is what needed to befriend with Danes. Keep trying for more time until they are able to open up. I had several interactions with my friends (youngsters) in Denmark about this phenomenon. They said to me that it is very normal. Majority of the Danes are not do not know how to open up to foreigners. Either they are shy or either they are too comfortable with their Danish friends.

So, whatever the case may be, you do know that befriending with Danes just requires slightly different approach. You need to have a lot of patience initially and once you are able to establish a good level of trust, you can have Danes as a friend for your entire life. I will talk more about it in my next blog post.

Disclaimer: This entire post is based on my personal experiences.And it has to be read in the similar context.

Copenhagen: Served excellent example to make my home town an Eco-friendly place

ankit_new-dk

I have learn a lot of new things during my stay in Denmark. One of the most important was cycling. I was amazed to see that many people use cycle on the daily basis and there are special paths build for them. I thought, something similar can be done my hometown Kota, Rajasthan, India also. When I was taking an online course from University of Pennsylvania as part of my Zero Cost MBA(Envisioning 21st century global manager) project, I have taken Copenhagen cycling as a case study and tried to present an idea of replicating some elements of it in my home town. Recently it has got huge push in local media as well as among the civic authorities. I thought, I could share this with you here.

(The article appeared in the local media is in Hindi. I have translated the article for you in English, which you can read below. You can also read the assignment submitted as part of the online course, which has served an inspiration for this article).

dainik bhaskar

साइकिलिंग के मामले में कोटा देश के लिए नजीर बन सकता है। कोटा के कोचिंग इलाके में ही रोजाना लगभग 50 हजार साइकिल चलती हैं। इससे प्रतिदिन लगभग 7 हजार लीटर पेट्रोल की बचत होती है। इसके बावजूद शहर में कहीं भी साइकिल के लिए डेडिकेटेड ट्रैक नहीं है। पर्यावरण और स्वास्थ्य के लिहाज से देश-दुनिया के कई बड़े शहरों में भी साइकिलिंग के लिए अलग ट्रैक बने हुए हैं। भास्कर ने इस मुद्दे पर एक्सपर्ट्स से बात की तो सामने आया कि कोचिंग एरिया में साइकिल ट्रैक आसानी से बन सकता है।

Kota can become a shining example for the country in terms of cycling. Around 50,000 people commute daily through cycling in the coaching areas of Kota. It saves approximately 7000 liters of daily. Even then also, there is no dedicated track anywhere in the city for cycles. Many cities in country and abroad have separate cycling tracks to keep environment and health in check. Bhaskar has spoken with experts on this issue and got the conclusion that it is very easy to make a cycle track in coaching areas.

केवल अतिक्रमण हटाने भर से निकल सकता है रास्ता
इसके लिए जितनी जगह चाहिए उतनी जगह तो अतिक्रमियों ने ही दबा रखी है। अधिकारी इस पर थोड़ा सा ध्यान दें तो बिना विशेष खर्चे के ही साइकिल ट्रैक बन सकता है। इससे शहर के पर्यावरण में भी सुधार आएगा।

Track can be made just by removing illegal development on the routes

The space required for the track has been already available but encroachment by many people. If authorities (officers) pay attention to it a bit, then cycle track can be made without any expensive budget. It will also improve environment of the city.

इन इलाकों में संभावना
साइकिलिंग के जानकारों के मुताबिक, नए कोटा में आईएल से अनंतपुरा चौराहा, कॉमर्स कॉलेज से केशवपुरा चौराहा, गोबरिया बावड़ी से घटोत्कच सर्किल, तलवंडी से ओपेरा रोड, केशवपुरा चौराहे से सीएडी, मोदी कॉलेज चौराहे से जवाहर नगर एयरपोर्ट की दीवार तक डेडिकेटेड साइकिल ट्रैक बनाए जा सकते हैं। मानकों के अनुसार साइकिल ट्रैक 1.5 से 2 मीटर का होना चाहिए। इन सभी सड़कों पर इतनी जगह है और यही वह इलाका है, जहां कोचिंग छात्रों का आवागमन ज्यादा है। इन सभी सड़कों पर साइकिल ट्रैक जितनी जगह तो दोनों ओर अतिक्रमियों ने ही दबा रखी है। इन्हें हटाकर भी ट्रैक डेवलप किए जा सकते हैं।

Probable areas

According to experts, in new Kota, dedicate cycle track can be made from IL to Anantpura Circle, Commerce college to Keshavpura circle, Gobriya bawari to Ghatokatch circle, talwandi to opera road, Keshavpura cirlce to CAD and from Modi college to Jawahar nagar airport wall. According to standards, cycle track must be 1.5 to 2 meter wide. All the roads have this much space available and these are areas where coaching students are commuting in large numbers. In all those roads, the space equivalent to developing cycling track has already been occupied illegally. Tracks can be developed just by removing those illegal construction.

यूं रोज बचाते हैं पांच लाख रुपए
कोटा शहर में मोटे अनुमान के तौर पर 70 हजार साइकिलें है। प्रत्येक साइकिल का रोज का न्यूनतम 5 किमी भी माना जाए तो 3.5 लाख किमी साइकिल रोजाना चलती हैं। किसी वाहन का 50 किमी प्रति लीटर का भी एवरेज माना जाए तो इस साइकिलिंग से रोजाना 7 हजार लीटर पेट्रोल की बचत हो रही है जिससे लगभग पांच लाख की बचत होती है। शहर की हवा में रोजाना भारी मात्रा में प्रदूषित गैसें घुलने से बच रही हैं। नियमित साइकिलिंग से जुड़े लोग बताते हैं कि इसे प्रमोट किया जाए तो साइकिल चलाने वालों की संख्या और भी बढ़ सकती है।

Daily savings of Rs. 500,000
According to a rough estimate, Kota city has approximately 70 thousands cycle. If it is assumed that every cycle on an average commute 5 km daily, then all the cycles are traveling a distance of around 350,000 km. Assuming 50 km per liter an average for a vehicle, then everyday cycling is saving 7000 liters of petrol, resulting in savings of 500,00 rupees. Lot of polluting gases are avoided being mixed into the air of city. People belonging to regular cycling tells that if promoted, number of bicyclers will increase tremendously.

साइकिलिंग में हम काफी आगे, फिर ट्रैक के मामले में पीछे क्यों?
कोटा शहर में साइकिलिंग को प्रमोट करने के लिए पिछले चार साल से साइक्लोट्रोट्स क्लब बना हुआ है। क्लब से करीब 200 सदस्य जुड़े हुए हैं। अध्यक्ष चंद्रेश शर्मा बताते हैं कि गुड़गांव, नोएडा, दिल्ली, हैदराबाद, बेंगलुरु समेत गुजरात के कई बड़े शहरों में साइकिल ट्रैक बने हुए हैं। जबकि आबादी के अनुपात में इन शहरों में साइकिल चलाने वाले कोटा से कम ही होंगे। मोटे तौर पर कोटा शहर में 10 फीसदी लोग साइकिल चलाते हैं। भले ही इसमें बड़ा हिस्सा कोचिंग छात्रों का है। हम इस मुद्दे पर प्रशासन से बातचीत करने के लिए तथ्यात्मक तैयारी भी कर रहे हैं। प्रयास सिर्फ इतना करना है कि सड़कों के किनारों से अतिक्रमण हट जाए। बस, इतने में साइकिल ट्रैक के लिए जगह निकल आएगी। एक बार ट्रैक शुरू हुए, फिर लोग खुद ही ट्रैक खाली छोड़ देंगे।

Ahead in cycling, then why behind on tracks?

A club has been formed from past 4 years to promote cycling in Kota. Currently, the club has around 200 members. President Chandresh Sharma told that Gurgaon, Noida, Delhi, Hyderbad, Bengaluru and many cities of Gujrat has cycling tracks, that too when they do not fair well in ratio wise for the number of people cycling. Around ten percent of the people are driving cycles in Kota, even if the major portion belongs to the coaching students. We are also trying to speak with administration on this matter. Just needed an effort to remove illegal construction around the roads. Just by doing so, give free space for the tracks. Once the track start, people will automatically leave the track.

कोपनहेगन: वहां 20-25 किमी साइकिल चलाना आम है

साइकिलिंग को लेकर हमने बात की कोटा के रहने वाले अंकित खंडेलवाल से, जो करीब तीन साल तक पढ़ाई के सिलसिले में डेनमार्क की राजधानी कोपनहेगन रहकर आए हैं। यह महानगर साइक्लिंग के लिए मशहूर है और यहां की 35 से 40 प्रतिशत आबादी साइकिल पर ही सफर करती है। अंकित बताते हैं कि वहां 20 से 25 किमी साइकिल चलाना बिल्कुल नहीं अखरता। मैं खुद रोज इतनी साइकिल चला लेता था। कभी थकान नहीं होती थी। क्योंकि साइकिल के लिए वहां हर सड़क के साथ अलग से बेहतरीन ट्रैक बने हुए हैं।

Copenhagen: It is normal to cycle 20-25 km cycle daily

We have spoken to Ankit Khandelwal regarding cycling. He is by native from Kota and stayed in the capital of Denmark for approximately 3 years during his studies. This city is famous for cycling and around 35-40% of city population travel on cycle. Ankit has told, that driving 20-25 km through cycle is not uncomfortable. Even I have used cycle that much on daily basis. Never got tired, because special tracks have been made for cycling alongside roads.

साइकिल पार्किंग के लिए घर, बाजार, रेलवे व मेट्रो स्टेशन पर खास इंतजाम होते हैं। यहां तक कि मेट्रो में भी साइकिल रखने के लिए अलग से डिब्बा होता है। बड़े-बड़े उद्यमी, राजनेता और कई कंपनियों के सीईओ तक को मैंने वहां साइकिलों पर आते-जाते देखा। कोटा में साइकिलिंग को प्रमोट किया जा सकता है, क्योंकि यहां हजारों बच्चे पहले से इसका यूज कर रहे हैं।

Special arrangement has been made at home, market, railway and metro to park cycles. Even metros have separate coaches to park cycles during the travel. Many businesspersons, politicians and other people were seen using cycle very frequently. Cycling can be promoted in Kota, because already thousands of youngsters are using it.

(Appeared in Dainik Bhaskar, Kota edition, 05-07-2015)

Inspiration for this article came from Designing Cities Assignment-3, a MOOC course from University of Pennsylvania. I have taken this course as part of my Zero Cost MBA (Envisioning 21st century global manager project. Check the last 2 pages of this assignment, where I have used Copenhagen as a base city to modify my home town planning

Democratic ways of decision making- my first taste of democracy!

#Like to thank all my wonderful kitchen mates at Kampsax Kollegiet, Kitchen 24

Ever get chance to live with Danes? With one, two or many of them? Well, at least I did. For a very long duration of time while studying my masters. Living in a dormitory with full of Danish people provided me unique opportunity to know lot of things about Danish culture, people and had my first test of democracy in very real way. Curious, what it is? Let me explain it for you.

Monthly kitchen meetups

We were 17 people in the dormitory (called Kitchen in Denmark) with our own rooms and a shared kitchen. Except 4 of us, all the other residents of dormitory were Danish. The shared required each one of us to take duties in turn to keep kitchen neat and tidy. No one was spared of the duties and rotation of duties means, each one of us get chance to do every kind of different tasks.

Once in each month, all the residents of our kitchen met and discussed ways of making kitchen clean, imposing fines on those who are violating the rules and not fulfilling their duties. It was those meetings, where we have also discussed ways to celebrate Danish festivals and even planned group outings.

Since, the kitchen and other useful accessories were provided on the sharing basis, taking care of them was mutual responsibility. It was unique sense of freedom of defining our own rules and also obeying them with a sense of responsibility. Except some difficulties, this entire sharing system of values, responsibilities and ownership has worked very well. Despite being a foreigner, I never felt like an outsider, instead I formed a good bonding with each of the fellow Danes over a period of time. These meetings provided me a good sense of adhering of democratic values and process of collective decision making.

How is it different?

The hostels were I lived before coming to Denmark also had set of rules, but they were already formed by the higher authorities. We had to obey them. This older system has it’s own pros & cons but I am not here to say which is better than others. Both are good in their respective places.

So, if you are coming to Denmark and going to live with Danes than you will get plenty of opportunities to interact and take part in decision making. Only thing is , you need to take part in it like I did and had my first taste of democratic way of decision making.

Loneliness: A hidden surprise for many!

Accepting requests of many people, I have decided to write again about my experience of Denmark and touch upon lot of pending ideas, I wanted to write once. So, here is my first coming back article.

Scene 1:
You are surrounded by people, even though it looks crowded and sometime uncomfortable; you can talk to the people and see them around you majority of time. This is the case in many countries.

Scene 2:

You arrived in Denmark and after a initial few days, do not find such crowded atmosphere and apart from your work place, may not find people to talk. Come winter and you are trapped inside your house. Even though, you got everything you came for, you started to fell lonely.

Let’s come back to reality. These scenes are not from any drama but are part of reality to many people. It is no hidden fact that Denmark is open society but to many it is also a closed one. Privacy of any individual is very much honored and no doubt that often you will find people are among themselves after working hours. This possess challenges for many people, who are used to live in social environment much more than what is on offer in Denmark.

Socializing with Danes requires an open minded attitude and as I have written in my previous article, being open minded is one of the key in adapting to live in Denmark. I have seen many other people, who are so used to their home environment, that they found it very difficult to adjust to this new reality. During the winter months, you will be forced to lock yourself inside the house. No matter, how much you try; the long winter can be difficult to cope up with. Those long dark nights can bring lot of troubles, if you are unable to cope up with the loneliness. M Though it can vary from individual to individual, feeling depression can be very normal in such scenario.

There is no denial, that Danes do socialize and you will find plenty of opportunity to talk and build communication. But first of all, it is very individual. And second, this will be slightly minimal, to what you were used to at your home country.

So, if you are coming to Denmark, then be aware of this hidden secret!!