CPL Director Emily Benschop: “The mission of science is to keep people focused.”

CPL Director Emily Benschop: “The mission of science is to keep people focused.”

Emily Benschop (41) has been working as the new director of the Centre for Professional Learning (CPL) in The Hague for several months. She sees great potential for growth.

You started working as a CPL manager in April, what is your impression now?

“I have received a very warm welcome, the colleagues are positive, friendly, constructive and collaborative. The trainings are all very interesting, I prefer to sit and watch everything. We have four thematic working groups: Safety, Policy and Governance, Public Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion. They all work in their own way and do it well. I think more collaboration is possible. We can learn a lot from each other.

How are you going to do this?

We recently had a strategy day with the whole team. The conclusion was that we should work towards a strong and learning organization. And that is where we are going in the near future. We want to continue to grow on this basis. We see all kinds of possibilities, and the faculty come up with good ideas. There is a lot of energy to work together.

How did you end up here, what is your background?

I was previously Deputy Director of The Hague Academy for Local Governance. An international training institute with a mission to strengthen local government around the world, where I worked for fifteen years. I helped set it up myself and was able to organize and structure it entirely. The topics were similar to those at CPL; for example, I provided training on anti-corruption, peacebuilding, and decentralization. Great work that brought me a lot. I loved working with people from all over the world. But it was stable and worked very well, which gave me room to pick up something new.

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And you knew about CPL, you even studied there.

“Yes, I did a course there as part of my government training. It was a kind of introduction to public administration. Very interesting and very useful for beginning policy makers. As an organizational psychologist, I enjoyed receiving such a management framework.

What is the benefit of your background as an organizational psychologist?

“In psychology you learn to listen well, which is a very important quality for a manager. You also learn to think properly about your behavior. Self-criticism is always useful in your career, it helps you develop yourself further. When you lead an organization, you are constantly working on change. The best thing is for you and your team to support a certain cycle. This is also something I brought from organizational psychology. Participation, inviting people to think together. Take advantage of the knowledge and talents of your team.

You are now reading the book “How the World Really Works” by Vaclav Smil. How do you think the world works?

“To communicate with the university: We live in a world where a lot of information comes to you and everything has to be done quickly, you have to make decisions quickly. Individual speeches can go a long way, as we see in politics. But the world doesn’t work that way, the picture is more nuanced. We often fall on top of each other with solutions. You see a lot group thinkingEveryone is running in a certain direction without thinking. The university world has a role to play in bringing nuance back into the discussion. I say: This all sounds very nice, but is it really true? This book discusses, among other things, the sustainability debate and the solutions we are all looking for, such as wind farms. But do we know how many raw materials are needed to produce a single wind turbine or an electric car? And what are the harmful gas emissions that are released during production? Science has a mission to keep people focused and spread the word.

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Do you feel like you’re contributing to this now?

‘Yes. CPL aims to translate scientific research into practice. We convey this in our training, and that is our core mission. We know very well what clients encounter in practice. How can we relate this? The scientists who study with us also learn from this, because they receive direct input from practice. This also sharpens the thinking of our teachers.

What is your vision for CPL?

“I think what is important is that we as CPL are an integral part of the teaching staff. There is a lot of knowledge available that we can use to make a social impact if we share it with professionals. Leiden is a leading university and CPL also wants to be a leading training institute in the Netherlands, and preferably in Europe. And in our field of public administration in its broadest sense. We are all working towards that.

Text and photo: Magali van Veeren

“Walking on the beach with my family”

‘In my free time I like to go to the beach, I like swimming, surfing, diving and walking on the beach with my family. I also run, play tennis and enjoy reading. I am currently reading the book “How the World Really Works” by Vaclav Smil, it is very interesting and highly recommended! By the way, I always welcome book recommendations.’

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