Relying on the power of creation for a safe society

“Trust is important for a well-functioning society,” says Tabo Goudswaard, the Embassy of Safety curator. “In a society where people trust each other, there is more cooperation, and people are more likely to help each other. Which in turn ensures a good socio-cultural climate and a well-functioning economy.” According to Goudswaard, strengthening trust is “key” in many security issues, such as online crime, subversion and polarisation. That is why the theme of the Embassy of Safety this year is: in makers, we trust. During the upcoming Dutch Design Week (DDW), the Embassy will show how society can become safer by relying on the power of creation.

Type Update
Published on 19 September 2022
Part of Embassy of Safety
Relying on the power of creation for a safe society
Part of Embassy of Safety

Goudswaard points out that the traditional way of working in the security domain is very analytical. “Objective facts are leading. It is a hierarchical domain; think of the police with all their ranks and positions. Rules are important, which are enforced again. Protocols are needed: if mayhem occurs, the police must be able to respond robustly and quickly.”


“We are familiar with craftsmanship because of designers and artists. It is complementary to the traditional way of working within the security domain. Makers have more eye for subjectivity than for objectivity. Meaning is important, as well as sensibility. Makers think in possibilities, experiment and do not need to know exactly what the result of their work will be in advance.” 

This way of working enriches how the security domain tackles issues, Goudswaard continues. “In the Embassy of Safety, we appeal to the craftsmanship of safety professionals and other stakeholders. And we need this craftsmanship because we cannot solve problems such as subversion and polarisation with the current systems.

Trust and power of creation are not only necessary in the security domain, says Goudswaard. Last year, the social designer wrote the book ‘Maakkracht’ together with philosopher Jetske van Oosten. The book was about tackling complex problems with artists’ and designers’ thinking and working methods. They show how anyone can tackle problems like a creator and spark real, lasting change. 

‘Today’s social problems demand a new belief in makeability: it is not based on the causality and predictability of the world outside us but relies on a power that lies within. On the possibilities that arise when people show the power of creation.’

System paradox

“Today’s social problems demand a new belief in makeability: it is not based on the causality and predictability of the world outside us but relies on a power that lies within. On the possibilities that arise when people show the power of creation.”

Solving safety issues starts with realising that systems and rules result from human agreements, and we can change them, says Goudswaard. “The systems and rules help us to organise the chaotic everyday life. However, we have reached a point where systems are increasingly getting in our way. That is the system’s paradox: systems give us power in the sense that we can control the world and make it predictable. However, the systems are so dominant and strong that we also seem to be victims of them.” 

As an extreme example, Goudswaard mentions the benefits scandal with the tax authorities. “The rules were so rigid that thousands of people were wrongly suspected of fraud and could not argue against them, with horrific consequences. Our rules and systems can really get in the way.”

All Cops Are…

This year’s Embassy of Safety will be showing ‘All Cops Are…’ during DDW22. The title is based on ACAB, an abbreviation that stands for All Cops Are Bastards. Goudswaard explains, “A slogan that you see on walls worldwide.” Designer Yuri Veerman and local police officer Lotte Atsma made videos in which the police do not profile the citizen, but the citizen profiles the police. 

“You see a person in the picture, and young people say what they think of that person. Moments later, the same person is in the picture again, but in a police uniform. Then you can listen to the young people say what they think of that person, with surprising differences. This project shows how we tend to categorise things and people. It is about power relations and the role of the police in society.”

It is important to Goudswaard to work on shared ownership for a safe society. “If you think the security organisations are responsible for our security, you take yourself out of the system. This isn’t how today’s problems will be solved. Yuri and Lotte’s project shows that those security professionals are also just people. We all have a role. One person might be a police officer, the other of mayor or banker. Together we will have to actively create a safe society.”

Opposing Opinions

The CIVINC project is an online tool to bring people with opposing views into contact with each other. It shows that mutual understanding and trust can grow when you exchange ideas with each other. Ruben Treurniet and Leon Horbach developed the tool to allow voters of opposing political parties to discuss anonymously with each other during election time. During the Embassy of Safety conference on October 26, visitors can anonymously give their opinion on aesthetic safety dilemmas. “With CIVINC, we ensure that people with opposing views can come into contact with each other.”

An almost physical experience

The Virtual Reality installation ‘MessLess’ can also be seen during DDW22, which takes people into the world of young people in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Goudswaard explains, “You undergo an almost physical experience, a confrontation in which there is the temptation to take up arms. You’ll experience for yourself what choices young people face in that situation and what possible actions they can take at the decisive moment with the use of VR glasses.”

Embassy Labs

In response to questions from the partners, this year, the Embassy has started the Embassy Lab ‘Jonge Aanwas’ and the Embassy Lab ‘CashBack’. ‘Jonge Aanwas’ is a collaboration between the Association of Dutch Municipalities, the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the Municipalities of Amsterdam and Eindhoven. Together with the design teams Greenberry and De Nacht Club Academie, they are committed to preventing young people from being recruited by criminal organisations. Cashback arose from a request from the province of Noord-Brabant and the task force RIEC (Regional Information and Expertise Centre) to visibly return stolen criminal money or goods to society. The province and the task force are working with Studio Sociaal Centraal to show that crime does not pay and to increase trust in the institutions.” 

This is the fourth year that the Embassy has been active. “Together with our partners, we’ve been working on a safer country for several years and all year round. We are investigating which building blocks contribute to a synergistic collaboration between the security sector and the creative industry with TU Delft, among others. We are working on increasing the creative space within security organisations. In the future, that creative space will only grow. I feel that these collaborations have momentum, which is promising.”

During DDW, there is a physical exhibition in the Klokgebouw with interactive meetings. There will also be a conference on Wednesday, October 26, from 10hrs – 13hrs in the Auditorium of Natlab. A complete overview will be available later.

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