Blockchain and the new polder model

june 21, 2018

Through his company DutchChain, Rutger van Zuidam studies and creates possibilities to use blockchain technology as a catalyst for change. Rutger is also the organizer of the world’s largest blockchain hackathon. On June 27, 2018, Van Zuidam will be bringing the Blockchaingers Next Level Conference to the Brightlands Smart Services Campus.

Rutger van Zuidam first came in contact with blockchain via Bitcoin in 2010. The decentralizing and demonopolizing nature of the technology really appealed to him. Van Zuidam has since evolved to become one of the main drivers of blockchain in the Netherlands. Whenever the topic is discussed on a talk show or other television program in the Netherlands, he is “front and center”, appearing as an expert. A few days before the Next Level Conference, he gives us an update on the current status of blockchain and his vision on the technology.

Netherlands: it’s time for a strategy

Switzerland, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and others are in the lead when it comes to blockchain. According to Rutger, the Netherlands has the potential to be part of this group of trendsetters. “To achieve this position however, something needs to happen. We have gotten to the point where we need a solid strategy as a country. A clear vision on the global society of the 21st century is necessary as well as a strategy for the role the Netherlands can play in this. How can we further develop international cooperation? And how can we, as a country, set ourselves apart without becoming the competition? This not only applies to what we do, but also how we do it. It is high time to take a collective look at how we can create the most optimal circumstances possible in order to facilitate a contribution from everyone in transforming our society and economy, elevating it to the next level. This will help us all work together on the challenge of the social and economic transformation of the 21st century. As far as I’m concerned, this is where the priority lies right now.”

The new polder model

In order to remain relevant as a company or organization, a new mindset is necessary. More and more parties are starting to realize the benefits of blockchain for them, but find it a challenge to adapt the essence of their business model. After all, these models are usually based on a centralized position and strategy. It is a challenge to make a transition like this, but certainly not impossible, according to Van Zuidam. However, more is necessary than just decentralized thinking alone. “It is crucial to picture yourself in a different role to see how different parties’ interests can reinforce one another, and how this can come together in the form of a solution. You can actually look at it as the new ‘polder model’ in which many different parties with different interests work together to create a future they can’t predict but which can help solve a variety of collective challenges. You don’t make it to the next step by making decisions, but by building solutions together. The solution only becomes strong when you release it into the network so that everyone can contribute to the ecosystem.”

Propagation of ideas

So how do you start working on blockchain as a company? The answer to this question isn’t that obvious. Technology may be arranged, but forging partnerships and making sure that the business model doesn’t end up coming between the partners is difficult. This is one of the reasons that Zuidam organizes an annual blockchain hackathon as part of the Blockchaingers initiative. “Making sure that parties with different interests end up moving in the same direction is 80% of the work. During an event like this, we bring potential launching customers together with specially selected teams that have good ideas and are also capable of implementing them. It is important that stakeholders are not only involved in the solution as much as possible, but also during the production process. True co-creation in other words. After all, when two ideas procreate, a better idea is born.”

Man versus blockchain

During discussions on blockchain, people’s fear of change often emerges. Among other things, they worry that far-reaching automation can cost people their jobs. Van Zuidam takes a different view of this picture of the future. “People are what drives innovation; technology is merely a means to that end. Blockchain makes new things possible, but doesn’t actually change anything. People do. People can talk to one another about new ideas and set up experiments. This is how they discover the things they didn’t dare dream were possible before. This is also when the real challenge begins, namely the implementation of the ideas so that the solution can also reach end users. People are the ones who add the value and build trust by working with others. Fear may be a sign in all this, but as far as I’m concerned, it has never been a valid argument for not doing something. Otherwise, you end up cutting part of yourself off from reality. If the Netherlands goes about this the right way, the application of blockchain will actually lead to a significant growth in jobs. And yes, work that is valuable now might be automated later on, but this creates room for other valuable work. In other words, I see a lot more opportunities than threats.”

Practice, practice, and then practice some more

“Critical discussions on topics such as energy consumption, security, ethical issues, implications of quantum computing and legislation and regulations are more than welcome. Constructive criticism can serve as valuable input for progress and continued development. However, biased skepticism or the condemnation of results doesn’t help. After all, we are still working on discovering the potential blockchain offers. You often have to try something out a few times to figure out how it should be done. Or even to find out how you don’t want to do it, whether you are learning your lines for a play or developing a new application for a technology. It’s a matter of entrepreneurship!”


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