3. “There are no
That is why we could not make a simple ‘How To’ manual to help you write
smarter regulation. We can give you some ingredients however, like ‘think
on a human scale’, ‘be creative’, ‘listen to people’, ‘broaden the view’. That is
what this manifest is. It is not the solution. We hope it is a source of inspira-
tion to keep working on the solution, all of us, every day.
4. This manifest is for you
It is for you, working on making things simpler, looking for ways to
simplify the lives of others
It is for you, trying to identify what is essential, so you can cut the
crap, going beyond complexity to make things simpler
It is for you, listening to people to make regulations smarter
It is for you, making human rules, with care and awareness
David, the portraits you made are a per-
fect illustration of the core message of
this manifest, you focus on the people
and leave out all that is superfluous.
5. This manifest is also
for all the people that
The people of Ghent
Antero, John, Jean-Pierre, Agnes, Inese, Roger, Monika, Karen, Kris,
Sophie, Barbara, Ben, Cecilie, Luigi, Jindrich, Natacha, Zsofia, Jan,
Erwin, Dominique, Joao, Frank, Michael, Göran, Ivanova, Theo, Johan,
Aida, Aleksandra, Christiana, Alan, Maurice, Jeroen, Damian, Don, Lenia,
Otylia, Oriel, Geneviève, Audrone, Roland, Stéphanie, Mercedes, Kirsten,
Joachim, Rota, Efi, Emma, Dorien, Karen, Bjorn, Maxime, Bert, Caroline,
Zakia, Ellen, Marijn, Peter
Jan, Jerome, Lou, Claude, Dannie, Bart, Sebastiaan
7. Rules are rooted in a current reality, the reality of the world as we know it
and where we live. This world has become more and more complex, due to
increasing globalization, new communication systems and other technologi-
cal developments. Rules have followed this trend and have become more and
more complex. We arethinking about multi-level regulations, about things
like Sarbanes Oxley or BASEL III or other financial regulations. At the same
time we see that there is a limit to the complexity that we can handle, a point
where things might get out of control. Environmental concerns , or the prob-
lems we have with the stability of our financial system are clear illustrations
The same goes for regulations. The complexity of regulations also has its
limits. More rules do not necessary lead to more effective control. To a certain
point they do, but after that point they become counterproductive.
In the real world we see that people are looking for solutions to this increased
complexity. They look for solutions on a human scale, for example they try
to create new financial models such as micro-credits or they look for new
agricultural models like community supported agriculture to solve problems
in the food chain.
The question is : can we do the same for regulations? Can we find small-
scale solutions to real problems ? New ways to deal with existing mecha-
nisms? Come up with smart solutions for citizens and businesses, solutions
that restore confidence in government and encourage entrepreneurs to do
9. I am a farmer
Once, before I became a farmer, I made a long trip on my bike to Istanbul. I
looked at the farmers along the way. When I reached the Eastern European
countries, it struck me how the farmers were standing with their feet on their
land, working together, living on the land. What a difference from farmers in
Western Europe, who I saw working alone, driving a tractor. Then I decided
that I wanted to be a farmer with my feet on the ground.
When I came back they told me that it wasn’t possible. You need a multipur-
pose farm, perfect crops, high-tech material and an expensive accountant
to be profitable. But I just wanted to make a living from farming. They told
me farmers’ incomes are determined not only by the weather but also by
wholesalers and food chains. I decided I didn’t want to start in the traditional
agricultural business based on “bigger and more”, I wanted to do it the hu-
man way, on a human scale, with my feet on the ground.
So I took a risk. I bought a piece of land and started a Community Supported
Agriculture farm. A farm where I could grow crops, but also a farm that is
connected to the land and to the community, where there is a “cultural and
social life”. People pay me a fixed amount of money every year and then they
turn up for the harvest as soon as the vegetables or fruit are ready. I talk to
my people, when they are on our land, we harvest together, we talk about the
future of the farm, its transformation into a fully organic farm. And the chil-
dren learn that strawberries don’t grow in the winter.
This way I don’t need high-tech material or an accountant. The accounting is
transparent so people can see what happens with their money and how much
money I make. We don’t have to pay food chains or wholesalers or transport
I believe we have found a way of dealing with the complex world of agricul-
ture. It is possible to survive as a farmer with your feet on the ground. With
farming on a human scale.
11. tan dable
Making good rules is not an exact science. It is not abstract and theoretical.
It is always about people. Real persons, who have to read the rules,
understand them, execute and comply with them.
You can only make smart rules if you are looking at and listening to people.
In the train for example, or in a café, in the supermarket.
Every time you write rules, ask yourself :
Who has to understand the rules I am making? Who are these people? Are
they going to understand what they have to do? How will they know what
they have to do? Will they feel fairly treated? Will they understand why my
rules are necessary? Will they be able to do what is asked of them without
too much trouble?
When you are writing regulation it can be difficult to answer these questions
because you have to take into account so many other things: the legal
context, the political reality or the detail of the exception.
Therefore it can be useful to explain the rules you have written to someone
else. Or to have them rewritten by someone working in a completely
13. I teach about the strength of
Years ago I was inspired by a documentary on Mobile School. A young student,
Arnoud Raskin, left to Latin America to implement his first mobile school for
the children of the street. This is an extendable blackboard on wheels with a
lot of educational materials on it. This mobile school works with kids whose
basic learning environment is the street. A mobile school doesn’t just teach
how to read and write, the most important thing is that it increases the self-
esteem of these children.
Moved by the simplicity of the idea and the belief in the project, I became a
volunteer for Mobile School in Belgium. After some years I decided to quit
my job and to leave for Bolivia to see how Mobile School works in reality. The
moments at mobile school are filled with positive vibes, the kids get a lot of
positive energy and you can literally see their self-esteem growing. I also
learned how smart these kids are, even though they never went to school.
They always look for the opportunity in difficult situations, they are incredibly
resilient and the solidarity on the street is enormous. These street children
are very creative in finding a way to survive and so I became convinced that
everybody can learn a lot from these children and youngsters.
Now I am giving workshops in schools about the strength of these children.
I explain our project, I tell them why it is important to focus on the positive
things. Mobile School is an independent organization, we finance ourselves
with Streetwize. We give trainings –inspired by the street- in companies,
because we are convinced that every CEO, every entrepreneur can learn a
lot from the children of the street. We are encouraging and stimulating
companies to become more streetwize, so that they can grow and become
the making of
According to the “smart regulation” concept the European Community
launched a while back, new and old regulations have to be “smart”.
We asked ourselves “what does smart regulation actually mean”? What is
“smart “? We had some lively discussions. Is a paperclip “smart”? Is the new
fishing law “smart”? How “smart” is a smart phone?
The debate didn’t end as soon as we left our offices. The thinking process
continued in our heads. When we went to restaurants and studied the menus,
enjoying food with only simple and pure ingredients, when we wandered
around in libraries or bookstores and curiously browsed through the titles of
books, looking for smart concepts throughout history, when we visited muse-
ums and photographic exhibitions and were struck by how artists can express
complex messages in simple works of art, ….
We gradually discovered the patterns. What we considered as “smart” is ev-
erything that has been carefully thought through, leaving nothing but the es-
sentials and stripped of any frills. Products that are manufactured with care,
respect and a sense of quality, services offered with the right intention, works
of art reduced to the quintessential. Or rules that are well thought-out, paying
respect to the people that have to live with them.
When we looked from a distance at all the words and drawings on the white-
board we noticed that all these examples have one thing in common: they
15. were not made on a massive scale, mechanically or without care. They were
made on a “human scale”.
We used a red marker to write the theme down on the board : “human rules –
humans rule”. Regulations on a human scale and humans, people who make
Then we went looking for some striking examples in various areas. If you
know what you are looking for, it suddenly becomes easy to find these kinds
of things: in the financial sector (micro credits, mutual insurance), in the food
industry (biodynamic products), in farming (community supported agricul-
ture), in communication (storytelling), in health care (ayurveda), in education
(mobile school), …
Making things on a human scale or making things simple is a way of thinking,
but more than that, it is a way of behaving and being. It is not about doing many
things at top speed, but doing the right things with attention, awareness and
We believe this is also true in the world of regulations. Making “smart” rules
requires us to think beyond the many, the fast, the complicated. Regulation
on a “human scale” requires attention, needs effort, but most of all needs a
change in the way people think, in the way people behave, in the way people
are, in “human be-ing”
17. I am a dancer
When I dance, I move with the flow. The movements are endless. The flow
As a choreographer I work with young people who have problems at school,
at home. I see that their flow is blocked. Somewhere in their bodies, the en-
ergy got stuck. They feel frustrated, sometimes even aggressive because they
have forgotten how to communicate.
Dancing, or even just gently moving with them reactivates the flow. They find
other ways to express themselves. I show them how they can be creative in
their dancing. I teach them how they can exploit their creative ideas. Just by
I think everybody should move to be creative.
This exercise takes about 10 minutes. You can do it almost anywhere:
in your office, in the bus, in the plane, in your bath or at home, in-
doors or in the garden. Memorizing the exercise makes it easier.
1 Sit down. Take a deep breath. Breathe out slowly. And again.
Take a look around. What do you see? What colors do you see? Is there
a lot of light or is it dark? Can you see far or is your sight blocked?
Don’t think, just look.
Now close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you. What do you
3 hear? Do you hear the birds singing? Or do you hear the air-condition-
ing humming? The cars or the trains outside? The laughter of chil-
dren? Which sound do you hear clearly and closeby? Which one do you
hear softly? Is it a sharp sound? Don’t think, just listen.
4 Now smell your environment. Is it a nice smell? How does it make you
feel? How do your clothes smell? Can you smell the washing powder?
The perfume you are wearing? The flowers in the room or outside?
5 Focus on the surface you are sitting on. Can you feel it? Is it hard or
soft? Is it warm or cold? Does it make you feel comfortable?
6 Taste. Do you taste sweet or sour? Salty or sharp? Astringent or
pungent? What do you taste first? Which taste comes next?
Now take a deep breath and breathe out slowly. And again. Open
We often don’t realize just how limited our perception of reality really is. If
we want to make better rules, we will have to work on improving our obser-
vation of the world around us. By working with something as fundamental
as our senses. Try this exercise and feel how it sharpens your focus and
20. If you look at this lemniscate or if you follow
the lines with your finger you activate the
bridge between the left and the right side of
your brain. Give it a try: can you figure out why
we put this lemniscate in this manifest?
22. Listening to
the people of Ghent
Tall man with green shirt:
“It isn’t always clear to the officials which document
is required for the situation I’m describing. To be hon-
est, it should not be my responsibility to choose be-
tween options “A” or “B”.”
Young woman, pregnant:
“I was told what I had to do to request
a moderate-rent flat for me, my boy-
friend and my little girl, and I believe I
filled in all the necessary documents,
but I’m not sure about all the pro-
cedures that have to be completed,
as I have already been waiting for six
months and I don’t know why it is tak-
ing so long. I just want a flat as soon
23. Assertive man, with his wife:
“I live in France. I was visiting Ghent and I wanted to park
my car in the city centre. I was looking for a traffic sign with
the letter P on it, as this is the universal sign for indicating
a parking zone. When I found a parking space, I parked my
car not noticing that the sign also said the space was only for
residents. So when I got back to my car I was very surprised
that I had been given a fine: I had parked my car in what
I thought was the right zone (according to the parking sign)
because there was no translation of the Dutch saying it was
earmarked for residents. “
Older woman, apron:
“It might be more useful if they were to send an of-
ficial to explain the regulations to the shop owners
instead of sending a letter to everyone”.
Young man, leather jacket:
In order to open a book store I had
to prove that I met all the conditions
required to run a shop. As I am Brit-
ish, this proof had to be provided by
a British government agency. It took
months to obtain the required docu-
ment as it didn’t seem to exist in
the United Kingdom.
25. I am a social scientist. I want
to find out why people do what
I am a sociologist. I want to find out why people do what they do.
When I was a student, I spent months in a cellar at the Sarphatistraat in Am-
sterdam. The street housed the office of “The Ancient Order of Foresters” and
the cellar housed their archives. I spent weeks digging around in the card-
board boxes looking for information about “Friendly societies” (Mutual Shar-
ing Funds), local and small-scale funds in which people, connected through
their profession, deposited money to cover future risks. During this research
project, I discovered that similar initiatives existed amongst other associa-
tions. These small initiatives went from strength to strength to become mod-
ern, anonymous and lucrative insurance companies.
To my surprise I now find that those kind of small-scale “collectivities”
that practically disappeared during the previous century are being recre-
ated. People’s loss of confidence in large banks and insurance companies
is no doubt driving them towards these kinds of initiatives. Micro credits
(e.g. SHARE, Community-Based Small Business Loan Collateralization
Program, …), rotating credit associations, local exchange trading (LETs)
or groups with local money (e.g. berkshares.org) are good examples.
I don’t know whether these small-scale initiatives will ever become larger
or more important than the existing financial institutions. But I do think that
those examples are a perfect illustration of how small-scale initiatives can
moderate the disadvantages and risks of a globalizing economy. And that is
an endless source of fascination for me.
26. 10 ideas
1- Go and talk to the people for
whom you write the rules
2- Take a 30 min walk every day. The best
ideas do not come to you when you are
sitting behind a computer screen.
3- Talk to the creative people in your organization
about what you are doing
4- Go to a dance performance, a concert,
an exhibition at least once a month
5- Make writing in clear
language your personal mission
6- Create the rules with the end user in mind. Think
about what kind of person he or she is.
7- Eat only healthy food
8- Write the rules with care, attention and focus
9- Turn off your computer. Write
rules with pen on paper.
10- Ask yourself: “what are the essentials?”
Leave out all the rest.
29. I am a storyteller
When I was a kid I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. Of course my parents didn’t
want me to lead an artistic life. I first had to have a real qualification. But I
never lost my enthusiasm for films and the theatre.
I then came into contact with the world of opera. Opera for me was a way
of telling beautiful stories about people’s lives but in an incomprehensible
way and only for the higher echelons of society. So I made it my personal
mission to make opera accessible to the general public. I got opera singers
to perform in football stadiums, in basketball gyms, etc. all over the world.
I wanted everybody to learn about the magical stories that are told in these
When I became pregnant and travelling with the opera company became too
difficult, nature forced me to find new ways of continuing with my passion for
storytelling. By then the internet had arrived, giving people the opportunity to
be better informed about lots of things. However, the internet started suffer-
ing from an information overload, which also made it much harder for people
to find exactly the right piece of information. So I turned back to the ancient
art of storytelling. How people used to transfer knowledge to other people
by means of stories. And I developed a high-tech platform to transport the
art of storytelling into our modern world. People can now download stories
about the cities of culture in Belgium or they can use their iPods or smart
phones to find out how to cook a healthy meal. They obtain information and
real stories about raising children and how to deal with diseases like cancer,
etc. They obtain information on a human scale.
30. This manifest
is about people
People like you and us. People who have a
family, who go to work, who go to school.
People who run a business.
People who have to abide by the rules.
People who live in a world with complex
economic, financial, agricultural,
educational, information, environmental,
… systems. And who sometimes don’t
31. People like the people of Ghent we talked to and whose
stories are written down in this manifest.
Or people like Tom, Elke, Isabelle and Wim,
who have found simple and small-scale solutions for
these complex systems. Human-size solutions.
People who can inspire other people.
The people who make the rules.
To make them make more human rules.
Rules for the people.
People like you and us.
33. I am an organization activist
I am an organization activist.
I look at people in organizations. And I question what most people take for
I see how people listen in their work: prejudiced, only hearing the things they
expect or want to hear, ignoring everything else. And then I look at horses,
and I see how they listen. They scan their environment with their ears. Horses
turn their ears in all directions, finding out where the sound is coming from.
I think people should try to listen more like horses do, listening to the unex-
pected as well.
I see how rules are used to replace responsibility, “rules are rules”. Take for
example a Dutch experiment which involved removing all the traffic signs on a
roundabout. People first of all feel insecure, but this feeling is soon overcome
by a growing sense of awareness, care and responsibility. We should keep
this in mind when we make rules: when rules are established, awareness and
care seem to disappear.
I see how people can be very creative and pragmatic when creating their own
rules to solve practical issues. For example, if a street runs out of parking spac-
es people park their car behind the other cars. They leave their brakes off so a
driver who has to leave a parking space only has to push the other car out of
the way. Problem solved. It is just a matter of trust and pragmatism.
Organizations change at an amazing rate. Some of them have become what I
call “human intensive farms”: places where targets and procedures rule and
people no longer matter, moving away from traditional values.
In these organizations professionalism, or the art of doing things with care and
attention, is no longer the most important value. It is now about targets set by
the managers. It is no longer about “knowing how to do things” but “having the
power”. In such working places quality doesn’t matter anymore. And inspira-
tion and creativity is replaced by money. Education, healthcare and government
are slowly moving in the same direction.
Fortunately there are alternatives. We can deal with the complexity of the world.
As long as people believe that they can make a difference, it is not too late.
34. existing rules + new regulation – ‘simplification’
costs of government to administer rules + costs of public to comply
irritation and uncertainty
=Total costs of Regulation
Do you agree? Please post
your comments on www.humanrules.be
35. less rules
Sma rt =
Sma rt =
less time and effort
36. less rules
Sma rt =
Sma rt =
less time and effort
37. If we don’t get lost, we’ll never find a new route.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again 37
and expecting a different outcome.
38. Small is beautiful:
a study of economics as if people matter
“While many theoreticians – who may not be too closely in touch with real life – are still engaging
in the idolatry of large size, with practical people in the actual world there is a tremendous long-
ing and striving to profit, if at all possible, from the convenience, humanity, and manageability of
What scale is appropriate? It depends on what we are trying to do. The question of scale is extremely
crucial today, in political, social and economic affairs just as in almost everything else.
Nature always, so to speak, knows when and where to stop. Greater even than the mystery of natu-
ral growth is the mystery of the natural cessation of growth. There is measure in all natural things
– in their size, speed, or violence. As a result, the system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to
be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing “
(Small is beautiful – a study of economics as if people matter, Schumacher, 1973!)
Belgian Administrative Simplification Agency • Wetstraat 16 • 1000 Brussels • www.simplification.be