Bending the rules

Holland is a highly regulated country with a number of strict rules for some situations and no rules at all for others. It’s important to know that all rules have space to read between the lines.

There are many different ways how to stretch the rules. It is not about how the rules are specified but what their interpretation is. It’s about the way you name the particular case.

Bending the rules for internal projects is usually perceived as “all right”; however, the same does not apply to external projects as they are on the spotlight, e.g. kid’s playgrounds. It’s necessary to call activities differently, instead of calling kid’s playground by its obvious name, call it e.g. an “ART”. Location is another aspect to look at differently. What works in one street might not work in another one.

Make exceptions to the rules.

EU law is hard to bend but rules on the local level, which are more specific, are easier to overcome.

Still, we need to face barriers to remove so called “7 bears on the road”:

  1. Continuity – the awareness of long term TU benefits needs to be spread
  2. Support – give people opportunity to participate on the process especially to those who are against it.
  3. Risk and liability – let people carry responsibility for their actions by having proper insurance and contract.
  4. Inequality – people need to understand that it’s not a “coffee-for-all” approach but each TU case is different and different approach has to be applied accordingly.
  5. Unfamiliarity – it’s recommended to establish a committee for unregulated issues so the members can adjust the rules (politicians do not like to be the front runners).
  6. Quality – it’s about discussing the safety and quality of the building, as the very strict safety rules apply.
  7. Money – TUser needs to make a clear decision on where the investment goes. Recovery of an old abandoned building can carry high expenditures.

7zebra’s motto: “Rules are being too specific. Sometimes, we should do things first and then ask for permissions. It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

So, read rules carefully, then try to understand them, and then bend them


The book ‘De regels en de rek‘ written by Boukje Keijzer is intended as a source of inspiration for everyone who comes regularly in contact with rules. It includes tips on how to face the strict rules and support different new initiatives.

This blogpost is a report of the presentation of Boukje Keijzer from 7Zebra’s during the meeting in Amersfoort, written by Katerina Bonito and Martina Pilarova from the City of Ostrava.

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