The Kafkabrigade Network

The Kafkabrigade is a network of independent, not-for-profit action research teams, comprizing researchers from Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Mexico (MX), Nothern Ireland and Wales (UK) and Mexico. Our mission is to tackle the bureaucratic dysfunction and red tape which prevents people from accessing the services they need and that constrain and frustrate public service staff. All organizations exhibiting serious signs of bureaucratic overload an dysfunction can benefit from the Kafkabrigade's expertise.

The Digital Cage in Government Information Quarterly

30 May

First scientific publication based on the book The Digital Cage was published in print today. The paper can be downloaded free of charge via ScienceDirect up to 06/19/2018.

The Digital Cage in Government Information Quarterly

The Digital Cage is a book currently only available in Dutch on maladministration in eGovernment caused by information architecture. This article is an extended version of chapters 6 and 7 of the book on the loss of legal protection and the mechanisms that cause these unintended consequences. A summary of the mechanisms, paragraph 6 of the article, can be found on the website accompanying the book (in Dutch).

Peeters, R., Widlak, A., 2018, The digital cage: Administrative exclusion through information architecture – The case of the Dutch civil registry's master data management system, Government Information Quarterly, 35, (2) (2018), pp 175-183


• Master data management systems can produce unintended consequences for citizens in the form of administrative exclusion.
• Administrative exclusion is often seen as a problem of street-level bureaucracy, but can also stem from system-level information architecture.
• Digitalised civil registries can turn into a ‘digital cage’ if their design does not allow for street-level discretion and correction of errors.


This article analyses the unintended consequences of master data management systems in the administrative state for the access of citizens to public services and benefits. We analyse the case of the Dutch civil registry, in which hundreds of (semi-)public organisations use the information from the civil registry to determine whether people are eligible for their services. We use the framework of administrative burdens and administrative exclusion to show that this system turns the consequences of mutations in registration into a black box, produces legal contamination by forcing its own address definition upon user organisations, reduces the discretionary space of street-level bureaucrats to handle social complexity and unintended consequences of the system, and creates a behavioural incentive in which municipalities are pushed into the role of enforcers rather than registers. The result is a ‘digital cage’: an exclusionary infrastructure that hinges on information architecture instead of Weberian rules and procedures. These findings increase our understanding of master data management systems, emphasise the importance of understanding information architecture as an ethical issue, and help us develop a new vocabulary for understanding and studying administrative burdens as part of a bureaucratic infrastructure.

Digital India

5 Apr

Public Managers from India learn hands-on with Simulation Game on Cooperation with ICT about upsides and downsides of Dutch Generic Digital Infrastructure

Digital IndiaThe Dutch Generic Digital Infrastructure has contributed enormously to the efficiency of Dutch public administration. As a contribution to a training program of PBLQ - one of the founding partners of the Kafkabrigade - around Citizen-centric online services through e-Governance, the Kafkabrigade used a simulation game to allow the participants to actually experience how the benefits cooperation with ICT can be created and how the transformation of government can take place. However cooperation with ICT can also be a lever for the dysfunctional side of bureaucracy, flooding citizens with registration demands or assume wrongly that data has the same meaning in different contexts. With a teaching case the other side of the Dutch Generic Digital Infrastructure is shown as well. The masterclass showing both outcomes of the Dutch system was highly appreciated and will have a follow-up.

Kafkabrigade visits Serbia

5 Apr

Fighting bureaucracy and fostering innovation in the civil service

Kafkabrigade in SerbiaThe The Hague Academy for Local Governance allowed the Kafkabrigade to contribute to the Matra Coprol program “Leadership for security and rule of law” in Belgrade, that supports candidate members for the European Union. Using teaching cases that the Kafkabrigade developed based on research in the last decade, participants discussed how mechanisms in bureaucracy can both protect a system of values as well as become dysfunctional.

Rethinking Regulation for the Sharing Economy

4 Apr

Using the principles of the Kafkabrigade to move beyond opinion to understanding the problem and engage stakeholders

these individuals helped to develop ideas for effective regulation, which can be defined as regulation that creates public value, supports innovation and reduces administrative burdensThe rising popularity of the sharing economy is not only disruptive for existing markets like transportation (Uber) and accomodation (AirBnB). It also forces governements to rethink regulation for these and other markets. There's no lack of opinions and debate about how to regulate the sharing economy. Marsdd is a Canada based innovation hub led by Kafkabrigadeer Joeri van der Steenhoven that uses the principles from the Kafka Method to move beyond opinions to actually understand what the problem really is and to move beyond debate to engaging relevant stakeholders in a constructive conversation. Because the sharing economy is more than Uber and AirBnB. It's a broader phenomenon with both great opportunities and challenges. When it comes to regulating the sharing economy, government should not only look to regulate new entrants, but also to revisit current regulations to reduce the administrative burden for existing operators. For this they interviewed 136 individuals, convened 100 relevant stakeholders and brought together regulators from all three levels of governement - municipal, provincial and federal -, industry representatives and experts. In three different workshops these individuals helped to develop ideas for effective regulation, which can be defined as regulation that creates public value, supports innovation and reduces administrative burdens.

Know more?

Are you the public manager that aims to tackle dysfunctional bureaucracy? Contact us: +31 6 12 45 80 87 or email us.

Current and recent research and innovations

Current and recent research and innovations:

  • Innovations in Health Care
  • Researching network governance for Police and Mental Health Care
  • Identifying the administrative barriers for Green Growth
  • Training IT Support Staff for Public Value