Life-History Of A Workaholic ~ Autobiography Of Henk A. Becker

beckerWorkaholic as a self-image
This autobiography revolves around the question of how the development as a workaholic has proceeded. It also discusses how this pattern of behaviour has persisted. This autobiography mentions family members only in passing. This should protect their privacy.

My roots (around 1880 – 1932)
The figurehead of my ancestry is Simon de Vries. He was the son of a carpenter from Westzaan. At the VU University he became ‘mr. in de rechten’, Master of Laws. He graduated during a time when the VU could not yet give academic titles. So he continued his studies with the University of Amsterdam, where he became a Doctor of Laws. Dr S. de Vries Czn founded a law firm at Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. From 1916 to 1920 he was the Minister of Finance for the Anti-Revolutionary Party. That was during the second cabinet of Ruys de Beerenbroek.

My grandfather opted for a systematic existence. Parsimony, thrift and ambition were the pillars of his life. His first wife was ‘Dikkie’, an unmistakable Burgundian. Two sons of the couple were also strongly Burgundian. The youngest son resembled his father in that he was a clear conformist. This means that he observed the rules of parsimony, thrift and working hard. The two daughters, including my mother, were only slightly Burgundian.

Shortly after the First World War the De Vries family was hospitable to a number of German pale-faces. Some time later the daughters of De Vries were invited to stay with the parents of these children in Wesel. One day a neighbour stopped by. My mother, Doppie, and the neighbour, Hans, fell in love at first sight. Many years later they were married.

Early youth (1933 – 1945)
I was born in 1933 in Greifswald. My father was a doctor of theoretical physics and at that time he worked with the University of Greifswald. In 1935 my brother Peter was born. Shortly after, my father was offered a position with the Siemens firm in Berlin. The family moved to an apartment in the district of Berlin-Siemensstadt.

Across from our apartment building there was a primary school. When I was six, I started my educational career there. From the first day on my father always warned me: ‘One wrong word and we’ll all end up in a concentration camp’. He called the then-head of state ‘der Wahnsinnskandidat’. My father has never been in the military and he was not a member of the political party that dominated the scene at the time.
During my whole life at school there was an air alarm every night. Every time we had to hide in the underground shelter below the apartment building. When we heard the whistling of falling bombs, we knew they wouldn’t fall on us. If they’d fall on us, we would not hear them coming.
For several months my mother, my brother and I resided in a village in Bavaria. My fellow classmates hated people from the north. They called me ‘du Saubub du dreckiger’.

Some years later we were evacuated to the village of Bernstein, east of the Oder in what is now Poland. Towards the end of the war this area was occupied by Russian forces. The victors behaved in a horrible way, especially by raping. I still think back occasionally to the local apothecary wife. She and her children had committed suicide. After they drugged themselves, the 16-year-old daughter was the only one to wake up. She hid with a group of women and children to which we also belonged. She was disguised as well as possible as a very young girl. A couple of Russian soldiers discovered it. In my mind I still hear the desperate sobbing of the girl as the soldiers dragged her away. We never saw her again.
I also remember the rape of a woman by a Russian officer. Panicked, she tried to jump down from a second floor window, but she was caught up in the bars. Screaming loudly she was pulled back in. The further course of the encounter is not hard to guess.

Finally my mother, my brother and I returned to Berlin. We travelled partly by foot, partly by train. At one point Russian and Polish soldiers were shooting at each other, right through the train. Despite everything, we managed to reach Berlin. In the middle of the night we stood before our apartment building. In our flat at the first floor, a light was burning. When we reached the front door and knocked, strangers answered. We were told that my father wasn’t there anymore.
My father had been at work with Siemens when in the room next to his a colleague was tortured by Russian soldiers. Later that day my father committed suicide in our flat. The colleague was taken away by the Russians shortly after that. No one has ever heard from him again. These events have led me to conclude that my father was wise to commit suicide.

After we returned to Berlin, we returned to our apartment. We lived there for some time. My mother worked as a secretary with the Dutch Military Mission with the ‘Allied Control Council’. Some months later we could go to the Netherlands. My grandfather had been remarried and lived in Wassenaar. ‘Oma Betje’ was not a Burgundian, but a conformist, like my grandfather.

My school years (1946 – 1953)
Just after the war it was wise to hide that you were German. To have my brother and me integrate as quickly and thoroughly as possible, my grandfather came up with a trick. He kept us off the streets in Wassenaar for a few months. During those months we were taught Dutch every day. The texts we read discussed the Dutch language, Dutch history and Dutch topography. Finally we had to copy the corrected texts. This allowed me to learn the Dutch language well enough to pass as a native within a few months. After about half a year my brother and I were sent to the Christian MULO in Wassenaar. I graduated within four years.

One day my grandfather told two of our uncles: ‘My grandchildren are not worth anything’. This made me furious. It was a frustration that had me in its grip for a long time. I see this remark of my grandfather’s as the first seed for me becoming a workaholic. My direct response was that I started looking for a job. First I became the youngest assistent ever in a large law firm in The Hague. Just a month later I worked my way up to solicitor clerk. Many more jobs followed in the administrative industry. In evenings and on weekends I followed a course for the national HBA-A exam. In the classroom I sat all the way at the back. When I was about to fall asleep, my head would knock against the wall. I passed the national exam in 1953. It was a result that hooked me.

Studying years (1954 – 1959)
After that my life changed dramatically. I moved to Leiden to study law. My mother and a cousin of hers provided me with the necessary monetary means. My new life included membership with one of the main students’ association of Leiden, the Leidsch Studentencorps. I started with participating in the so-called green time. Unfortunately the evenings in the Minerva Society displayed quite some similarities to my time under Russian occupation. A relatively high percentage of senior society members divulged in drunkenness and sadism. There was a ‘committee of support’ to represent the greenlings, but it didn’t do much. One specific evening springs to mind. The members of the committee were completely drunk and dancing on a table. One of the members waved about wildly with his walking cane. He hit me with the iron tip of the stick, right above the eye. So I just barely dodged being blinded in one eye. To be able to defend myself after my green time, I took boxing lessons. When I completed the course, I could have defended myself against the sadists. Instead I started to wonder: do I actually like this? My answer to that question was negative. I stopped my membership of the LSC.

One time my brother, Peter, gave me a snippet with an English article on ‘the silent generation’. This article made me curious. I attended lectures by Van Heek, a professor in sociology. In a sociology class I wrote an essay on an aspect of generations. One of the assistants noted: ‘It’s almost as if Henk Becker has been studying sociology for years.’ This experience made me decide to switch from law to sociology. After four years I completed my doctoral exam in sociology with a cum laude assessment. Some years before, I had already accepted a job with the Ministry of Social Work in The Hague. At the Binnenhof I worked with the Research and Policy department.

During my study period I met Johanna Enzlin, a sociology student. In 1959 we married. At Rapenburg we became the managing couple of a house of the Student Housing Association. Every workday I travelled to The Hague by train to fulfil my job as a policy consultant.

The Rotterdam Bank Association had gifted a hundred thousand guilders to the Netherlands School of Economics in Rotterdam to conduct research on the professionalisation of management. The Social Faculty of the School named me the project leader of this study. After four years the project was finished and I was given the opportunity to complete my doctoral degree with the final report. By then I had already been appointed lecturer of policy sociology.

At that time the Utrecht University released an advertisement in which they were looking for a professor of sociology. I gathered the courage to apply for this position. I was incredibly happy to be appointed professor at that university.

Professorship (1968 – 1998)
My title was ‘professor of sociology, especially social research methodology’. So I was given a content-related and a methodological position. I added a third task to this list myself: ‘the state-of-the-art in sociology’. I called this construction a tripod, which had the goal of preventing a one-sided specialisation. I started my professorship during a period that allowed professors quite much space to play around. In a book by Helmut Schelsky this construction was described as ‘Einsamkeit und Freiheit’.

I started my professorship in a turbulent period. The radical left-wing students fought the establishment of professors. Newly appointed, relatively young professors had nothing to do with it and could do little about it. And there were quite many of those. The Netherlands has fought the student revolution of the late sixties of the last century with a relatively costly extinguisher: appointing many relatively young professors.
My first lecture was disrupted by revolting students. In those years I was energetic enough to have strong mental armour. Enthusiastically I helped construct a new course programme for sociology. Many international textbooks were ordered.

My home situation also saw some changes. My wife and I moved to Doorn. We had two daughters. It was easy for me to reach the university area of De Uithof by car. From my office on the thirteenth floor I had a great view of the university buildings and the meadows around them.

When it comes to research, my first major project focused on the careers of academics in university education and research positions. I myself conducted a part of the research with thirty case studies. The second researcher managed a large-scale quantitative research. The sociologist Peter de Rooij was responsible for the third part of the research: a comparative study. He achieved his doctoral degree for his work on this project.
The results of the thirty case studies have been published. But the findings of the large-scale quantitative study have unfortunately remained unused. The researcher responsible faced a writer’s block and refused to publish the data. He didn’t even want to make the data available for processing by third parties. The failure of the second part of the project is the main failure of my empirical activities. Unfortunately I could not prevent this.

At the start of the 1980s I focused on the study of the generational pattern of society. In 1983 my first article was published in an academic journal. In 1992 I published the book ‘Generaties en hun Kansen’ (‘Generations and their Opportunities’). The book was a success. It was the first widely known book on a relatively new topic in our country. The topic of ‘generations’ has occupied a central position during the rest of my professorship in my academic work. I did not just publish on the topic in Dutch, but also in English and in German. In 1997 I was appointed Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion because of my work.

In 1998 my farewell lecture was titled ‘Discontinuous Changes’. The lecture addressed both discipline-focused and policy-focused research. In the academic world it was intended to break the overvalued preference for explanations based on constant variables and variables changing linearly. In the real world it was intended to break the tradition of not responding or responding too late to a turbulent social environment. The new form of research would be able to take these two hurdles best by presenting examples of successful changes. To this, it also applies that nothing breeds success like success.

Emeritus (1998 plus)
When I entered my emeritus period I continued my activities in academics. In 2012 my book, ‘Generations of Lucky Devils and Unlucky Dogs: Strategies for assertive growing up, active ageing and intergenerational solidarity up to 2030’, was published. It has a preface by Paul Schnabel. Available as a paperback and as e-book, in its original Dutch version as well as translated into English.

With its bonus chapters this book has transformed into a ‘living document’. On the publisher’s website there regularly appear complements to the book. The website is easy to find. ( generations)

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De levensloop van een workaholic ~ Biografie Henk A. Becker

H.A.BeckerTen Geleide
Er zijn vele vormen voor het weergeven van een levensloop. Voor deze biografie heb ik als rode draad het verloop van mijn leven vanaf de geboorte en het begin van mijn werkleven tot het laatste stadium van mijn loopbaan gekozen. Het samenstellen van deze biografie heeft plaatsgevonden als een variant op ‘Sternstunden der Menschheit’ van Stephan Zweig. Telkens komt aan de orde welke effecten een ‘major event’ in mijn leven heeft gehad. Verder is ervan uitgegaan dat de privacy van familieleden, vrienden en kennissen gewaarborgd moet worden. In verband hiermee is telkens wel een naam genoemd maar is verdere informatie over de invloeden vermeden.

2.Eerste levensjaren
Geboren ben ik op 30 mei 1933 in Greifswald aan de Oostzee. Mijn vader had de Duitse nationaliteit. Hij was doctor in de theoretische natuurkunde. Aan de Universiteit van Greifswald was hij verbonden als wetenschappelijk medewerker. Mijn moeder had van oorsprong de Nederlandse nationaliteit. Tot aan haar huwelijk had zij als secretaresse voor mijn Hollandse grootvader op zijn advocatenkantoor gewerkt. Een kleine twee jaar na mijn geboorte kwam mijn jongere broer ter wereld.
Toen ik vier jaar oud was verhuisde ons gezin naar Berlijn. Mijn vader ging werken voor Siemens. Wij gingen wonen in een appartement in Berlin-Siemensstad, een buitenwijk van de stad. Tegenover het appartementengebouw stond een lagere school. Nadat ik de leerplichtige leeftijd had bereikt ben ik daar naar school gegaan.

Mijn vader was geen militair. Hij noemde in huiselijke kring Hitler ‘der Wahnsinskanditat’. De leden van ons gezin kregen van mijn vader te horen: ‘één verkeerd woord en wij zitten me z’n allen in een koncentratiekamp’. Deze dreiging heeft vooral mijn verblijf op de lagere school een krampachtig karakter gegeven.
Het was de tijd van de bombardementen op Berlijn. Meerdere keren per week ging ’s nachts de sirene en daalden wij af naar de schuilkelder onder het flatgebouw. Overdag moesten de docenten en leerlingen van de lagere school vaak naar de schuilkelder vertrekken.

3.Evacuaties en migratie
Om de bombardementen op Berlijn te ontvluchten werden groepen bewoners regelmatig geëvacueerd naar andere delen van Duitsland. De eerste evacuatie van mijn moeder, mijzelf en mijn broer bracht ons naar Beieren. In het wijkje Unterau van Schledorf am Kochelsee woonden wij bij een boerengezin. Vriendelijke, gastvrije mensen. In Schledorf zat ik op de lagere school. Mijn Beierse medeleerlingen hadden de pest aan Duitsers uit het noorden van het land. Vaak kreeg ik te horen: ‘Du Saubub du dreckiger’. Als ‘Saupreusz’ was ik een gehaat individu. Gelukkig bleef het bij uitschelden en kwamen er geen vechtpartijen.De tweede evacuatie vond plaats naar Bernstein, een dorp in de Neumark. Het dorp ligt ten Oosten van Berlijn, aan de andere kant van de Oder, in het huidige Polen. In de naburige stad Arnswalde heb ik nog enkele maanden op een gymnasium gezeten. Totdat het Russische leger oprukte. Mijn moeder besloot om niet samen met ons te vluchten omdat een schoonzuster van haar in een ziekenhuis in een naburige plaats lag. Zij mocht niet alleen worden achtergelaten. Mijn moeder nam de zorg voor de dochter van haar schoonzuster op zich. Read more

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Bonus Chapter 2016 – 2 ~ Frequently Asked Questions About Distance Workers


Prof.dr. H.A. Becker

It may seem slightly absurd, but most questions about distance workers have a history already. These questions have come forward with regard to the pattern of generations, in particular its dynamics and its structure. In bonus-chapter 2016-1, already a number of major developments related to distance workers have been discussed, focusing on their past and future. In this bonus-chapter we will deal with four sets of FAQ’s.

First: are distance workers a new phenomenon or have distance workers a long history already?
Second: what is the impact of major events in society on cohorts, in particular cohorts of distance workers?
Third: which strategies have an impact upon distance workers?
Fourth: what is the impact of the analysis of distance workers on the sociology of generations?

The history of distance workers
Which early examples demand our attention? Instructions by letter have been launched frequently in the past.
Which examples in the recent past are at stake? Each time an innovation in systems of communication has occurred this innovation has changed the roles of distance workers. Take the emergence of internet and video conferencing.
Is an example available? Take the course presented by video conference from Utrecht to South-Africa described in the previous bonus-chapter. This video conference took place twenty years ago.
Distance workers can get engaged in more than one occupation. For instance they can act as a financial expert and combine this occupation with teaching or coaching.

The impact of major events on behavior in cohorts
How does a new generation emerge in society? A new generation in society comes into existence as soon as a major event has taken place. Or a set of interrelated events has occured.
As soon as a new generation has emerged, it moves on in time. Compare this with processes in the body of a Python that has swallowed a rabbit. Slowly the rabbit moves on in the body of the snake. The body of the rabbit slinks. After some time another rabbit will be swallowed.
Which major events have occurred recently that have triggered the emergence of a new generation? For an answer to this question we have to look at cohorts whose members have experienced in their formative period the drastic rise of ICT. We are looking at cohorts that have been born approximately after 1985. New innovations in ICT result in changes in the pattern of generations. In the book ‘Generations of Lucky Devils and Unlucky Dogs’ statistics showing the development of intelligence and memory capacity during the formative period have been presented.

The impact of the pattern of generations on behavior in cohorts.
Which impacts on the stream of economic refugees have to be taken into consideration? In the stream of economic refugees young males dominate. If a developed country wants to admit members of this category, it is free to do so. If a developing country wants to avoid the immigration of a member of this category, the country can refuse admittance and advise the economic refugee to return to the developing country and take the role of a distance worker. Availability of this role provides the country refusing admittance moral arguments for the refusal.

Which impacts on the stream of political refugees have to be taken into consideration? International rules oblige a developing country to admit refugees that come from a discriminating country. However, these rules permit the developed country to send a political refugee to another developed country. For example to Turkey, which country has been promised by the European Union 3 milliard Euro for financing this kind of hospitality. Turkey does not permit political refugees to participate in its labor force. It is to be expected that Turkey will organize its hospitality in a restricted sense. As a consequence, these political refugees will try to return to their home country as soon as possible. Also, other countries like Turkey will come forward to offers political refugees a protected area. In politically discriminating countries, protected urban areas will be organized. Also, protected rural areas will be created, although this is less easy. Organizing protected areas is supported by the availability of surveillance cameras, drones etc.

The Impact of the analysis of distance workers on the sociology of generations.
Why is the sociology of generations interested in the analysis of distance work? In 2016 and in the fifteen years to follow relatively large cohorts of citizens aged 65 years and over will expect a pension and a lot of facilities. These pensions and these facilities will have to be financed by members of generations born after about 1985. This potential crash of generations will trigger strategies to avoid or mitigate conflicts. The sociology of generations will be invited to develop the strategies that are required. For example: how could individuals ages 65 and older be stimulated to remain active in the labour force? How will the role of distance worker contribute to this strategy?

This bonus-chapter has been published on January 16, 2016. Bonus-chapters providing FAQs will be supplemented on a regular basis.

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Generations And The Future Of Distance Workers


Henk A. Becker

A distance worker performs his work at the ‘production position’. The results of his work emerge at the ‘outcome position’, at a distance from the production position. An example is a series of guest lectures I presented at the University of Johannesburg. I lectured in Utrecht in a video conference center. The students were located in South Africa. After a few minutes, I forgot that I was speaking to a glass screen. I could see and hear the students’ reactions to my presentation. The male students participated a bit more actively than their female colleagues. To support my lectures, I had distributed a set of handouts in advance.

In this essay, I will first discuss the dynamics of the Pattern of Generations. These dynamics will structure the future of distance workers substantially. I will base this discussion on my research program on generations, active since 1983. Secondly, I will present several examples of distance activities. Thirdly, the future of distance workers will be discussed in detail.

The Pattern of Generations and its Dynamics
The concept of generations has been a part of our cultural heritage for many centuries. We can define a generation as: ‘the clustering of a set of birth cohorts as an effect of one or more major events in society’. [1] The impact of major events is particularly strong during the formative period of the life course. The formative period is from around age twelve to twenty-three. In this period intelligence and memory capacity reach their highest level in the life course. [2]

In 2015, the pattern of generations can be represented by a number of idealizations. [3] The ‘Silent Generation’ is birth cohorts from 1930 to 1945. The ‘Early Babyboom Generation’ is cohorts born from 1945 to 1955. The ‘Late Babyboom Cohorts’ go from 1955 to 1980. The ‘Pragmatic Generation’, also called ‘Generation X, is situated between 1980 and 1990. ‘Generation Y’ goes from 1990 to 2000’, and ‘Generation Z’ starts in 2000.
The dynamics of generations are represented by the changes over time that each generation experiences. Take the ‘Early Babyboom Generation’ for instance. In its formative period it experienced the emergence of ICT. In its formative period, ‘Generation Z’ will experience the impact of substantial improvements in ICT, combined with a substantial increase in command of the English language.
Generations can be discussed with the aid of idealizations. Another type of generation consists of the results of empirical research in sociology and related social sciences. Third, we are confronted with the images of generations in everyday life. [4]. Read more

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Bonushoofdstuk: Generaties en het omgaan met concrete utopieën – Een overzicht

0312BeckerDit Bonushoofdstuk maakt Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels (3e, herziene druk 2014) tot een Living book. Deel I.
Zie: Henk A. Becker – Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels: Strategieën voor assertief opgroeien, actief ouder worden en intergenerationele solidariteit tot 2030  (Met een Woord vooraf van Paul Schnabel). Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers. Ebook en paperback. Ook in het Engels: Generations of Lucky Devils and Unlucky Dogs. Ebook en paperback.

Becker©december 2014

In 1516 verscheen Utopia van Thomas More. Met als ondertitel: ‘Een waarlijk gulden boekske, niet minder heilzaam als geestig over de beste staatsinrichting en het nieuwe eiland Utopia’. Het gedachtegoed van More is nog steeds springlevend. Telkens verschijnen er weer nieuwe utopieën. Hiertoe behoren ook de concrete utopieën, dat wil zeggen boeken en dergelijke over ‘realiseerbare’ toekomstontwerpen.

Dit bonushoofdstuk is geschreven in deze traditie van de ‘concrete utopieën’. Een vroeg voorbeeld van deze traditie vormt Silent Spring van Rachel Carson uit 1962. Eerst lezen wij over de oprukkende bedreigingen van de natuur door spuiten met pesticiden. In het slothoofdstuk The Other Road staat een stevig onderbouwd pleidooi voor natuurvriendelijke bestrijding van onkruid en ongedierte.
Wie een concrete utopie leest moet rekening houden met het patroon van generaties waarin de betrokken realiseerbare toekomstontwerpen spelen. Denk aan het referendum over de periode van tien jaar volgend op 2014. Dit referendum is in 2014 gehouden in het kader van de campagne Namens Nederland. Een recent boek over het patroon in de Verenigde Staten vormt: The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy’, in 2012 gepubliceerd door Laurence J. Kotlikoff en Scott Burns.

In dit bonushoofdstuk staan drie vragen centraal. In de eerste plaats: welk instrumentarium is vereist om in Nederland voor de komende tien jaar de wensen van de bevolking te verzamelen en deze inventarisatie tot basis te nemen voor een concrete utopie? In de tweede plaats: welke doelgroepen hebben behoefte aan dit instrumentarium? Ten derde: hoe kan het patroon van generaties als achtergrond dienen voor het referendum en de erop volgende concrete utopie? Dit bonushoofdstuk is een onderdeel van het boek Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels.

1. Het instrumentarium
Wie de in het verleden verschenen concrete utopieën bestudeert, treft veelvuldig inhoudelijke en methodische aanbevelingen aan. Ter ondersteuning van het omgaan met concrete utopieën is een MINIGIDS opgesteld.
Het aangeboden instrumentarium bevat verder een SELECTIE uit recent verschenen ‘concrete utopieën’. Welke voorbeelden kunnen wij in ons land raadplegen? Wat kunnen wij van hen leren? (Webpamflet 1).
Ook het PATROON VAN GENERATIES vormt een instrument. In de komende tien jaar zullen heel wat generatieproblemen optreden. Dit vereist onder meer het inzetten van ‘generational accountancy’. Voorbeelden komen wij vooral tegen in rapporten van het Centraal Planbureau. Ook Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels presenteert instrumenten (Webpamflet 2). Aanvullend is de generatiedriehoek vermeld (Webpamflet 5).
Wie met de beschikbare empirische gegevens en de realiseerbare toekomstontwerpen gaat werken zal SPELMODELLEN moeten inzetten. Hierbij kan het ‘Gouden Eeuw Spel’ goede diensten bewijzen (Webpamflet 3). Een selectie uit beschikbare spelmodellen bouwt voort op dit voorbeeld (Webpamflet 4).
De campagne van Namens Nederland zal talloze toekomstontwerpen naar voren brengen. Een keuze uit dit aanbod zal nadere uitwerking uitlokken. Dit maakt toepassing van EVALUATIES VOORAF wenselijk. Voor dit instrument staat de literatuur over ‘social impact assessment’ ter beschikking (Webpamflet 6). Zie met name Henk A. Becker & Frank Vanclay (eds). The International Handbook of Social Impact Assessment: Conceptual and Methodological Advances). In september 2014 verschenen als e-book bij Edward Elgar.  Read more

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Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels als Living document – Inhoudsopgave

0312BeckerGeneraties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels als Living document

Minigids voor het omgaan met generaties bij de viering van twee eeuwen koninkrijk en de decennia daarna

Webpamflet 1 – De recente geschiedenis der concrete utopieën

Webpamflet 2 – Werken met het patroon van generaties

Webpamflet 3 – Op weg naar concrete utopieën: het Gouden Eeuw Spel

Webpamflet 4 – Spelregels rond het Generatiemodel

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