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Imagine being a public manager in a Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) country. The collective, rapid, and impactful outburst of civil unrest you’ve witnessed in recent years was an unprecedented, highly unexpected VUCA event given the traditional, top-down, and closed, governance culture that characterized your region for centuries. You had no idea what the self-inflammation of Tunisian fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, after a municipal inspector confiscated his wares, would trigger. A year later, four long-time heads of state – with over 120 years of uninterrupted tenure combined – had been removed from power. Simultaneously, popular uprisings and protests had occurred in half a dozen other MENA countries. The initial violent responses of many governments, displayed across the globe within seconds on social media, exacerbated the mass rallies, strikes, demonstrations, and social media campaigns, and the overall feelings of oppression and neglect among the citizenry. The common slogan of the protesters, empowered by the regional resonance of their movement, became Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam (‘the people want to bring down the regime’). Since that December afternoon, new leaders and structures have emerged across the region. However, many of the protesters proved to be highly ambitious in their search for new figures and structures of authority. Some wanted tribal rule or self-rule to fulfil revolutionary governance ambitions, while others just wanted stability, peace, and quiet. Many of the elections following the outburst produced the same ‘alpha-male’ authoritarian leadership that protesters wanted to get rid of in the first place. Still, you feel that new authoritarian leaders will have to continuously gain their legitimacy much more than they used to, not only from citizens but also from you and your colleagues. Now imagine you are a public manager located about 6,000 miles to the east, in Hong Kong, operating in the tense aftermath of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement (OCLP or 和平佔中). Citizens in the long orderly port city seemed increasingly weary with the relationship with China, having been reunited with the mainland as a special administrative region (SAR) in 1997.
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