Platform for City Culture and Public Debate


The Big Con

w/ Rosie Collington

Get your tickets

Date: Tuesday 3 October 2023
Time: 20:00 – 22:00
Location: Erasmus Paviljoen, Burgemeester Oudlaan 350, Rotterdam
Admission: 10,- (regular), €6,- (reduced)
Language: English

ATTENTION: If you want to visit this event, as well as The Rent Emergency w/ Vicky Spratt (01.11.23) and The Ministry for the Future w/ Kim Stanley Robinson (09.11.23), select the 3-for-2 fall discount ticket in the ticket shop and get 3 events for the price of 2!

There is an entrenched relationship between the consulting industry and the way business and government are managed today which must change. In their latest book The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens our Businesses, Infantilizes our Governments and Warps our Economies, Rosie Collington and Mariana Mazzucato show that our economies’ reliance on companies such as McKinsey, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY stunts innovation, obfuscates corporate and political accountability and impedes our collective mission of halting climate breakdown.

The ‘Big Con’ describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by both the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis. It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks – as advisors, legitimators and outsourcers – and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity. To make matters worse, our best and brightest graduates are often redirected away from public service into consulting.

In all these ways, the Big Con weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments and warps our economies. Mazzucato and Collington debunk the myth that consultancies always add value to the economy. With a wealth of original research, they argue for investment and collective intelligence within all organizations and communities, and for a new system in which public and private sectors work innovatively for the common good. A system in which we recalibrate the role of consultants and rebuild economies and governments that are fit for purpose.

This programme was conceived in cooperation with Studium Generale Erasmus.


Rosie Collington

Rosie Collington is a PhD candiate at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, where she researches the political economy of outsourcing. She has written on consulting, public sector reform, outsourcing, climate governance, the political economy of the state and other subjects for publications including the Guardian, OpenDemocracy and the Independent.

Martijn van der Steen

Martijn van der Steen is professor of public administration at Erasmus University and associate-dean at the Netherlands School of Public Administration (NSOB). He is a leading expert on the institutional logic of change and innovation within the public domain. He has published extensively on the rejuvenation of public governance and the influence of media and public perception on cases such as the childcare benefits scandal.

Geert Maarse

Geert Maarse is a journalist and programme-maker. Having worked for Erasmus University for over five years, he is specialized in connecting scientific research to public debate. He has a background in Business Administration and Cultural Studies. He is the founder and regular host of Studio Erasmus, a monthly science magazine broadcasted by OPEN Rotterdam. He worked on a documentary and published in a number of online and offline media (de Volkskrant, Vers Beton, Erasmus Magazine).

Get your tickets