Learning from co-operation: anti-poverty co-operatives in Holland

Peer’M: Social co-operatives Against Poverty.

On September 29th, the national manifestation ‘Peer’M! Out of poverty, on the road to social security! isorganized by the Platform Social Alliance; the Dutch national network of poverty alleviation. The affiliated social partnerships aim to: rise poverty above the poverty line. September 29th, a four-year review of basic initiatives and steps will be made by and about social co-operatives in the Netherlands. ‘The focus is on the new relationships between citizens and government in public tasks’. Twelve initiatives have already been described in detail on the website Initiatief.nu. These are co-operatives of collaborative peer-to-peer experience experts who, each from their own expertise, try to get out of poverty through often completely new creative initiatives, thus creating life-security for themselves and others.

One of these the Free Exit initiative describes the core of a social co-operation: “We want to involve people in decision-making completely. We decide together about all things that involve a cooperative. We also have equal voting rights; there is no boss. We choose to be a co-operative because we really form it to the feeling of our being and how we-want-it-together. Especially that ‘together’ feeling is very important. ‘ The Durable Soesterkwartier association chooses a similar but other legal form: their second initiative they call ‘The Conscious Broke Residents Foundation’. The idea behind it is that there are no major financial contracts because it only gives a headache and determines the agenda.

Initiatief.nu: cooperative co-operatives

On September 29th the twelve connected organizations of Initiatief.nu evaluate the added value of co-operatives: the sum is more than the sum of the parts. “We inspire and lead through cooperative thinking and make goals achievable that seem to be inaccessible for each individual.” Insights are gained in trough sustained scholarship in the areas of ideal and passion, vision and mission and the need for methodologies and resources, law and rules, cooperation and development. In this blog you will find a preview.

The partners of Initiatief.nu
1. Co-operative The Free Expedition in Breda is a rule-poor space where people their unemployment benefit through part-time entrepreneurship.

2. The Association of Durable Soesterkwartier Amersfoort is a breeding ground for projects that self-evolve and develop as Sun on School and Soesterkwartier Workplace.

3. The Future Of Fame Amersfoort supports young people with homework, offering workplaces, helping them reintegrate, supporting entrepreneurs and offer trainees the space to better their professional knowledge.

4. The Lucas Community Amsterdam is a care community of enterprising residents that make the neighborhood residents more influential in their own living environment and to benefit them and entrepreneurs in their own district.

5. Give-it-away-shop Amersfoort offers everyone the opportunity to get free stuff, as needed, and collects redundant items. They don’t have (paid) staff, just volunteers and trainees.

6. Choose & Co Amersfoort is a national association of and for the guidance of child wards in vulnerable neighborhoods. During classes given at primary schools in the neighborhood children work on their own plans for the district.

7. Amargi The Hague is an association of people who want to free themselves from money worries. Amargi tries to intervene early to prevent further misery.

8. Talent in Action Groningen With their My Toolbox initiative, the foundation ensures that the neighborhood can be a neighborhood where the residents are in contact with each other. They are doing that by something simple: lending tools.

9. Residents Company Heechterp Schieringen (Leeuwarden) is the first residential company in the Netherlands to start. Their goal is to improve the neighborhood residents live in. Reducing poverty is also an important goal. Everybody needs other care: some people need a little extra guidance.

10 EDASU stands for Experiential Expertise in Poverty and Social Exclusion. They educate this generation of poor to make bridges between them and to make them trained experts to help new people in poverty.

11. The Free Exit help people who have been sitting on the couch for years sto come in motion and work as part-time entrepreneurs to earn a part of their own income by deploying their talent and doing what they do best.

12.Neighborhood Mothers Catering has a number of enthusiastic mothers who inspire women to jointly combine their powers and provide catering for both semi- or government agencies as well as individuals.


Requirements and Solutions

The need for volunteers and money
For example in the case of Lucas Care they need money for a volunteer allowance so that they can pay the volunteer costs. Because they also help caretakers to travel to the hospital, they must also be able to pay travel expenses. Within the Edasu project money is required despite the fact that the course costs per participant are paid by the municipality but they have also organizational costs, such as project management and communication costs. They also do everything together with trained experts who also need to be paid. Edasu has a number of trained experts who are already are employed in organizations such as social services and credit banks. In the case of Sustainable Soesterkwartier, there are about sixty volunteers active in working groups who need to be paid. Almost all 12 listed organizations work with volunteers and often grants are given. “But there is a danger, because if the grant falls away suddenly everything falls apart so you should not aim for such dependence” (Neighborhood Mothers Amsterdam).

Knowledge and experience
Some organizations like Sustainable Soesterkwartier have a lot of knowledge themselves and a lot of knowledge within their own network. “How difficult is it to get connected? When you have a good plan, you look around a little. Then you hear from someone that someone else knows about what you want to know and you should approach it that manner. This way, you will also find knowledge in your own district and sometimes outside. Sometimes it can be very difficult. But now it turns out that the city is also finds it important to conduct our experiments to build energy-neutral homes. So know we realize that we are able to do that in our own neighborhood? We managed to get together funds and also customers, building parties, the municipality, installers in this district. ” In the case of Lucas Zorg, more professional knowledge is required because they want to become a recognized home organization. They need knowledge and expertise for HKZ and ISO certification 9001 in Care and Welfare. And an organization like, for example, the Future of Fame, has a very specific knowledge question in the field of multimedia because they get a lot of work on building websites, animations, apps and so on.

Also enough material is often missing. For example, Lucas Zorg needs more and more assistance, such as cycling, a van, and computers. Durable Soesterkwartier takes on the compensation of equipment by asking returns for the services they provide: if they provide electricity by delivering solar panels, they ask their money back – logically because the users are saving by this service.

Strategic partners
The main sponsors of Initiatief.nu are the ministries of Employment and Social Affairs, Cordaid and the Social Alliance. Edasu: “We need a national body; strategic partners that help us to do this well … We find that we have a strong grouchup of people in the Netherlands and especially in East Groningen who are really involved in this project, with an open mind and open doors and form a solid circle around us. We also wish that circle for the countryside: having a strong circle of ambassadors, entrances, partners, who will give the project a national form.”

In addition, the initiatives already have many other strategic partners. Lucas Zorg works with the municipality and Amsterdam’s district New West, which is going well. As part of the household section, they are now included in an experiment by the Amsterdam City Council, the Amsterdam New West District and the educational institutions, including the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the ROC (adult education). Finally, they have a sponsor from the business community: a Moroccan butcher / vegetable man who sponsors the “cook and eat together” activities. The Soesterkwartier Workplace creates employment in the neighborhood, household help and, for example, maintenance of rented housing. “You do not just do that with the people themselves, you really need partnerships. We join the Durable Soesterkwartier neighborhood team involved the housing corporation Portaal ‘. Also within the Edasu project, they work together with different partners: “There you can make different differentiations. The one is really a collaborative partner, such as ROC Noorderpoort. They provide education and we have a lot of collaborative conversations about how to shape this. In addition, the municipality is important and its welfare organizations are important partners for both the job and the training places. ”


Developing Initiative.nu together
The Social co-operatives of Initiatief.nu meet four times a year during a summer fall winter or spring picnic. They organize meetings like SocialLabs: start-up days where anyone interested in Social Co-operatives can take a look.

Social talks
Initiatief.nu uses online Social Talks: an online environment that does allow participants far apart to come together. Speakers or experience experts are invited who are experts in a relevant topic. The next day the broadcast is put online. Some of the themes discussed in 2016 and 2017 are: ‘Incasso free neighborhoods’, ‘Children in poverty’, ‘Solidarity and special status’ and ‘Social retention’.

Furthermore, the website is a source of valuable information on how the different organizations handle their needs (eg location, money and material), knowledge and expertise, passion and motivation.

Share documents
On the Initiative.nu, also important documents are available like: ‘Methodology Admins’, ‘Roadmap for Developing a Special Statute’, ‘How to Start a District Council’ and ‘How to Work as a Social Business while Volunteering’.

The participants hope that the national event on September 29th will lead to many new contacts, support from both small and large levels; from local initiatives to governments. Peer’m (i.e. fast in slang) out of poverty is an expression used for the rate at which we want to leave poverty in the Netherlands behind us.