Chapter 5

Not for the citizen, but with the citizen

With Anne Hilderink

The threat of disappearing organisations such as housing cooperations and health care institutions in Kloosterburen, a village in northern Groningen, exerted a big effect on the inhabitants. There was uncertainty about the quality of life on a social, economic and ecological level. This led to the writing of a village vision in 2003 in which residents could express themselves. The conclusion that followed described the unanimity in the village: Kloosterburen is wrongly considered a shrinkage area, whereas unique opportunities are not being taken. Due to this outcome, working groups were formed. However, within a year they had all stopped; 'we can make wonderful plans, but we have no say in them, nothing is our property in the public domain,' says Hilderink.

The impact of citizens' initiative on society

In 2006, Anne Hilderink took this outcome into a study project she set up with the SintJan Foundation (named after the former Monastery) to see if it was possible to set up a living-working environment for mentally handicapped people. This was the beginning of an inspiring civic initiative named “Coöperatie Klooster & Buren”. In 2014, it organised itself in the five villages Kloosterburen, Molenrij, Kleine Huisjes, Kruisweg and Hornhuizen. The cooperation aims to keep Klooster & Buren liveable and its residents vital in a sparsely populated rural area. In addition to researching and studying the possibilities for and with the citizens, the cooperation puts the results into practice. With beautiful transitions as a result.

As a visual artist and resident of the village of Kloosterburen, Hilderink was aware that the opportunities in the village would only be realised when everyone was involved. 'You can only get people on board if they see their personal interest is recognised. Only then people are willing to work for something', says Hilderink. 'Our strength lies in combining and deploying knowledge and talent in the community. This way of working makes people feel responsible for their own area.'

Old Monastery grounds renewed

Kloosterburen is home to the oldest monastery site in the province of Groningen. This religious heritage was a dilapidated place in the village, whereas now it is central to thinking and development. On this site there are three important national monuments, 2 churches and a medieval farm. There is a large green area and there is the nursing home 'Olde Heem' with 61 apartments. All this is now owned by the community. 

In this area, a garden was developed with fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers, and a large playground is combined with a petting zoo on the grounds of the nursing home. The Monastery garden is also a place for exercising, doing yoga or going for a picnic. Furthermore, in 'Olde Heem' people can live protected and independent and, if neccesary, receive 24-hour care. There is room for everyone. 'Even in the corona days, people could go for a walk in the garden. This keeps vitality among the elderly and young,' says Hilderink.

A new care model has also been developed. Basic care is in the hands of the community. 'There is a team consisting of professional care, village residents and family members employed by the cooperation. It's a shared responsibility,' Hilderink explains.

Thresholds on the road

Klooster & Buren regularly runs up against regulations. 'Via our cooperation, we connect elderly care, care for the disabled, child care and refugees. However, care for the elderly has very different rules than childcare, for example. This requires an enormous amount of bureaucracy without providing any real return,' explains Hilderink. Furthermore, Hilderink also notes that top-down thinking is still common, both externally and internally; it is a persistent and familiar pattern in today's society. 'People are so quick to put their individual interest above the common interest. It is important to tackle this in good time, because ultimately you achieve much more together.'

Special moments

The cooperation has experienced many great moments in recent years. One of those was that Klooster & Buren was visited by HRH, the King of the Netherlands in 2018. And that was topped off with the King mentioning Klooster & Buren in his Christmas speech, in the context of 75 years of human rights. 'This was a very special form of recognition', Hilderink states. The cooperation also won the Social Impact Award in 2018. They were named the most promising social enterprise of the Northern Netherlands. 

Citizens' initiatives in the future

In the future, Hilderink hopes that there will be a certain type of policy formed on citizen initiatives. 'What you see is that almost all these citizens' initiatives are approached as individual initiatives. It would be nice if the following was said at a national level: citizens' initiatives are an important movement in society. We are going to look at them as a whole and invest in them,' says Hilderink. Furthermore, Hilderink also hopes that more research will be done into this form of care. 'This way,  it will become clearer what the benefits for the people are.'

GROZ initiative

In 2018, the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (Health~Holland), in collaboration with various partners such as ZonMw and Collaborating Health Foundations, launched the GROZ initiative. Supported by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), this initiative aims to tilt care. Instead of focussing traditionally on disease, GROZ intends to focus on health.

Within GROZ, citizens, government, healthcare institutions, knowledge institutions, healthcare insurers, and entrepreneurs join forces at both the local and national levels. Together, they work on concrete healthcare innovations, with the aim of creating vital citizens in a healthy economy. The needs of citizens (also in their role as patients) are central to this.


GROZzerdammen - indispensable fieldlabs and learning communities

There are currently four 'GROZzerdammen': in Eindhoven, Utrecht, Deventer and the Northern Maasvallei. Within these GROZzerdammen, the crucial actors (citizens, local and regional government, health and welfare institutions, knowledge and educational institutions, health insurers, employers and entrepreneurs) work together to realise the missions within the Social Theme Health & Care. In addition, there are several field labs with whom there is intensive collaboration.

We see a bright future for GROZ. There are currently several field labs in progress that are inspiring for the upcoming collaborations. One of these is 'Lekker in je vel.Amsterdam' (LijvA). With the online platform LijvA, healthcare providers in the neighbourhood offer digital support to help you feel better in your skin. The platform focuses on a citywide approach to health promotion in Amsterdam. But, it is also concerned with developments at the district level in Amsterdam Zuidoost, such as connecting services and strengthening networks and cooperation.

Gezond Dorp Leende

It would be great if more field labs arose in the future and especially more field labs involving other sectors of the living environment. Like two doctors from the village of Leende in Brabant did. They saw an opportunity for change. A large proportion of the inhabitants in this village suffer from obesity. But by taking an approach to healthy nutrition, a new movement emerged that was supported by fellow villagers, the local/regional micro-economy, schools, sports clubs, government bodies and healthcare providers.

A bakery started selling more crackers and bread with fewer carbohydrates. The Plus supermarket is focusing on products from farmers in the region and is now selling much more Greek yogurt. In addition, even the cafeteria is participating. The owner has created a special 'Gezond dorp Leende' menu.


A new first: funding GROZzerdam Brainport

Despite the excellent healthcare in the Netherlands, people do not feel healthier, and health inequalities continue to increase. This makes healthcare increasingly expensive and creates personnel shortages. This calls for a different view on health, healthcare and welfare. Radical and sustainable changes are needed within the healthcare system, society and the financing of healthcare. The Brainport region is taking up this challenge under the name “Vitaal in Brainport”. This GROZzerdam is the first in the Netherlands to receive funding from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).

Health~Holland invited the Brainport region to become GROZzerdam on the basis of a successful neighbourhood experiment in the Eindhoven district of Achtse Barrier. Over the past eight years, citizens, local professionals from the health and welfare sector and a number of regional organisations have worked together in an innovative manner to create a vital district with healthier residents. This was done with initiatives such as a digital community square, a (digital) vitality market, numerous activities for the elderly, vulnerable people and young people and an effect measurement with a social business case.

More and more districts/municipalities are expected to participate in the coming years, and more promising projects will be offered as breakthroughs throughout the region. Let’s continue this success in this GROZzerdam, but also in the other GROZzerdammen!


in Brainport

GROZzerdam Utrecht on its way to realise the missions

Quite recently, GROZUtrecht received a boost from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for improving the health of its residents to help realise the missions.

In the past year, pioneers in the districts of Kanaleneiland, Utrecht Oost and Nieuwegein have worked hard on the GROZUtrecht plan, with the support of many parties in the region. Thanks to this funding, GROZUtrecht can work towards greater health gains and health awareness, specifically in collaboration with the residents.

GROZUtrecht is working on new activities around the themes “Lifestyle in the neighbourhood”, “Care for one another” and “Vitality network in the neighbourhood”. This is supported by digital neighbourhood portals, which provide insight into and access to the digital applications available in the neighbourhood. Because of the strong resident participation in GROZUtrecht, new neighbourhood jobs – paid and unpaid – are also being looked at for more social cohesion and digital support. In Nieuwegein, together with health insurer VGZ, an individual prevention budget is being used. In addition, the five “building blocks” of GROZ are addressed.

Supporting (future) moms and educating future professionals: Mama’s Garden

Mama’s Garden (MG) is a field lab that puts the wishes and needs of citizens first, creating an environment where not the system and the organisations are leading, but the citizens themselves!

The community, consisting of mothers, students and collaborative partners in education, care & welfare, together organise informal meetings for mothers(-to-be) and young children with the aim of increasing the social network and the feeling of capable parenthood. In addition, it is an interactive learning workplace for students of both MBO, HBO and university with room for innovation and experimentation.

Going for walks and speed dates (with mothers, professionals and students) are amongst other activities coordinated to increase social networking and gain self-confidence in the role as a mother. 

This field lab is active in Rotterdam and has a permanent location in Rotterdam Feijenoord where Mama's Garden is embedded as a community. Besides these permanent locations, Mama’s Garden resides at a MBO school where they have a special classes for mothers. They are also active online as well as in other neighbourhoods in the South of Rotterdam.

Students get to know a variety of challenges that mothers are facing and help them in the neighbourhood by supporting them as “buddies”. Furthermore, students also participate in research projects. MG is training a selection of moms to be active as experts and tell their story to others.