The Amsterdam meeting took place from the 25th to the 27th of September 2013 and was hosted by Stichting Elos Nederlands.

The story of the meeting

What was your intention while planning to host your meeting?
Mara (Elos, NL)
The intention of the meeting was to work on unity within the group and within the mutual process. We wanted to include the entrepreneurial spirit of citizens and professionals of Amsterdam in the cases we went to visit.

What do you love about working with participation?
Rob van Veelen (Social entepreneur)
My office is my bike. I am a participation broker, its a new kind of function in the local government. I connect the local government and the civil society in this neighbourhood. My function is to collaborate with conflicted loyalties as they are working and living in different worlds.

What would you say are the unique qualities of the city shown thru your visit?
Mónica (basurama)
There is a strong interconnection between the social and the economy.

What did you experience in the dynamic of the partnership?
We’re contributing to the group with our experiences as users and driving forces of a community-based space. We’re not working at a professional level and we would like to stick to this role. We believe that the combination of different actors is a clear enrichment of the project.

Projects we visited

Makassarplein community – Rob van Veelen

In the Indische Buurt, a neighbourhood in gentrification process citizens and government are creating new ways of participation and collaboration in a community group structure called ´community´. This network group in the area of Makassarplein is bringing together people from all kinds of organizations to deal with challenges in this community. Rob van Veelen is part of the municipality and has the role of connector between citizens, institutions and initiatives. His role is translated from Dutch called ´participation broker´.

Meevaart community centre Firous Akaroush

In the same neighbourhood there´s a community centre called Meevaart. In an old school one of the communities decided to create a meetingspace for active citizens in a way that in the longer term they want to become financially self-sustaining. One of the ways to that is that many citizens that are using the space are offering voluntary services in the centre. This voluntary services and giving space to initiatives is sparking an energy of community collaboration and social entrepreneurship. One of the founders Firous showed the group around and the group had lunch, cooked by a local women group.

Lokale Lente – Ramon Schleijpen

Ramon Schleijpen from the Schleijpen and Leatimea agency is a social entrepreneur working in a neighbourhood a bike ride away from the Indische buurt. These advisers and social entrepreneurs thrive on the power of connecting people and initiating dialogue for collaboration.

Seeing many people starting initiatives Ramon decided to start a network trying to connect all the people in east that have energy and initiative for improving their neighbourhood.

Johan Cruyff Court – Dorien Visser

The last visit of this group was to IJburg, a community on the far end of Amsterdam east, build only 10 years ago on a spot where previously was only water. This community of modern houses has a challenging social structure, as it is built on a vision of diversity. This plays out in the way apartment buildings and public space are constructed. In many blocks and streets social housing and sold houses are combined in same streets and buildings, bringing together people from completely different backgrounds. This would be great if it works, but not always does. The Johan Cruyff court is one of the places where tensions played out. This football court situated amongst houses was a popular meeting area for youth, mostly youngsters from lower class families in the social houses. When their presence and loudness at night was getting to wild, the house owners with more political connections played their game of influence to get rid of this court. The square was turned into a different shape in what government wanted to believe to be participatory, yet this square is forever marked by the fight between young and old, classes and cultures.

Placemakers/fashion street – Katusha Sol

In the community of buikslotermeerplein the placemakers group started occupying an old Chinese wok restaurant, continuing their fashion street concept. Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being. Placemaking is both a process and a philosophy.

The fashion street is bringing together artists and residents. Community members with good ideas and cultural traditions can come to this temporary used space to work and create together, sell their stuff and be together. The fashion streets displays an interesting mix between temporary use of empty space, creativity and participation.

Kleine wereld – buurtkamer – Esther Blok

After that we cycled to the community of ´de kleine wereld´. A community where three years ago Elos executed the first Oasis Game in a Dutch community ever. Three years later the community and municipality started up a community space on the bottom floor of an apartment building with the purpose of increasing activities in the community and eventually giving space to initiatives to become social/community enterprises so they depend less on government funds. We had lunch cooked by one of those initiatives that is in the phase of becoming a catering company. We discussed with the municipality representative the need for making projects self-sustaining in a time of budget cuts and the need for communities to come together. Or more information on this community check

Noorderparkkamer – Simon van Dommelen

Additionally we cycled to the noorderparkkamer. This architecturally interesting theatre in the noorderpark is much more than a building. This building represents a group of citizens that is living around this park and that are now connected in a collective. This collective contains people from all levels of society, including the homeless people who used to terrorize the park and now protect it with love. The Noorderparkkamer over time became a meeting place for citizens to meet, create activities together and some of those activities became that successful that they are now either community entreprises or are reaching a level of community ownership that they are taking over public services, such as cleaning, keeping up the green, bike services and other. The park is slowly but surely taken over by the citizens, especially because original building plans were found to be too expensive and difficult in times of crisis. This bottom-up initiative is a country wide example of citizens standing up, uniting themselves and with an increasing professionalism taking ownership over public space. The additional interesting part to the noorderparkkamer is that they are one of the first citizendriven initiatives that are using the example of the British legal structure of Trust


NDSM is the historical remainder of the largest shipyard in Amsterdam, now developing itself into a creative city at the north bank of the IJ river. Where dozens of famous ships and supertankers slid off-ramp in the twentieth century, events such as Over het IJ Festival, Valtifest and NDSM Vrijhaven are hosted today as well as monumental art in public space. In the massive NDSM hangar, artists are working in the Kunststad (Art City), the largest breeding site in the Netherlands. In ancient workshops (IJkantine) and new temporary buildings (Noorderlicht, Pllek) you can eat, drink and party at the river bank, enjoying the best view of Amsterdam. National Historic Landmarks such as the Timmerwerkplaats (Carpentry Workshop) and the Smederij (Blacksmith) and be transformed into the trendy offices by top architects and host MTV, Red Bull and IDTV among others. Where buildings were demolished, new offices (hosting HEMA, VNU Media and Rough Cookie for example), residents, restaurants, retail, a marina, social facilities, etc.

Dreamproject – Liliane Smith

The first stop over was the dreamproject in Kolenkit. A neighbourhood close to the surrounding highway. A personal initiative of one of the people connected to Elos, Liliane, was to set up a wall in a part of the community where she’s connected to, to catch dreams. The dreamwall was just launched and all the collected dreams would be communicated to the municipality and some would be executed in the re-development of the space in the near future.

Noorderhof – Tobias

Quite a bikeride further in the suburbs of west near the sloterplas, a lake in the city, a group of social architect opened a space on an abandoned piece of ground in the city. Noorderhof is a ‘buurtwerkplaats’ or in English a neighborhood Workshop. Its a project and place on wasteland Noorderhof near the Sloterplas in Amsterdam New West and is an initiative of the Foundation for Young Designers / Fest and Treehouses (designers and Tobias Sander Borsje Scratch Mountain). Part of Neighborhood Workshop is a workshop / shed which in different ways serves and wants to make possible initiatives by residents.

They also take their own (social) design projects along to Neighborhood Workshop, give workshops, but people can also come by also just make their own chair. It´s social design and construction in real time. /

Coffeemania – Mike

“Coffee Mania is a coffee bar with a clear coffee experience. Yet at the same time you find a Coffeemania in neighborhoods that can use a helping hand and where municipalities and housingcorporations work on socio-economic growth. Coffeemania contribute in various ways to this development. They deliver employment, training and / or participation places for students, integrating and re-integrated DNA. In Coffeemania they assume because of that development towards the labor market can best take place in a real work environment. We offer professional environment with room to learn and occasionally make mistakes.”

This is what’s on the website. In real life it’s a vibrant place in a suburb, situated in a previously empty building, integrating their ‘re-use of space’ style with a clear social and participatory consciousness to the local surroundings. The group had lunch and had a meeting with the owner Mike:

Lukas Community – Rik Winsemius

In the Osdorp west neighbourhood there´s a community group with the similar structure as the Makassarplein community; the Lucas community. The group has taken over an old school, the Lucas school. In this old school a group of citizens decided to create a meetingspace for active citizens in a way that in the longer term they want to become financially self-sustaining. One of the ways to that is that many citizens that are using the space are offering voluntary services in the centre.

Methods we used

oasis_model.jpgOasis Game is a community building method coming from Brazil. Elos Nederlands is applying this methods in different settings in Europe. It is played by active community members. In Holland 2-3 “gamehosts” also invite professional parties (municipality, social housing) and volunteers to take part in this participatory process. In total a group of 20 to 30 people
are supported, hosted and facilitated by the “gamehosts”. Further information on the partners website: