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BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS

CREATING IMPACT RESEARCH SPECIAL

LIFELONG LEARNING

BETTER PREPARED FOR THE JOB MARKET WITH HOUSE OF SKILLS

GHOST TOWN OR AMUSEMENT PARK? THE HIGH STREET IN 2040 ACCORDING TO JESSE WELTEVREDEN

RESEARCH IN THE CITY

WIBAUTSTRAAT AS THE BEATING HEART OF PRACTICAL RESEARCH


contents

For the city

10

E

conomics is commonly referred to as the motor of the community and the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is firmly rooted in our community. This is, first and foremost, the community that you know and where you probably regularly spend time. Our buildings on Wibautstraat and Fraijlemaborg are part of a metropolitan area where thousands of students, lecturers, and researchers meet each other every day to tackle the city’s challenges. It is not a coincidence that the A in AUAS stands for Amsterdam. Our educational programmes and research are anchored in this city. Now more than ever, we translate Amsterdam problems into research questions, which we then research and, ultimately, we return the yields to the city. Of course there is another community beyond the boundaries of the capital where our students and researchers spread their wings to get to work and carry out research in cities like Berlin and Barcelona. In this special, you can read all about their research and results, including topics such as fair jeans (page 10), the high street in 2040 (page 24), and successful and sustainable businesses that began in the lecture halls of AUAS (page 30). The FBE is a dynamic faculty and I hope for more exchange and collaboration with the rest of the university and with the city of Amsterdam in the coming years, fostering ideas that lead to knowledge and to topical and modern education, which is what we need as a community. It is something we are proud of at the AUAS.

Geleyn Meijer Rector of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

2 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

26

Features 10 Working together for sustainable denim Professor Lori DiVito helps businesses collaborate in the denim capital of Europe: Amsterdam 20 Lifelong learning House of Skills tackles mismatches on the job market 24 Ghost town or amusement park? The future of the high street according to Professor Jesse Weltevreden

6

Interviews 06 Amsterdam – where everything comes together Dean Willem Baumfalk on studying and research at the AUAS 12 Clever collaboration in major cities Urban economist and Professor Willem van Winden on the dynamics of major cities 16 Sustainable banking Luuk Prein, founder of Omnifin 22 House of Skills Professors Alex Straathof and Martha Meerman on skills and the job market


COLOPHON Coordinators Emmeke Bos and Jim Jansen Contributors to this issue Jaap Augustinus (photo editor), Bram Belloni, Peter de Brock, Bob Bronshoff, Cees Heuvel, Marleen Hoebe, Peter de Jaeger, Peter de Jong, Monique Kitzen, Didi de Vries, Sebastiaan van de Water, Joost Zonneveld Translation Cait Kennedy Design Miranda de Groot (Twin Media bv) and Pascal Tieman Printing Habo DaCosta bv COPYRIGHT This publication was created by New Scientist and was commissioned by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS).

BUSINESS EN ECONOMIE

CREATING IMPACT

EEN LEVEN LANG LEREN

BETER VOORBEREID OP DE ARBEIDSMARKT MET HOUSE OF SKILLS

22

SPOOKSTAD OF PRETPARK?

DE WINKELSTRAAT VAN 2040 VOLGENS JESSE WELTEVREDEN

ONDERZOEK IN DE STAD

WIBAUTSTRAAT ALS KLOPPEND HART VAN PRAKTIJKONDERZOEK

COVER PHOTO: FLYING FOCUS AND LAVA DESIGN

More... 26 This is how you get your PhD Luca Lopes de Leao Laguna combines teaching and research

04 In control Professor Frank Jan de Graaf links research to professional practice 09 Each audience deserves its own martketing approach

30 Starting out as student-entrepreneurs The 10K programme prepares AUAS students for entrepreneurship

15 Digital shopping screens 18 Insight: Street-smart 29 Nightlife in Zuidoost

34 Studying successfully Professor Daniël van Middelkoop on the stories behind the marks

32 Six books on AUAS research

24 AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 3


FOCUS

As professor of Corporate Governance & Leadership (in finance and accounting), Frank Jan de Graaf researches the structure of businesses in the financial sector and the role that the human factor plays in this. ‘Who foots the bill, who is in charge, and who gets paid’, says De Graaf. ‘These are interesting questions when you consider and research leadership and how decisions are made.’ Together with Gert de Jong, René Tordoir, and third-years Business Economics students and their work placement companies, De Graaf is rolling out an exceptional project. ‘The soft-control scan is very up and coming. There are countless SME scans to measure things like leadership and culture, and because of this vast quantity they are unable to see the forest for the trees. The soft-control scan measures everything at once: ethics, leadership, motivation, and culture. That makes it easier for businesses. After that, our students come into the picture. They do an internship at businesses four days a week and we ask them to take a close look at the organisational behaviour. What social processes can they identify, how does the manager interact with them, and what are the unwritten company rules that they are supposed to adhere to? We then share the students’ findings with the work placement advisers at the +FinanceLab (amsterdamuas.com/financelab) and so we come full circle. ‘Professional practice comes to the AUAS and the university immerses itself in the field of practice.’

TEXT: JIM JANSEN IMAGE: MAAIKE PUTMAN

In control


Interview

‘They should leave with nostalgia and pride’ ‘This is where it happens. Amsterdam is like a magnet. For students, researchers, and businesses. And at AUAS, everything comes together. Zeeland is beautiful, but Amsterdam is much more exciting’, says ­Willem Baumfalk, dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics. By Jim Jansen Image: Bob Bronshoff

S

uddenly, Willem Baumfalk goes silent. It is the last Monday of September and, in the past hour, the dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the Amsterdam University of Applied Science (AUAS) has been speaking enthusiastically about his economics faculty, its students, the growth of practice-oriented research, and ties to the city of Amsterdam. We are at the third floor of the AUAS building on Fraijlemaborg and, every now and again, he gets up and watches countless students walking to and from the faculty. Despite the fact that he is not an economist by training – Baumfalk studied psychology and was previously dean of the faculty of Social Sciences and Law – he effortlessly dishes out figures and often illustrates economic theories with personal anecdotes. But in answer to the question of how he wants students to leave the university, he has to take a moment to 6 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

‘At one time, our motto was that we should be the best business school in the Netherlands. That’s naïve in such a metropolitan setting and with such a diverse student population as ours. As far as I’m concerned, and this is what I always say, the motto is: ‘Simply good education!’ A second motto that ties into this is: ‘Be good and say so’. If you really are good, you can let the outside world know it.’

place. You could call that modest. ‘Our ambition definitely exceeds what I just mentioned. The basics have to be in order, always. Our diplomas have to be valuable, always. We are continuing to develop and have made great progress with research at the faculty, with more and more lecturers incorporating new insights from the professional field into their lectures. Our research derives its added value from its practice-oriented character. It is based on current issues in society, making it topical and an asset to education. This connection between research and education – always in relation to the professional field – is of vital importance to the knowledge institute that the AUAS aspires to be.’

‘Simply good education’ sounds modest, almost un-Amsterdam like.

It is not a coincidence that the A in AUAS stands for Amsterdam, is it?

‘We don’t want to punch above our weight. We want to provide good education and we want students to feel at home here and feel like they are in the right

As he gets up gesturing to the outside world, he says in semi-amazement: ‘This is where it happens. Amsterdam is like a magnet. For students, researchers, the

think. ‘They should leave with nostalgia and pride,’ he says. Only to add immediately: ‘And, of course, they have to be ready for their new professional field with the right skill set.’ How does this faculty distinguish itself from other economics programmes?


financial sector, small and medium-sized enterprises, and (international) companies. At AUAS, everything comes together. Zeeland is beautiful, but Amsterdam is much more exciting. And very beautiful. Our research and our educational programmes are coloured by Amsterdam. Literally and figuratively, by the metropolitan, urban setting.’ On the one hand, the city is important for the faculty and, on the other hand, I also detect many international characteristics here.

‘That’s right. We have many foreign students and a very international business school, AMSIB, the Amsterdam School of International Business. But our Dutch degree programmes, such as Business Economics, also have a strong international focus. This includes many international collaborations and exchanges, both within Europe and beyond. ‘For example, today a collaboration with the University of Northumbria, in Newcastle, was launched. Starting this week, our students can choose from two international Master’s degree programmes at our Fraijlemaborg location. And the lecturers and researchers at the Faculty of Business and Economics were involved in this collaboration, which is wonderful.’ Researchers are playing an increasingly important role at the University.

‘The AUAS has been transformed from an educational institution to a knowledge institution. We are in search of the connection between education and research in relation to the professional field. Our students are less book-focussed; they go out into the city to see what is happening there. ‘Lecturers are more and more becoming researchers and, with their investigative approach, they encourage students to be curious. By offering research work placements and assignments, they ensure that the connection with the professional field is AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 7


interview

strengthened. Ultimately, the aim is to improve this professional field, but students also learn a great deal from it.’ How is that?

‘Their knowledge is updated and is better geared toward what is important within society at the moment. Take, for example, the theme of ethics in relation to finance. There is not a lot about that in textbooks, but our students find examples and casuistry in professional practice. They learn about professional competence from finance professionals, with new material provided by the financial crisis.’ Since the appointment of the first professor at the AUAS in 2003, practice-oriented research has increased enormously.

‘That’s right. This was made possible, in part, because the national government made funds available. In addition, collaboration with the professional field has been realised. In plain language, this means that they contribute not only financially, but also through ideas and active participation. The relationship is now reciprocal and much closer. More and more, we have come to see each other as partners, which has created synergy. More than a quarter of our research collaborations are financed by knowledge partners, which works out nicely.’ Why is research so important?

‘Because research-rich education is much more aligned with the market that you focus on. For example, students who are now doing finance internships distribute questionnaires at their internship companies to take a closer look at the soft controls within these companies. They include questions on themes such as leadership and ethics. They bring their results back to the AUAS and Gert de Jong (see page 4), who researches soft controls, analyses the outcomes and publishes on the subject. These publications provide learning material for the students, bringing us full circle. The dynamics are interactive.’ 8 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

A year ago, your colleague Jean Tillie said in newspaper Het Parool that he thought practical research was more complicated than fundamental research.

You said at the beginning of the interview that students should leave with nostalgia and pride. What should they have learned in those four years?

‘I can identify with that. The dynamics of practical research are more complex. For us, research has to benefit education and professional practice. Things being researched today will be assessed for usability tomorrow. For us, the pace is higher and the impact more obvious. One type of research is not better than another. If you are familiar with one type of research, you will better understand the added value of the other type of research.’

‘Nostalgia represents the feeling of leaving something behind that was valuable, that was meaningful, and that you wanted to be a part of. I also hope they are proud. They should also be able to think and reflect. They should dare to ask questions and be reflective. They will have become adults in those four years.’

The sector that you focus on and work for is often in the news for all the wrong reasons, including top executives with outrageously high salaries.

‘We don’t shy away from that. On the contrary, students should know what is going on. Fortunately, in our degree programmes and our research, practice and current affairs are never far away. When the news opens with the salary of an ING top executive, it is possible that this will be discussed in class shortly thereafter. And yes, ethical behaviour in the finance sector is part of the curriculum.’

What is the most important characteristic of being an adult?

‘For me, the term adult means the beginning of wisdom. When students arrive here, they are blank slates. They have a limited idea of what the programme has in store for them. They might have vague dreams of a lease car, a suit, owning a business or holding a position as a consultant. Besides acquiring a great deal of knowledge in those four years, they have to find out what it important to them and discover their identity. If, after four years, students know what is right for them and how they want to proceed, then I am a happy man.’


research By Emmeke Bos

Each audience earns its own marketing approach They are students, or were students, at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). What research are they doing or have they done? And above all: what have they achieved?

‘I

moved to the Nether­ lands when I was nine­ teen. I come from Italy, which is also nice and a bit warmer, but I wanted to see more of the world. If I had gone to university in Italy, I only would have met other Italians. But I wanted to dis­ cover other cultures; I was curious about other people. ‘The AUAS is great. I have met so many people and the lecturers all speak English. I also really like the Dutch. And I love Amsterdam – so much is possible here. Even though I graduated at the beginning of 2017, I won’t be leaving any time soon. ‘Marketing is one of my passions. My first lecturer at AUAS, Simeona Petkova, was so enthusiastic that it was almost impossible not to love it. She was also my thesis supervisor, and she really pushed me to get the most out of it. ‘For my thesis, I re­ searched marketing strate­ gies of companies on Insta­ gram. The kinds of ads they ran and the effect they had. For example, some com­ panies used Kim Kardashian. This generates responses

from a very different audi­ ence than when Nike creates a campaign that aims toin­ spire. I found the difference in audience very interesting. As marketers, we tend to forget that, in the end, it’s about people. This psychological side fascinates me. ‘I collected so much data that I was able to create a model to indicate the type of marketing required to reach a specific audience. Unfor­ tunately, this model has not become as well-known as I had hoped, but I still use it. I now work in marketing, but I mainly create ads for YouTube. My model works there as well. So, really, I helped myself.’

BRAM BELLONI

Daniele Manzione (26), International Business

‘I wanted to discover other ­cultures; I was curious’

MARTIN OUDSHOORN

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 9


Working together for sustainable denim Are companies that compete with each other within the same industry prepared to work together when it comes to social objectives, such as ­sustainability? American researcher Lori DiVito not only studied this, she also initiated a collaboration between ­companies in the European capital of the denim ­industry: Amsterdam.

By Joost Zonneveld

‘T

here are companies that are very much focussed on sustainability and there are companies that have yet to grow in that direction,’ says Lori DiVito, professor of Collaborative Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Amsterdam School of International Business of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). Although some companies can be accused of ‘greenwashing’ (making misleading claims about sustainability, eds.) or half-hearted attempts at becoming more sustainable, sustainability is currently an issue for every company, according to DiVito. ‘All companies must face it. And it won’t take care of itself. There is the pressure to increase sales in the short term, pressure from shareholders, and modification of business processes, and it’s difficult to predict what it will yield. These are barriers that affect the speed at which the sustainability of production is increased’, says DiVito. And let’s not forget: what is the competition doing? ‘That is why it is interesting to examine what is needed for companies through10 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

out an entire industry to work together on themes such as sustainability,’ says DiVito.

Mad about denim It seems contradictory, competitors working together. And yet there are several international examples when it comes to sustainability, says DiVito. She herself has taken the initiative in Amsterdam and has started the Alliance for Responsible Den- BRAM BELLONI im (ARD). With main offices and design departments of various leading jeans brands located in the city, Amsterdam has a reputation to uphold within the industry. ‘Amsterdam is not only one of the world’s leading denim cities because a number of main offices are located here. Consumers are also denim-minded. In the past ten years, considerable efforts have been made to

present the city as such.’ That could be something to be proud of, but the denim industry is not exactly known for its sustainability. The production of one pair of jeans requires eight to eleven thousand litres of water. And then there are the many chemicals used in the production process to achieve the quality demanded by consumers. ‘There is every reason to increase sustainability in the industry,’ says DiVito. Fortunately, she is now seeing this happen. The Amsterdam alliance is playing a role in this process. ‘The incentive to increase sustainability can also come from the industry itself, but it helps if an independent third party brings all the companies in the industry together.’

Something of a puzzle What has this collaboration produced so far? To begin with: these days, new jeans consist of 40 per cent recycled denim. In addition, some more sustainable organic cotton is used, experiments are being done with alternatives to harmful chemicals, and business processes are being optimised. Although the alliance is an important factor in the process of increasing the sustainability of denim, it is not the only tool. DiVito: ‘Companies themselves also come up with innovations. Like cradle-to-cradle jeans. They are designed in such a way that


the material can be reused in its entirety.’ Although the companies are working together now, it was something of a puzzle in the beginning, says DiVito. ‘But gradually the representatives of the companies began sharing their knowledge. At the AUAS, we then created a number of tools and templates that helped to increase the sustainability of the production processes, after which the companies started in-house experimentation. This created an atmosphere in which various parties felt that they were facing the same challenges, and wanted to share with each other the strides they had made.’ As it turned out, DiVito is able to state that the competition aspect carried less weight than she thought it would. ‘Of course, company-sensitive information cannot be shared, but what quickly became clear was that every brand has its own target group. Companies mainly exist alongside each other, serving a wider audience.’ However, competition proved to be fierce among the suppliers, elsewhere in chain of production. ‘The economic competition between the parties that supply the raw materials and carry out the practical work is much greater than between the denim companies themselves. This was an important insight for the brands, the companies that market the finished products. Increasing the sustainability of the industry has to be brought about throughout the chain as a whole.’

Give it a try DiVito believes that the process to cleaner production in the denim industry seems irreversible. ‘In a short period of time, the mindset has gone from “it’s impossible” to “let’s give it a try”. A much more positive picture has been created of the possibilities, the costs, and the revenue of more sustainable jeans production.’ DiVito finds it difficult to say what exactly tipped the balance, but collaboration between companies has played a role. ‘External pressure from society is a factor, but also the existence of an independent third party that brings companies together. It is essential to have the right people of the various companies at the table who are

Lori DiVito, initiator of the Alliance for Responsible Denim BRAM BELLONI

Denim Democracy exhibition on tour The mission of the Alliance for Responsible Denim project is to create a cleaner and smarter industry by involving everyone in the process, from denim brands to factories to consumers. The touring exhibition Denim Democracy allows visitors to discover how old jeans are reused and how companies can produce in a more sus-

tainable way using new technology. On the basis of Lori DiVito’s research, the exhibition demonstrates the importance of collaboration between competitors and how this can be used effectively. In addition to lectures, various workshops are offered to jeans-lovers. Denim Democracy was launched at Circl in Amsterdam at the end of

able to commit to a specific outcome.’ Although the importance of sustainability is now on the agenda of every company, DiVito believes this theme is still ‘an addition’ for many companies. ‘It is not seen as a core responsibility. It

October and will be at Lil’ Amsterdam at Amsterdam Central Station in November. After this, the exhibition will tour throughout the Netherlands.

cannot cost companies too much, or the results have to be very clear. These results may be financial, but not necessarily. Knowledge or a better image is also an important result for many companies.’ AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 11


Festival in Varadzin- akovec in Croatia WIKIMEDIA.COM

The shopping district of Vilnius in Lithuania GETTY IMAGES

Urban ­research Amsterdam has no lack of collaborative, creative start-ups, employers’ associations, and residents’ initiatives. How does the municipal government deal with them? Over the next four years, the ­Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) will be heading a major European research project to study how local governments can best support these types of initiatives. A conversation with ­urban economist Willem van Winden. By Peter de Brock

12 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

A

t the Wibaut Building, Willem van Winden offers his apologies when the reserved space turns out to be occupied by hard-working students. It is rush hour at the AUAS building – there is no free space available anywhere for a conversation about the ­ABCitiEs project, a four-year European ­research project into the ways in which city governments deal with collaborative initiatives of residents, employers, social organisations, and knowledge institutes. There is, however, space available outside, on a bench behind the faculty building, sheltered from busy arterial roads like Wibautstraat and Mauritskade. The bicycle caretakers of the AUAS keep the small square free from scooters and bicycles, to the enjoyment of users and hospitality establishments alike. It is a fine example of a neighbourhood initiative from the bottom up, in which the ­munici­pality plays no part. ‘This is a good example of new parties within the city seeking out collaborations that allow them to take the lead,’ Van ­Winden points out. ‘The classic example of this type of collaboration is the shopkeepers’ association in a shopping street, where all the shopkeepers contribute to the annual Christmas decorations, because everyone benefits when more customers are attracted to the street.’ But today, there are more parties in the city seeking out collaboration. And they aren’t just bakers, butchers, and greengrocers. There are also new players,


Eating out in Athens

The Amstel Campus on Wibautstraat

SHUTTERSTOCK

BERT WIS

like residents’ initiatives, start-ups, and knowledge institutes like the AUAS. The involvement of residents and users in the city should be encouraged. In particular, when collaboration between various parties leads to a pleasant living and working environment, like in the square where our ­conversation is taking place. Van Winden: ‘We are seeing more and more parties connecting with one another to make the city more attractive, often at district, neighbourhood or street level. But how does the municipal government deal with this? Should they let it take its course or encourage the ­collaboration?’ The AUAS and the city of Amsterdam believe it is time for an international study into how policy can best be organised to optimally support collaborative businesses and residents’ collectives in urban areas. For the four-year research project, the University will receive a 1.5-million-Euro subsidy from Interreg Europe, an organisation financed by the European Regional Development Fund that supports interregional collaboration. Five cities and urban conurbations will be participating in the ABCitiEs project: Amsterdam, Athens, Manchester, Vilnius, and Varadzin- akovec. It is the first time that the AUAS will be ­research leader of a research project financed by Interreg Europe. A conversation with project leader Van Winden, who, as ­professor of Urban Economic Innovation, has been conducting research into urban ­economics and urban management for many years.

In 2008, you were appointed Professor of Amsterdam Knowledge Economy at the AUAS. Now you are Professor of Urban Economic Innovation. Why did the ­professorship need a new name?

‘We have started to look far beyond the borders of our city, even beyond the borders of our country. At the time, the idea was that the professorship would focus mainly on research in the Amsterdam region. Ten years on, the name change shows that we are not just focused on Amsterdam. But to be honest, my research was internationally comparative before that. I believe it is a p ­ roductive way of looking at cities.’ What is the collaboration like on ­Amsterdam’s Knowledge Mile, the ­section of Wibautstraat where we ­are ­currently ­sitting?

‘The Knowledge Mile shows how the AUAS and the city can work together. The AUAS has taken the initiative to connect our Amstel Campus with Wibautstraat and Weesperstraat. We are working closely with many different businesses, knowledge institutes, and other organisations to create a better and more beautiful environment and to come up with new concepts. ‘The Knowledge Mile has proved to be a city laboratory where students can carry out all manner of innovative assignments. As a case study, the Knowledge Mile fits nicely into our project and is also wholly in line with previous research in my professorship into the role of campuses, science parks, and co-working spaces in an urban

knowledge economy.’ Why is research into urban hotspots so important?

‘We live in an urban world, in which capital cities like London, Berlin or Amsterdam have become magnets for international talent and investments. Major cities offer businesses and residents more opportunities, higher productivity, and higher wages. They have a wide range of cultural offerings and options for recreation and consumption, making them more appealing to talent. In short, following the recession at the end of the previous century, major cities seem to be the clear winners in a globalised world. ‘The Amstel Brewery once stood not far from where we are sitting now, but after it was demolished the neighbourhood became run-down. And look at it now! There are a myriad of economic opportunities here. But to answer the question: how do you keep the city socially appealing, sustainable, and open for everyone? How do you ensure that residents and businesses can shape the city together? That quest ­demands international comparative­ ­research.’ And now you will be leading an international research project into five European cities from here in Amsterdam.

‘The AUAS is both initiator and research leader of the ABCitiEs project. The goal is to share knowledge concerning the most effective ways to encourage collaboration. I am leading the project, together with Stan ­ AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 13


‘Following the recession at the end of the previous century, major cities are the clear winners in a ­globalised world’ Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester GETTY IMAGES

Majoor, professor of Coordination of Urban Issues, and Jesse Weltevreden, professor of Digital Commerce, and we have a strong research team. From the beginning, we involved the city of Amsterdam in the project, because Amsterdam has also noticed that there is a growing number of the collectives within the city that want to help shape the city. And here in Amsterdam, they are also struggling with the question as to whether such initiatives should be regulated, encouraged, and maybe even subsidised. The other cities participating in this research project have the same questions.’ How were the participating cities ­selected?

‘First, we approached the selection process from the point of view of Amsterdam: which cities would be interesting to include in this project and what partners have we worked with before? We quickly arrived at Berlin, a city that is developing rapidly. And also, a city with which we have good experiences and relationships. ‘But, unfortunately, the research project didn’t fit in with Berlin’s planning. The theme of the research project has to be on the political agenda of the participating cities. Participation is not without obligation; ­ it requires significant effort, both financial and otherwise. In the end, four other urban partners were involved in addition to Amsterdam: the cities of Athens, Manchester, and Vilnius, and the Croatian conurbation of Varadzin- akovec.’ Does the participation of Vilnius and the 14 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

Croatian region of Varadzin- akovec make this research project special?

‘Certainly. For years, people behind the former Iron Curtain were forced to work together by the communist leaders, for example in farming collectives or neighbourhood committees. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, communism and collectivism were traded in for capitalism and individualism. For example, in almost all cities in the former Eastern Bloc, gigantic shopping centres were built far outside of the city centre, following the American model. Now, residents are discovering the adverse impact that this has had on the liveability of the city. And also, that developing successful cities requires good collaborative arrangements. They are rediscovering this, which is an exciting development.’ And is a former industrial city like Manchester very different?

‘Yes. In England, the situation is different because the central government exercises a more traditional influence over the development of urban areas. Local governments have less influence in certain policy areas and the budgets are smaller. This leads municipalities to encourage any initiatives that come from the bottom up. ‘An additional phenomenon is that the Conservatives are currently in power and Labour are traditionally in charge in the major cities. There is enormous tension between the government and the cities. And it is completely different from our situation, where cities have had a large degree of autonomy since the Middle Ages.’

Athens was hit hard by the economic crisis. Does that make the Greeks the most interesting participants?

‘In any case, it is the city I am least familiar with. But it’s true that incredible collaboration and solidarity was brought about in Athens out of sheer necessity. It’s a very interesting case in terms of circular economics. For example, businesses and residents began setting up solar panels on a large scale.’ The ABCitiEs project has been allocated 1.5 million Euros in subsidies. Is that enough for four years of research?

‘The subsidy from Interreg Europe is meant mainly for the first two years, in which we will be conducting the actual research. In the last two years, the cities will implement the research results and, if possible, adapt their policies. As research leader, we will be playing a smaller role during the final two years of the project.’ What will the students at AUAS notice of this research project?

‘Of course, the knowledge we acquire will be passed on to our students, for example in the Urban Management Master’s degree programme. But the new forms of collaboration in cities are also interesting for other management programmes. We will also be publishing academic papers on this research project. More and more companies are taking their social responsibilities in the city seriously. They no longer see the city, neighbourhood or street as a place to make money, but also as a living room.’


research By Emmeke Bos

Digital shopping screens They are students, or were students at the Amsterdam University ­ of Applied Sciences (AUAS). What research are they doing or have they done? And above all: what have they achieved?

‘I

learned more from my thesis than from the 3.5 years of education that preceded it. I did my research internship at the Centre for Market ­Insights (www.cmihva.nl), studying digital shopping screens. It was much more in-depth than I was used to. I had con­ ducted surveys before, but now I had to build an entire model and draw up ­a hypo­ thesis for each variable. In the beginning, I thought I would never be able to do it. ‘Fortunately, I had an ­extremely helpful adviser, ­Tilbert Verhagen. We met every week, and step by step he showed me how to ap­ proach my research. When I was working on it, I would sometimes think ‘if only I had chosen something easy’, but now I’m happy I did this. I learned so much. And if I want to get a Master’s degree after this, I know that I can do it. ‘Other people in my pro­ gramme did internships at companies where they did simple research. And they would have to work two days on top of that. In practice, it was o ­ ften three or four. I didn’t have that problem; I could devote all my time to my research. I did have a set­

back. Just when I wanted to begin the surveys, the ­digital screen in the shop broke. Bad luck, because I had to wait to start my r­ esearch. And I didn’t want to rush it through, so now I won’t be graduating until October. Luckily, it’s not a problem, because I don’t want to continue studying. ­I want to go to America for a few years first, to work as a nanny. After that, we’ll see.’

BRAM BELLONI

Renée Joon (22), Business Economics

‘Step by step he showed me how to approach my research’

MARTIN OUDSHOORN

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 15


The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is helping to provide ideas about a new way of banking. Financial services provider Omnifin brings together savers and small SMEs. A gap in the market, says coinitiator Luuk Prein. By Peter de Jaeger

Why a new approach?

‘In the Netherlands, it is difficult for small SMEs to get loans of up to 250,000 Euros. We believe we can bridge that gap by connecting private savers and SMEs that want to borrow money. The savers and borrowers will receive a better rate than they would elsewhere in the market. ‘We focus exclusively on corporate social responsibility and only loan money to initiatives with a sustainable goal, such as organic market gardens or restaurants that use regional products. We offer savers the opportunity to exert influence over what happens to their money.’

Time for a new bank

A cooperative bank?

‘No, not yet. Customers can influence the new bank’s policy. At a later stage, we would like to create a form of shared ownership. But to do that, we have to clear some legal hurdles. If we are successful in that, customers will have a voice in the company.’ At what stage are you in the realisation of the new bank?

‘We are still in the research stage and are currently completing the business plan. We will then be talking to partners and likely to potential investors in the first quarter of BRAM BELLONI


interview

2019. If these steps are successful, we will meet with regulators. You need them in this country. We don’t necessarily want to become a bank, but we will need a banking license to attract savers and to issue loans.’

‘Omnifin is just a working title. All options were open in terms of specifics. That is why we chose a general name for this research stage. It will never become the actual name of the bank.’

How will you be able to offer savers a higher interest rate?

How is the AUAS connected to Omnifin?

‘We won’t be incurring unnecessary costs. For example, in our business model, we won’t be dealing with outdated computer and information systems and the working methods, processes, and expensive employees that go along with them. We will be using the newest of the new in terms of IT. This will allow us to operate extremely efficiently and save a great deal of money. In addition, we will be able to carry out a number of steps in the process with other parties, which will reduce costs, allowing us to offer

‘At the AUAS, a number of researchers lent us a ready ear, including Professor Frank Jan de Graaf and researcher Kirsten Rauwerda. This included having a student do her thesis project for us.’ What did this student research?

‘She examined the ideal lending process. Existing research and her research among SMEs revealed a number of obstacles. And we tried to iron them out. For example, it takes an average of seven weeks from the first gathering of information for a loan to

‘We focus on the share of the SME market in search of financing up to 250,000 Euros’ both the savers and the borrowers a better rate. We want to screen business plans that result in a recommendation for the SME.’ What businesses are the target group of this new financial service provider?

‘We are focussing on the share of the SME market in search of financing up to 250,000 Euros. Some of the SMEs in this country have difficulty getting loans. These are mostly microenterprises and small businesses. Microenterprises have two to nine employees, and small businesses employ a maximum of 49 people. In short, the target group is businesses with a sustainable goal and up to fifty employees.’ Isn’t your name, Omnifin, a bit misleading? ‘Omni’ means everything, and you only finance a limited target group.

the moment the money is deposited in the account. This is too long for businesses; they want clarity sooner. We want to reduce these seven weeks to an absolute minimum. ‘In addition to this shorter period, we want to increase communication with the borrowers, so that they know exactly at what stage their application is within the process. When loans are denied, businesses are particularly bothered by the lack of communication. We want to improve this in our service by discussing the reasons behind the rejection of loan applications in detail. We want to include all these aspects, and many more, in the development of an ideal lending operation process.’ Is there any more to the collaboration with the AUAS?

‘Certainly. We have been given access to the

+FinanceLab. This is a research lab within the University’s Faculty of Business and Economics. There, we share our experiences with a number of researchers, allowing us to better understand where we stand in our research and in the market. These regular discussions strengthen our initiative.’ You keep talking about ‘we’. Who else is leading the effort?

‘At the moment, there are ten to twelve people involved in the initiative. More than half of them are from the financial sector, including myself. The rest was deliberately recruited from outside of the sector to include different views. For example, taking into account the customers’ point of view and what they consider important.’ Can you give some examples of these parties?

‘We have a team member who used to be responsible for the strategic processes of a trade union and a pension provider. We also have a marketing director who works for a major chemical company. And yet another team member has extensive experience and affinity with sustainability. So, it is a very mixed bunch.’ What is your mission?

‘Our mission is not to be a large universal bank in the Netherlands, but a bank of limited size that is nevertheless able to influence the financial sector. We want to speed up the transition to corporate social responsibility by providing small loans with a positive impact and by giving savers influence.’ Is this approach the wave of the future?

‘I dare not say that. We will see whether there are enough savers who believe it is important to turn their savings into something positive, and whether we can reach enough SME entrepreneurs looking for a loan of up to 250,000 Euros for a project with a positive impact and make them a very competitive offer. All signs point to yes, but you never know. Just as we cannot offer certainty on the lending side of the process. All the evidence is pointing in the right direction, because the market looks excellent. But I can’t guarantee success.’ AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 17


insight

Street-smart How do you lure people to a shopping street? Why is one business successful and not the other? And what do people in Nieuw-West think of their own participation? For ­students and researchers of the ­Faculty of Business and Economics, the streets are paved with research questions, whether it is among the blocks of flats in Zuidoost or the ­office buildings of the Zuidas. The beating heart of this research is the Centre for Applied Research on Business and Economics (CAREM) on Wibautstraat. From there, professors, researchers, and students spread out to all corners of the city, often together with companies, the ­national government, and other ­knowledge institutes. And for those who think Amsterdam is too small, CAREM goes beyond the borders of the city and the country. In that respect, there is no (Magere) bridge too far. All this knowledge reaches the students at AUAS. When they graduate, they are not just smart, they are ­street-smart.


IMAGE: CEES HEUVEL TEXT: EMMEKE BOS


Lifelong learning In the coming decades, the mismatch between people’s capabilities and the demands on the job market will become greater and greater. What can be done about this? House of Skills finds out.

20 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

By Marleen Hoebe

I

magine you have been an employee at a bank for many years, but you are dismissed. The bank no longer has need for you, because your tasks have been automated. You cannot find work at another bank. What to do? Work in another sector? But how? You cannot simply switch to healthcare. Technological developments will make positions within companies redundant. It is estimated that, in the coming twenty years, 500,000 of the 780,000 jobs in the lower and mid-market segments in the Amsterdam metropolitan area will be affected by digitisation. At the same time, new vacancies will be created but not filled, because people do not have the right skills. There is a mismatch between peo-


ple can be linked to a job in a different sector on the basis of their skills. There are different sub-projects linked to these three work packages. Lecturer and researcher Wanter Meulemans and researcher Maarten Hogenstijn of the differentiated Human Resource Management (dHRM) research group are running such a sub-project. Their sub-project, ‘Providing care together in the neighbourhood’, falls within matching. ‘Increas-

‘We start our projects in the neighbourhood, not in the conference room’

PASCAL TIEMAN

ple’s capabilities and the demands of the different sectors. To address this mismatch, the House of Skills project was set up in Amsterdam last year. Various parties are participating, including the Faculty of Business and Economics of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), the municipality of Amsterdam, Randstad, and ROC Nova College.

Three work packages The main goal of House of Skills is to help people get back to work. The bigger picture that accompanies this is ‘lifelong development’. For this, various work packages have been set up, including assessment, training, and matching. The assessment work package examines the skills and ambitions that participants have. If they are missing certain skills or if they need a brush-up, this can be done through training. Matching develops instruments with which peo-

ingly, the government is scaling down its involvement, including in healthcare,’ says Meulemans. ‘We are now living in a participation society. People have to take care of things themselves. And they do, as best they can. They care for their neighbours – in addition to their busy jobs or after they have lost their jobs. ‘This involves performing tasks that they are not trained for. We want to track down these people, in particular in Amsterdam-Zuidoost, Nieuw-West, and Noord, so that we can gain an understanding of what they need. For example, House of Skills can offer them training, which will enable them to become qualified carers. In addition, we can match them with an employer in the care sector. In the care sector, they are still clamouring for qualified carers.’

Exploring neighbourhoods The ultimate goal of ‘Providing care together in the neighbourhood’ is to create a model that can be used for all sorts of neighbourhoods. This experiment will first be set up in Amsterdam Nieuw-West and Zuidoost. ‘For this, we’ve explored the neighbourhoods with students of the Business & Economics and Health faculties,’ says Meulemans. ‘It is important that our

students are involved and that they work on this with another discipline. Our students are economists; they are process-oriented, which is important because healthcare is also about processes and ­figures, but it is mainly about people. ­Because our students will be working with Health students, they will learn the language of care.’

Mostly action Meulemans’ research is practice-oriented. ‘This will also allow us to see if this method really works and what difficulties we will encounter. Within House of Skills, it’s not just about meetings, its mostly about ­action. Together with the collaborating parties, we are trying to change our employer-employee-relationship mindset. Projects are started from the bottom up; the neighbourhood and its potential job market are leading. That is why we start our projects in the neighbourhood, not in the conference room.’ At the moment, the people who provide care in the neighbourhood are not always recognised. ‘They often come from different cultures or have different customs,’ Meulemans explains. ‘They have potential, and that is why we have to give them the opportunity to be trained. We don’t provide this training. At House of Skills, we are always looking for different partners with whom we can collaborate. In the case in question, these partners are Randstad and Nova College. They have training projects that we hope to include in our programme. Because of these collaborations, the project also covers assessment and training.’ This is one of House of Skills important characteristics: partners who do not know each other, get acquainted and start a collaboration. Meulemans: ‘For example, normally, the Nova College only trains young people, so this approach is very exciting for us. Ultimately, these collaborations may lead to other collaborations in future. The parties will be able to find each other more easily.’

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 21


interview

Wanted:

skills

Is it possible to organise the regional job ­market differently? Alex Straathof (AS), professor of Management of Cultural Change, and Martha Meerman (MM), professor of differentiated HRM, believe this is an extraordinarily interesting question, and it forms a bond between them. They spoke about House of Skills, an initiative to base the job market on skills instead of on education.

By Didi de Vries

Does House of Skills represent a solution to a difficult problem?

AS: ‘In part. We know what the problem is, namely a jobs market full of mismatches between supply and demand. But we don’t have an example of how to transform the job market and there are very many parties involved. The job market in the Amsterdam metropolitan area is the foundation for almost one quarter of the Dutch economy. If you make changes there, it will affect other 22 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

areas. The primary target group of House of Skills is the precariat, people who live in insecurity because they are only offered temporary contracts, but change also has a direct impact on the people around them. Homemakers, for example, status holders, and also higher-educated people. It is a complex problem and it is going too far to say: I know how to do this.’ What is your role in House of Skills?

MM: ‘I represent House of Skills’ target group. These are people with a secondary-school education, for whom not only

education is important, but also the work experience that follows it. This target group corresponds with the precariat, as Alex explained. The number of flexible workers has risen from 4 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent now. They hop from job to being unemployed to job, and have no access to a career. Worse still, there is no such thing as getting ahead in a flexible job market. An employer is looking for skills, not for ­someone who is developing further.’ AS: ‘My role is one of public administration. I approach things from the point of view of the common good; I try to convince parties to give up some of their own interests in exchange for improvements to the common good. In this role I agree with Martha that we have to involve the precariat in House of Skills as a group, because otherwise these changes will also be at their expense.’ What will help the precariat?

AS: ‘At the heart of what we want lies an exchange between employee skills and the tasks that employers want to have carried out. This combination of skills and tasks is easier than competences, diplomas, and vacancies with job requirements. And skills are supplemented throughout your life. A parent that raises children gains pedagogical skills. We are searching for a way to validate that, because now parents sitting at home are characterised as ‘untapped labour supply’. That doesn’t do justice to their capabilities.’ MM: ‘It is all very well to say that, but a diploma is not without reason. Professionals are masters of their profession and are broadly trained. Reducing that to skills and a few tasks to be carried out is a violation of professional identity.’


Martha Meerman is one of the speakers at the sixth Science Gala, which will be held on 27 November 2018 in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. In ­addition to Meerman, AUAS Professor Louise Elffers will also take the stage. Other guests include Eveline Crone, ­Robbert Dijkgraaf, and Erik Scherder. ­ See galavandewetenschap.nl

What makes this so complicated?

MATS VAN SOOLINGEN

‘The skills passport is a ­service to compare your skills with what employers are looking for’  What do you think of this professional pride?

AS: ‘It doesn’t help you any further in these changing times. A car mechanic has the knowledge and skills that are required to install and fix heat pumps. But because he doesn’t think in terms of skills, he won’t ­apply for a job with an installation or an energy company. That is a missed opportunity.’ MM: ‘More and more professions are being

lost and the precariat is becoming larger. It is a good idea to recognise skills, but splitting a person up into a number of skills strikes me as taking things too far.’ AS: ‘That’s a technicality, we shouldn’t get caught up in that. Look at it this way: there are things you can do and things you want. The skills passport is a service, a new language to compare your skills with what employers are looking for.’

AS: ‘In the job market, there are many parties that all exclude a piece of common ground from the discussion. They want to work together, but when it comes to ‘their’ bit, you have to do what they say. An example: The Dutch Trade Union Confederation doesn’t want to sign a pension agreement if the pension age is not returned to 66 years. A quick increase of the pension age is not in line with the current development of life ­expectancy; people are not living much longer at all. The Confederation’s point of view makes sense, but it lies at the heart of the pension agreement and they are excluding a ­compromise.’ Martha, are you excluding common ground?

MM: ‘There are boundaries that I cannot cross to reach common ground. Security is very important for people. My research will always centre on that. I am worried about the flexibilisation of the precariat. If you have a job, you will no longer be on benefits and no one will bother about you. If your job ceases to exist, a company has nothing more to do with you. And you will also lose your professional identity. That’s too much. Security can be a permanent job, but we are looking for new ways of security.’ Alex, can you work with that?

AS: ‘We have to broaden our common ground together. We have to engage in dialogue and hedge risks. We should not be focussing on convincing each other, but rather on discovering new possibilities together. Positions have already been taken, so there is no use in convincing each other.’ AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 23


Ghost town or amusement park? The future of shopping centres Can shops of brick and mortar still flourish in an age of Tsar Bol.com and King Coolblue? According to Jesse Weltevreden, professor of Digital Commerce at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), shopkeepers still hold a few trump cards. But they have ­ to play them quickly. ‘It’s adapt or disappear.’

By Sebastiaan van de Water

J

esse Weltevreden’s eyebrows are creeping high up above the frames of his glasses. ‘This is unique,’ says the professor. His eyes are focussed on a stack of washing-up tubs. Beside them, there is a container of plastic knickknacks and a basket of blue socks. ‘Take your pick: ten for four Euros’ a sign says. The professor does not go right for his wallet. ‘It says a lot that a junk shop like this can survive in this street.’ From across the street come the sounds of a shoe repairman, rhythmically hammering a sole. A woman picks up a purple plum and inspects it for mushy spots. From Fred’s Tobacco Shop, grandfatherly aromas waft onto the street. The twentieth century is very much alive in this part of Amsterdam-Oost. ‘This is an atypical shopping street, in an atypical city,’ Weltevreden decides after a walk down ­ever-crowded Javastraat. ‘There are almost no retail chain shops. The whole neighbourhood still does their traditional shopping here, which means the shopkeepers don’t feel e-commerce breathing down their necks.’ The situation in the rest of the country is very different. From Venlo to Vlieland, single proprietorships are making way for 24 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

large retail chain shops, which are, in turn, lucrative for insolvency practitioners and civil-law notaries. A reminder: Free Record Shop, 2013. V&D, 2015. Halfords, 2014. Perry Sport, 2016. Kijkshop, 2018. Schoenenreus, 2015. Men at Work, 2018. Expo, 2012. Polare, 2014. DA, 2015. Scheer & Foppen, 2016. The Dutch shopping centre of the 90s is bankrupt. Knocked out by Bol.com, Coolblue, Zalando, and thousands of smaller online shops.

No more ‘while stocks last’ At the beginning of this century, ­Weltevreden was the first researcher to­ ­analyse the impact of online shopping on our city centres. At the time, his conclusion was: it’s not so bad, for now. That was when two-thirds of all Dutch people had never clicked an order button. Now, in 2018, every granny knows that you have to check online first for the best deals. And similarly, her grandchildren know that, in many cases, visiting a shopping centre is a waste of their pocket money. The result? The number of unoccupied shops in our cities centres is increasing and sales are in decline. Yet the economy has been growing for twelve successive quarters. Shopkeepers are experiencing a ­golden age, in comparison to what is in

BRAM BELLONI

store for them. The next recession will ­usher in many a deathblow. The year is 2040. You are walking through an old shopping street in Hoofddorp. To the left, you see boarded up doors and windows. Rats are trying to gnaw their way in. To the right, you see rusted roller shutters. The wind blows empty graffiti spray cans crashing into each other. Traces of paint on the windows are a reminder of the fact that once ‘While stocks last’ was poetically written here. For a moment, you wonder: did I leave my augmented reality glasses in post-apocalyptic mode? Is this a likely scenario? It depends, ­Weltevreden says. ‘Retail in itself is not a declining business. There are many things that shops and shopping districts can offer of which online shops can only be jealous. On the other hand, there are currently too many shopping centres in the Netherlands.’ In a fast-paced, hypercompetitive landscape, Darwin’s law applies: it’s adapt or die out. But how should shopping ­districts change?

Blokker, Beans & Burgers The first signs of what is awaiting all of the Netherlands can be seen here and there on Javastraat of all places. ‘In addition to traditional aspects, you see a great deal of innovation here. It makes it such an


extra cream on top, photos on websites never taste as good.

Collaborate

i­ nteresting street,’ says Weltevreden. ‘Look at this,’ he says, as he peers through a window. Inside, children are sitting still in chairs while their hair is being cut. In the meantime, their mums are inspecting racks of expensive children’s clothing. ‘Clever idea,’ the professor assesses. The nearby Koffieboetiek is less original, but successful, given the crowd. The book shop at the end of the street has also managed to survive thanks to a stopgap ­measure: coffee. A classic fish shop has transformed itself into a fish-­restaurantand-shop. What is this pointing to? Should the failing Blokker start selling clothing, or reinvent itself as Blokker, Beans & Burgers? Weltevreden laughs off the suggestion. He’s thinking bigger than that, much bigger. ‘The problem is this: it is impossible to beat online shops on the basis of price or product range. You have to get people off of the sofa first. Offer them a rich, continually changing, sensory experience. That is something websites can’t do.’ Even with

In an ideal world, our shopping centres would be like outdoor amusement parks, full of experiments, tasting areas, pop-up art, seating areas, and a wide range of options for food and drink. Once they are in the vicinity, customers might buy those shoes at your shop instead of ordering them for a Euros less from Zalando. It sounds a lot more appealing than the scenario with the rats. But it does require something complicated, Weltevreden reveals. ‘Close collaboration between competitors. Shopkeepers have to run their shopping district as if it were one company, conforming to a common marketing and promotion policy.’ Research by specialist group Future Retail City Center, of which Weltevreden is chair, shows that this is where shopkeepers are in the dark. ‘They are so busy with their own businesses that professional policy is difficult to get off the ground,’ he says. For example, the implementation of modern technology remains below par, as the professor of Digital Commerce concludes in his book, Technology saves the shop!?! Most shopping areas have not gone beyond a slow public WiFi connection. The year is 2040. You are walking down ­Javastraat and step into a popular clothes shop. Instead of articles of clothing, you

only see metal sliding doors. The green light above door #20 shows that it is not yet ­occupied. A 3D scanner starts analysing your body size. Within ten seconds, you see yourself reflected in a virtual mirror. You can now choose articles of clothing to your liking that are projected onto your body in hyper-realistic fashion. After having picked out three new outfits, you say: ‘Have this ­order delivered to my house at 18:30.’ From the warehouse, a driverless electric cart ­begins the drive to your house to deliver your clothes. Whether this will actually happen in 2040 Weltevreden does not dare predict. He is not a man of speculation. ‘I prefer to stick to hard facts that we can measure. Our ­research shows that shopkeepers don’t even have to wait for technological breakthroughs. They can start doing much more now, as long as they use the available knowledge in a clever way. Amsterdam shopkeepers are currently setting up an online shop in which they can sell their products collectively. This sounds like a good plan, but we know that similar initiatives have failed elsewhere. No one is learning from these experiences that we have analysed. Every shopping area is trying to reinvent the wheel with a blindfold on. A lot has to change, but not everything has to change.’ The year is 2040. You are walking down ­Javastraat. Your eye catches a container of curved objects. No two are identical. Of course, the age of uniformity is over. Your fingers glide along the smooth exterior. You could use your smart ring to check whether this would enrich your body. No need. Your rumbling tummy has already answered the question. You pay for it with a swipe, tear the yellow peel from the object, and sink your teeth into the creamy white flesh of the fruit. As you chew, you gaze up at a cloud. ‘Not everything has to change,’ Jesse Weltevreden said back in 2018. AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 25


Lecturer and researcher Luca Lopes de Leao Laguna began working directly after graduating from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). Since 2014, she has also been working on her PhD research on Human Resource Management. To what extent do research, education, and professional practice affect each other? And how does obtaining your PhD fit into that?

This is how you get your PhD 26 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special


By Joost Zonneveld Image: Bram Belloni

How did you find your way to the AUAS?

‘I studied sociology at the University of Amsterdam and Human Resource Management at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. After graduating in 2007 I stuck around, you could say. I was able to work on a research project and teach my first classes because a colleague was ill. And over the years I’ve spent more and more time teaching.’ What were you researching?

‘I was researching a large healthcare institution. During my research, I not only studied what ­employees were doing, I was also able to work directly with them in the workplace. The goal was to make working in healthcare more enjoy­ able and more effective, so not only to analyse daily practice, but also to improve it. Doing this ‘action research’ was important to my teaching at the university, because it requires first-hand knowledge of what happens in the professional practice.’ At a certain point, you decided to get your PhD. Why?

‘After about five years of teaching, I started feeling restless. I wanted to expand my substantive knowledge. The AUAS encourages lecturers to get their PhDs. This has to do with the continuing professionalisation of the university. In 2014, I was granted an NWO scholarship, which ­allowed me to work on my PhD two days per week for four years. The AUAS granted me one day per week of research time for the same period. If necessary, I can get another ­grant from NWO for an additional year.’

in practice. Is there room for research in the professional field of HRM? How is research carried out? What happens to the research results? How could that be improved?’ And? Is there room?

‘I dare say not very much. There is often a conflict between research and practice. In many ­instances, HR departments at companies or ­other organisations hardly have an inquisitive culture, as a result of the time pressure they ­experience. It’s not a priority. But my action ­research shows that HR employees do become enthusiastic when they feel they benefit from it.’ How did you study the role of research in the professional field of HRM?

‘I did a combination of qualitative and quantitative research and action research. For example, in a qualitative study, I asked HR employees how relevant and useful research is to them in their daily work. In practice, research plays a limited role. It is often used to measure employee satisfaction. There is a great deal of interest in HR ­analytics at the moment, and in particular in the promise that all manner of things can be demonstrated using data.’ How did you assess the degree and quality of research in the professional field of HRM?

‘I worked on my research proposal for a year, in addition to my job. That was pretty tough. But I believe this has now been improved and that it is possible to be paid to work on a PhD ­research proposal one day per week. But that didn’t apply to me yet.’

‘I measured this on the basis of what happens in nursing and educational sciences. They have a much longer history of research by practitioners. This culture is often lacking in the world of HRM. The quality is poor and hardly anything is done with the results. If research is done at all, it is usually not done systematically, and it is often unclear what research question is being answered. Many times, if it is carried out correctly, not much is done with the results. ‘In a large organisation, research was done into age-based discrimination, but the results were shelved. Evaluation of one’s own actions, which is important when assessing whether the implemented policy actually works, rarely takes place, if ever. Work is done on the basis of a belief that something works or doesn’t work.’

What is your PhD about?

Do you believe you can change this practice?

‘It’s about the role of research in the practical field of HRM. I find this interesting, because, as part of 21st-century skills, we want to teach ­students to be inquisitive and to adopt a critical attitude, and I wanted to analyse how this works

‘Yes, I hope I can contribute to the professionalisation of Human Resource Management. I hope that organisations will take a more critical look at their own field of practice and their ­implemented HR policy.

How did you prepare for your PhD?


interview

CV Luca Lopes de Leao Laguna

‘In addition, the moral side of HRM is ­often paid too little attention. For example, many organisations include in their mission that the focus is on the individual, but in practice this is not always the case. All ­professionals must ask themselves: what are our actions based on and do they match our day-to-day professional field?’

2003 - 2007 Bachelor’s degree in ­Human Resource Management from the AUAS as of 2007 Human Resource ­Management lecturer at the AUAS 2007 - 2011 Master’s degree in Socio­ logy at the University of Amsterdam as of 2011 Researcher at CAREM as of 2015 PhD candidate in HRM ­Professionalisation

How do you hope to bring about this cultural change?

‘The other part of my PhD ­research focusses on this question. This involves more action research, in which I try to work with HR staff and teach them how to do r­ esearch in their own professional field and what this entails. The trick is to do this in such a way that they see the added value of research and don’t see it as an additional burden in their daily work. Otherwise they will stop doing it. ‘That’s because HR staff work in a political environment. If management doesn’t ­believe research is important, it is difficult to continue. This is particularly difficult for our students working in the professional field or doing internships. A different attitude is required at several levels. That’s why I try to share my findings and recommendations with a broad audience.’ How do you do that?

‘By discussing it with my students, but due to obtaining my PhD my teaching hours are limited. I tell all my colleagues within all HR degree programmes throughout the country about my findings and point out the importance of my research conclusions, so that they will, hopefully, be picked up by a broad audience. And I share my findings with HR staff through publications in professional journals, on social media, and at conferences about the HRM professional field.’ When do you expect your PhD will be complete?

‘If all goes according to plan, I will be ­finished in terms of content by next summer and I hope to obtain my PhD in early 2020. I have currently published one article and I am in the process of writing another. I am now working on the final quantitative study, and after I have submitted two more articles to international scientific journals, 28 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

‘After about five years of teaching, I started feeling restless; I wanted to expand my substantive ­knowledge’   I can conclude the PhD process. ‘It will have taken me a bit longer than the time set for it, but that doesn’t make me an exception. The same applies to almost everyone who obtains their PhD. The combination with teaching is rather difficult, because the dynamics are very different and you can’t delay teaching or marking exams. Research can easily be pushed to the background, especially when your life changes during a five or six-year PhD ­process. I had a baby, which turns your life topsy-turvy.’

Do you have any tips for anyone ­considering a PhD?

‘At all events, just get started and don’t think about whether, for example, you want to postpone having kids until after your PhD. Life can’t be planned for a period of over five years. I do believe it’s important to think about what you can realistically combine with the process of obtaining your PhD. Do you want to teach, or do you want more coordination or development responsibilities? And it is important to keep fit; practice-oriented research often involves a lot of sitting, reading, and writing.’


research By Emmeke Bos

Nightlife in Zuidoost They are students, or were students at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). What research are they doing or have they done? And above all: what have they achieved?

‘M

y specialisation is Amsterdam-­ Zuidoost, where many AUAS students visit and live. It’s funny, because I’m not even from here. I was born in the Ukraine and I didn’t come to the Nether­ lands until 2013, when I was 26. I went to the university, because you can’t do much here without that little piece of paper. ‘I am now studying Inter­ national Business. It was a logical choice for me, ­because I like running businesses and I have an international focus. In the Ukraine, I had a restau­ rant, and now I am working on setting up an international IT company. ‘But my research is very close to home: nightlife in Zuidoost. I wonder if it makes people think of the neigh­ bourhood in a more positive light. I think it does. Imagine going out somewhere and having a fantastic time; wouldn’t you have lots of great memories of that place afterwards? ‘This fascination for ­Zuidoost comes from my other research, which I am doing as a student assistant for researcher Núria ­Arbonés. For many years, she has been doing research in Zuidoost.

One of the things that she has worked out is what the best, nicest, and most fabu­ lous spots are. These spots are not widely known and we want to change that. I am currently working on this by creating a map: first as a scale model and later, hopefully, also as a digital map. I hope this will show the people that live here how great their neighbourhood really is. ‘I am able to use this ­research to exert influence, which I really enjoy. I hope this will lead to people enjoy­ ing Zuidoost more. Thanks to this project, I for one have found many exciting things that I had no idea existed. Take, for example, the Kleiburg brewery or the OSCAM art project. ‘Zuidoost really reminds me a bit of Berlin, a true ­urban city, very different to the city centre. And just as cool. With my map, everyone will be able to see how much fun this neighbourhood is. The people that live here, but also the people that are ignoring Zuidoost for now.’ BRAM BELLONI

Iegor Trieshchov (32), International Business

‘I am able to use this research to exert influence, which I really enjoy’

MARTIN OUDSHOORN

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 29


Interview

Learning to run a business on 10K For the third semester in a row, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is offering the 10K programme, which prepares students with a business idea to turn their idea into a start-up. Bart van Grevenhof, programme manager Entrepreneurship at the AUAS, explains.

Bart van Grevenhof, program manager Entrepreneurship BRAM BELLONI

By Peter de Jong

What does the term 10K stand for?

‘It stands for the 10,000 hours that you have to put into something to master it. We see it as a slightly tongue-in-cheek reference to the first 10,000 hours that students will be putting into running a business. If you do it by yourself, it will take you a long time, but in a team, you can accomplish it within a year. ‘10K is available for all students at the AUAS, not just for Business Administration students, for example, but also for Physiotherapy, Education Studies or Product Design students. We started this programme because we saw that students were coming up with creative solutions, but that there was a gap between the idea and actually putting the idea into practice. 10K helps students to take steps towards running a business.’ Why is it an important task of the Univer­ sity to help students run a business?

‘Throughout the entire AUAS, students are 30 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

developing innovative ideas that can make the world a better place. It doesn’t matter whether these ideas evolved during an Energy Engineering minor or an internship at a hospital or that they were inspired by student life. The AUAS wants to send its students out into the business world as confident professionals, and 10K wants to offer students with a business idea all possible opportunities to succeed as entrepreneurs. We do this, for example, by giving students access to state-of-the-art knowledge, important networks, and lessons from experienced entrepreneurs.’ What does the 10K programme involve?

‘During the intake, we ask the students three questions. What added value will you provide and why is it important? What technology enables you to achieve this? And what is your motivation, why are you doing this? ‘We start out with a very intensive week. During this week, we show them what we expect of them: to work on the business model, the team, and the organisation. And

we work on teambuilding. This is important, ­because they have to be able to trust each other. ‘After that, we see the students once every two weeks for a semester. In twenty weeks, we provide them with knowledge that they can use. Outside experts come to the University to give masterclasses on finance, free publicity, export, and teambuilding, among other things. ‘We conclude the programme with a Dragons’ Den. The students are given the opportunity to present their plans to a jury of five entrepreneurs who have won their spurs. They assess whether the students are ready to start a business. The students are ­questioned about how they will finance their business, who their customers are, and how they want to reach them. ‘After the course, the students can take ­advantage of the Startup and Running digital network. This is a platform in which students can match up with entrepreneurs and ­professionals from whom they can request coaching, for example.’


up a network of partners and ambassadors is much more important. The more financing you have, the more obligations you have. It doesn’t leave you with much say over your product.’ Could you name an example of a ­successful business team?

What does 10K’s student population ­currently look like?

‘They are between 19 and 26 years old and are from diverse degree programmes, such as Fashion, Product Design, Aviation, and Finance. We have eight teams, each with an average of two to four people. But there are also two individual participants. It is an ­extremely passionate group of students.’ How are the previous generations’ ­businesses doing?

‘Six of the first group’s eight businesses are still active. Two of them have landed financing of 25,000 Euros, and one had financing of 250,000 Euros. And there is also a team that has been accepted into the start-up programme of the municipality of Amsterdam.’ Do you give the students subsidies?

‘No, we don’t have any money in the kitty. When they have completed 10K, they will have all the tools with which to successfully pitch to financiers and potential partners, and they will have skills and products,

i­ ncluding a pitch deck. We offer them workspace, coffee, and WiFi. And don’t forget the network. Here at the AUAS, it’s teeming with other students who know a lot about financing, marketing or making products. The students can make use of this knowledge. ‘Incidentally, you don’t have to have as many investors as possible at the beginning of your business. Building your business from the ground up, with as little outside money as possible, is a good thing. Building

‘In twenty weeks, we provide them with knowledge that they can use’

‘Toupr, set up by AUAS students Justin ­Cobelens, Koen Franken, and Otis Hermsen, is a company that offers secondary school students homework assistance by university students: co-studying. For secondary school students, it can mean the difference ­between repeating the year or moving up to the next year. For university students, it is a good form of extra income, and for parents, it is a solution that is a lot more affordable than a regular homework assistance company. The enthusiasm of these three high-tech professionals in training could turn the market for homework assistance upside down.’ Do you have to be this type of hip, ­fast-paced business for 10K?

‘No. You also don’t have to be the smartest in the class, or super charismatic. Introverted people can also be very good entrepreneurs. Another myth is that entrepreneurs like ­taking risks. Rubbish. A good entrepreneur takes calculated risks, and wants to know what the situation is beforehand. ‘So, if you are incredibly passionate about the fashion business and you want to start your own company, don’t be afraid that you will be turned into a flashy salesperson here. There are many things that you can outsource, so that you can work on the things that you are good at. We are looking for students with clever ideas, who want to roll up their sleeves and change the world around them.’ AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 31


books

Six books on AUAS-research

The connected ­shopping area

Taking part in Nieuw-West

Jobs of the Future

Success in higher education

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ebsites that no one reads, Facebook posts that only a few people like, and two unhappy volunteers who have to lead the whole social media effort. Frequently, digital marketing and shopkeepers do not make a successful combination. The manual Het verbonden winkelgebied [The connected shopping area] was written especially for them. The Collectief Online research team put together this collection. Over the course of two years, they analysed customers, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, online shops, and more to discover what works. From free WiFi to a social media plan, the book contains countless recommendations with which to update your digital marketing strategy.

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articipation: a splendid word in government proposals. Everyone can, or must, participate. But real life is unrulier. Take, for example, Amsterdam Nieuw-West. Close to economic hotspots like Schiphol and the Zuidas, and yet unemployment is high and incomes are low. What do the residents themselves think of their participation? And what does one need to participate? Armed with these questions, researchers of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences took to the streets. In Meedoen in Nieuw-West [Taking part in Nieuw-West], the residents have the floor: the working people, the students, the unemployed. Their view of participation is very different from that of policy-makers.

F

rom Japanese robot-receptionists to cuddly mechanical pets for the elderly. More and more work can be done by robots. And the rest of the world is also continually in development: from globalisation to economic crisis. What does this mean for our future? What kind of employees are required in Amsterdam in 2025? Will they be available? And who will fall by the wayside? These are questions that the authors of Jobs of the Future try to answer. They asked employers what knowledge, attitude, and skills their ideal employee has. The researchers hope that this will help Amsterdam to better prepare for the future.

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Authors: Collectief Online Publisher: Collectief Online ISBN: 978463011785 Price: free to download in

Authors: Hafid Ballafkih, Joop Zinsmeister, Martha Meerman, and Najat Bay Publisher: CAREM ISBN: 9789463010337 Price: free to download in Dutch at hva.nl/carem/publicaties

Authors: A. Ballafkih, M.L.

Authors: Folke Glastra and Daniël van Middelkoop (eds.) Publisher: Eburon ISBN: 9789463011105 Price: € 22

Dutch at hva.nl/carem/publicaties

32 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

Portielje, L. Vonk, J.H.G. Zinsmeister, A. Zijlstra, W.R. Meulemans, and M.G.M. Meerman Publisher: CAREM ISBN: 9789463011877 Price: free to download in Dutch at hva.nl/carem/publicaties

hat does educational success really mean? Policy-makers seem to have their own ideas: a short duration of studies, a low dropout rate, and, in particular, high educational returns. The Studiesuccess in het hoger onderwijs [Success in higher education] collection proves that this definition is destructive. In it, fourteen authors, many employed at universities, describe what educational success entails and what it means in practice. From the quality of education and moving on from senior secondary vocational education to studying with a migration background; they tell the stories hidden ­behind the sterile figures of educational success.


The Amsterdam laboratory­: Working, Learning, ­Reflecting

Professional competency and the professional in Finance & Accounting

A

msterdam as a laboratory. Not filled with lab coats and distillation units, but with debts, functional illiteracy, and unemployment. Problems that a student or researcher can easily pick up off the street, and that are often caught in the complicated relationship between government, companies, residents, and other parties involved. In so-called field labs, attempts are being made to tackle these problems by getting everyone around the table and moving in the same direction – with the necessary pushing and shoving. Not always easy, as the ­researchers of priority area Urban Management found out. In Laboratorium Amsterdam [The Amsterdam laboratory], they share their field-lab experience, how field labs work, and the valuable lessons they learned.

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Authors: Stan Majoor, Marie Morel, Alex

Authors: Gert de Jong, Frank Jan de Graaf,

Straathof, Frank Suurenbroek, and Willem van Winden Publisher: Uitgeverij THOTH ISBN: 9789068687361 Price: € 19.95

Publisher: CAREM ISBN: 9789463010566 Price: free to download in Dutch at

lodding through thick books, taking interim exams, and gathering enough course credits. Anyone who studies is in for a lot of theory. But, ultimately, working life is about more than being a bookworm. You have to be able to behave professionally. But what does that mean? How should an AUAS graduate in finance and accounting know what to do? These are the questions that the three authors of this collection tackle. Judith Zielstra wonders what professional competence really is, Gert de Jong points out the benefits of practical wisdom and reflection, and Frank Jan de Graaf demonstrates how to combine scientific theory with practical knowledge.

and Judith Zielstra

hva.nl/­­carem/publicaties

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 33


interview

How can we increase the ­quality of education?

BRAM BELLONI

‘Give lecturers enough time to consider the quality of ­education’ Daniël van Middelkoop is professor of Team Professionalisation at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and teaches research skills as part of the Business Administration programme. This year, he and others published a book on success in higher education. A conversation about the quality of education. By Peter de Jong

When did profit-driven thinking take root in education?

‘This school of thought is ­common to all eras, but it has been increasing strongly since the late 80s, when there was a massive influx of students and, at the same time, an economic crisis. New public management was born, in part, as a response to the crisis. Since that time, educational success has been

translated into ­educational returns, to an ­increasing degree. The focus is on the number of graduated students, progression, and the student dropout rate. I find this focus on dropout rate percentages alarming. Educational returns are important, but ultimately a parameter. The quality of education should be the main consideration.’

34 | AUAS Business and Economics | Research special

What are the causes of the high dropout rate at universities of applied sciences?

‘In part, it’s the massive scale. There are many more students than twenty years ago. About three times as many. Many students with a non-western background come from an environment where studying is unfamiliar. They have a difficult time. The same applies to secondary vocational students. They come from a school system and here they are suddenly expected to be able to study independently. In addition, the financial means allocated to higher education have not kept pace with the growth of students, which limits the opportunities to give students the attention they deserve.’

‘By improving the counselling of students. At the moment, there is often neither time nor money for counselling. Lecturers are often run ragged. It’s a race against time for them to finish their tasks. There is too little time to think about quality, which is a very serious issue. ‘I would suggest giving lecturers enough time and space to think about the quality of education. Who are our students, what exactly do we want from them, and how can we help them achieve this as successfully as possible? Let lecturers and their teams think about their field of study and their method of teaching. And let them have conversations with their students. What do we expect from them? This isn’t done enough at the moment. Do we educate people for their profession, for society, or for the student as a person? That’s what the discussion should be about. And not about whether there should be a pass rate of 56 or 58 per cent among students. ‘But, in terms of the quality issue, lecturers can also embrace this responsibility. There is space for it, or that space can be provided. It is already there within the lecture hall, where lecturers can teach in their own way. But at a slightly higher level – in what direction do we want to take this field of study, this degree programme – it becomes more complicated. As lecturers, we could organise these meetings on quality our-


More research online setting up, managing, and upscaling of smart city projects. More online at amsterdamuas.com/ smartcityacademy

selves; we could be more forward about the subject.’ Are we throwing educational returns figures overboard?

‘I have nothing against educational returns figures, they should be used. But you have to look deeper. What is the story behind them? To me, educational success is not only training people in the best way possible for a profession, but also teaching them to think critically about their role in society. In addition, we have to

be set lower, but if one of my students takes a bit longer to complete their studies, it’s still educational success to me. I’m just as proud of them as of someone who did it in four years.’ Are you positive about the future?

‘Moderately. The occupation of the Maagdenhuis building was a wake-up call. Since then, there has been discussion about the quality of education again, which is good. More at-

‘Lecturers are often run ragged’ get away from an adverse incentive like the National Student Survey, which is given too much attention. If the results are good for your school, your number of students will increase. I think it’s great that students are satisfied, but I am also trying to teach them something. That may clash with students’ short-term satisfaction.’ We are reading more and more about burn-outs among ­students. Are we asking too much of them?

‘When I was at university, it was seen as a good thing if I finished an assignment on time. But if I didn’t, it wasn’t a problem. Now there is the pressure of the binding study recommendation. If at all possible, you have to complete your studies in four years, and student finance has become a loan. The standard shouldn’t

tention is paid to lecturers. But there is still a lot to be gained. Don’t forget, due to automation, people’s work will change radically in the next twenty years. There are reports that indicate that 45 per cent of our jobs will not exist in eight years. This also affects education. ‘We have to produce different professionals. Thanks to automation, routine work is decreasing noticeably. In the past, an accountant had to be able to check the books. Now that’s done automatically. The new accountant has to be able to read in between the numbers and will have a more advisory role. Critical thinking is becoming more and more important. As educators, we have to actively consider how we want to deliver our students to society in future. Right, by carefully considering the quality of education.’

State of cross-border e-commerce Study of over ten thousand online shops in 31 European countries. The study’s progress and results, including an interactive dashboard, can be found at cmihva.link/­ crossborder- ecommerce

Soft controls Students research motivation, culture, change, ethical policies, and other behavioural factors (soft controls) within their internship companies, using, among other things, the soft-control scan developed for SMEs in collaboration with the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. More online at amsterdamuas.com/ softcontrols

Project Fenix Toolkit At Fenix, it’s all about learning from failure and success on the basis of entrepreneurs’ stories. The toolkit is part of Project Fenix’ teaching module, in which students learn research skills and, simultaneously provide data for research into failure and recovery among entrepreneurs. More online at hva.nl/ toolkitfenix

Urban Management

Smart City Academy Smart city solutions contribute to the quality of life in the city. With the support of students, a team of researchers and lecturers undertake practice-­ oriented research into the

At Urban Management, researchers with different theoretical expertise collaborate on projects such as House of Skills for alignment with the job market of the future, or ABCitiEs, the international research project on collaborating entre­ preneurs. More online at amsterdamuas.com/ urban-management

AUAS Business and Economics | Research special | 35


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Amsterdam University of Applied Science Creating Impact - Research Special  
Amsterdam University of Applied Science Creating Impact - Research Special