For the most part, I rarely give a second thought to the utter convenience of having bike highways, subsidized healthcare, expansive green areas and sparkling clean streets (yes, even after a raucous Koningsnacht). But when a Creativity x Liveability event fluttered across my Facebook newsfeed, I couldn’t pass up the chance to hear from some of the unseen forces that work tirelessly to ensure that us Amsterdammers enjoy such a startlingly high quality of life.
As it turns out, those forces are as diverse as the citizens of the city of Amsterdam. Made by People Lab, a brand new initiative by A City Made By People gathered spokespeople from the municipality, various brands and non-profit organizations for a rousing event on a sunny Wednesday at TSH Collab. First up was an enlightening presentation from Hiske De Ridder (Stad in Balans), who presented an altogether different view of the Gemeentes (municipality) efforts to discourage mass tourism in favor of improving the lives of local residents. Considering that the number of tourists to Amsterdam rose above 42 million in 2017, it’s easy to understand why the government is making such sweeping changes. Beyond tougher laws on Airbnb and a complete ban on new tourist shops opening within the city center, Hiske shared insight on an international campaign to expand the tourist footprint in Amsterdam.
Snapped an obligatory photo in Dam Square? Why not head to the Amsterdam Castle (Muiderslot)! Ogled enough in the Red Light District? Take a trip to the Amsterdam Beach (yes, you guessed it — Zandfoort!).
By simply rebranding several outer city destinations and partnering with tour companies, the Gemeente is attempting to dilute the Nikon-swinging, joint-smoking, wide-eyed masses beyond just a 5 mile radius of Centraal Station and ultimately, ease the daily suffering of thousands of residents.
Next up, Egon Van Wees of Amsterdam Impact spoke a lot more about the city-sponsored initiatives to incentivize businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs to dream up new ways to improve liveability. The Social Challenges Innovation Platform offers funding for anyone with a scalable and replicable solution to Europe’s most pressing concerns, from local environment and aging to mobility and the refugee migration. One such example is Vraagap (Ask App), a mobile application to ensure that people with reduced cognitive ability get help with anything they need, in real-time.
For the final portion of the night, Made by Lab moderated a lively panel discussion, featuring Lisa Hogg (EMEA Marketing Director at TOMS), Leslie McGibbon (Brand Consultant and former Global Head of Communications at AkzoNobel), Tijmen van der Poel (Lead Specialist Local Community Connection at Albert Heijn) and Maurice Seleky (Head of Marketing and Communications at Pakhuis de Zwijger). It was refreshing to hear Leslie strongly emphasize that while ‘brands used to be about what they said, it’s now about what they do”. He shared a story that now serves as barometer for Akzo Nobel, who donated hundreds of cans of paint to a Brazilian favela, held classes to train residents on house painting, and ended up reducing crime in the neighborhood by 65%.
Another crowd favorite was Tijmen of Albert Heijn. As a former cashier who worked his way up in the corporation, Tijmen was able to speak genuinely about Albert Heijn’s role in improving liveability in local communities. He spoke a little about several impactful programs, including how staff undergoing high school exams are given free tuition, and mentioned that cashiers in areas with a higher density of older people are given training to recognize and deal with symptoms of Alzheimer's. To cap off the night, Hearsay hosted their infamous open stage Fishbowl Session, where members of the audience were invited to come up, have their say and interact with the speakers and panelists. All in all, a truly enlightening night that helped uncover just a little bit more about what makes this fair city tick.
Curious about the city you live in? Want to get more involved?
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Thank you Asha for this inspiring recap of our first Made By People Lab - Creativity x Liveability experience! Special thanks to all our partners & collaborators of the evening & TSH Collab for hosting this experiene.
Read more about what we've been up to, city life, culture & more in our print journal. #acitymadebypeople