Regioportret Friesland

Time for the follow-up battle

This article is part of the Regioportret Friesland. With it we visualize how educational institutions, companies and governments in the region of Friesland are working together on 'circular skills': the skills needed in the circular economy of the future. Each article is written from a different transition perspective, all of which are needed for profound change. This article (2/3) offers the meso perspective: accelerating broad prosperity in the region.

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What is happening in Friesland to accelerate the transition to broad-based prosperity? The conversation with Aukje van der Veen, Heleentje Swart, Hendrik Jan Hoekstra, Nick Boersma and Piet Bouma focuses on that question. In this special company of accelerators representing the perspective of young people, MBO, entrepreneurs and the university world respectively, you can taste the love for the region. Clearly, it plays an important role in the work of these accelerators. But not without a critical eye. "We have made it all very complicated when it comes to sustainability and circularity. It needs to be simpler. And the pace needs to pick up," Aukje argues.

They remain big concepts, agrees Nick Boersma, project manager at Vereniging Circulair Friesland and co-founder of network Generation Fryslân 2035. "The concepts become tangible when you look at products. An example is windmills. We have the task of switching to renewable energy. Windmills provide that sustainable energy. You now see windmills being torn down, they have provided renewable energy, but they are made of materials that are not reusable. So that's not a circular solution. Circular you look at an integral solution. We are shaping that in Fryslân."

"In terms of education, sustainability should be in: what do we do in our projects to stimulate that circular economy?" adds Hendrik Jan Hoekstra, senior policy advisor for MBO. "Being in the network of Circular Friesland with the Friesland College gives us the opportunity to work with the latest circular materials. For example, students from the Creative Craftsmen course were given the assignment to make pulpits from biobased fiberboards made from lisodden."

Young people indispensable for accelerating transition
Engaging young people as early as possible despite, or precisely because of, the complexity of the concepts and issues. That's what Aukje van der Veen, chairwoman of the board of directors at Claim your Future, is pushing for. "The earlier you have to deal with these complex issues, the easier it is to arm yourself against everything that awaits us as a society. And the better position you can take when you are the decision maker in the future. From our organization, we try to get young people to claim their place in the debate and have their voices heard: hey, give us back our future! And it's also important to involve young people because they don't think in boxes yet. They have a free look."

Nick sees the importance of young people interacting with business. "Ideally, we should match all entrepreneurs with a circular mission with an apprentice or student. Companies need that new knowledge and drive for that internal change. And vice versa, you want to make sure that young people with a spark for sustainable solutions get a foot in the door with entrepreneurs in the field."

Piet Bouma, director of operations at RUG Campus Fryslân, sees that this broadening is also rolling out in the direction of big business. "Within the university we notice that there is interest from the big four; the consulting companies. They, together with their partners, feel the need to be retrained in sustainable business operations. I very much believe that this type of rollout across society is hugely important. It's a drive for accelerators and for change. Then we gradually see that decision makers are also opening up to the innovation."

Learning from practice
So all sorts of things are happening in Friesland. And despite the fact that Pete experiences this as well, he is in a dilemma. "You notice that the region is still looked at with a certain eye; how strange and stubborn they are over there. Why should we go north? How can we communicate that quirkiness - which I really appreciate, by the way - in our approach to sustainable business in such a way that we can inspire the rest of the Netherlands?" As a non-Frisian, Heleentje understands the dilemma: "For me, the individuality lies in the feeling of connection; with the mienskip (community) and with the landscape. Nature is never far away here, you experience the seasons, the wind. How do you make it clear what is happening in Friesland and the north, in the fast-paced and more individualistic world of the west?"

Hendrik Jan responds, "We will not be rushed. It is not an advantage, not a disadvantage. It is the way it is. We are moving 'at the eleventy-first,' so as a collective we consult how to move forward, toward broad prosperity. So I don't think it's crazy; we are one of the poorest regions in the north, but also the happiest."

Aukje doesn't see the dilemma. "It's just nice to be a little unique, I think. We really have the space here in Friesland. In terms of environment, but also in entrepreneurship. You can make mistakes. There is room for improvement and advice. We can pioneer here, be an example for other parts of the world."

"There is a lot of room to develop yourself, but above all it is the realization that we need each other," Nick believes. "Traditionally, Frisians have been good at poldering. We still do: we need each other. Education, government and entrepreneurs. We look for each other in that too."

The next step
The basics are in place. How to proceed now? "Invest in youth!", Aukje responds immediately. "And then in youth organizations that are already working. Give them the facilities so they can do things."

"There needs to be a follow-up. Making it visible and becoming aware of each other. That has succeeded well. But we need to go a step deeper," indicates Hendrik Jan. "What is needed for that? Aligning agendas. That sounds very boring, but it's darn important. Thanks to aligning the regional agenda, resonating and validating what we are doing, we have now reached this follow-up stage. The signing by all administrators of secondary and higher education of Fries Onderwijsakkoord is another beautiful, accelerating step forward!"

Author: Yael Water
Photography: Bart Lindenhovius

Want to learn more about educating for an inclusive, sustainable future?
Sustainability Skills


Aukje van der Veen

Aukje van der Veen
Aukje is chairman of the board of directors at Claim your Future. This foundation puts is committed to increasing the visibility of young people's own strengths in their region and beyond. their She stresses the importance of young people, with a free perspective, claiming their place in the debate and making their voices heard.



Hendrik Jan HoekstraHendrik-Jan
Hendrik Jan is senior policy advisor mbo at Friesland College. From that position he is concerned with public-private partnerships and subsidy projects, among other things, with the goal of shaping education in cooperation with the environment.



Nick BoersmaNick Boersma
Nick is project manager at Vereniging Circulair Friesland and co-founder of network Generation Fryslân 2035. This is a network of young professionals between the ages of 20-35, who may be in key positions in Friesland in 2035 to build a bright future for current and future generations.



Max EisenbartMax Eisenbart
Max is a student at the University of Groningen Campus Fryslân and youth coordinator/project supporter at Association Circular Friesland. In the role of moderator, he shaped this regional portrait about the transition in the region.



Heleentje Swart
Heleentje is program leader of SPARK the Movement. Many initiatives can be found from people who look beyond today and care for themselves, others and the earth. SPARK the Movement fosters this movement in education and plays a crucial role in connecting educators and young people in the region.


Piet Bouma
Piet is director of operations at RUG Campus Fryslân. This is a RUG branch office in Leeuwarden and interdisciplinary faculty, with University College Fryslân, master's programs, a Graduate School and a research & valorization agenda that fits within the region's priorities.

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