The name says it all: Amsterdam Impact is a collaborative initiative whose objective is to strengthen the impact economy and the ecosystem for impact enterprises. This includes supporting the development of entrepreneurial skills for young people and other groups newly seeking work. It also means positioning the city internationally as a prime location for impact enterprises, from established companies to up-and-coming social ventures.
The Impact Entrepreneurship Action Programme
After a successful run of Amsterdam Impact’s Social Entrepreneurship Action Programme for 2015-2018, the initiative is already enjoying the fruits of its Impact Entrepreneurship Action Programme for 2019-2022. Over the years, hundreds of impact enterprises in Amsterdam have devoted their work to positive impact in areas ranging from renewable energy to inclusive growth and circular cities. The remarkable growth of Netherlands-based impact ventures is underscored by the €3.5 billion turnover the sector realised between 2010 and 2015 alone.
“Impact entrepreneurs are the pioneers of a broader movement that includes large companies, SMEs, universities and government organisations, who are all striving to add more societal value and solve pressing challenges,” says Ellen Oetelmans, programme manager at Amsterdam Impact. Joining the movement is actively encouraged. “We are looking for more partners who want to team up for the accelerators and challenges we aim to organise using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework,” she adds. “We invite companies to become impact entrepreneurship ambassadors and join awareness events such as our yearly campaign, The Impact Days, which encourages consumers, companies and other organisations to buy more products and services that make a difference.”
To facilitate connections between established companies and impact entrepreneurs, Amsterdam Impact co-developed several Buy Social events with key partners, including Social Enterprise NL. At these events, which introduce procurement professionals from large organisations to the products and services of impact entrepreneurs, dozens of business deals have been closed. The deals are in areas ranging from sustainable food to circular electronics and inclusive labour, such as the collaboration between digital agency Swink and PwC Nederland.
At Swink, employees with a form of autism that encompasses above-average analytic skills use these skills to build websites and SEO strategies. “We think it’s important to do good with social entrepreneurs, but ultimately, it’s also about the quality of the companies we work with,” says Jacqueline Marell, a senior digital marketing manager at PwC Netherlands. “Swink rebuilt our recruitment website; it was a great cooperation.”
“It’s important to do good with social entrepreneurs, but ultimately, it’s also about the quality of the companies we work with. Swink [impact enterprise] rebuilt our recruitment website; it was a great cooperation.”
– Jacqueline Marell, PwC Netherlands, senior digital marketing manager
The next generation of entrepreneurial impact-makers
Alongside its Buy Social series, Amsterdam Impact encourages young people to harness their entrepreneurial spirit and apply their smarts to solving societal issues. The rise in local impact initiatives launched by bright young minds would suggest the encouragement is working. The growing Young Impactmakers community co-hosted by Impact Hub Amsterdam and Starters4Communities supports and regularly brings together young people who want to do good while doing business. This can be either through starting an impact enterprise or making a change from within an existing organisation.
Nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurial impact-makers is one of the ways in which Impact Hub Amsterdam also accelerates the transition to a new circular economy that works for all.
“We build impact ecosystems around key issues, such as food, plastics, circularity and an inclusive society,” says Tatiana Glad, co-founder of Impact Hub Amsterdam and Executive Director of the Impact Hub network. “This approach offers us an extraordinary opportunity to take responsibility for the state of our world together with our growing Impact Hub network of entrepreneurial innovators in over 100 cities worldwide.”
Since 2008, Impact Hub Amsterdam has helped more than 4,000 companies become more sustainable and make more impact. To achieve their innovation and impact goals, they’ve also helped numerous large companies and organisations, such as Tommy Hilfiger, WWF and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
Achieving social impact through scientific and business partnerships
“If you are into creative, disruptive models, Amsterdam is the place to be,” says Ger Baron, the City of Amsterdam’s first chief technology officer.
The city is living up to the picture its CTO paints. Back in 2019, Amsterdam teamed up with professional service company KPMG to ensure the local government develops and uses ethical algorithms in all its municipal programmes. Among them are ambitious initiatives to make Amsterdam more circular, healthier, better connected and more inclusive – these are precisely the aims of the municipality’s CTO Innovation team. To achieve their goals, which include fully closing the loop on waste and becoming climate-neutral by 2050, the City of Amsterdam is working closely with businesses, knowledge institutes, startups and non-profit organisations.
Long-standing partnerships between the scientific and business communities play an essential role in the area’s innovation and tech ambitions. Take Amsterdam Data Science (ADS), a joint initiative of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Dutch Research Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI). ADS aims to develop world-class data science and artificial intelligence (AI) talent and technology within the Amsterdam Area.
“Impact entrepreneurs are the pioneers of a broader movement… striving to add more societal value and solve pressing challenges.”
– Ellen Oetelmans, Amsterdam Impact, programme manager
Government and industry partners
Strategic partnerships with government bodies and key players across industries have been vital to Amsterdam Impact’s varied and on-going achievements. Impact Hub Amsterdam is also one of the organisations helping to grow the circular economy ecosystem in the Amsterdam Area and beyond. It has a long-standing partnership with the Province of North Holland, which aims to become fully circular by 2050. A major player in realising this target is the Amsterdam Economic Board, the agency tasked with strengthening collaborations between businesses, knowledge institutes and government organisations, including the City of Amsterdam, the Province of North Holland, directors of knowledge institutions such as the UvA and business leaders from companies such as the Royal Schiphol Group, Rabobank and Salesforce.
As a private-public partnership, the Amsterdam Economic Board encourages innovation and collaboration to address five key urban challenges: health, mobility, digital connectivity, jobs of the future and the circular economy. It already has plans to hit crucial milestones for each of these challenges by 2025. These include adding two years to the lifespan of local residents, ensuring emissions-free urban traffic, making Amsterdam Europe’s top location for both data-driven innovation and job opportunities and turning the Amsterdam Area into a role model for smart solutions to the shortage of raw materials.
Amsterdam’s circular pioneers
A circular economy approach, in which raw materials never become waste, is also deemed essential for a region with growth goals as ambitious as Amsterdam’s. When it comes to the built environment, for example, some 230,000 new homes have been planned to be constructed in the Amsterdam Area by 2040. New organisations are making circular construction the norm. A case in point is C-creators, launched in 2018 as a joint initiative of the City of Amsterdam, the Municipality of Haarlemmermeer, Rabobank Schiphol and the Royal Schiphol Group aiming to speed up the transition to a circular economy within the Amsterdam Area. One of its core activities is its Bouwprogramma (‘construction programme’) in cooperation with Cirkelstad, TNO (an independent Dutch organisation for applied scientific research) and the European Investment Bank.
The Bouwprogramma welcomes new companies and organisations keen to exchange expertise through events such as masterclasses and lectures. Current partners range from private-public partnerships, including the Amsterdam Economic Board, to established construction corporations such as the Royal BAM Group, circular strategy and revenue model consultants Copper8 and architecture firms such as Architekten Cie.
On the topic of circularity during a C-creators talk, Architekten Cie associate Hans Hammink says: “My children have the right to a healthy world and, if circularity is how we can get there, shouldn’t we all embrace it?”
Amsterdam’s tech education and skilled labour market
Tech talent who can wield the power of data to create products and services that make a difference abounds in Amsterdam. For companies looking to attract top talent from abroad or to recruit from the home-grown generation, the Amsterdam School of Data Science – a collaboration between four of Amsterdam’s research and applied sciences universities – offers over 300 data-science driven bachelor’s, master’s, postgraduate and professional programmes. These students have the opportunity to work on data challenges with companies such as Google, Air France-KLM and Ahold Delhaize. Upon graduating, there’s a ready job market awaiting. More than 1,600 tech companies, from seed startups to scale-ups such as online supermarket Picnic and globally established names such as Booking.com, make for a lively tech job market with 69,000 positions – the equivalent of 13% of the Amsterdam Area’s employment market.
In addition to supporting higher tech education, Amsterdam’s local government, the business community and universities have established House of Skills, a private-public partnership to advance a flexible, skills-driven labour market in which lifelong learning is the norm. House of Skills supports professionals in acquiring and renewing skills needed for the jobs of the future, which must respond to the rise of AI and digitalisation, as well as new societal challenges.
“If you are into creative, disruptive models, Amsterdam is the place to be.”
– Ger Baron, City of Amsterdam, CTO
Back in 2018, more than 90 organisations signed the Regional Skills Agreement for the Amsterdam Area. Signatories include consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte, housing corporation Ymere, telecom player VodafoneZiggo and airport operator Royal Schiphol Group, underscoring how serious companies across multiple sectors are when it comes to creating a future-proof workforce. House of Skills is there to help them: from ascertaining companies’ five-year plans for digitalisation through assessing required skills to matching them to the right talent and supporting on-the-job training schemes.
To ensure an inclusive labour market, the City of Amsterdam signed a Diversity Charter along with now over 30 other Dutch municipalities and a total of 10,000 European signatories. In 2017, Amsterdam’s local government launched the Young Professionals Programme for Status Holders (YPPS), a two-year traineeship for highly educated newcomers with a refugee background. During the traineeship, newcomers learn Dutch, make potentially valuable professional contacts and perform assignments in areas ranging from waste and raw materials to accounting and data visualisation.
Complementing the municipality’s efforts, startups and other impact enterprises are connecting newcomers to companies in Amsterdam’s creative industries. Makers Unite, for one, hosts its own Creative Lab, a six-week programme that trains participants to understand and work in the Dutch creative industry. Through the Creative Lab, newcomers have been taught how to create contemporary designs from responsibly – and sometimes very poignantly – sourced materials, such as the life vests worn by refugees who journeyed to Greek shores. The process hopes to instil newcomers with the confidence needed to take their next career steps.
In sum, the Amsterdam Area offers plenty of opportunities to connect with like-minded organisations working towards an impact economy for a more circular, sustainable and socially inclusive future.
Join Amsterdam’s impact ecosystem
Find out more about Amsterdam Impact and the programme’s six pillars: transition, market access, capital, internationalisation, impact entrepreneurship in the neighbourhood and promoting connections across ecosystems. Learn how to become part of the Amsterdam’s Area’s innovative impact entrepreneurship ecosystem here.