Originally published in Holland Herald, December 2017 edition.

Innovation, creativity and connectivity

As the 2016-2017 European Capital of Innovation and a quick flight or train ride away from capitals such as London or Brussels, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is nothing if not high tech and well-connected. Add to that an entrepreneurial spirit that spans generations and a vibrant cultural scene, and you’ll understand why talented people love living and working here.

“This city has a creative spirit that gives social entrepreneurs much needed community support and space for experimentation,” says Willemijn Verloop, co-founder and director of Social Enterprise NL, a platform connecting and supporting over 300 Dutch businesses making a difference in areas such as inclusive employment and environmental sustainability.

“The municipality and the local community really embraced us. Doing good business and improving society is in Amsterdam’s DNA,” adds Tatiana Glad, co-founder and director of Impact Hub Amsterdam, which is part of a network of more than 16,000 change makers in over 100 cities worldwide.

Amsterdam Impact

To ensure that innovative enterprises get more shelf space and visibility, the local government has created a program called Amsterdam Impact. This initiative helps the city’s incubators and accelerators, knowledge institutes, corporates and investors in their efforts to make the world a better place for all. With strong backing from the municipality and its thriving business ecosystem, it’s no wonder more and more social entrepreneurs are choosing Amsterdam as the launch pad for their ambitious goals. And what better way to show your support and celebrate the holiday season than by surprising your loved ones with purposeful presents from some of Amsterdam’s finest social enterprises? If you need inspiration for this holiday season, we've got a handy gifts list to help you choose.

Peanut butter heaven

Organic peanut butter lovers can’t go wrong with De Pindakaaswinkel’s nutty delights, which are completely free of palm oil, added sugar and artificial flavours. Choose from over ten varieties, ranging from classic to surprising concoctions such as chilli lemongrass, dates cinnamon and coffee sea salt. Founder Michiel Vos started experimenting with unusual combinations at his kitchen table before opening Amsterdam’s first peanut butter store in 2016. You can find their lovingly hand-blended jars in the I amsterdam Store in Amsterdam Central Station. depindakaaswinkel.nl.

Keeping it cosy

TIMI’s soft shawls, which are made by Nepali women and inspired by Himalayan traditions, have got you covered on cold winter days, with a variety of shades from coral pink to classy anthracite. Short for ‘This Is My Independence’, TIMI collaborated with the Namasté Foundation on building a Women’s Empowerment Centre in Nepal. Starting with 2014, each year 50 women get the training and small loans they need to start their own business. And the results are tangible, as more than 97 percent of the women taking part in the project feel more financially secure. timi-shop.com.

Made to last

Circular-economy enthusiasts can snap up the orange designs of Makers Unite, which connects creative newcomers to Amsterdam’s local industry. Together, they work on items such as tote bags and laptop sleeves upcycled from the life vests refugees had worn on their perilous boat journeys to Greece. This collaborative process – which doubles as a six-week professional skills course – gets newcomers to feel comfortable enough to share their talents and ambitions. Makers Unite then uses the insights gathered during the programme to introduce migrants to training programmes, internships and jobs. makersunite.eu.

Stylish boards

Made from recycled bottle caps collected at music festivals or fished out of Amsterdam’s canals by another impact enterprise (Plastic Whale), Wasteboard makes handcrafted skateboards. They offer two designs: Squid, which is perfect for the laid-back cruiser and Star, which was built for street skaters eager to slide, flip and grind. Both versions come in colourful patterns of deep-sea blues, Mondriaan-inspired squares and summer flowers. They also sell stylish tees made from certified organic cotton. wasteboards.com.

Craft beer craze

In the heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, De Prael microbrewery combines co-founder Arno Kooy’s psychiatric work experience with his passion for brewing, resulting in the first brewery in the Netherlands to help people excluded from the job market learn a new trade. Whether you’re into Blond, Trippel or IPA, De Prael has got you covered with nearly a dozen options. Also available at the I amsterdam Store. deprael.nl.

For more fabulous gifts handpicked from Amsterdam’s finest brands, visit the I amsterdam Store in Amsterdam Central Station.