Learning to participate

Project leader
Rinke Bolster & Hans Smit
2021 - present
Health and Welfare

There are many people with a distance to the labour market who could use some help. Within the workshop Learning to Participate, students from the HRM and Social Work study programmes come into contact with vulnerable people on the labour market and we explore how we can support them. An inclusive society in which everyone participates regardless of his or her disability: this is one of the goals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, drawn up by the United Nations in 2006.

What is the motivation for the project?

The lion's share of our communication is through the internet. WhatsApp, forums and social media have become part of many people's daily lives. This increase in scale offers possibilities and opportunities, but unfortunately the same online media are used to disrupt public order and safety in municipalities. Examples are the online distribution of disinformation and online calls for (illegal) events and demonstrations. In the past year, many mayors, together with the police and the Public Prosecution Service, have had to switch gears in a short period of time in order to curb possible disturbances of the public order as a result of online calls for riots. The online statements and calls regularly lead to social unrest.

What problem does the project solve?

Despite the Participation Act, strict guidelines and good intentions, practice shows that people with disabilities do not succeed in being permanently employed. The aim of the workshop is to change this by promoting social inclusion/cohesion among people with a distance to the labour market.

Mission statement:

"Together it works, to learn together, to participate again, through individual and group support. In doing so, we work in a multidisciplinary and customised way. For us, the individual is at the centre."


    "We are convinced that there is a place for everyone on the labour market and within society. It is our aim to find or create this place for everyone who comes to us and thus to contribute to the sense of purpose for the client."

Project team

  • Rinke Bolster - project leader
  • Hans Smit - project leader
  • Jort Bode, Robert van de Kamp, Jantine Dantuma, Yldau-Mare van der Weg and Bineke Feenstra - students Social Work

Project approach

NHL Stenden group
In the first semester, the NHL Stenden group carried out a study into participation within the University of Applied Sciences. It was investigated how NHL Stenden deals with the Participation Act and how the participation employees experience this. By means of interviews with various employees, information is collected. With this information, interventions are developed to promote social inclusion among employees.

Municipality group
The municipality group, in cooperation with the municipality of Leeuwarden, started working with students from secondary vocational education (mbo) and higher vocational education (hbo) who are on welfare. Themes include unemployment, debts and poverty. Why do people in this target group have to deal with these themes? Teams have been formed, each consisting of students from both Social Work and HRM.

Caparis Group
Caparis used to be a social employment service, but since the introduction of the Participation Act, it has been transforming itself into a talent and employment company. For this transformation, Caparis is using a new strategy. Within this strategy, the employees of Caparis and their development are at the centre. As students of the workshop we are present within Caparis to get in touch with the target group.

Main (or preliminary) results

NHL Stenden group
The research shows that the participation employees feel the need to meet each other to exchange information and knowledge. The intervention consists of a kind of online café where the participants have the possibility to build up mutual contact. In the second semester, this online café will be further developed to involve even more participants and other employees. We are in talks to start a new project for German students following a Dutch study programme. We want to help them through a `buddy-project`. The aim is that students from the second or third year support students from the first year. They help them with study questions but also emotional support.

Municipality Group
Studies have been done on the themes of unemployment and welfare, each with a specific focus. This group also works as career coaches at the Friese Poort.

The students working at Caparis are doing research on the employees and are designing interventions, guidance plans and policy recommendations that fit within the new strategy of Caparis.

Project partners

  • Caparis
  • Leeuwarden local authority
  • NHL Stenden University