Workshop 6: Learning from civic driven change in The Netherlands

Civic Action27 Jul 2009The Broker

Author: Theresa Song Loong Chair: Fons van der Velden


Walter aan de Wiel – Enviu

Open Source House

  • In many developing countries rapid urbanization is taking place, but new apartments are still often built in an unsustainable way, and waste of scarce building resources, so this project was thought up in the Netherlands.
  • The project entails the creation of an internet platform for architects, artists and anyone else who may be interested to post ideas that can be used for further development.
  • Marketing/starting up the platform is done through the involvement of collaborating universities and the use of competitions.
  • People on the ground without internet access will also be able to participate.
  • For the property rights of ideas, the best business model is still being discussed.

Tim Senden – Both ENDS

Political cafes

  • Issues to taken up based on what southern civil society organizations (CSOs) say their problems are. This is citizen initiated and also gives space for a wide range of problems. When choosing an issue for the cafe, a possible lobby agenda is also looked at.
  • Four cafes are held each year, and are part of a bigger communication package. A panel is set up, which may include Dutch policy makers, scientists and multilateral financing institutions. The cafes are aimed at interested Dutch people.
  • The goal of the cafes is to translate local realities into international policies.
  • The result is a briefing paper for all audiences. Also a form of advocacy takes place at the cafe itself – e.g. water management in Bangladesh was taken up by the Dutch government without involving local people. The café’s view of this lack of involvement was discussed with the Dutch government at the political cafe, and the problem was resolved.


  • Participants thought the multi-sectoral approach and involvement of multiple stakeholders in these cases was inspiring.
  • The way global issues are made local was also described as innovative.
  • It was mentioned that for Open Source House, civil society was not involved from the start.
  • The question was then asked: how does your idea relate to civicness? Does CDC require that CSOs are asked what they want? As for Open Source House, it provides opportunities for sustainable development, but it is up to the local people if they want to use them.
  • Both ENDS uses different drivers for different issues, as the most effective way of lobbying differs. With the political cafes, information from local sources is also gathered.
  • An open question remained: how can you ensure that technology-intensive programmes are citizen driven? Open Source House is interesting in that respect: technology is rather exclusive, but open source includes people.


  • It is unclear how these cases are civic driven change – who is engaging whom?
  • The main problem seems to be to understand how to move from expert-driven to civic-driven processes.
  • The participants offered examples based on their own experiences with CDC for the Dutch community: ‘before I started working for a professional NGO…’