Celebrating International Volunteer Day and a year of making impact
An exhilarating mash-up of drumming, dance and youthful exuberance kicked off the Business Involved meet-up on 7 December 2022, celebrating both International Volunteer Day and the one-year anniversary of Business Involved. The event brought together social organisations, volunteers and international businesses based in Amsterdam to share experiences and discover new ways of driving impact.
A group of performers from the Kids van Amsterdam foundation set the celebratory mood with a performance by seven young drummers and a trumpeter. They soon had the audience joining in with a rousing call-and-response song and dance moves. The act was rounded off with a final crescendo of drums to enthusiastic cheers and loud applause from the around 100 guests gathered at equals.amsterdam in the heart of the city.
Host Joël Dori, co-founder of Business Involved, then had the tricky task of calming things down a bit before introducing Lotte Terwel, district councillor for Amsterdam’s Centrum district. Terwel highlighted the importance of volunteers in the city and urged companies to take part, saying, “I think a lot of companies in Amsterdam have more to offer than they’re doing now. Some companies, for example, support rainforests, and of course they should keep doing this, but there’s also a lot to do in their direct environment.”
Amsterdam’s social capital
Peter de Kruijk from amsterdam inbusiness and Henriette van der Meij from the Vrijwilligers Centrale Amsterdam (Volunteer Centre Amsterdam, VCA) then took the stage. Van der Meij began by expressing gratitude to Amsterdam’s over 250,000 volunteers – “the social capital of the city.” She added: “Volunteers work to keep Amsterdam and its residents healthy and resilient.”
Amsterdam inbusiness helps international companies set up in the Dutch capital, and De Kruijk explained that corporate volunteering is an important part of this process: “When we talk to people who are coming from abroad, we’ve noticed that they’re looking for a way to connect more to the city.” The Business Involved approach – partnering companies with local organisations looking for support – is a great way of making that connection, said De Kruijk, who also urged businesses to take a long-term approach to corporate volunteering by embedding it in their organisational strategy.
SDGs and company profiles
The Business Involved platform is built and powered by social-tech enterprise Deedmob. Hendrik-Jan Overmeer, one of Deedmob’s founding team, gave a short presentation. “The cool thing about Business Involved is that all the activities on the platform are for company volunteers,” he said. “Usually, you see activities that are just for people who are living in the city, but this is focused on companies, because it’s a different story for social organisations to welcome corporate volunteers.” Companies can create their own profile on the platform, expressing their interests and showing how they work. The platform also enables searches based on the UN’s Social Development Goals (SDGs), as many companies focus on one or more of these in their corporate responsibility programmes.
A special guest
Having heard from some of those behind the Business Involved initiative, it was time to learn more about the experiences of those who have used the platform. Dori introduced “a very special guest” – Loes Olgers, coordinator of the Koffiehuis. The Koffiehuis, which is located on the Haarlemmerstraat in the city centre, is a foundation supporting homeless and undocumented people in Amsterdam. “Every day, around 25 people come to us in the morning”, said Olgers, “and we serve coffee and tea and breakfast – bread and donuts and croissants given to us by businesses in the street. And then they start work, cleaning the streets, doing some gardening work. They want to be part of the community. They don’t just hang out – they do something for the community.”
While her team are out working, Olgers prepares a hot lunch for them with the help of other volunteers. Dori, who has volunteered at the Koffiehuis himself, describes it as an “important place. It’s not only food that they get.” Olgers agrees, stressing the “community, and some dignity, and a feeling of belonging” that the Koffiehuis provides.
Volunteering for mutual benefit
The audience was then introduced to Sherzad Rahmatian, managing director of strategy and design consultancy company Sylvain. The company works with its business clients to help them understand their customers and improve their services and brand.
Sylvain regularly recommends that their clients think about volunteering and other impact-related activities as part of their business plan. As a consultant, Rahmatian says, she advises companies to “think about how impact can be part of the business itself. Rather than think, ‘hey, this is our business, and then we occasionally do something nice on the side,’ think about what skills or assets your business has to offer the community, and how you can use that to advance your own business’ mission. Volunteering is mutually beneficial.”
The event aimed not just to highlight the Business Involved initiative, but also to enable businesses to connect with causes they’d like to get behind. To that end, it included a volunteer market. More than 20 social organisations were present to share information about their work and the support they were looking for. Guests were given a giant bingo card with the promise of a small prize for those who completed their cards by connecting with the organisations named on them. A busy 45 minutes followed, with business representatives, potential volunteers and organisations exchanging ideas about future cooperation. Dori brought the official proceedings to an end, thanking everyone present for attending. But many guest weren’t quite ready to go home, staying on to network over drinks and continue the matchmaking process.
Organisations present at the event were: !WOON, Actie Klaasje, Dress for Success Amsterdam, Het Gesprek, Girls Forward, Granate, IMC Weekendschool, De Kids van Amsterdam – Oost, Koffiehuis Amsterdam, Moedersmomentje, Moedernetwerk, NAHst, Oma’s Soep, Paint a Future/Sail a Future, Samen Kracht, Scip ACC, Sister Schools Studiezalen, Philomela, ProductieLab, Studio Pancake and TransAmsterdam