A labour market in which nobody remains at the sidelines? Challenge accepted!

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For many people, the transition to the regular labour market is a big step. Social enterprises, such as Vanhulley, are trying to reduce this step. In the sewing studio, women with a vulnerable position in the labour market are given the opportunity to build up work experience in a safe environment. They then expand upon this work experience by doing internships at other organisations through the ‘ZoWerkthet’ project. The Hanze did research into what this collaboration brings to Vanhulley, the women involved and the participating companies.

From workwear to trendy backpack 

In Vanhulley's studios in Groningen and Goirle, women who are on the margins of society give companies’ textile remnants a second life. Elza Huizing, social impact manager at Vanhulley, says: "We offer a one-year work-study programme to women who desperately want a chance to take serious steps towards a better future. A future in which they are self-sufficient and financially independent, set a strong example for their children and have a social network that makes them feel connected and part of the community." 

From old workwear supplied by companies, Vanhulley makes products such as backpacks and laptop sleeves, which are then returned to the clients. Elza: "Through the work experience that the participants gain, they increase their chances on the labour market. In doing so, the women not only have a positive impact on their own lives, but together we also have an impact on the world." 


Through the work experience that the participants gain, they increase their chances on the labour market

Research into increasing impact    

Three years ago, Vanhulley started 'ZoWerktHet!': a community of Northern companies where women can discover 'how things work' in a regular job through internships. Elza: "One day a month they work for a company involved to discover what they are good at and what they like. The participating women learn a lot from it, but so do the companies involved. We also want to learn from it ourselves: what works in this approach and what can be improved upon?" 

The Hanze did research into how Vanhulley and the companies involved can get even more results from their collaboration. Professor Petra Oden explains: "We looked at Vanhulley's environment, 'their ecosystem'. We have analysed how this ecosystem in which a social enterprise collaborates with a regular company functions and where there is room for improvement." 

The survey shows that Vanhulley's partners are generally positive about the collaboration. Petra: "There is a clear focus on social impact. Companies participate in Zowerkthet! to enrich the working day or working environment and to make a contribution to society. They also strive to do business in a more social way and consider this as a starting point. They are aware that more inclusive and social entrepreneurship also makes them a more attractive employer." 

Get it on the agenda   

"We ourselves and the 'ZoWerktHet!' community are learning a lot from those results," Elza adds. "Moreover, it is clear evidence for other companies that may want to work with us in the future." Petra puts the results of the research in a broader perspective. She emphasises the importance of collaboration in reducing the gap to the labour market. "As Hanze, we are also involved in the 'City Deal Impact Ondernemen', a partnership of a hundred companies, municipalities and knowledge institutions that together contribute to strengthening the position of social enterprises. Our goal is to get societal and social impact on the agenda of as many companies and organisations in the Netherlands as possible."   

Challenge accepted  

The great challenges of our time cannot wait. We need to act now to create a world worth living in and a sustainable future. And that is also possible in the North. Our region is bursting with opportunities: a strong SME as the engine of a powerful economy, innovative start-ups, and a strong knowledge network. Hanze connects, supports and drives positive change. We are here for everyone who wants to learn and make a difference to the world around them. Will you take on the challenge with us? #challengeaccepted