'This project offered a great way to come up with practical and innovative housing solutions.'
- Student project
Student housing has been an issue in Groningen for years as many students are struggling to find suitable accommodation in time before the start of their study programme. How can we generate suitable and affordable accommodation for at least 1000 international students in Groningen before the start of next academic year? This was the problem statement that students had to address in the Entrepreneurship course of International Marketing, one of the four graduation minors of the International Business (IB) bachelor’s programme. Based on the Design Thinking principle, IB students Thyme Kiewiet and Pim Avenarius, as well as three other teams, came up with innovative and practical solutions in student groups and pitched this to a jury of external stakeholders, including actual investors.
Thyme: ‘What we discovered during the market analysis phase of the project, was that the biggest issue with student housing lies in the first three to six months. In this period, many students don’t have a place to stay and we wanted to pick up on this by giving some relief. Our idea is to offer a platform focused on the transitionary period from students’ first arrival to Groningen to finding long-term accommodation. We want to give students a short-term housing solution accompanied by support to settle in Groningen and get started with their studies, so they can put housing on the backburner for a bit. Initially, we are focussing on solutions such as tents and hangars, which can be set up quickly, but in the future we would want to have our own facilities.’
Pim: ‘Our group came up with the idea to build a camp of yurts (or gers) as an affordable and easily accessible solution. A yurt is a circular tent made of flexible poles, with felt draped over it. The advantage of these tents is that they are sturdy, well-insulated, affordable (under 1000 Euros) and can be easily set up and taken down. We even already found a company in Kazachstan that sells yurts and talked to an actual salesman.’
Thyme: ‘Every year you hear about the student accommodation crisis and this is affecting the wellbeing of students and the image of Groningen as an attractive student city. This project offered a great way to come up with practical and innovative solutions. Not only students but also universities, the municipality and investors can benefit from these ideas.’ Pim: ‘Personally, I also benefited from this project as I gained a lot of real-life experience and had to learn to put myself in ‘the customer’s’ shoes. We had to learn to be creative and we could use the theory and tools we’ve been taught in previous classes, such as how to make a SWOT analysis and put it into practice. Throughout the project, our teacher functioned as a coach, guiding us through the assignment instead of telling us exactly what to do. This was really great as we felt supported and the informal way of teaching made the class very interactive and fun.’
At the end of the course, the students had to pitch their final concepts to a jury consisting of entrepreneurs, financial experts and an investor. The winning idea was a web-based application platform connecting international students with room owners in Groningen. All five business solutions will be presented to the municipality of Groningen and Hanze Housing. Upon sincere interest in one or more of the ideas, the students can work on the actual implementation of the ideas together with relevant stakeholders in the months to come.
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