Visiting someone on the eighth floor of an apartment block in Amsterdam Noord makes you realise that student life can be like living in a bubble.
Eighth floors up in Amsterdam Noord
In order to help solve this problem, the Amsterdam ombudsman has called on the assistance of Utrecht University students on the Master's programme in Contemporary Social Problems. By interviewing almost fifty people in need in Amsterdam, the students have gained insight into the lives of these Amsterdam citizens. De Kleijn: “I am not totally naive. But visiting someone on the eighth floor of an apartment block in Amsterdam Noord makes you realise that student life can be like living in a bubble. I would never normally come into contact with these people. It is good to see the lives that they lead and to gain an insight into their experience of the services the city provides.”
Fresh and impartial perspective
In the next phase of the project, the students will visit the authorities with which the people in need in Amsterdam have had the most problems. Soeparman: “The students will be observing services on the work floor. They will organise focus groups to discuss with the organisation the problems that people are facing.” He suspects that the authorities will find this working method interesting: “It makes a great change from a critical report only. Students are now coming to the problems with a fresh and impartial perspective and contributing potential solutions.”
Project may continue next year
Eventually, there will be a report and it will be presented to the Amsterdam ombudsman in June. Soeparman: “We will then be able to see what the impact of our project really is. More than that, next year we hope to take a new group of Master's students and investigate whether our findings are achieving results.” Since all parties involved see this project as an opportunity to learn, the willingness to continue the partnership next year is strong. “Our hope is that we can make a contribution to achieving better services for this group of Amsterdam citizens. For them and the official authorities, there really is something at stake. Stefanie is right to say that she is achieving something useful on this Master's programme. It really does have an impact.”