Young Innovators Programme – within a local community

18 January 2024

Educational project

Young Innovators Programme – within a local community

The Young Innovators programme is about social innovation, about making a change towards regenerativity. A regenerative society affirms life, and cares for the earth and its diverse communities. The programme brings together reflexive personal leadership with community-based changemaking. It offers practical workshops and learning spaces to develop relevant skills and practices. Working on a wide range of themes, the programme addresses the ways in which we ‘show up in the world’ while working together with a local community. 

Background and goals

The Young Innovators Programme (YIP) is exploring how to ground their ‘place-based pedagogies’ into an existing local community around themes such as regenerativity, social innovation, and bottom-up change-making. When the opportunity arose for a space at the social innovation hub ‘Het Hof van Cartesius’ (Hof) it allowed us to become physically part of community. The space became a headquarters for YIP where students and staff could meet – also outside programme hours – hang out and engage with activities and members of the Hof. More importantly we could start building a longer lasting, reciprocal relationship with a local community. 

Project description

 Our intention is to form a relationship with the Hof based on their needs and issues that are real for them, which we can then introduce to our students and see how they resonate. Conversely, sharing ideas and interests for interventions from the student group with the Hof community members makes the relation a reciprocal one.   


The results of our stay at the Hof have been mixed. On the one hand, we have been able to connect to and collaborate with the community there. Students have been using the YIP headquarters as a place to work on their projects, study together, chill, and connect to the local initiatives. They also indicate that they find the Hof a very inspiring place, giving them ideas, entry-points, and practical examples of how to make a change in the world. To some extent we have succeeded in integrating into the community; e.g., members of our team have co-facilitated the Hof’s community meeting in December, and our final festival has been integrated into the Hof’s ‘buiten de perken’ festival. Finally, we have incorporated the Hof in our teaching practices, especially during the weekend sessions we held there. 

Reflection: lessons learned

At the same time, we realise that we have not been able to reach the full potential of our local presence there. On the one hand, this had to do with practicalities: our headquarters were poorly heated and insulated, making them rather uninviting for students to work in because of winter cold and noise from the adjacent building places. Moreover, our teaching hours (evenings and weekends) took place exactly when very few people were present at the Hof, making integration rather difficult. Simultaneously, the community of the Hof had their own internal struggles which is where their focus was for a major part of our stay. Next to that, we have noted that for students there still is quite a jump to be made in order to connect and integrate into a community such as the Hof, and they may need more help doing so. 

Take home message

Based on an evaluation with the Hof and the students, and on the findings above we can say that we only just started to get to know the local community. Building a relationship needs much more and longer time. We hope to expand and deepen our ‘place based’ work into the coming years with the following focal points: 

  • Connecting the questions that are alive in the community more explicitly to the themes of the programme 
  • Making sure that practicalities such as timetables and physical constraints are not becoming obstacles 
  • Integrating the community more explicitly in our teaching, for instance by initiating, as a programme, a longer term project that brings students and locals together
  • Providing more guidance and tools to students on how to find entry points for engagement, navigate obstacles, and help build a reciprocal relationship with the place. 

Further reading


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