MAD Story: Stichting Blikverruimers

For this MAD story, we took to the rooftop of the Amsterdam public library to interview two interesting people from Stichting Blikverruimers. This foundation actively contributes to more young people in supervisory boards in the Netherlands and will be joining us on our MAD event, later this autumn. We discussed public leadership with two of the board members, Nienke and Samuel, of this groundbreaking organisation. We asked them questions about the organisation, about the ambitions of the overall foundation, and about their personal motivation.

What is stichting Blikverruimers?
Blikverruimers is a foundation that promotes and contributes to more diversity in supervisory boards in the Netherlands. We are especially aiming to see more young people in supervisory boards, because in our opinion, the current members of many supervisory boards are quite old and therefore they do not represent an organisation and society as a whole. With more young people, there is more diversity.

We train talented young professionals to join supervisory boards in order to diversify the boards. We educate our candidates through our academy and we give them the opportunity to do a so-called traineeship with a supervisory board of an organisation of their interest. We connect the young professionals with experienced supervisory board members and they receive special courses and seminars in order to prepare them to be part of a supervisory board. Then the young professionals can undertake a traineeship at one of the supervisory boards under the supervision of the experienced board member.

Nienke emphasizes the importance of those traineeships: It’s so valuable to undertake a traineeship. I have experienced this myself as a participant of the program of Blikverruimers. During the training sessions you learn about supervisory boards, but when you undertake the internship, you really see how a supervisory board is working. That is so valuable. If you are interested in being a member of a supervisory board, you already have some experience from the internship. Plus normally you cannot even gain this experience at such a young age. It is generally impossible for young people to join a supervisory board. You learn so much from your mentor, from other supervisory board members and from the courses.

Barely anyone of 26 can say they have been part of a supervisory board. We have one girl in our organisation and she became a member of a supervisory board when she was 21. We have to say, though: she is an extreme exception. Normally this is absolutely not the case.

What is the mission of Blikverruimers?
Essentially we want to make a social contribution by connecting young professionals and seniors with each other and improve the societal view and role of organisations. And with that we are really innovative. No one else attempted to do this yet. Diversity is key in our organisation.

How many young professionals joined your organisation?
The first year, we had 11 participants. This year we already have 20 participants. But many more people applied to be part of this program, so we had to make a strict selection. We have 5 criteria on which we base our selection process: You need to have working experience from 3 up to 10 years. This is the period where you are still exploring your professional life and you can still be surprised by things that are considered normal by older professionals. We require you to be socially involved and you need to be able to demonstrate this. Besides, you have to be enterprising and ambitious. You need to be creative and you need to have strong reflective capabilities. And there are so many people out there who fulfil all these requirements. So the selection process is really hard for us.

Everyone within our organisation has a strong drive to improve the world. That is a significant characteristic of our organisation and it is key to its success.

How did you find members of supervisory boards?
That actually went surprisingly well. People are really willing to work together with us in order to change something in the supervisory boards of the Netherlands. We also received a lot of attention from different media outlets.

What did you think would be the biggest burden in making this organisation bigger?
We thought it would be hard to find supervisory boards where they would be open for traineeships. However, when we had found the first board, more organisations started to offer us traineeship places.

The administrative world is still a very conservative world though. It is a job that mostly is executed by people who already had a long career. To break those habits is our job.

What are the next activities for Blikveruimers?
In September we start our academy again!

What are the future steps of Blikverruimers?
We want to run our academy on a yearly base, but we will probably not extend the academy too much. We work to see a handful of people in supervisory boards after passing our courses and to create a network in which knowledge sharing and innovation are key.

What would you advise the young professionals interested to participate in the program? And what would you advise the older ones?
For the younger ones: if you fit all five of our criteria, please apply to our program. We do not really have to motivate you anymore if you apply to those criteria. For the seniors who are already members of supervisory boards: please be open minded and dare to work with young professionals and to teach and coach the young professionals. And challenge yourself! Your experience is very valuable.

Stichting Blikverruimers will be present at our MAD event on 23th of November, where you will hear more about their ambitions, social contribution and inspiring leadership. Blikverruimers will contribute to the plenary session of the event, but also facilitate one of the more intimate break out-sessions where you can discuss public leadership and your contribution to society with representatives of this very inspiring organisation. See you there?

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