Foto: Hester Blankestijn


Bottom up involvement, local answers, life long learning.

The challenges Lower income work and social disadvantages in a demanding world.

Rotterdam is a city of contrasts. Situated at the heart of the world's trade lanes and intercontinental migration flows Rotterdam has always attracted people from across the world.

Our port provides economic growth, prosperity and jobs for many. Wealth and economic opportunities have not always been equally distributed in Rotterdam. Many citizens face financial, educational and social problems and even cultural stigmatization and isolation. 15% of households in Rotterdam are counted as low income households, compared to a roughly 8.2% Dutch average. The city also boasts a relatively young workforce, an increasing number of well-educated professionals and many young families have found a home in our city.

Embracing diversity

Rotterdam embraces the rich cultural diversity of our citizens as one of its core strengths. Including the voices of all Rotterdammers and forging connection across social, economic and cultural divides allows us to tap in to that asset and leverage it to its full potential. The Verhalen Café (Story Café) is one many examples in which local voices are heard through the medium of story telling.

Policy makers, educators, businesses put in the extra effort to actively engage citizens that may not used to being involved in policy making. Setting a good example, Rotterdam aldermen regularly visit different parts of the city to sit down with citizens and discuss their needs and ideas. The electric tuk-tuks used for the ‘Toer-de-wijk’ (Tour the town) have become a familiar sight. The effort pays off. For all their cultural, social or educational, differences many people in Rotterdam are blessed with an infectious make-it-happen mentality. Unleashing their potential is part of our long-term strategy.

Unlocking the full potential of communities

Social innovation isn’t a top down experiment. Each street or city block has its own unique challenges. These are often best understood by the people that live there. To this end the city has put in place a policy to not only ask local communities to tell us their problems, but to give them ownership of the solutions too. The practise has generated amazing innovations that can be implemented in other parts of the city as well.

In Bospolder Tussendijken (BoTu) the city helped residents organize themselves into Delfshaven Energie Coöperatie enabling them to jointly invest in solar panels for the community. Through CITYLAB010 the city annually invests over 3 million euro in innovation. Anyone with an idea to improve the city or the lives of its citizens can apply. A jury of citizens helps award the grant money to those proposals that have the most positive social, environmental and economic impact. One grant was awarded to Wattlab, a company which focuses on innovating water transportation using solar energy. Another grant was awarded to Fawaka, a foundation that uses education to raise pupils from socially disadvantaged background into the next generation of world citizens and business leaders.

Fostering a culture of creativity

The importance of a vibrant cultural life for a healthy innovation ecosystem cannot be stressed enough. It provides the fertile ground where new ideas come to life, it attracts new talent and innovators to the city and helps shape new bonds previously unthought-of. Recognizing this, the city has a long-standing tradition of supporting a wide range of cultural initiatives: the world-renowned Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the world’s largest community arts event, the International Community Arts Festival, Rotterdam Unlimited which celebrates our cultural diversity and Futureflux that showcases innovation, engineering and creativity. To this end the city uses a range of tools. Of course, there are more traditional subsidies and financial instrumentation, but also more innovative approaches based on crowd-funding or pitches.