[Public Seminar] Neighbourhood Community Development in Amsterdam: Turning Ideas to Practice

[Public Seminar] Neighbourhood Community Development in Amsterdam: Turning Ideas to Practice

Date(s): 27/03/2015
Time: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

WLB109, Wing Lung Bank Building, Shaw Campus

Language: English

Admission: Free, please register below.

Event Partner(s): This event is organized in cooperation with the Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macao.

Speaker(s):Frank van Erkel, Director, Organizational Development, City of Amsterdam

Event Description:

Amsterdam has turned into a multicultural city since 1960s with the inflow of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. These new inhabitants turned to the low-rent and poorest areas of Amsterdam, especially in the Eastern District. In 1980s, these areas attracted a lot of squatters, drug addicts and homeless people. The neighborhood was soon labeled as unsafe and dirty and by 1996 the unemployment rate was nearly twice as high as in Amsterdam as a whole, and crime rates were among the highest in Amsterdam.

In the last 20 years, the infrastructure of the city district improved enormously. But the educational levels in East Amsterdam are still lower than in Amsterdam as a whole. The social problems vary within areas such as health, poverty, social exclusion, unemployment and safety. Under these challenges, there has been a concerted effort by the local government in recent years to increase investment in social, urban and economic issues.

With the emergence of different new business, cultural facilities and social groups together with the response from the government, East Amsterdam is experiencing a transformation from a disinteresting region to a intercultural and dynamic region. This transformation needs a lot of effort to bridge the gap between society and government include residents with different talents and cultural background back to the community.

In this seminar, Frank will give concrete examples and will make comments on the development and transition of the society in Amsterdam. He will also talk about the contribution of the government in this development.

Event Summary:

In this seminar, Mr. Wilfred Mohr, the Consul-General of the Netherlands to Hong Kong and Macao, launched the series of the “Urban Innovations” on Amsterdam with an opening remark. Staying in Hong Kong for more than two years, Mr. Mohr pointed out the similarities that both Hong Kong and Amsterdam are facing including the struggle of space, fight against water and high pressure of tourism and internationalization of the citizens. He hoped that participants can understand more about Amsterdam’s experience in social issues, particularly social inclusion, through the series and thus stimulate new ideas which can be used in Hong Kong context.


Mr. Frank van Erkel started the seminar “Neighbourhood Community Development in Amsterdam” with a comparison between Hong Kong and Amsterdam in different rankings as the world’s smart cities. He emphasized that Amsterdam focuses a lot on policies facilitating the quality of life among citizens. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s strengths being as a smart city are her huge economies of scale and the good environment for entrepreneurship.


Mr. van Erkel also noticed a change in the relation between citizens and government in Amsterdam in the recent years. The wealth inequality, an increased proportion of foreign immigrants and the gap between society and government altogether generate the need of changes in the methodology of social projects in community. The ineffective “Top-Down Approach” should be replaced by “Down-top Approach” with citizens initiatives since the citizens in the community are after all the real users of those projects.

Different community projects carried out by Mr. van Erkel were shown to explain the positive effects of the new approach which enhanced social cohesion, built up the city identity as “I amsterdam” and established trust between citizens and government. You may find the examples in the powerpoint presentation which is available to download below.


96569-615-443 Frank van Erkel

Click to download the presentation content:

Neighbourhood Community Development in Amsterdam (By Frank van Erkel)

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