'Voluntary work to foster social cohesion'
On 3 November 2018, Boudewijn Wijnands was presented with the AUV Alumni Award for Deedmob, an online platform that brings together people seeking voluntary opportunities with social, private and public sector organisations and agencies. The Amsterdam Alumni Association AUV interviewed him about this project, his student days at the UvA, and his ambitions for the future.
How did you come up with the idea for Deedmob?
‘During the Brexit referendum two years ago I was doing a traineeship with the European Commission. There was widespread public concern about the rise of populist parties in elections, immigration flows, unemployment and climate change – a whole host of issues for which politicians could offer no quick fixes. All around me, I noticed that friends and family members wanted to help out in some way, and at the same time that charity organisations lacked technological know-how and resources. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), we have around 7.2 million voluntary workers in this country. It seemed to me that voluntary work could act to foster social cohesion while also addressing societal issues, and that led me to start Deedmob.’
What exactly does the project involve?
‘Deedmob aims to spark a radical transformation of the voluntary sector by offering tools to manage and activate voluntary workers and by galvanising a movement to “do good”. On Deedmob, people who want to volunteer can find all projects running in their area and keep track of their voluntary work experience. Charities and social sector organisations and associations can publish profiles of what they’re looking for and manage their volunteers using the special tools provided on the platform. Deedmob is a social enterprise, meaning that both voluntary workers and charity organisations can use it free of charge.’
What is the scale of Deedmob’s operations?
‘Charities that use Deedmob include UNICEF, the Red Cross, 10,000 HOURS, Cordaan and the Dutch branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature, as well as smaller outfits, which together currently represent upwards of 850,000 volunteers. To give an example, last year we were able to recruit 4,500 blood donors for Sanquin Blood Supply. We’re also growing our platform in the UK and USA.’
The AUV Alumni Award comes with a cash prize of €3000. How will you be spending this money?
‘Most charities have a fairly traditional structure, with a board and chairperson, treasurer and secretary. Often, they have a hard time finding people to fill those jobs. Our idea is to break them down so that, for instance, three people from KPMG could share the job of treasurer. We also want to harness expertise from the professional sector for our charities. While the H&M marketing manager who gives their time to spruce up a wall in a deprived neighbourhood makes for a good story, wouldn’t their time be better spent helping out with a charity marketing campaign? We plan to develop training courses aimed at better steering these kinds of processes, and that’s what we want to use this cash award for.’
What was student life at the UvA like for you?
‘I did the international track in Economics and Business. That gave me the best of both worlds: economics plus business administration. It also gave me the chance to do lots of works placements, including with the UN in Ethiopia and at the Dutch embassy in Ghana. Of course, I still had exams during that time, so occasionally I had to fly back to Amsterdam to sit a final.’
Did what you studied at university influence you in coming up with this project?
‘The work placements really influenced me to set up Deedmob, and I got those placements by being a student at the UvA.’
Who were your favourite lecturers?
‘There are two that stand out in my memory: Herman ten Napel, who is retired now, and Stefan Mol. Ten Napel taught Mathematics II, a course that 80% of students had to resit three times, but he was so passionate about his field that he could make even the dullest subjects come alive. I’m still in touch with Stefan Mol, and his honours students are currently working at Deedmob to put theoretical facets of their studies into practice. Also, Alexander Rinnooy Kan (University Professor of Economics and Business) is the chair of our Advisory Board.’
Did the UvA’s alumni network aid you in any way?
‘Actually, I didn’t realise at the time how big the UvA’s alumni network is. Personally, I would love to do more for the UvA and give back, for instance by offering work placements for current students or teaching guest lectures.’
What are your ambitions for the near future?
‘Our team of ten full-time employees and fifty student ambassadors is looking to expand in the Netherlands and continue growing abroad to help achieve the major UN objectives. Our goal is to become the biggest force for doing good in the world.’
The founder and CEO of Deedmob studied at the University of Amsterdam (graduated 2014), Bocconi and Oxford University, and did traineeships at Credit Suisse, ABN AMRO and Laaken Asset Management. He gained public sector experience in posts at the UN in Ethiopia and as a Blue Book trainee at the European Commission. Boudewijn is a programme ambassador for De Nieuwe Poort, Advisory Board member at Stichting Oefenen.nl, co-chair of CDA Amsterdam and a member of the think tank DenkWerk.