"Rotterdam residents can achieve a lot by joining forces"

Skyline of Rotterdam.
Professor Tine de Moor looks straight into the camera.
Professor Tine de Moor
Mirjam Lens

Tine de Moor is the professor of Social Enterprises and Institutions for Collective Action at  Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). On 13 May, she will deliver the 'Rotterdamlezing' entitled 'How value becomes resilient'. De Moor is fascinated by citizen collectives and is founder of the Collectieve Kracht platform. “What I would like to convey to the residents of Rotterdam is how much we can achieve when we join forces."

What do you want to talk about in the Rotterdam lecture?

"Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe and is well connected to the global economy. Yet Rotterdam is also a city with a great deal of poverty and unemployment, often referred to as a ‘problem city’. In today's economy, not everyone benefits from the prosperity we enjoy. This is underpinned by value-driven choices because, as a society, we believe in a certain form of economics. We need to make those choices explicit. That way, you get an economy that is not only driven by profit, but also by other values that we all care about."

Hence the title 'How value becomes resilient'?

"The title, of course, is a reference to Lucebert's line ‘Everything of Value is Defenceless [’Alles van Waarde is Weerloos’]. During the lecture, I will be clarifying why I chose that title in greater details. Citizens are capable of many things. For example, there are a lot of initiatives in Rotterdam that aim to help residents become more resilient – like the Wijkpaleis in Rotterdam-West or the Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative that helps Rotterdam residents find jobs, among other things."

People doing crafts in the District Palace.
Het Wijkpaleis
Sanne Donders

Confidence in the government is low. Does that also account for the rapid growth of citizen collectives?

"I wouldn’t say it’s a direct correlation. However, I do think citizen collectives provide opportunities to work with public authorities and market players to build trust. At the moment, something is fundamentally wrong with the trust the government places in its citizens and that has a crippling effect. All the while, the government puts a lot of trust in market players without knowing exactly who they are. I think it’s important to see what citizens can put together themselves. There are plenty of good examples of energy and healthcare cooperatives. These are all set up by people who want to organise the provision of their healthcare or energy differently."

You are the initiator of 'CollectieveKracht'. What exactly does the organisation do?

"CollectieveKracht is a knowledge-sharing platform aimed at supporting citizen collectives and helping them overcome obstacles. We don’t tell them what to do; instead, we provide collectives with evidence-based information. We try to work with the collectives to find out what their issues are, for example, to understand the motivation of their members. This information can support their democratic decision-making process and, as scientists, gives us input for further scientific research."

What makes this form of engagement so valuable as a scientist?

"Trust in science is still high now – but whether it stays that way remains to be seen. Distrust spreads through institutions like an oil slick: I find that worrying. I think we as scientists need to be prepared for that and work more on building that trust – before it disappears. We sometimes ask quite a lot of society and send out surveys indiscriminately without explaining what we aim to achieve by doing that."

Portrait photo of Tine de Moor in Rotterdam.
Mirjam Lens

What’s the right way?

"Researchers are often passionate about certain phenomena in a nerdy way. That intrinsic motivation to unravel a problem is our strength, but sometimes we don’t ask ourselves enough if that’s what society is concerned about, too. Citizen engagement is still too much of a 'must' in the way that universities operate, whereas given the current state the world is in, we really can no longer afford to remain aloof. It takes effort to show what our added value is and it takes effort from citizens to listen to us. 

But critical or even nasty questions from society likewise keep us on our toes. Effective science communication is very important, but we need to go a few steps further and foster a genuine dialogue with citizen stakeholders. Not just to share results, but to involve every party in research as early as possible. This will also help us pick up in any issues in society, which in turn are of interest to us as scientists."

What is it like to be asked to lecture?

"I really enjoy doing it and it’s an honour to represent the university. The lecture's basic principle of 'giving something back to Rotterdam from the university' dovetails precisely with my position in society as a scientist. What I would like to convey to the residents of Rotterdam is how much we can achieve when we join forces. Just look at the examples Rotterdam already has. A community economy is less elusive than a capitalist global economy that revolves around profit maximisation. People see the results of their efforts faster if they can make a difference in their own neighbourhood."

More information

The Rotterdamlezing was established in 2003. The lecture represents Erasmus University Rotterdam’s aim to give something back to the city. The university actively seeks to connect with the city by exploring the issues its citizens are concerned about and aims to contribute to solving challenges in society through research. This year marks the twentieth occasion the lecture will be held.

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On May 13th we would love to exchange thoughts with you during our annual Rotterdamlezing at Debatpodium Arminius.
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