Social and Business Initiatives


What do migrant entrepreneurs, returning to their home countries, mean for the progress in that country? What determines the success of starting entrepreneurs in the Netherlands? How can charities effectively respond to the behaviour of individuals, households and businesses? Philanthropy and organizational scientists and researchers at VU University focus on various facets of the theme of entrepreneurship.

Social traineeships encourages involvement

Companies thrive on social capital. Social networks, trust in others and willingness to contribute to the common good are the building blocks of a pleasant society. And so educational institutes also invest in social capital. In secondary schools in The Netherlands students are recently required to have a social internship. Are these internships successful? To what extent do they contribute to the formation of citizenship?
These questions are central to the research by Dr. René Bekkers of the working group Philanthropic Studies at VU University. He discovered that students who did a social internship are more active in volunteering and doing volunteer work and also take these activities as matters of course. It also appears that students who could do the internship at an organization of their choice developed a higher degree of political involvement than those whose internship was chosen for them. The research of René Bekkers is funded by the Ministry of Education and has recently been sent to the Secretary of State as a research report (Social internship and citizenship). The research is part of the research of Philanthropic Studies: Philanthropy and volunteering in a civil society.

Starting Entrepreneurial success and Social Networks

The social network can be decisive in the success of a new company. This applies to both new companies and entrepreneurs who start anew after bankruptcy. According to research by Dr. Ingrid Wakkee within the research programme of Organization Studies: Organizations and Processes of Organizing in Society. Scientifically speaking, entrepreneurs are people with a business, who see opportunities and look for the resources to exploit these opportunities.
"Social scientists are aptly equipped to study how opportunities arise and what the role of social networks is", states Ingrid Wakkee in the interview 'Studying entrepreneurship is as much fun as being an entrepreneur'. In the entrepreneurs’ decision to start a business or whether or not to continue, only a small percentage is guided by profit margins.

Young active elderly in society

Older people are much more active than generally thought. Especially the younger generations of the elderly do more volunteering work than the generations before them. They also take part in the broad consumer society through travel, frequent visits to the theatre, cycling and walking in nature. Also, elderly people nowadays have a wide social network which contains more non-family friends than the networks of earlier generations did. 
All of this has been shown by the research from VU sociologists associated with the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. One of the research projects is the social participation of young elderly. The research, conducted within the research programme of Sociology: Participation in Society, shows that the prevailing view that the elderly are badly integrated socially, needs to be adjusted.

Small-scale gold mining in the Amazon

IIn recent years, the Amazon forest has become host to a rapidly growing economic sector of small-scale gold mining. Rising gold prices lure tens of thousands of natives, immigrants, local entrepreneurs and multinational companies in the U.S. and Canada to the gold fields. This leads to conflicts over access to gold deposits and the distribution of profits. It increases the pressure on the territory of the local population and the natural environment.
Dr. Marjo de Theije of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology received a research grant to study and compare the developments surrounding the small-scale gold mining in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Suriname. She conducts her research in the GOMIAM research project ( and focuses on the (power) positions the miners, locals and migrants and other foreigners have in the conflicts and the role that the environmental problems associated with gold mining play. She also examines the government policy on gold mining, national legislation and the political and economic processes that affect the regulation of the gold sector. Her research is part of the research programme of Social and Cultural Anthropology: Constructing human security in a globalising world.