Facing grand challenges together

Working conference on local responses to forced displacement on 28th of March

Global forced displacement is not a new phenomenon, but in 2015, when the island of Lesbos was confronted with over 500.000 refugees in one year; almost 6 times its own population, its visibility was increased. In the wake of a record number of refugee arrivals, many international organizations followed, creating a complex system of Greek, European and global organizations and processes. As a result, Lesbos has become a microcosm where local and global responses intersect to manage the refugee crisis and its aftermath. These challenges do not stay on Lesbos, they reverberate across Europe.

Responding to forced displacement is difficult as humanitarian and economic needs and responsibilities transcend the local and even European levels of organizing. One thing is clear however; the challenge of dealing with forced displacement is bigger than any one organization, and must therefore be faced together. 

This working conference brings together knowledge and experience from all relevant sectors, including business, charity and voluntary work, healthcare, law enforcement and security, media, public administration, social care, logistics and science. Hosted by the Rotterdam School of Management, this working conference provides a platform to discuss approaches to the humanitarian as well as economic challenges that exist. In addition to sharing our everyday experiences and existing practices, we also aim to strengthen learning alliances and working networks for the future.

The following questions will be addressed:

  1. What are the main challenges in forced displacement in different localities?
  2. How can co-creation between different actors lead to better outcomes?
  3. How can we learn from our own experiences and from the work of others and then share the learning outcomes?

The goals of the working conference are:

  • To discuss the challenges we face in our work
  • To foster stronger and new networks
  • To work together for sustainable initiatives and solutions on the Dutch and the European level
  • To highlight the importance of stronger bonds between practitioners, government and academia.


This working conference will consist of a combination of short presentations with invited speakers, moderated discussions and roundtable activities. The day starts at 9.00 with the registration and coffee and ends at 17:00. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Taster of the talks:

Keynotes by Marios Andriotis, International Relations Advisor to the Mayor of Lesvos and Martijn Vroom, Mayor of Krimpen aan den IJssel

The paradigm of Lesvos during the refugee crisis of 2015. Challenges, opportunities, aftermath and current status
Marios Andriotis, International Relations advisor to the Mayor of Lesvos, Greece

Raising the bar: how refugee entrepreneurs can spark innovation in their host countries with the right support
Diederick van der Wijk, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Refugees Forward, the Netherlands

InBetween cities: tracing the way to a "European paradise"
Dimitris Rossakis, Senior Consultant - Head of Human Resources & Employment Policy Unit, EUROTEC, Greece

NGO's from welfare workers to criminals
Pieter M.J. Wittenberg, ShowerPower, the Netherlands

Refugee narratives in media
Katy Fallon, Freelance Journalist, UK

The elusive link between technological and ethical innovation in humanitarian emergencies
Dr. Marian Gatzweiler, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK

The Ethics of Refugee Management: Fairness and the Duty to Assist
Dr. Conrad Heilmann, Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus University, the Netherlands

Practical information

The conference will take place 9:00 -17:00 on March 28th 2019 at Vessel 11, in Wijnhaven 101, 3011 WN Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

This working conference is open to any practitioners and researchers interested in - or experienced with managing the effects of forced displacement. Your expertise is needed and we would love to see you there.

To register please follow this link. The conference is free but as the space is limited, registration is required.

Organised by:

Dr. Ilona Suojanen, Prof. Gabriele Jacobs, Mark van der Giessen and Bep Klop from the Centre of Excellence in Public Safety Management (CESAM), Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands

In collaboration with:

Mieke Kox and Dr. Gabry Vanderveen, Criminology, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University, the Netherlands

Dr. Conrad Heilmann, Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus University, the Netherlands

Marieke de Wal and Prof. Rob van Tulder, Partnership Resource Centre, Erasmus University, the Netherlands


Grants from the LDE Centre for Safety and Security and from the Erasmus Initiative “Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity” make this working conference possible.


Questions, comments or suggestions? Please contact Bep Klop for more information:, Tel: +31 (0)10 408 2373, Centre of Excellence in Public Safety Management, CESAM, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University


Drawing: from the comic "Europe's Waiting Room" Aimee de Jongh