Debby van der Schuit

Debby van der Schuit

MSc International Management/CEMS, 2010
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Project manager and communications lead at eIDAS, Connectis
Nominated by fellow alumnus Olga Donchyts

Involving brothers and sisters in care plans for disabled siblings

Debby van der Schuit found a unique way of combining her personal needs with her managerial and business mindset. Her approach pushed the boundaries of the health care industry and the political spectrum because she has brought to the fore the role and responsibilities of carers for siblings with a disability.

Having a disabled sister, Debby found it baffling that care organisations do not include siblings’ brothers and sisters in making decisions about future care. When parents get older, the responsibility of care for a disabled sibling passes to brothers and sisters – often a daunting prospect. Debby gave these care-giving brothers and sisters a voice by making and distributing an introduction video to the documentary Op zoek naar mijn zusje (in English: Searching for my sister). The documentary uncovers the private thoughts and fears in such families.

‘Start before you feel ready’

Care organisations struggle with budget cuts, securing clients’ needs and sustainable business models. They often don’t involve brothers and sisters in making care plans; a risky strategy considering brothers and sisters are likely to become care co-ordinators in the future.

Without any filmmaking experience, Debby was determined to tell her story. She says RSM helped her achieve strong willpower, which resulted in her 9.5 thesis grade, the highest in her class. “RSM made me shine in a way I hadn’t thought I could. I now know that the key to success is to start a project before you feel ready,” says Debby. “Before making a documentary I didn’t know I could actually do it. I didn’t have all the elements figured out but I decided that what I knew at that point was enough to make the first steps towards reaching the end goal.”

Custom-made for siblings

The documentary helps organisations approach these challenges with staff training and theme days for families. The goal is to achieve a custom working method that includes brothers and sisters in a sibling’s care plan, ultimately providing the first steps to solving a true business and societal need. Before filming Op zoek naar mijn zusje, more than 20 organisations were already preparing their organisation for the future use of the documentary. And when the documentary was available, care organisations, institutions and foundations had no problem contributing financially for the ability to solve their business and social dilemmas about brothers and sisters.

Expectations and political change

The project has attracted huge media attention, and it has encouraged thousands of 'special needs' families across the Netherlands to talk about their expectations. Debby and her sister Wendy presented the documentary to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport in the Dutch parliament.

Debby’s persuasion, business skills and her own care responsibilities turned into a project for political change that would increase involvement and protection of many thousands of brothers and sisters of disabled siblings in the Netherlands.

In addition to this project, Debby has worked as an economic officer at the Dutch Consulate in Panama City; on communications and CSR projects for Vodafone; and as a project manager for Rotterdam Cares, developing the not-for-profit organisation into the most active volunteering community for young professionals in the Netherlands. She is currently working on a digitisation project for Connectis in close collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the European Commission.