Diederick van der Wijk

MSc International Management/CEMS, 2018

Alumni achievement award recipient

Diederick van der Wijk

Diederick created the non-profit organisation Refugees Forward when he was 23. Within a year, the incubator programme has supported 15 refugees in Amsterdam, and is planning to help 60 more entrepreneurs on their way next year. His initiative, which will expand to Rotterdam soon, leads to a more open and inclusive society in which people have equal opportunities to thrive on their own talents and experiences. 

In Diederick, the refugees found someone who truly believes in them and helps them set up businesses in the Netherlands so they can rebuild their lives.

Diederick’s energy and passion focus on the greater good and his ambitions have become centred on enabling others’ ambitions. By inspiring the entrepreneurial refugees and their coaches, partners or companies, he makes sure the newcomers can contribute to society through their own business ideas. They learn business skills and gain power as entrepreneurs through collaborations that Diederick has established with multinationals such as Uber, DLA Piper and Deloitte. In this way, Diederick creates success stories that can change the narrative for refugees in the Netherlands and beyond.

Diederick lives, thinks and acts with a better future in mind. By consulting with every entrepreneur and engaging stakeholders such as the city council, investors and his team, Diederick empowers people to become economically self-sufficient through entrepreneurship.

Diederick’s nominator, CEMS classmate Laura Di Santolo, also works for Refugees Forward. She says Diederick is the heart and soul of the organisation, and works seven days a week to make his inclusive and entrepreneurial ambition a reality.