Enabling newcomers to succeed in business

What started out as an interest in social entrepreneurship turned into an organisation to help newcomers to the Netherlands feel empowered to enter the workforce by starting their own businesses or getting a job. Alumnus Diederick van der Wijk (MSc International Management/CEMS 2018) co-founded Forward Incubator to help asylum seekers in the Netherlands through skills training leading to employment. It resulted in him receiving RSM’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018.

What is it about your effort that makes a positive change?
“Moving to a new country, let alone having no choice but to do so for a better life, can be challenging. Forward Incubator brings a large network of people together to share their business knowledge and skills that can help newcomers to unlock their potential. Coaches, who can be entrepreneurs or other business professionals, give workshops to help newcomers develop their ideas. They are encouraged to see their disadvantages as advantages, acknowledge and use their strengths to compete in the work environment here in the Netherlands. Forward Incubator has a four-month programme that has been jointly developed with the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship.”

Why do you do it?
“I’ve always had an interest in entrepreneurship and looked into working in this field. Now the organisation has proved its value, I’m motivated by the impact we, as a team, have made for individuals. We want to scale up our impact and hope to change the narrative surrounding refugees so they can be seen as people of high potential who can contribute to society.”

How can others get involved in doing something with you – or something like what you’re doing?
“Being a student gives you time to try something out with little risk; you cannot really fail. I would recommend to anyone with an interest to go ahead. It’s easy to start small, and in starting small you can learn a lot. While it’s important to have goals and ambitions, your life plan might not work the way you intend it to because other things happen and opportunities present themselves to you. When they do, take them.