During our research for Commonfare, we encountered a publication by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) entitled ‘Into the future. Learning, working, caring, living and consuming in the Netherlands in 2050'. Somewhere there we encountered this passage:
“ The […] tendency towards bridging gaps between different groups is rare, while social divisions are deepening. This limits the support for solidarity at a national level. The increased appeal to ‘personal responsibility’ for a successful life can lead to a rhetoric in which success is a virtue and failure is due to bad choices. There will no longer be such a thing as 'bad luck', but only personal failure and blame.”
That sounds awful. Commonfare is all about the reverse. Collaboration, solidarity, shared risk, inclusion... And we all know that bad luck is part of life? Not everything works out, unfortunately things sometimes go wrong. Sometimes because of your own fault, sometimes because of the circumstances. And there should be room for this in a resilient society.
That's why we visited Rodney van den Hengel, the founder of coffee bar and lunch spot Heilige Boontjes in Rotterdam. The bar is located in a former police station ‘Yeah… I knew the inside already…’ Rodney started the business two years ago and works with problem youth or young people with a criminal record. In his case he gives these young people training and a job. According to Rodney, it is often not even the fault of the young when they hit the wrong path. According to him, there are so many external incentives to have this, to have that, to buy this, to but... to be part of it all, that it is extremely difficult to resist the temptation. And if you don’t have money to buy something, then you think of something else.
The business is booming and it is always busy with totally different people. That what the SCP warns about, he has actually solved all by himself. People deserve a chance; it's as simple as that. What is nice is that he refuses to call himself 'social entrepreneur'. That term is ruined for him. As an example he gives Peerby, the Dutch start-up that has built an online platform to rent out stuff to your neighbours. He says:
“That is capitalizing on the social, it’s economics of exploitation. I don’t do that. Why would I want my neighbour to pay some company and me when he borrows my party tent? My company is for-profit and very commercial. We extract money from the market to invest in the community, not the other way around. And these youngsters, we offer them steady jobs with a future and a proper income, not that much lower than mine in fact. Why should the director make fifty times more than his staff?”