It was a full house on Tuesday 23 January at the Ministry of Justice and Safety in the Hague, where 25 master Media & Business students of Erasmus University Rotterdam presented their advice to government organizations during the “Participating Citizens” symposium. The event was co-organized by the Government Wide Social Media Network (RKS) and Dr. Mijke Slot of the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication.

By applying literature to practical challenges, and transforming their academic advice into compelling videos, the students inspired the representatives of Public Information Service (DPC), The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl), The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO). With their video presentations, they finalized their Master seminar Participating Customers (Participating Citizens in this context).

After a warm welcome by Drummond Coenraad (Chairman RKSocial), Jeroen Heres (Ministry of Justice and Safety) and Tim van Waard (Werken voor Nederland), Dr. Mijke Slot introduced the students and explained the context of the symposium. All speakers underlined the importance of citizen participation. The challenges that were presented to the students, were proof that there is room for improvement when it comes to engaging with citizens.

The four challenges

All four presentations started with an introduction from representatives of each organization. Martin Spijker (senior advisor of DPC) spoke about the responsibilities of DPC and their challenge of reaching out to young people and informing them about their rights and obligations as (coming) adults. In their presentation entitled ‘All Grown Up’, the students who took on this challenge, advised DPC to follow a three-step strategy: (1) create and distribute an engaging video about becoming an adult, (2) integrate and connect with youngsters by using an efficient app and (3) embed young representatives (influencers) in the process.

The second challenge was introduced by Suze Krijnen, Employee Advocacy & Community Manager at RVO.nl. RVO.nl wanted to know how to stimulate their employees and entrepreneurs to be ambassadors of their organization and promote their products and services through social media. The students explained how RVO.nl could leverage its network by focusing on gamification, education and the use of influencers in their community.

Corine Zaagman (Senior Advisor Communication at the NVWA) spoke about their challenge to encourage citizens to report on illegal food and supplement trade. The students and advised the NVWA to specifically target Dutch fitness/health influencers. By raising awareness and creating a community around healthy living and practicing clean sports, citizens could be convinced to report on illegal trade. In their advice, they also underlined the importance for the NVWA to simplify their online forms.

Lastly, Warner Bargboer (Social Media Advisor for DUO) asked the students how DUO can redirect the questions that people have regarding DUO from the phone center to an online source of information, in order to avoid the current overload of calls and speed up the procedures. The students gave insights to DUO on how to become sexy again. In an impressive mock-up they presented an all-inclusive DUO app that could be the solution to all of their problems.

Follow-up

The presentations of the students were enthusiastically received by the government organizations and the audience. After the presentations, the presenters, challengers and the audience engaged in a vivid Q&A session. The videos that were presented by the students will be shared soon on www.rksocial.nl. And next year, there will be new challenges!

For more questions about the symposium, contact Dr. Mijke Slot: slot@eshcc.eur.nl.

Is there an app for that? | Participating Citizens Symposium 
The Hague 23 January 2018