Regardless of being one of the wealthiest countries in the world by gross domestic product, poverty still exists in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research indicates that poverty can be detected primarily in deprived neighbourhoods in the largest Dutch cities and in the country’s peripheral municipalities. Two examples hereof are the Amsterdam borough of Zuidoost and the neighbouring municipality of Diemen. A considerable proportion of the corresponding inhabitants have earnings close to the Dutch minimum wage or lower and are consequently confronted with a wide array of social, personal and financial challenges. Annually the MaDi Foundation supports around 5000 households in both places to solve problems of this nature. As of recently, the foundation is supported by Stedman Graham, the partner of media mogul Oprah Winfrey, through his messages of Identity and Identity Leadership.

“The world is changing radically and so must the approach regarding social services”, says dr. Jurenne Hooi, CEO of MaDi.

As a result, the foundation initiated by the end of 2015 the POP-UP Your Life! Programme. The fundamental approach of the programme is that participants work out of dreams towards the future – in others words, the perspective of the participants plays a leading role. “Of course the participants are not left to themselves”, comments dr. Hooi, “they are supported by experienced personnel of MaDi. But the personnel in question does not solve their problems, they merely establish general conditions by which the participants are triggered in coming up with their own solutions”.

In concrete terms, the programme consists of a series of group meetings, personal coaching, the use of digital group chat (participants are challenged to mutually support and advice one another) and the participants’ own actions and initiatives. All of this under the wings of Stedman Graham. “The motivational coaching of Mr Graham is a transformational source of strength for all involved”, dr. Hooi explains, “he coaches the participants towards a growth mindset, in which they come to realise that change is within their own sphere of influence”.

The participants realise that reaching their potential begins with knowing who you are and that is the foundation for their choices personally and professionallyStedman Graham.

The initial results are encouraging. Some participants now serve as hands-on experts and share their practical knowledge at high schools. Others have compiled their first business plans and have registered their companies at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

Commenting on the POP-UP Your Life! Programme, Stedman Graham says: “It has been a privilege to teach my Identity Leadership message to people who not only need it, but are eager to learn who they are and change or improve the trajectory of their lives. The participants realise that reaching their potential begins with knowing who you are and that is the foundation for their choices personally and professionally. It is a pleasure to witness such positive progress and I commend dr. Hooi and her team for making a difference”.

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research points out that the country’s poverty rate is expected to drop from 7.6 to 7.0 percent, between 2014 and 2016. The government agency furthermore predicts that the poverty rate in the Netherlands would have seemingly increased to 7.1 percent by 2017.

Originally published at


  • Jassir de Windt

    Communication Specialist & Lecturer

    Born in Europe (The Netherlands) and raised in the Caribbean (Curaçao), Jassir de Windt is a supporter of constructive journalism and alter-globalisation. His fields of interest are in the area of international relations, education, human rights, cultural pluriformity, development, social change and inclusion. Based in Amsterdam, he holds an MA in Communication for Development from Malmö University (Sweden).