About Us

Our Mission

At OpenEmbassy we strive to build inclusive mixed communities of newcomers and Dutch residents, while offering individualised support rooted in experience and evidence-based action. Equality and dignity are our watchwords and the foundation of our attempts to support a swift and seamless process of integration. Behind it all we are constantly advocating for positive change in the civic integration process.

Advisory Board
Since the summer of 2021, these special people have been thinking along with (and against) the strategy, vision and organization of OpenEmbassy. We are very happy and honored that they are willing to donate their time, knowledge and expertise to advise, inspire and support us in our mission.

  • Albert Jan Kruiter (founder of the Institute for Public Values)
  • Jet Bussemaker (former Minister of Education, Culture and Science & Professor of Science, Policy and Social Impact, Leiden University)
  • Ila Kasem (managing partner Van de Bunt)
  • Mardjan Seighli (chairman Humanistic Association)
  • Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer (associate professor of Social Design, Delft University of Technology)
  • Peter Bos (Ernst & Young, Global 7 Drivers of Growth Framework Leader)
  • Saman Amini (actor, writer, theater maker)

Supervisory Board

  • Judith Brandsma – Governance and Impact Investment Advisory
  • Lisa Jordan – Managing Director at DRK Foundation

Our Team

Renée Frissen

Founder and Co-Director

Renée founded OpenEmbassy in 2015. For her, doing and learning are inextricably linked, which is why she is committed to developing knowledge within OpenEmbassy. Together with her talented and diverse team, she works to improve the future of newcomers, which is one of her proudest accomplishments yet.

Tamer Allaloush

Community Manager

Tamer is one of our Community Managers. He understands better than anyone how to build, maintain and grow communities both online and offline. Tamer knows everyone, and everyone knows Tamer. He asks the right questions, makes sharp analyses of problems and prefers to solve them immediately. With his foundation, Dreaming of Syria, he is committed to interweaving cultures in all sorts of ways, for example, by dancing the Dabke.

Sandrine Lafay
Sandrine Lafay


Sandrine Lafay works as a project coordinator for the Platform Newcomers & Work. She holds a master's degree in Conflict Studies & Human Rights, is an analytical thinker, an enthusiastic organizer and someone who connects people on the basis of genuine interest. What appeals to Sandrine about the Platform in particular and OpenEmbassy in general: the change at the individual level is always combined with a change at the system level.

Brenda van Berkel_ons team
Brenda van Berkel

Office manager

Brenda is the organizing force behind the scenes. She is very good at administrative support, organizing events, structuring processes and tackling complex projects. In addition, she believes that everyone deserves an equal chance. For Brenda, it is important to support her colleagues in making OpenEmbassy's mission a reality.

Soraya Shawki - Open Embassy
Soraya Shawki

Researcher en community builder

Soraya holds a degree in public administration and has a background in humanities. She is happy to use her substantive knowledge of policy and her professional experience to help social initiatives reach a sustainable system impact. Soraya is a reflective, innovative thinker and bridge builder who is driven by curiosity.

Jolien de Vries

Junior action researcher

Jolien is an anthropologist. Working at the Civic Foundation helped her gain a lot of knowledge about the system that newcomers in the Netherlands have to deal with. As an action researcher at OpenEmbassy, she now focuses on the everyday reality of newcomers and analyzes the functioning of the system. She looks for ways to convert this knowledge into practical solutions. Her ultimate goal: to build a society in which everyone can participate equally.

Eva Halverhout

Junior community builder & researcher

Eva is a community builder and researcher. Her disarming questions and sincere interest ensure that she can quickly connect with people. She also uses her skills and knowledge as an anthropologist to always collect knowledge from all interactions. Eva coordinates with ease, from expert pool and brainstorm to city discussion and training day. We are happy that she has taken her care for good food and real attention from the hospitality industry.

Anna Bilenka

Community builder

Anna is an action researcher and communication expert. She published a successful book in Ukraine, and the second is on its way. At OpenEmbassy she builds communities, supports people and provides content that touches. Language is an opportunity for her to connect with people, and it is only a matter of time before she will publish in Dutch. Anna is one big chunk of energy, with endless ambition and a big heart.

Liv Kaya Abaye de Hoop
Liv Kaya Aabye-de Hoop

Allround Adviseur

Liv works as a consultant, but she is at home in all OpenEmbassy markets. She has experience in action research, training and community management. She combines her sharp analytical skills with a compassionate empathic approach. She has worked in different countries, knows the reality of the living world, but moves just as easily in the systemic world. She likes to use her head, but as a dancer and actor, Liv also knows very well how important body language and emotions are.

Pepijn Tielens

Advisor en researcher

Pepijn works as a consultant, with a specialization in monitoring and evaluation. At the UAF, Pepijn learned about the practice of newcomers, both as a mentor and later as a policy advisor. He brings knowledge about advocacy to OpenEmbassy, ​​and an enormous drive to change systems based on radical equality. His eagerness to learn means that he quickly understands things. Pepijn never does anything just like that, in preparation for an evening of his book club he bought a Scandinavian cookbook to make suitable courses for the novel.

Mahad Hussein

Action researcher

Mahad is an action researcher. With more than 15 years of experience as a civil servant, Mahad understands the dilemmas faced by municipalities like no other at OpenEmbassy. Involvement comes naturally to Mahad. In all countries where he lived, he supported (young) people in vulnerable positions. He has an incredible amount of life experience. Combined with his sharp mind, this results in careful analyses. He prefers to read in French, and likes classics, without modern frills.

Femke Brand, communicatie-expert
Femke Brand

Communication expert

Femke works as a communication expert. Originally trained in minority policy and worked at, among others, Refugee Work. Now independent all-round web editor for a long time. Nerdy lover of all technical possibilities to tell a good story online. Likes to structure complex information and translate it into clear and visually attractive content. Prefers to do this for projects with social impact. Together with her experience in advocacy, this all comes together beautifully at Open Embassy.

Naya Aljoudi

Action researcher, trainer

Naya has a background in gender studies and law, an interest in poetry and has released two collections of poetry that combine their cultural, literary and research interests to form their current ecosystem of knowledge(s). Naya believes that writing and cultivating knowledge(s) are two important tools for change. Naya is interested in cultural intersections that newcomers bring with them and strives to focus on these to develop and improve related policies. Naya believes in collective collaboration (focus on us instead of me) for current system change.


Chief happiness

Max Hirschel

Projectleader TOMaatjes

Max has a background in IT and as an entrepreneur. A few years ago he started as a volunteer at TOMaatjes and ended up joining the team. He now focuses on education and equality of opportunity. Max is a planner with an overview and many analytical qualities, with a passion for results (and board games).

Fatih Aktas


Edom Ghebremariam

Junior Trainer


Our Vision

We work on our mission based on the following beliefs:


The Dutch system of ‘inburgering’ and integration does not work well for all newcomers.

The current system can potentially stall newcomers’ attempts to promptly build their own new lives. It also may fail to provide adequate help where needed. We’re doing our best to ensure that the introduction of the new Civic Integration Act in 2021 runs optimally for newcomers. How? By putting newcomers’ voices to the forefront and making sure they are heard in a place where everything is usually devised in terms of rules and regulations.


The integration of newcomers is largely society’s responsibility.

We believe society evolves, and that while the government should continue to invest in social initiatives to integrate newcomers, the responsibility to do so falls on all of us.


To change the system, you have to work alongside it.

There are necessary and already well-functioning parts of the system. We are committed to change from within, which is why our work is often commissioned by stakeholders, such as municipalities, provinces, the central government, housing corporations, and care providers.


Newcomers’ agency is at the center of everything we do.

By agency, we mean the ability to influence one’s own life and surroundings.


Social entrepreneurship is the best approach to achieve our mission.

We are a private limited company (LTD) so that we can eventually share ownership of OpenEmbassy. This way, we can also make a profit and use it at our own discretion to achieve our mission. We do this through Impact R&D, with which we finance, for example, our Academy, our help desk, and our Trainee Action Researcher.


OpenEmbassy is an inclusive workplace.

Diversity in backgrounds and perspectives is crucial to our work. Thus, we strive to be a good example for our clients and partners both through the composition of our team, and the way in which we work together.


Knowledge is vital for change.

It’s essential, for example, to know the wishes and ambitions of newcomers, the practical side of the civic integration (‘inburgering’) process, and the way in which regulations work. However, change only takes place when it is operationalised. This is why we prefer to build learning communities rather than to publish comprehensive reports. All of our products are also meant to be operationalised.


Our name is OpenEmbassy because we started as the place to go for support and knowledge in one’s country of arrival

….while ordinary embassies are for one’s country of origin. Furthermore, we want to be the source of “everyday diplomacy,” which is crucial in order to live in a diverse community.

Not only is OpenEmbassy a community of newcomers and Dutch residents, but it is also a community of professionals, which we encourage you to join! Below, you’ll find an overview of our community members.

Nebil Kusmallah
Passionate action researcher who stands for the strength of newcomers
Bet-El Teklemariam
Experienced researcher and key person whose focus is on Eritrean Dutch people.
Our inventive designers, who faithfully, creatively and patiently :-) contribute to the OpenEmbassy brand
Studio Formaat
Experts in participatory drama and in finding new, and effective strategies for sparking the right conversations with diverse groups
Dutch Council for Refugees East (Vluchtelingenwerk Oost Nederland)
The VWON sounding board, which comprises both newcomers and veterans, is our crucial partner in everything we do in the province of Gelderland
Mekkonen Ykeallo
Source of inspiration and experienced key person, who just also happens to own the best Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant in the Netherlands
Mohammed Badran
Founder of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, initiator of the European Summit of Refugees and Migrants, and also the permanent moderator of OpenEmbassy
Creates language internships in increasingly more cities in the Netherlands with the aim to provide newcomers with a new perspective
Younes Younes
Sociologist and founder of the Yalla Foundation

Are you new in the Netherlands?

Do you have a question about your new life in the Netherlands? Ask us!