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.

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.

Patrick van der Hijden

Co-Director

Patrick joined OpenEmbassy in 2019. After ten years of freelance experience as process consultant, communication strategist and programmer, he decided it was time to make a real change. Together with OpenEmbassy’s talented and diverse team, he develops the community side of the company. How do you create learning, active and inclusive communities? How do you ensure fair and effective conversations and decision-making processes? Patrick is happy to put all his experience to good use in answering these questions.

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.

Imren_ons_team
Imren Yigit Ari

project manager

Imren works as a project manager for Thuisonderwijsmaatjes (Home Education Buddies). She is a go-getter, ambitious and positive. She is trained as an English teacher and loves to learn languages. In Turkey she worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Imren thinks that investing in integration is investing in the future of Dutch society. She also believes that the education and participation of newcomers are two inseparable elements for successful integration.

Suzanne Kuijpers

Action Researcher

Suzanne is our Action Researcher. Trained as a criminologist, she calmly but decisively dissects the system and puts her findings back into practice. She learned her practical skills at the Stichting Nieuw Thuis Rotterdam (New Home Foundation Rotterdam) and at the municipality of Rotterdam. Therefore, she knows a lot about exclusive bureaucratic practices and inclusive communities.

Ivana
Ivana Barišić

communitybuilder & researcher

Ivana Barišić is a community builder & researcher, with a focus on Rotterdam and Amsterdam. She studied Cultural Anthropology and worked a.o. at the Move Foundation, where she matched students with children and young people in Rotterdam. She also has a background as a filmmaker and film programmer. Ivana is a networker pur sang and has an analytical and creative mind that is always on.

Abulwadoud
Abdulwadoud Faraj

junior action researcher

Abdulwadoud is a junior action researcher. He works as a reviewer for the helpdesk and is a member of the A-teams. In addition to his work for OpenEmbassy, he is doing a bridging trajectory in order to be able to study Anthropology at the VU next academic year. Abdul is a proactive colleague with good ideas and a big heart for people. He stands out as a researcher with perseverance and diligence.

Jolien_de_Vries
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.

Frans
Frans Somers

action researcher

Frans works as an action researcher at OpenEmbassy. He does this in addition to his study Social Work at the Hogeschool Utrecht. He started as a 'super local' at our helpdesk and his energy, analytical power and ability to reflect quickly made him indispensable. This is not Frans' first career: we eagerly make use of the knowledge that he brings from his experience in the arts and ICT.

Mohammed Badran
Mohammed Badran

social designer & consultant

Mohammed works as a social designer & consultant. He studied anthropology in Amsterdam and also worked as a researcher and consultant with his own company. He therefore draws his knowledge in the field of inclusion, integration, migration and social connection both from practice and from his scientific work. He is also an experienced trainer and host.

Sandrine Lafay
Sandrine Lafay

projectcoordinator

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.

Soraya
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.

Nadia Schoenzwytt ons team
Nadia Schoenzwytt

communication expert

After many years working in the commercial sector, Nadia now rather focusses on work that matters. She is happy to contribute to the mission of OpenEmbassy: support a swift, seamless and dignified process of integration for newcomers in the Netherlands. Nadia's goal is to increase OpenEmbassy's visibility and to share the valuable insights so as to create system impact.

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.


Our Vision

We work on our mission based on the following beliefs:


1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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

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

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

8

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.
Multitude
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
NewBees
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!