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


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 Yigit Ari
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.

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

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.

Lana Kadour


Lana is a matcher at ThuisOnderwijsMaatjes and a trainer and language supporter at our training courses. Lana knows better than anyone else how to bring parents and children and buddies together and she is always available for questions. She previously worked in both ICT and HR - a perfect combination for TOMaatjes. In addition to her empathy, she brings her eagerness to learn to the team and is always looking for new knowledge and new perspectives. In addition to her work at OpenEmbassy, ​​she works with a small team as a beautician - also something for which attention and contact are indispensable.

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 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.

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!