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Science with Society

The Science with Society project brings together local residents, welfare organisations, policy makers, students and scientists. Together we develop knowledge to tackle complex societal problems.

How do we tackle loneliness in a digitized world? How can we become more sustainable in a just way? Finding fair and effective solutions for such complex issues requires knowledge and experience from many different angles. The Science with Society (SwS) project brings these different perspectives together by connecting local residents, welfare organisations, policy makers, students and scientists. We exchange ideas and acquire new knowledge together, which we then convert into research agendas and practical advice for policy.

This project is a collaboration between VU Athena, VoorUitOBA en HvA.

We organise two events:

SwS Festival

Round table discussions, entertainment, exchange, inspiration, and interaction on various societal themes occurred at the event which took place in June 2023. The societal themes included:

  • The energy transition
  • Mental strength
  • (Green) living spaces
  • Local food production  

Outcomes of the Student & City Dialogue that occurred in December 2022 were shared during the SwS Festival. Residents, local organisations, and policy makers from various neighbourhoods (including Geuzenveld, Banne Buiksloot and Ganzenhoef) came together to further realise approaches to the subjects: Are we implementing a 'fair energy transition' and 'space for mental strength' in the right way? What role can policy makers play in this? The outcomes of this meeting can be found at the bottom of this page.

Student & City in Dialogue

This meeting took place in December 2022, and will take place again in Dec 2023. Students from the VU and the HvA sat down with local residents to discuss two societal issues:

  • Fair energy transition
  • Space for mental strength

Based on these discussions, we determined which aspects, according to local residents, should be further investigated. The outcomes of this meeting can be found at the bottom of this page.

Impression of 'SwS Festival'

Outcomes of 'SwS Festival'

  • Theme: space for mental strength

    OBA Oosterdok
    The main festival event featured a dialogue session around the theme of mental strength. We discussed individual vs. collective mental strength and the importance of taking care of each other and our communities. We also discussed internal vs. external factors that contribute to mental strength. For example, people can be mentally strong but still in a vulnerable position within society.

    OBA Banne Buiksloot
    In North we hosted a mental strength-themed quiz (adapted from a regular weekly OBA quiz) in order to stimulate discussion about mental strength among the elderly in Noord. We discussed potential causes of loneliness among the elderly, green spaces in Amsterdam, and changes in the neighborhood.

    OBA Ganzenhoef
    In South-East there was a round table discussion, which included HvA psychology students and welfare organizations such as Thrive Amsterdam (GGD) and Swasoom Welzijn. Participants reflected on three questions: 1) What does mental strength mean to you? 2) How do you keep your balance? and 3) What can buurtcampuses or the Science with Society project do to help you?

    Find more on mental health outcomes here

  • Theme: fair energy transition

    OBA Oosterdok
    Various dialogue sessions took place during the Science with Society Festival in the OBA centre, including one on the energy transition. A much-discussed topic in this dialogue was how we can best use the talents already present in the community to stimulate the energy transition. In many neighborhoods there is a sense of togetherness and there is a lot of knowledge about the neighborhood and its residents. Shouldn't we use this more?

    OBA Geiszenveld
    On June 22nd, HvA and VU students organized the evening ‘Making Geuzenveld Green’ in the OBA in New West. Residents could go here for practical advice from energy coaches and the FIXbrigade. Round table discussions also took place and a great deal of input was received from the various residents and organizations present about what the energy transition means for them.

    OBA Ganzenhoef
    During the Science with Society event on the 22nd, Energie Lab Zuid-Oost held a session on energy transition with an emphasis on people's experiences on this subject. This mainly concerned ways of saving energy: what people are already doing themselves, but also what they need to do better.

    Find more on energy transition outcomes here

Outcomes of 'Student & City in Dialogue'

  • Theme: space for mental strength

    Our mental health is under pressure. Depression, burnout and loneliness are becoming more common, especially since the pandemic. The City of Amsterdam therefore wants to improve the design of public space for the benefit of the mental health of its residents. What do the people of Amsterdam themselves think is needed for this?

    Focus group results
    Participants identified locations that they consider valuable for their mental health, such as cultural spaces (e.g. theatres), sports and exercise venues and meeting places (e.g. community rooms). The location itself, however, did not appear to be the most important factor. It mainly concerns the underlying need, such as exercise, societal interaction and cognitive development or self-reflection. Accessible places such as parks and community center rooms can offer these possibilities. Interestingly, participants indicated that the availability of exactly these places is declining. Spaces for gathering are strictly regulated, there are fewer public places and drinking a cup of coffee somewhere can quickly become expensive.

    Recommendations for future research and policy
    Based on this input, the students have drawn up a number of recommendations: First, attention should be paid to public places that meet the aforementioned criteria. These locations should be both indoors and outdoors and the focus should be on accessibility and affordability. In one of the focus groups, it was also indicated that use should be made of what is already available, such as local initiatives and communication between local residents. Local residents must be given a role in the development of these places and be continuously involved in the research. For example, a local resident can be appointed as a facilitator to gain insight into which places are currently available, what can or should change and how residents can contribute to this.

    Theme: Just Energy Transition

  • Theme: fair energy transition

    Addressing climate change requires a fundamental transition from the current dominant fossil energy system to a low carbon/zero system. The City of Amsterdam wants to be climate neutral by 2050 and completely ban gas from the city by 2040. This shift requires rigorous changes and therefore has a major societal impact. How do the people of Amsterdam view this?

    Focus group results
    Participants saw several obstacles that could stand in the way of a just energy transition, especially in the field of communication. Many indicated that they were not well informed and did not know where to find official government information. For some, language barriers pose an additional challenge. Some participants do not know how to make their home more energy efficient. Their costs are a limiting factor, but there are also differences between owner-occupied and rented houses. Most participants believe that the government is responsible for a just energy transition, for example by improving the minimum energy standards of rental properties.

    Recommendations for future research and policy
    Participants want communication about the energy transition in Amsterdam to be presented clearly and concisely, and translated if necessary. Flyers in different languages can help improve the quality and accessibility of information. They also want a clear long-term perspective from the government and long-term relationships between stakeholders.

More information


Feel free to contact us!

Geertje Tijsma (