Grassroots Podcast: Initiative Brokers, the Big Society and making community wishes come true

Corian Huhenholtz-Sasse and Rinske van Noortwijk
Corian Huhenholtz-Sasse and Rinske van Noortwijk

Meet Rinske van Noortwijk and Corian Hugenholtz-Sasse  – they make wishes come true.

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I met them both in Rotterdam, invited through the wonderful Maurice Specht to speak to the Association of Initiative Brokers ( @inimakelaar )  in Holland, organised by Rinske.

Two days before, Tessy Britton and I had been in The Hague speaking to senior civil servants from Dutch central government.  They kept asking us what they could do to help citizens do the simpler things that made sense  in their communities. Scale-ability was constantly on their lips.

I was urging them to be careful.  Stepping back, getting out of the way is one way government can help citizens just get things done.  Find simple ways to give people small amounts of no string attached help was the other – what I call “learn how to slip someone a quiet tenner”.

Militant Optimists and New Radicals

Tessy wanted something more practical.  She wanted government to support the people who have the skills to nurture community, to connect people, to amplify what is possible in communities.  The people David Barrie calls Militant Optimists, the sort of people who appear on the Grassroots Channel and Tessy brings together through Hand Made.

She wants government to recognise and support the people who follow here 12 rules for new radicals. here are the first three compared with older form of community organising:


Alinsky (Old/Conflict): “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.

Britton (New/Collaborate): “Power involves creating spaces where ideas, energy and people are connected together from within all sections of the community and local government to create positive communities” This involves careful facilitation and creating safe spaces where everyone can share their opinions and contribute positively.  There is no enemy in a community.


Alinsky (Old/Conflict): “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

Britton (New/Collaborative): “Always reject ignorance in favour of building skills and knowledge.” There are many new ideas and methods that result in creative solutions that make people and communities stronger.


Alinsky (Old/Conflict): “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

Britton (New/Collaborative): “Whenever possible, instigate dialogue, so that everyone shares the same knowledge base to design solutions.” Look for ways to increase security, trust and responsibility.


Rinske and Corian are just those sort of people: militant optimist, new radicals:

For nearly a decade they have been running Greenwish:

Greenwish means more space for sustainable initiative. We encourage people to implement their sustainable ideas. If people do what they really care about, people are very passionate. It is this force that will really accelerate sustainable development.
Greenwish promotes the interest of government, civil society and business in social initiatives. We want to see more cooperation and more is learned from social initiative.
Greenwish support promoters with advice and contacts. We represent the interests of promoters to policymakers and politicians. Greenwish advises government, civil society and business in what they can do for initiatives and vice versa

Originally they were funded to connect community ideas to the people who can help make those ideas happen.  Sometimes they might connect a citizen to a government programme, sometimes to a private supporter, sometimes to another citizen – often to all three.   Each year these brokers make around 200 things happen that would otherwise have gone by the wayside.  They know people, have ideas, are networked and like finding the easiest ways to get things going.

The First First Followers

They call themselves the first followers – the first people to stand beside someone and say “that’s I good idea, I’m on your side”

“Society is buzzing with ideas”

Listen to them talk about it here:

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Key points form the interview are:

  • We met many people with good ideas to contribute to the community who need a little bit of help. We ask them waht do you need to make your next step and can we help you.
  • We’re interested in what gets people enthusiastic and why they are doing it.
  • Government funded for some time, now in transition.
  • Value is being known and trusted by people government wants to work with, it is still difficult to find government that works that way.
  • It can take patience to make an idea real. Over time enthusiasm builds
  • 200 initiatives supported, health, food, energy, participation
  • Common currency is passion, it is always a struggle.
  • People in places always have ideas – we get ideas easily. “Society is buzzing with ideas.”
  • We are the first believers for anyone with a crazy idea to help society
  • Looking for new concepts for making our added value clear to the government, Tessy Britton gave me new ideas of how we should make that more clear.  Big Society is a new way for government to stop thinking for citizens, instead allow citizens to think for themselves.
  • There are so many ways to make what is happening visible through social media without having to push the information. Ask them to make themselves visible.

See also