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The role of co-creation in Dutch education

This will never work

Oh yes it will! About inspiration and breakthroughs in Dutch vocational eduction (MBO) and the role of co-creation.

Admittedly, the Fronteer ‘mission statement’ could be called a little pompous: “To ignite, contribute to and collaboratively develop remarkable innovations for brands, society or the planet.” It does, however, serve its purpose: to inspire and guide us towards cool projects.

Innovating vocational education

Thanks to this focus we’ve recently become more and more involved in the world of vocational education. In 2012, we initiated the founding of Jean School, the world’s first dedicated, fully accredited course for Denim Developers. Together with ROCvA (Amsterdam’s premier public education facility) and leading denim experts (from brands like Gstar, Levis, Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, C&A and our partners in crime at HTNK), we simply dreamed up a new school (check out this video to watch the Jean School story). This got us inspired and connected for more.


Perhaps the most fascinating part of working for ‘MBO’ (vocational training) schools is their poor self-image. Things have improved since we started, but still many teachers and managers hold their own courses, image and potential in pretty low esteem. Seeing these teams gain confidence, pride and ‘mojo‘, and subsequently translating this into the classroom is one of the biggest joys of my work.

The initial lack of confidence is excellently captured in the title of a recent publication by education consultant Frans Schouwenburg: ‘Dat kan bij ons niet’ (loosely translated as: ‘This will never work here’). As many great cases show, there is tremendous potential for collaborative innovation in the field of education. However, just like everywhere else, change requires some outside perspective and energy – and perhaps ‘a few shots of crazy’. We believe that co-creation with outside experts can provide the impulse and structure that is needed.

The role of co-creation in education reform

Having contributed to a string of inspiring education reform projects in Amsterdam (School of House, House of Logistics and Menswear College to name a few) with ROCvA, we have become interested to learn more about the do’s and don’t’s of such projects. In coming months, we will be organising a number of expert meetings and interviews, culminating in more insights about the role of Collaborative Innovation in (MBO) Education Reform.

First up is an informal expert meeting in Amsterdam – probably early December – for which we will invite initiators of cool, crazy and/or inspiring education projects as well as government and education experts. Interested to join us? Contact me:


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