WUR-alumna Manon Peek, from International Development to 2021 the Nationale DenkTank

In the final year of her Master's degree in International Development Studies, Manon Peek did not know exactly what she wanted. She did not feel like getting a permanent job quite yet. Because the theme of the 2021 Nationale DenkTank (NDT - national think tank) “Quality of Education in the Netherlands” really appealed to her, she signed up. She was accepted, went to Hotel Casa in Amsterdam for a period of four months, and followed the intensive full-time programme.

Why did Manon sign up for the 2021 Nationale Denktank?

Manon has always had a thing for education: “Every child should be able
to develop and feel safe.” It was a unique opportunity to learn more about the
Dutch education system. Furthermore, the knowledge she had acquired during her
International Development studies came in handy because the theme “Kwaliteit
van het (primair) en voortgezet onderwijs in Nederland” (quality of primary and
secondary education in the Netherlands) also focused on unequal opportunity.

'Kansen te Koop' campaign
The COVID-19 period had little impact on the DenkTank. Only during the
last few weeks have we been working at home in small groups. NDT participants
have launched six solutions to improve education in the Netherlands and some
are actually being implemented. Manon worked on a campaign called “Kansen te
koop” (opportunities for sale) about unequal opportunities as a result of
tutoring, in which the size of parents' wallets is the decisive factor. The
campaign was launched after which a petition was started to compel policymakers
to take action. At the moment, the campaign is progressing at a slower pace,
partly because the participants are recovering from the intensive period.

Manon and her team launched a campaign for equality of opportunity in education
Manon and her team launched a campaign for equality of opportunity in education

Solution launch presentation
Manon presented the solution launch via an online show to the government,
teachers, school headmasters, family, friends, partners, science, businesses
and the Rotterdam alderman of education. The show was a success and was one of the highlights of the programme. Watch the presentation (in Dutch) on YouTube below.

The benefits of her study programme

The subject matter was not really related to her study programme. But because there were always discussions about groups or minorities within certain topics, she could make a valuable contribution, because that is what her studies were about. While studying in Wageningen, she also learned to think critically, developed research skills, and learned to conduct interviews. Another useful aspect of her studies was that she learned how to perform a good analysis.

Valuable contacts

Manon has gained valuable connections from her NDT period: “You’re working together in a team with 19 other peers who all have a different background and therefore a fresh perspective on the subject. And thanks to that, it is a close group with which, besides being colleagues, you also do things as friends.”
The themes are still close to her heart. She and the other participants hope to be able to do something with it in the future.

Feeling inspired? Sign up for the Biodiversity-themed 2022 DenkTank

Meld je aan voor de Nationale DenkTank!

This year's NDT has a real Wageningen theme: Biodiversity.

Would you like to work on making an impact on society? Are you talented
and enthusiastic? Have you completed (or almost completed) your studies or are
you a Ph.D. student? If so, participating in the 2022 Nationale DenkTank might
be something for you! Together with 20 other young thinkers and doers, you will
participate in a full-time programme in Amsterdam for four months (15 August
2022 to 16 December 2022), during which you will conduct research and devise
solutions for a current social issue. This year, NDT'22 is working on the theme
of biodiversity. Sign up as a participant and — who knows — you might develop
your solution into a successful media campaign, startup, or concrete policy
proposal during and after the Nationale DenkTank!

Tips van Manon

Manon recommends that people still apply, even if they’re not sure whether this challenge suits them (and their studies): “The DenkTank does its best to assemble as diverse a group of participants as possible. They are looking for participants with diverse educational backgrounds (such as space), ‘troublemakers’, and brave creative participants who aren’t afraid to come up with ideas that challenge the system. It is precisely because everyone looks at a problem with their own fresh perspectives that optimal solutions arise.”

Even if you are in doubt about whether you can afford to participate, she advises you to sign up anyway. In fact, the financing is well taken care of by the Nationale DenkTank foundation. They receive donations and contributions from theme partners. A sum of money is made available for accommodation, and you can also apply for additional financial support. This is convenient because you will no longer receive a study grant during that period.

Read more about the Nationale DenkTank and Manon below.

About the Nationale DenkTank

The Nationale DenkTank foundation was established to bridge the gap between the government, science and businesses, with the aim of advancing Dutch society with innovative ideas. That is why, each year, 20 young academics from different study backgrounds tackle a social problem in a Nationale DenkTank.

Theme partners
Every year, the Nationale DenkTank collaborates with several theme partners who make the DenkTank possible, both financially and in terms of content. For example, the Nationale DenkTank in 2021 was supported by: BMC, the Municipality of Rotterdam, The Learning Network, and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). These institutions recognise the theme of the 2021 Nationale DenkTank within their own organisations, and therefore formulate the research question and key principles together with the participants of the 2021 Nationale DenkTank. After the 2021 Nationale DenkTank, these organisations will stay involved for another three years as structural partners. To: become a partner.

About Manon

Manon, 26, completed her Master's degree in International Development Studies at Wageningen University & Research in 2021. Before that, she completed an exchange semester at the University of Victoria and obtained a Bachelor's degree in anthropology and human geography at University College Utrecht.

After graduating, she and her boyfriend (WUR alumnus of international development studies) started working as researchers and project developers at the FairChain Foundation and Moyee Coffee in Uganda, East Africa. There, she works on developing livelihood projects for coffee farmers.

Manon in Uganda | Copyright picture Jurrian Veldhuizen MSc
Manon in Uganda | Copyright picture Jurrian Veldhuizen MSc

She has no firm plans for the future, but she would like to do something that combines development aid with education and entrepreneurship. Hopefully, something that involves little sitting in front of a computer and a lot of adventure. One dream would be to eventually be able to make documentaries in order to bring important social issues that few people know, about to light.

Verschil Mag Er Zijn (differences are allowed)
In 2020, Jurrian Veldhuizen and Manon got the idea to bring Dutch people with different backgrounds and opinions together. This is how the social initiative “Verschil Mag Er Zijn” started. Nowadays, they no longer make matches between people to engage in conversation but work on various thematic projects in the Netherlands. But they still have the same goal: less shouting, more listening, less polarisation, and more empathy.