Proof of the added value of the creative industries in tackling complex social challenges

Why the IDOLS Programme?

The Increasing Demand by Offering LearningS (IDOLS*) programme was established through a special collaboration between the Creative Industries Federation (FCI) and CLICKNL. The programme embodied our shared mission to 1) increase the labour market for the cultural and creative sector by 2) demonstrating the positive impact of a creative approach in solving social problems, and thus 3) to prove and stimulate the added value of collaborations with creative professionals.

The programme has now been completed and the project results of the IDOLS programme have been analysed in a study by TU Delft initiated by CLICKNL. The value of and collaboration within IDOLS was examined abd it was shown that the cultural and creative sector can indeed play a valuable role in solving complex social problems: the ability of creative professionals to develop interesting, people-oriented interventions is unique and therefore indispensable for the mission-driven innovation policy of the government.

Through this policy, the government wants to encourage innovations to be developed within four designated social themes and 25 concrete underlying missions.

What did the programme entail?

In the IDOLS* programme, clients (government, commercial companies) worked together with creatives (design agencies, artists, etc.) on various social challenges in an innovative, equal way.
Ten consortia each worked on a complex multi-stakeholder challenge such as informal care, sexual exploitation of youth and accelerating the energy transition in neighbourhoods in the heart of Rotterdam. Each consortium had a unique composition with at least one traditional client, one party from the cultural sector and one party from the creative sector.
For more than a year they were supported to work together on their project. In addition to a financial contribution, IDOLS* support consisted of guidance by an independent coach and meetings and events where learning experiences were shared. The aim of each consortium coach was to transcend the traditional client-contractor division of roles: partners were encouraged to assume an equal role in the collaboration. This greatly improved the quality of the results of the projects.

Mantelzorgsimulator IDOLS* Informal care simulator. Image credits: Muzus, Sofie van Greevenbroek

What are the results of the programme?

The results are multiple. In concrete terms, IDOLS delivered ten successful projects, with solutions for diverse, impactful social topics: from our food system and the position of vulnerable self-employed workers and flex workers to a healthier living situation for teenagers and greenery in public spaces. In the table at the bottom of this section you will find more information about the ten IDOLS projects.

In terms of approach, IDOLS* proved, according to TU Delft, that this programme structure has a positive influence on the general knowledge, engagement, positioning (division of roles, commissioning) and network of the participating parties. The new way of working together, multi-stakeholders, organisation and management of projects of this nature and size and learning about a (different) approach to the creative process contributed to this.

‘Both the learning outcomes in the field of collaboration and finding one's own role, as well as the strengthened relationships and networks within IDOLS contribute positively to future social innovation projects and programmes, and thus to continuous social innovation. In addition, it was found that not only learning outcomes and new relationships are important, but also – and in this case especially – the energy and motivation that comes from the project. From the point of view of continuous social innovation, this is a very valuable outcome.’*

Continuous social innovation is necessary to tackle complex social challenges that cannot be solved within a single project, such as issues related to the theme of loneliness.

What is the contribution to the creative industries?

One of the most important outcomes of the IDOLS* programme is that a large number of clients now have a better idea of the added value of creative professionals in social projects, concludes TU Delft. Working together in a diverse consortium on a social challenge was new to many. Traditionally, the organisations were often either client or contractor. By having them work together on a challenge, under the guidance of a coach, the parties started to work together more as equal partners. This has not only benefited the depth of the projects, but also the long-term relationships.

Traditional clients such as governments and large institutions learned to appreciate the knowledge, expertise and strengths of the creative and cultural sector more. Slightly more than half of the problem owners indicated that they are considering hiring the cultural and creative sector more often. For example, the report states: ‘Problem owners identified various added values of the creative professionals, such as their contribution to cultural change. They said that the creative parties look at the ‘layers beneath the surface’ and approach the end users in a very different (less formal) way. In addition, they also saw that creative working methods resulted in more innovative solutions.’

Clients also indicate that they have learned skills about how to collaborate with the cultural and creative sector. From the report: ‘The respondents indicated that they had learned to ask more often about the progress of the project, that the assignment formulation takes time but can create involvement among the team and that investments are needed to get to know each other's language. They also learned tools to link creatives to a social challenge and gained insight into which skills and people they need at certain moments.’

The creative professionals, on the other hand, developed new skills that they can use when working in multi-stakeholder projects. The report states: ‘Almost half of the respondents said that they learned strategic skills while carrying out this project. They learned about the practicalities of organising a multi-stakeholder project. How to plan the process better, how to deal with the budget, how to expand and maintain the network of stakeholders and that “Being at home in all markets” describes the role of the creative person well.’

The way in which the programme was set up resulted in innovative results. This equality between clients, contractors and users creates space for meaningful social innovation. In addition, the people-oriented design approach provides innovative outcomes, such as the Informal Care Simulator from Muzus. In this installation you experience in a confronting and personal way what informal care means in three minutes, and really makes you think.

What now?

Several projects have been given a new life in one way or another or have undergone further development. For example, the collaboration between Naturalis and VolkerWessels has been continued and expanded, Art Partner is more often a discussion partner when it comes to social challenges and some parties that participated in IDOLS have also continued to work with shared ownership in new projects.
Many involved parties therefore found a follow-up to IDOLS very desirable. It is currently unclear whether this will actually happen

Want to know more about the 10 projects?

See the IDOLS* website.

Project name Mission themes Problem owner Project contractors
De Gezonde Tiener in 2033 Healthcare Gemeente Amsterdam, Jongeren op Gezond Gewicht (JOGG), Jongeren Informatie Punt (JIP) N-West, The Beach, Moving Arts Project, Shokkin’ Group Nederland
Groei en ontwikkeling van kwetsbare flexwerkers en zzp’ers Wildcard Gemeente Amsterdam, CNV, Divosa, PZO Heesterveld Business Hub, Wunder, Muzus
Iedereen doet mee! Healthcare Aveleijn, LFB, Stichting Prokkel, Gemeente Enschede Concordia, Gehring & Ketelaars, LoadStar
Kilometervreter Agriculture, Water & Food Rabobank Amsterdam, LTO, Amped, Schiphol Fronteer, Giantleaps, Mister Kitchen
Kruisbestuivers Agriculture, Water & Food Volker Wessels, Naturalis, Provincie Zuid-Holland Fronteer, Openers, Art Partner
Nederland voorbereiden op mantelzorg Healthcare MantelzorgNL, Gemeente Delft, Gemeente Rotterdam, Fundis, Onderlinge ‘s Gravenhage Muzus, TodayTomorrow, Sofie van Greevenbroek, De Kwekerij, KRO-NCRV
MONNIE Wildcard Albeda College, Stichting Enver Openbaar Ministerie, Ministerie van Justitie & Veiligheid
No Minor Thing Security Openbaar Ministerie, Ministerie van Justitie & Veiligheid Kennisland, NonStopCollective, Circus Engelbregt, Myrthe Krepel en Marina Wellink, onderdeel van Collectief SMELT
Resilience with Changemakers Rotterdam Energy transition & Sustainability Gemeente Rotterdam, Eneco, Havensteder Academie voor Beeldvorming, Melle Smets, Kris de Decker, Voor Goed Rotterdam Impact Agency, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Enpuls, Zelfregiehuis Delfshaven Coöperatie
Straat NL Energy transition & Sustainability Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, Provincie Noord Brabant, Gemeente Tilburg Stichting Zet, Buro Bergh, Thijs Rooijakkers, Marieke Vromans, Museum van Bommel van Dam


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  • Title: Project IDOLS*
  • Duration: 2019 – 2021
  • Social challenge: all
  • KEM-categories: Participation and co-creation, Institutional change, Value creation and upscaling IDOLS is a joint programme of the Creative Industries Federation and CLICKNL and was made possible by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. IDOLS was developed in response to the labour market agenda 2017-2023.


Project ‘Preparing the Netherlands for informal care'

  • Clients: MantelzorgNL, City of Rotterdam, City of Delft, verzekeraar Onderlinge and Fundis
  • Contractors: Muzus, TodayTomorrow, Sofie van Greevenbroek, De Kwekerij and KRO-NCRV
  • KEM: Vision and imagination

More and more people are faced with informal care. On the one hand because of the aging population and on the other hand because the government wants the elderly to live independently at home for as long as possible. Yet this topic is not subject of discussion much. It’s good to do so, so that we are better prepared if the need arises in the future. This project encourages the start of such conversations. For example, with the Wheel of Misfortune, a 'conversational interface' (also called a chatbot). Whoever spins the wheel ends up with possible unfortunate situations in the future, such as dementia and financial problems. You then discuss this with Moira, the goddess of misfortune. In addition, the consortium developed the Informal Care Simulator, which allows you to experience in three minutes what it is like to be cared for, and thus encourages you to reflect on this subject.

Project ‘No Minor Thing’

  • Clients: Public Prosecution Service, Ministry of Justice and Security
  • Contractors: Kennisland, NonStopCollective, Circus Engelbregt & Myrthe Krepel en Marina Wellink, part of SMELT Collective.
  • KEM: Participation and co-creation, and Value creation and upscaling

Thanks to a collaboration between the Public Prosecution Service and What Design Can Do, a number of great ideas to combat the sexual exploitation of minors are on the shelf. There is also support among the parties involved to realise the ideas. Yet this is not happening yet. These are complex issues involving many authorities, making it difficult to put the ideas into practice. This resulted in the following research question: How can we ensure that such collaborations do are realised?

One of the most important findings of this project was that parties around such a complex issue understand the necessity for a cross-domain and cross-sectoral learning network. That is why the consortium developed the scenario CARE (COMMON AFFAIRS – Room for Experimentation), an in-between space in which people from the creative sector, business sector, social organisations and government work together on creative and innovative initiatives and solutions for complex social challenges.