Perhaps you’ve seen them zipping around Amsterdam: Rederij Kees’ electric vehicles. Rederij Kees is a socially inclusive enterprise that manages last-mile warehouses for catering and construction businesses, delivering goods to them directly. The company offers daytime placement and employment in sustainable transport and at its warehouses to people with poor prospects in the job market.
A good eye and a listening ear
Business manager Edwin van Oostende joined Rederij Kees two and a half years ago as a genuine Amsterdam organiser. You know, the ‘walk-the-talk’ type. Socially inclusive entrepreneurship was new to him. But he’s totally transformed his perspective: “The guys miss me when I go on holiday, and that’s quite exceptional.” His overview and tight schedule create clarity for the workforce and having a good eye and a listening ear he keeps a smile on everyone’s face. And that’s important because everyone who participates has a story to tell.
All the colours of the rainbow
The participants are sent through to Rederij Kees by De Regenboog Groep, an organisation that helps people who have become homeless, have psychological problems or suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Having a workplace at a socially inclusive enterprise like Rederij Kees is often an important step when reintegrating into society. Edwin: “After intake, new participants get a tour of the business and generally start with a trial day. Of course to see if there is a mutual click, but it’s just as important that people enjoy working with us. Some like working in the warehouse, while others enjoy hitting the road with one of our drivers. Together we explore the needs and opportunities and ensure that everything fits together.” Edwin gets the employees’ profiles from De Regenboog Groep so that he knows what to look out for. “Of course I stay in close contact with everyone so they always know they can come to me when needed.”
Edwin maintains a healthy balance within his organisation with a combination of full timers and a group from De Regenboog Groep. This ensures sufficient supervision for everyone, making him a reliable partner for his customers. Edwin: “Reliability is the biggest challenge for a socially inclusive enterprise. That’s why mutual confidence is so important. Customers know how we work and that any problems are resolved immediately – that’s our strength.” Edwin is understandably proud that bigger organisations are starting to do business with Rederij Kees and that Rederij Kees is growing in sync with their plans.
From roads to waterways
Rederij Kees has several plans for the future and anyone wanting to stay on board can be prepared for the next step in an evolving organisation. “Of course, those people who are happy with us as we are now can stay. But we’re also increasingly working towards exploring opportunities for growth.” Edwin sees new opportunities with their recently renovated electric barge called IJzeren Hein. Perhaps it represents the future of transport in the vulnerable inner city. Edwin: “With Amsterdam’s quays more or less starting to collapse, and heavy vessels potentially becoming problematic on the canals, our barge could be the solution.”
This will enable Rederij Kees to carry an increasing volume of products from A to B in a sustainable manner and to become more meaningful for people wanting to rebuild their lives. Edwin: “The idea is to establish lasting ties with people so they can gradually come into their own, enabling us to build something together. Everyone can count on a warm welcome. There’s a place for you at Rederij Kees regardless of your background or the problems you may have had in the past.”
The DOEN Foundation joined forces with Rederij Kees in 2013. DOEN Participaties recently became a stakeholder.