Case Study Report Humanitas Twente
(The Netherlands)

Development of case study


In this case study report we describe the policy and practice of Humanitas Twente. Humanitas Twente is part of a national volunteer organisation. The aim of the organisation is to help people who can’t manage life on their own.

For the desk research of Humanitas Twente we used the national and regional website, the mission statement, the printed program and leaflets.

For the interview the choice was made for Humanitas Twente. For this interview we spoke with four persons: a board member, a supporter of the region manager, also project leader of one of the project areas and two executive employees / volunteer coordinators. Interviewer was Dogan Soykan, board member of Participatie in Diversiteit, but also one of the coordinators of the project Active Together in Humanitas Twente.

The interviews were held at the office in Hengelo and individually, one to one, so that the interviewee could talk freely without the influence of third parties. This prevents the interviewee from being under the influence of third parties when giving a personal opinion on the submitted questions. Of the interviewees, two are men and two are women in the age category of 30 – 75 years.

Description of the organisation


Institutional framework


There is a national organisation called Vereniging Humanitas, which is an association. The organisation has 5 districts. District East with an office in the city of Zutphen is one of them. Humanitas Twente is one of the departments that, due to its geographical distribution, is part of district East. It is located in the town Hengelo. The affiliated departments make use of various services of the district and/or the national office, varying from education, training, subsidies, human resources, and or systems, etc. The departments have their own administration and its own board.

Humanitas wants its activities to contribute to a strong and human society. Humanitas believes that every individual is stronger than he or she thinks. If this is not the case, then Humanitas supports the person with a trained volunteer so that sooner or later the individual can continue. Humanitas is a volunteer organisation. These volunteers are guided, supported and coached by professionals. Although Humanitas also has voluntary coordinators, the board of Twente has chosen to work with paid coordinators.

Humanitas Twente has 6 projects:

  1. Home Administration: Home administration helps clients put their finances and administration in order. Volunteers support people who are temporarily unable to keep their financial administration in order.
  2. Family support: Focused on family with growing children or in need of parenting support. Home-Start helps. A volunteer visits family every week, listens and gives practical tips.
  3. Match – youngsters.
  4. Tandem: Anyone can feel lonely regardless of background or age, with Tandem clients come among people. Humanitas Tandem aims to combat social and societal isolation. The contact between a buddy and a participant is a strong weapon in this.
  5. BOR – Guided contact arrangement; for clients who have questions what’s best for their child, even in a divorce. If they are unable to arrange a relationship for their child(ren) on their own, they can register for BOR.
  6. Samen Actief – Active Together: Humanitas Samen Actief offers support to people with a migration background who can use additional support to actively participate in society.

Humanitas receives financial assistance from local authorities, funds, businesses and / or sponsorships.

Institutional in the migrant society


Humanitas Twente offers support in 6 project areas; Active Together, one of the six projects, supports people with a migration background. The volunteer speaks the language of the participant if desired or needed. All professionals of this project (3 part timers) have a migration background and are bilingual. They have the necessary special knowledge and skills and expertise in intercultural working and acting. The participants in this project are former immigrants, newcomers, and refugees with a status from the age of 18. This is the only project that focuses on people with a migration background. It is a policy choice, that this project is, besides cities Hengelo and Almelo, active in most areas of Twente region. The volunteers of Active Together are very various in terms of gender, background, religion, age and language. The relationship between young and old is also a point of attention for this project, especially when it comes to young people who were born here with parents from migration countries. On an annual basis, the project Active Together counts approximately 65 volunteers from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and a few Dutch people who support more than 100 participants with a migration background. Other projects focus on task-oriented target groups and are not so inclusive as they are supposed to be. They have little or no volunteers with a migration background. This sometimes results into unintentional exclusion of participants who, for example, do not speak the Dutch language. Dutch speaking migrants do make use of the services of other projects, but also relatively less than it should be.

Communication channels

Through various channels (from neighbours to general practitioners, community coaches), people can apply for one of the projects that can make good use of temporary help from third parties. It is possible that an application is not received at the right project. This application is internally coordinated with other projects and transferred to the right project.

Registration is taken care of by a coordinator and he or she plans an intake interview to determine the support question/learning question as concretely as possible. After this interview we are looking for a volunteer to which the participant with specific wishes and support question fits. Where the question fits, a match will be made. This match is referred to as a connection. Such a connection includes weekly contact during 1 year. When necessary, the volunteer will receive guidance from the coordinator. He is supervising the volunteer, following the process and has, if necessary, contact with colleagues from other projects and with professional assistance and other relevant agencies.

All Humanitas Twente projects have a communication channel that fits the content, character and culture of the project area with the target group: social media, flyers, fact sheets, brochures and occasional advertisements and/or interviews on the local newspapers. Often it is not possible to reach the group in this way. Contact via these channels seems to be less effective for people with a migration background. Therefore, some projects have information brochures that have been partially translated in 47 the language of the largest migrant groups in Twente: Arabic and Turkish.

Active Together opts for direct contacts and personal approach and conversations with the individual migrant, their key persons and their organisations. Experience shows that general communication channels does not reach the majority of migrant groups and is ineffective. Younger migrants born and raised here may be a little more sensitive to these common communication channels, but even they often do not get the message across and stay away.

The project staff Active Together have their own approach, often based on trust and warm contacts through the official channels. As soon as a circle is created, it also has a kind of magnet function. This is good for people who can make good use of Humanitas’ services, says one of the interviewee. It is also indicated as important that administrative staff should have intercultural skills. Lack of willingness and skill leads to shifts in certain tasks.

Being aware of the way you act and communicate with people from other cultures is necessary if you want to reach a certain group. Thinking in boxes hinders giving each other space. Humanitas’ other projects (see chapter 2.1) are less successful in reaching out people from other cultures, training them and using them as volunteers than Active Together. Humanitas Samen Actief offers support to people with a migration background who can use additional support to actively participate in society.

According to the interviewees, for people with a migrant background, language can sometimes hinder the first step in addition to unfamiliarity with systems of learning, for example. This can prevent contact. Not all employees of the mentioned projects (see chapter 2.1) have intercultural skills, (familiar) networks, knowledge to reach migrants. If migrant clients know that there are professionals at Humanitas Twente with a migrant background the first contact is not a barrier to ask for support. The unfamiliarity with the functioning of I and WE cultures also create resistance in contacts, according to the interviewee.

The question is ‘how do you translate this into the new group of your project and how do you promote this among migrants’?

The next question is: How do you make people feel at home in this organisation?

Human Resource Management


As an organisation, Humanitas does not have a specific policy on diversity for migrants in terms of personnel management and diversity management. As a result, there is insufficient diversity in ethnicity and culture in the composition of staff in other project areas and their volunteer base. In general it is a homogeneous group except from the team Active Together. Humanitas Twente is not a reflection of society. Because of this, one of the interviewees believes that the organisation is missing many chances. This has to do with the choices made within the organisation. This is also due to a lack of specific skills, knowledge, perhaps roughly due to unfamiliarity according to the interviewee. This leads to a lack of policy, which is widely supported by the organisation. One interviewee found that there is considerable diversity and diversity at the level of volunteers, while this is insufficiently translated into the workforce.

The available professionals with a migration background do not meet the standard proportionally; there is no diversity policy as standard for voluntary work. Volunteering is not a sufficient sign of a diverse society there is also no diversity in terms of the educational level of the professionals. All of them have the level of higher professional education, due to the work content. Volunteers also need to be facilitate. Volunteers also can be paid to free taxable 170 euro per month. A new form of voluntary work with stand contracts can be developed.

In addition to the unequal relationship between men and women, the interviewees also found the relationship between men and women for each project to be quite unequal, both in the group professionals as well as among the volunteers. Women are generally in the majority. The rate of women 48 with a different sexual preference is not known to the interviewees. Diversity brings dynamics into the teams and also into the organisation. Overall impression of the interviewees about the diversity in the organisation is that a conscious positive choice for diversity would be an enrichment for the organisation. Less knowledge leads to unintended distance while having an affinity with other cultures contributes to awareness, which in turn leads to good relationships with others in order to learn from them.

Lack of skills, knowledge and insight leads to a lack of action, as a result of which some participants remain unintentionally invisible to the services of the organisation. Humanitas Twente is therefore not a reflection of society and thus wasting many opportunities on the market. This is not taken up, due to a lack of skills and knowledge and insights. Interviewees find it positive that Active Together operates as a specific project within Humanitas. There must be more connection between the projects when it comes to working with other cultures and language groups. In spite of the fact that in other projects where the dominance of a homogeneous group is present, professionals also like to work with people with a migration background. But it is about the entire organisation that is not a reflection of society. Insufficient attention is paid to diversity at different levels. For example, the organisation lingers on the embarrassment of action and unintentionally excludes people who benefit from the services of Humanitas.

Here is currently insufficient interest within the organisation. It is due to various factors, partly to myself, one interviewee claims. This is not an accusation, but requires care and attention. Reflection of society is desirable. This automatically brings movement within the existing framework such as new insights and ideas. A conscious choice of diversity policy contributes to better coordination of services and the care that people really need. So there is a gap when it comes to diversity. The question is ‘what does it take to bridge this gap?

In the process of job job-advertisement:

There is no attention for diversity in the application procedures and in the preparation of the vacancies. The relevance is not recognised. The interviewees do not know that there are intercultural competencies as a requirement for applicants when recruiting personnel, except in the case of Active Together. Occasionally, there may be some discussion here and there, then it is again on a project basis, as in the case of family support, where mainly women as a professional and/or volunteer are in the picture. Because there is no policy on this, there are no lines of communication in the interviews.



As an organisation, Humanitas has no direct connection and contact with the migrant organisations. However, the professionals of Active Together often keep in touch with these organisations on a managerial level. In the past, only this project has held several information sessions in different languages at different organisations. For the coming period, this project has again been planned in order to approach and engage in dialogue with key people and the boards of the migrant organisations. In addition, there are plans to participate with a market stall in activities of migrant organisations when organising a manifesto and/or a festival. In this way, the threshold is lowered for a conversation with the visitors to inform them about the work and services of the entire organisation.

Again, one of the interviewees believes that the organisation should make conscious choices. If you do not make positive choices, these kinds of relationships and contacts depend on personal activities and/or initiatives. As an organisation, you cannot expect a migrant organisation to come to you if you do not make any movement towards them.

In short, if there are contacts through other projects than Active Together, there is no structural contact, only incidentally such as with international women’s centre, refugee work, asylum seekers’ centre, etc. as mentioned in the past.



It is up to the professionals themselves to ask themselves the question explicitly: What could I do to increase the number of people of ethnic origin working for Humanitas Twente? What do I need to promote this? The questions come from the interviewees. These questions are meant for all employees of all departments, projects who support volunteers. Not all employees as professionals can reach migrants, this is because they did not follow specific training, courses ‘how to serve migrants’. There is no cooperation with VET providers. Unknown makes unloved! This requires a different approach and a different attitude and attitude from the organisation and professionals. Familiarity and competence in approaching diversity issues is necessary if you want to reach and train this group. According to one interviewee, LANGUAGE is also an important issue. For example, learning to anticipate the situation of these people and adapting the courses to the language level/ability. If you want to reach and keep these people, take into account the language skills, cultural differences, education, etc.

Experience shows, one interviewee says, that migrants, for example, find it difficult to set boundaries. They experience borders as difficult because they find them unfriendly.

Providing opportunities for apprenticeships so that people are less highly educated also creates more diversity within the organisation.

Personal Impressions of interviewed people


The Institution

Positive Negative
  • Awareness of the fact that Humanitas Twente is not a cross-section of society.
  • There is a desire for the organisation to become a reflection of society.
  • Diversity in the organisation is seen as an enrichment.
  • Awareness of the embarrassment of employees in the projects to anticipate diversity actively.
  • The interviews were conducted in a pleasant atmosphere and the interviewees were frank and involved. In contrast to the others, one interviewee was more business-like and shorter in formulating answers.
  • Passive attitude towards diversity policy.
  • No concrete actions and assignments to exclude anyone in society from the services of Humanitas Twente.
  • One-sided attention leads to islands (employees with a migration background are automatically made responsible for the reception of clients with a migration background).

Commitment with mission statement and diversity policy


Humanitas Twente wants to contribute to a strong and humane society. Humanitas believes that every individual is stronger than he or she thinks. If that is not the case, Humanitas support them, with a volunteer, so that sooner or later they will be able to continue themselves. Annually about 650 volunteers temporarily support 2400 people.

This mission of Humanitas is a great mission, but it is not translated into diversity within the organisation. Something has to be done if you want to translate it to the organisation and its services. Multicultural society is not recognisable within the organisation and is not propagated. Diversity must be visible in all layers of the organisation and not just on the organisation’s project. Insufficient awareness of diversity hampers the organisation to become heterogeneous.

What should be changed?


  • More recognition of the lack of diversity.
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of diversity policy and understand the interests of diversity policy.
  • Embedding diversity policy in existing projects (professionals and volunteers).
  • Composition of staff / coordinators.
  • Making organisation at all levels a cross-section of society.
  • Expertise promotion/training on interculturalisation for some more inspiration.
  • More facilities to build bridges, also for the coherence between the projects.
  • As an organisation, we do everything in our power to become a social organisation, and we are committed to being a good corporate citizen.
  • Engaging in dialogue with each other, holding each other accountable, there must be more connection between the projects in order to learn from each other.
  • A better balance in the composition of project officers/staff: man/woman, young/old as well as ethnic diversity

What should not be changed?


  • Active together continues to exist, not only as a sense of diversity, but also as an inspiration for other projects.
  • The service to society.
  • In addition to management and staff, beautiful people are also people who feel involved with society.
  • People see themselves as equal in contacts.
  • Great heart of employees for work and people.
  • Willingness and will to help everyone want to.
  • Individually, all professionals in the broadest sense of the word are benevolent and helpful.
  • Professionals also like to work with people with a migration background.

Analysis, interpretations


The language regarding diversity within the organisation


There is large-scale communication with the outside world via social media, newspaper articles, flyers, etc. This is hardly achieved by people with a migration background. This group is generally easier to reach through warm contacts, personal approaches and through their familiar networks. Therefore, some projects also have information brochures that have been partially translated in the language of the largest migrant groups in Twente: Arabic and Turkish.

Also, the language knowledge and cultural differences in dialogues requires knowledge and intercultural competencies and skills of the professionals. Being aware of the unwritten rules that apply in WE culture offers room for entering into contacts, other than formal conversations and business approaches.

During the application procedures, nothing (unintentionally) is said about the intercultural competences, as a result of which people with a migration background do not feel invited to react too quickly.

Significant differences in the way people are looking at and thinking about the diversity in the organisation


It is noticeable that all professionals are benevolent. One by one they are benevolent and helpful and want to help everyone. Because the whole of diversity is not a point of attention, hardly any specific actions are taken to become a reflection of society.

Lately, among other things due to this small-scale research and personal manoeuvres of the interviewer and situation dependent statements and conversations of the professionals of Active Together, diversity is becoming more and more visible. Even the national office now notably wishes to take conscious actions to develop a vision on diversity policy for the organisation. This is because of the interest of employees of other projects within the organisation who have now a better look according to the experiences of the project Active Together.

One interviewee indicated that knowledge and experience of other cultures and languages can also bring something new. In addition, other interviewee indicated that besides Active Together, the other projects do not consciously recruit migrants for both professional and volunteer purposes. The rate of women with a different sexual preference is not known to the interviewees.

Composition and imbalance within the organisation in male-female, young-old homogenous-heterogeneous have influences on work.

Arrangements and power relations


The interviewer is consciously trying to draw attention to diversity within the organisation and has addressed different people from different layers of the organisation about the lack of policy and its consequences. In general, there is a positive response according to the question and necessary of diversity policy, intercultural work and support migrant customers. At the execution level, some professionals experience this action more as if they are being called to account for their attitude, work behaviour.

Once in a while a colleague pointed out to me that I would act on the basis of assumptions. There is also no diversity in terms of the educational level of the professionals, all of them have the level of higher professional education, due to the work conten.

Positive reactions to my signals have been received locally, regionally and nationally. District manager and national administrator are interested in the outcome of this small-scale research. They would like to receive the final report. The national agency has even indicated that it will approach me as soon as a group has been formed to deal with this subject in the context of the theme ‘development of change’, among other things.

Motives and motivations to work on diversity policy in the organisation


They are aware that people are unintentionally excluded from the services of Humanitas. It is also emphasized that Humanitas as a human organisation is not an average organisation of society. People from other cultures can be an enrichment that can also bring dynamics. As a result, there is a high level of motivation to take this seriously.

After all, Humanitas puts people at the centre of its vision/mission and likes to work on the self-reliance of people so that they have their own control over their own lives without excluding anyone from society from the services of the organisation.

Possible benefits for the learners


People with a migrant background differ in many ways: background, social and societal values and norms, language skills and knowledge, education, background, experienced socialisation, influences of different cultures in education and training.

This also determines the form of perspective of the learning migrant. They act from that perspective.

This is a general point of view:

  • be treated equally · taking into account the pace and ability to learn, depending on the language level
  • environment is aware of differences in We and I cultures so that a certain attitude and action can be put into perspective
  • feeling at home, being valued and not enforcing or imposing anything From their point of view, what can ‘paving the way’ mean for change?
  • professionals have knowledge and understanding of aspects of multicultural aspects in dealing with various groups
  • organisation is a reflection of society – with composition of personnel, policy and services
  • treating and learning intercultural methodologies in training and courses What’s in it for them”?
  • recognizability
  • accessible, therefore accessible
  • feels at home

Stage of the organisation


7. intercultural organisation
6. intercultural diversity management
5. cross-cultural HRM policy
4. inflow of migrant workers
3. intercultural service management
2. service to migrants
1. monocultural organization

Scroll over then names of the stages to get a definition of them

  1. My organisation has migrants among its clients.
  2. In my organization an intercultural training has been done aimed at improving sales to migrants.
  3. My organisation has a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants.
  4. My organisation employs (a) migrant worker(s).
  5. My organisation has a policy aimed at the influx of migrant workers.
  6. In my organisation there has been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership.
  7. My organisation has an intercultural personnel policy.
  8. In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy.
  9. In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of general quality policy with regard to sales/service provision and personnel.

Humanitas Twente has several migrants among its clients and is therefore moving slowly from a monocultural organisation into an organisation of intercultural service management. Currently only Active Together is acting at this stage, there is even a dominant majority of professionals with a migrant background. Nevertheless, other projects of the organisation have the characteristics of a monocultural organisation: less customers with a migration background and no employees with a migration background either. Furthermore , not even the ratio migrant- not-migrant is inequal, this is also the case for the ratio men-women, young – old and disabled – not-disabled people. More and more clients with a migration background start using the services / products of the organization. From these contacts, the need for intercultural policy and / or intercultural training opportunities to improve this service is nowadays gradually emerging within the organization. The management needs to start urgently with a policy aimed at providing services to customers with a migration background. For example, they work with translation information material, with the interpreter’s telephone, or there is training to improve services to clients with a migration background. The emphasis for the short-term future should be on cultural differences.

Change and consequences


There is a soil for change present at Humanitas (focus on service package for migrants and a need intercultural policy, also including intercultural staff training). Employees endorse this. There is no denial and anger or no focus. It is up to the interviewer and these involved employees to set this in motion at the board and management (support and commitment). However, the question is what the ideal design process can look like (plan of approach) and what will you bring in yourself and what will be your own experiences? In fact, you are going to change something in terms of the communication process and improve the focus of service provision on migrants. Requires different skills and competencies from employees. At most there is a lack of focus. The proposed process of change is setting this in motion at the level of board and management (to create support and commitment). However, the question is what the ideal design process (plan of approach) can look like and what staff members and volunteers are willing and able to bring in them selves and what can they learn from their experiences? In fact, you are going to change something in terms of the communication process and improve the focus of service provision on migrants. This requires different skills and competencies from the staff employees.

For the educational process it means a necessity to develop and implement specific staff training programmes aimed at diversity and specific care (culture-specific, context-specific care programmes). The management is requested to create preconditions and facilities to enable an internal trajectory for change supported by everyone.

For staff and volunteers it implicates cooperating to bring in their own cases and being prepared to improve skills (training, courses, work sessions, sharing knowledge etc.). It is also indicated as important that administrative staff should have intercultural skills.

For the learning participants the process of change means requires trust and improvement of their own qualities; services and aid is not a one-sided trajectory but a we-we trajectory: a win-win situation.

The impact for the organisation will be an improved organisational culture and structure regarding services for migrants and knowledge improvement working with, for and by migrants.




  1. The management is requested to create preconditions and facilities to enable an internal trajectory for change. Nationally the management is interested, at regional level the management has to develop a plan for action and to make resources and money available. It is also recommended to consider external guidance.
  2. The process at the regional office (Twente/Hengelo) can be seen as a pilot for the national organisation and the other departments. The experiences of the interviewer (DS) and the other employees who want to change can be used as a case study.
  3. Products, services and employees need to be much more focused on migrants, diversity.
  4. Professionals do not master the language of the migrants and find it very difficult to empathise with. Linguistic knowledge and cultural differences in dialogues also require knowledge and intercultural skills on the part of the professionals and volunteers. Language is an important issue. Therefore training in intercultural communication is crucial to support the process of change. As said intercultural policy aimed at providing services to customers with a migration background and / or intercultural training opportunities.
  5. Human Resource Management has to develop guidelines for acquisition of new staff and volunteers, including more consequent attention for intercultural competences. Giving also opportunities to apprenticeship workshops so that people who are less highly educated also have the opportunity to improve their competences; focus on secondary vocational education level. Offers internship places, traineeship places.
  6. Active Together is a good example, which can be rolled out well and for knowledge development for other projects. Add internal networking through exchange of experiences of people working in 5 project areas and Active Together.
  7. Investment in networking is highly recommended to develop more structural contacts and cooperation with international women’s centre, refugee work, centre for asylum seekers, etc.. How to establish contacts with migrant organisations at all levels besides managerial level; (key people and committees)
  8. The big picture is a better balance in the composition of project staff: man/woman, young/old, disabled and not-disabled alongside ethnic diversity.


What is the right approach for this way of changing?


The approach of change requires care and attention. Reflections from society are desirable. This automatically brings movement within the existing framework such as new insights and ideas. It will also lead to communication about the current values of the organisation and a critical review of the organisations mission. There are good pre-conditions of a process of change:

  • There is no denial and no anger but acceptance to change among staff and employees. People see new possibilities. There is no tension but positive energy on both sides.
  • Humanitas Twente employs already a few professionals and many volunteers with a migration background.
  • The common opinion is that a consistent diversity policy needs to be developed but there is a lack of sufficient knowledge to do so.

A complicating factor is that the interviewer (DS), employee of Humanitas Twente, is ‘seen’ as “the” specialist. When questions are difficult to answer, – as far as questions from migrants are concerned -, this is passed on to the interviewer instead of seeing the working methods of Active Together as a good practise to be implemented in other parts of the organisation as well.

This makes it a bit difficult to give a clear colour print such as indicated in the colour model of De Caluwe & Vermaak, which demonstrates colour thinking as an accessible expression of different change management traditions. We recommend a mix in white and green print turning into red print. It is important to create settings for collective learning and to create space for spontaneous evolution to stimulate people in the right way in a process of exchange in which people develop and create, a motivating solution (the best ‘fit’), that catalyses new initiatives. It should be a trajectory of interventions such as coaching, open systems planning, open space meetings, self-directive teams, assessment and reward, social gatherings, led by sense makers who engage themselves personally and external facilitators, in cooperation and supported by HRM experts and managers who coach people. The outcome is not aimless, but envisioned and finally, on the long-term, outlined but not guaranteed, but it will be ensured through self-organisation, dialogue and healthy relationships. The pitfalls of such an approach could be superficial understanding, a laissez faire attitude, smothering and conflict avoidance.


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