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Solving Substance Abuse

By Martine Soepenberg, Sarah Trinks & Martijn Wilderom.

Value Creators is an exciting semester. Before you start, everybody already says that you should not expect anything and they are correct. It started with a kick-off meeting telling us what Value Creators is about and from there little information is offered. You are immediately left to your own devices, and the first step is thinking of a topic you want to work on for an entire semester and gathering people to join you in this. Martijn had thought of substance abuse and organised a meeting talking to others on what his idea was. Sarah and Martine joined him. From there, we were an established team, so we did what you would typically do, talk about the expectations you all have of each other. Luckily, these all aligned.

The next step is figuring out what you will do for your personal and professional profiling, creating a knowledge portfolio and defining your subject. We decided to generalise the knowledge portfolio, so we all had the same for that. What we wanted to do individually was shared so we could try to inspire each other. We demarcated the Value Creator to alcohol use amongst students within Zwolle. This might seem small but you’d be mistaken.

We created two surveys, and we tried to get as many reactions as possible, one focussing on our target group, students and one focusing on identified potential stakeholders. We got an overwhelming amount of responses for the student survey, so if you are a student and filled this in, thank you! The stakeholders also did not hold back with responding. From there, it was meetings, meetings, meetings. Working on the deadlines we needed to achieve and the knowledge we needed to get. We were in a luxury position as we were able to meet in real life whenever we could. This also means that meetings were not limited to doing actual work, but we were also able to have tea together, talk during breaks, have dinner at some point and genuinely connect. It is fair to say that we got to know each other a lot better during this process.

It sounds a lot like we knew exactly what to do all the time, but honestly, we barely had an idea for the first two months. Looking back, it is like casting your fishing rod and hoping something bites, and at moments this is without a clue where to start, thus without any bait, and sometimes you find a breadcrumb to attach or even a worm. We would say we managed reasonably well with this uncertainty.

The turning point in our Value Creators process was when we attended a webinar of Trimbos. IkPas is an organisation which organises DryJanuary in the Netherlands each year, they also have the option for the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. We saw that they very little enrolment within the age category 18 – 25 in our region, which is of course the expected age of students. We thought: “This is it, we need to make sure the enrolment in this increases.”, so we made a plan for how.

We decided to write an advisory report for the organisation on how they can increase enrolment. Moreover, we wanted to do something more practical. We settled on organising a battle between the student associations and/or Zwolse 8. This is a battle of which of these organisations could get the most people to enrol and stick to DryJanuary as possible. To make it fair we decided that the enrolment would be calculated as a percentage as some associations are bigger than other. So we scheduled more meetings with stakeholders and we went back to writing, now with the added advisory report and project plan. For more information on this, you can contact us

Maybe this is something you can expect, just a ton of meetings. It is more than just meetings, though; it is connecting to new and exciting people with brand new and exciting ideas and creates a network. Between all these meetings, it is more writing.

At some point, personal circumstances came to look at what we were doing. Resulting into making an even more structured plan as a form of crisis management. Even though we already planned as well as we could. As this shows, any plan you make can change at any moment due to the uncertainty of the semester. But by having a good schedule and an overview of all deadlines, academically set and personally set, we could keep the situation stable and eliminate stress factors and even make sure our Value Creator did not suffer.

The plan for crisis management meant we needed to work hard, harder than we did before, before these personal circumstances were about to ruin our fun. However, because of this we had a lot more time at the end of the semester to finish our advisory report, project plan, write this blog entry and any other tasks that we needed to do.

Finally, we look back on the Value Creators semester as a fun one. Even though it was stressful at times and at some points we did not know what to do. We believe we truly created something which can make students more aware of their alcohol usage and something that contributes to making a wicked problem a little less wicked. We are also extremely happy about our dynamic as a group and it is fair to say that we would be happy to work together in the future.

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