Inclusion and diversity in sustainability
City/Region : The Municipality of the City of Nijmegen , Netherlands

Personal responsibility for sustainability and sustainability itself have traditionally been subjects that mainly concern highly educated citizens and those with higher social positions. For years, groups with a lower social standing, people born abroad, and those with non-Dutch parentage have virtually been excluded. Leading up to “Nijmegen - European Green Capital” the Kleurrijk Groen (colourful green) programme was created to broaden the participation and involvement of citizens. The Kleurrijk Groen programme involved more citizens from a variety of backgrounds in all kinds of sustainable initiatives. This involvement and participation was not just a one-off situation: it is still visible today.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
BiodiversitySustainable agricultureClean energy
From Farm to Fork
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Ensure new policies take socio-cultural changes resulting from innovative technologies into account
Photo on the bridge during nature excursion to Waalstrand

The city council was looking for ways to get more citizens involved with nature and sustainability. This led Bureau Wijland, the council’s partner in diversity and sustainability, to organise a 2017 conference with representatives and key figures from a range of backgrounds who had affinity for nature and sustainability. The aim was to contribute ideas for broadening the active participation of various groups in sustainability efforts and to make recommendations under five themes. As a result, a think tank was set up with the ambition to create sustainable connections between different groups in society, focussing on sustainability. The conference subsequently led to the creation of the Kleurrijk Netwerk (colourful network), which started the implementation of various sustainable initiatives, involving people from different backgrounds. These activities received a lot of attention both locally and nationally and twice ranked highly in the newspaper Trouw’s top 100 sustainable initiatives in the Netherlands.

In Action
Childrens litter pickup campaign in Hatert

The conference was the starting point in receiving feedback for converting the recommendations based on the five themes into actionable plans. Key figures from the conference joined forces to form a network under leadership of Bureau Wijland. The Kleurrijk Groen network, consisting of representatives from various migrant groups, was born (11 November 2017).

Themes: Nature and recreation; Mobility and health; Sustainable local economies; Sustainable energy; Sustainable consumption.

Since the founding of the network, members have regularly consulted with each other and given each other feedback on plans and initiatives. The network is facilitated by the municipality of Nijmegen and other parties. This has also made it possible to train various members in becoming Kleurrijk Groen ambassadors through the Kleurrijk Groen training course with the aim of “turning green involvement into green influence”. The course modules were taught by lecturers and professionals from different disciplines and from real-world practice, including excursion into the field. This initiative was unique in the Netherlands. This year, a second edition of the course will be held to train new Kleurrijk Groen ambassadors.

Alongside this, inspirational meetings have also been organised, including one at the former De Ooijgaard organic garden, where the Land van Ooij organic gardening association is now an active part of the Kleurrijk Groen initiative. This gardening association consists of various groups that work together on meeting, connecting, and sharing knowledge. During an interview by a videographer that day, the chairman of the Kleurrijk Groen network spontaneously remarked (quote): “Going green is not only relevant to highly educated white people: it’s for everyone.” This statement was made with the aim of indicating that nature and sustainability should not be reserved exclusively for the white and highly educated.

The initiative received a range of publicity, both during and after the first course, (for example, see the article in Down to Earth, a large environmental organisation in the Netherlands). The Kleurrijk Groen programme and its sustainable initiatives in Nijmegen attracted increasing national attention. In an interview with Platform Maatschap Wij, the director of Bureau Wijland said (quote): “Connection and global thinking must be put back on the agenda. Because the earth belongs to all of us. Together, here in the Netherlands, and beyond” (Platform Maatschappij Wij, December 2020).

The mutual influence resulting from Kleurrijk Groen in the city and its surroundings showed that it was possible to connect nature and sustainability with a diverse society.

Kleurrijk Groen course group photo

Even though Nijmegen is no longer the European Green Capital, the activities of the Kleurrijk Groen programme are still taking place. Highlights include:

  • Organisation of the Kleurrijk Groen conference
  • Formation of an active Kleurrijk Groen Network in Arnhem and Nijmegen
  • Kleurrijk Groen courses
  • Kleurrijk Groen energy ambassadors in Arnhem and Nijmegen
  • Creation of the Wij-bos: a forested area in which different types of trees, both native and exotic, are planted by people from different backgrounds (featured on the national Vroege Vogels radio show: Wij-bos is voor iedereen: 'Natuur is geen links of rechts verhaal, er is één aarde' | NPO Radio 1).
  • The annual Di-Vers Festival — dedicated to meeting, connections, and sustainability, set to be held on 18 September this year, Festival Di-Vers – Bureau Wijland
  • Active participation in the activities of Green Capital 2018
  • An article about the activities of the Kleurrijk Groen network in Down to Earth magazine
  • A higher ranking in Trouw’s top 100 sustainable initiatives - from 35th to 20th
  • Expansion of the Kleurrijk Groen Network in various municipalities in Gelderland
  • Continued attention to diversity and sustainability on the local and provincial government agenda
  • The building of a willow hut with children in Neerbosch-Oost on Groene Vrijdag (green Friday) 2019
  • Groen Doen — a collaboration with Lentekracht for more green initiatives in local communities
  • Nature and birdwatching excursions
  • Children’s cycling activities (sustainable mobility)
  • Information sessions on sustainable energy
  • Organic vegetable gardening and pruning courses at Land van Ooij
  • Kleurrijk Koken (colourful cooking), a series of broadcasts via TV Broadcaster RN 7, Kleurrijk Koken – Bureau Wijland
  • Litter pickup campaigns with children in Hatert

These results or effects have occurred at the individual and organisational levels, as well as at the city and community levels.

At the individual level, knowledge has been transferred and there has been a change in behaviour and skills for acting in a sustainable fashion, as well as the transfer of knowledge and skills for inspiring others.

Contact with various organisations since the Green Capital Year has been intensified and joint activities have been undertaken to draw attention to inclusion in sustainability. Examples include organisations such as: Lentekracht (the “Groen Doen” initiative with a variety of local residents), Klimaatverbond Nederland (attention to climate change and inclusion), Huis van Compassie (energy ambassadors), Municipality of Arnhem, IVN (institute for nature and environmental education), Helicon (green education), food forests, beekeepers, New Rootz (young people as inspiration for the future).

At the city or community level, policy change has taken place in the sense that sustainable inclusion is appearing on the agenda more often. The realisation that a sustainable world is a task for everyone has become commonplace both administratively and socially.

More attention has been paid to sustainability in local communities, as well as by the media, which has started to play an increasingly important role in this. There have been public activities with national appeal. The inspiration and enthusiasm that Kleurrijk Groen has been met with is gradually extending to people outside the city.

The Kleurrijk Groen programme has caused a social sustainability revolution locally: more residents from different backgrounds are taking part in sustainable initiatives in the city. The trick is consolidating this development.

Challenges and lessons learned
  • Continue to work on new ways to inform, inspire, and support different groups of citizens in their sustainable choices.
  • For continuity, it is necessary to keep social inclusion on the sustainability agenda.
  • Maintain a constructive dialogue with citizens and other parties (nature and environmental organisations, social organisations, governments).
  • Offer plans of action to citizens in order for them to eventually make sustainable choices independently in their daily lives.
  • Inspiring nature- and environmental organisations to diversify with the aim of promoting accessibility.
  • Investing in nature and environmental education for children, which is essential for the green quality of their parents.
Photo of childrens willow hut
Article in Down to Earth


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