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12 Jun 2019 - 13:58 CET

Empowering people with financial skills to escape poverty

At NN Group, we want to be a positive force in the lives of our stakeholders. We believe this includes playing our part in improving people’s financial wellbeing, and using our resources, expertise and reach to promote financial empowerment. One way we do this is through NN Future Matters, our overarching community investment programme.

NN Future Matters

NN Future Matters aims to help people improve their financial wellbeing by focusing on three complementary target areas: promoting financial empowerment, creating economic opportunities and alleviating financial distress.

These themes align with both NN Group’s purpose and our employees’ knowledge and expertise and have a proven positive impact on communities. By involving international and local partners, the programme aims to be both globally consistent and locally relevant.

From Debt to Opportunities Foundation

One initiative in the Dutch market is the From Debt to Opportunities Foundation. The foundation has been part of NN Future Matters since 2018. In close cooperation with 30 local non-profit partners*, the foundation supports households in the Netherlands with problem debts to become more financially self-reliant. The help is much needed, as one in five households struggles to pay their fixed costs. 

Since 2016, the foundation has reached over 7,000 households, aiding participants to develop financial skills to escape poverty and debt, and achieve sustainable financial security. The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences helps to research the impact of the foundation’s approach. They found, for example, that participants’ average debt in the long term decreased from EUR 13,149 to EUR 7,282. This research creates insights into what works in our approach to debt and poverty reduction.

Building financial self-reliance

With the From Debt to Opportunities Foundation, we are working towards a specific goal: reducing poverty due to structural debt in four cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Zwolle and Arnhem) within a five-year period, by acting as the link between social organisations, knowledge & research institutes, and volunteers.

In these four cities, we provide financial support to civil society organisations. We support local projects that help people to create order and an overview in their financial matters, to become more financially self-reliant and to increase their income.

As the foundation focuses on projects in the cities where NN Group is located, we can provide additional support with the help of NN Group employee volunteers. In 2018, in addition to our financial support, 210 NN Group employees volunteered 3,728 hours of their relevant expertise to projects related to the foundation.

Supporting local projects

The projects supported by the foundation are located in the neighbourhoods with the lowest average income and where people are in payment arrears. Everyone in these neighbourhoods who is in poverty due to debts, and who is at risk of structural debt, belongs to the foundation’s target group. These are vulnerable households that may not be fully integrated in society, and that do not (yet) receive regular assistance to solve debt problems.

Personal stories from participants

We believe that a local, informal debt approach contributes to a sustainable solution to reducing poverty in the Netherlands. The foundation's 2018 Annual Review includes personal stories, for example from Dayenne and Deborah, who today have hope for a better future.

Dayenne’s (34) debts accumulated partly due to being victim of digital ID fraud. She went through a difficult period: ‘Poverty is more than having no money in your wallet. Over four years ago, someone told me about the Buurtwerkkamer (a neighbourhood office). There I found that I was not the only one with debts, and I became hopeful for a better life again. With the help of a coordinator in the Buurtwerkkamer, I created an overview of my income and expenses.’ Within four years, Dayenne had considerably reduced her debts. She now has a job herself – as a Coordinator for Debt Assistance for all Buurtwerkkamers in Amsterdam – where she helps other people who are in debt. 'For me hope is on the horizon again. I really live again.’

Dayenne: ‘Poverty destroys people. Slowly I turned into a person I didn't want to be.’

Deborah (32) is a single mother of five young boys. 'My boyfriend at the time left the finances to me. But I never learned how to do that. I spent too much money, put all the bills in the cupboard and lost site of the overview. About two and a half years ago I realised we were in serious debt. I then searched the internet for support and eventually found Liesbeth. She is from SchuldHulpMaatje, part of Op Orde Zwolle. We have had a tough time with ups and downs. But gradually our debts decreased. That gives me peace of mind. I can look forward to the future positively again.’

More information

You can find more information (in Dutch) on the foundation's website and in their 2018 Annual Review, which includes the stories of Dayenne and Deborah as well as stories about our partners and a chapter dedicated to the research on the effect of the initiatives we support.

 

* For example Brand New Job, Talentcoach, Schoon Schip, VluchtelingenWerk, Humanitas and UNFM-NL