Through his global initiative A City Made by People, Robin is calling on all citizens to leave our individualistic egos at the door and collaborate to make a collective positive impact.
Robin started his career as a strategist in advertising and later as a "marketing guy” in the fashion industry. However, soon he felt a burning urge to apply his passion, talent and time to something more meaningful; something that would connect people and improve their lives.
Robin made the leap into self-employment in 2010, working for multiple social enterprises such as Impact Hub Amsterdam and sustainable denim brand Kuyichi and it was during this time that A City Made By People began to form.
Shifting Our Mentality From Me to "We"
In a culture too often focused on endless consumption, ticking off bucket lists and collecting Instagram hotspots, Robin strongly believes that as a society, our focus is too often centred on places and not enough on people.
This view is one backed by The Dutch Tourist Board, who recently took a bold stance on tourism; searching for ways for individuals to ‘give back’ and engage with local culture, rather than just snap pics and pass on through.
Robin personally has found that both citizens and visitors aren’t always aware of the beauty and value that lies beneath the surface of a city. The core cultures created through the daily lives of citizens that live there and he wanted to change this.
“I wanted to focus on the individuals within a city, as I believe social context gives us a sense of belonging, acceptance, and direction.”
What initially began in 2014 as a series of local meet-ups has grown into a platform with an international network of citizens in 20+ cities worldwide, sharing stories about where they live through online, print and self-hosted local events. Robin says:
“It's our mission to create more awareness and make fellow citizens feel more responsible about the city they live in. We try to do so through sharing information, facilitating dialogue, and providing tools to be part of the conversation.”
The initiative was born in Amsterdam, which Robin believes is in need of more connection. He says:
“Everyone wants to belong, but it's hard in Amsterdam. As a society we are quite individualistic. I would love to help shift the 'I' to a more 'WE' and 'US' mentality.”
Through this initiative, Robin saw the power of community working together. “So many people are doing their own thing and I think we could collaborate a lot more to act faster, be better at what we do, and create a bigger collective positive impact.”
While the platform initially focussed more on the cultural and lifestyle elements of city life, he is increasingly looking to harness the 'power of the people' to highlight urban issues facing their communities.
“Our role is to initiate these activities and programmes, but also involve those that are already doing amazing things across different social topics within the city.”
“To date, we have started the conversation about numerous issues like mobility, housing, sustainability, loneliness, mental health, diversity, talent and opportunities, etc. Our role is to bring them to the surface.”
Looking back Robin says: “I'm proud we have been able to mobilize so many citizens around the world, such as the volunteer contributors, the people attending our events, and those reading and buying our print journal that are sold across the world. I'd almost say: mission accomplished!”
However he won't stop - he concludes with a rousing call to action:
“Individualism – if you're a municipality, brand or start-up: leave your ego at the door and let's collaborate on making a positive impact in this world. I think things would go a lot faster and easier, if we would look after each other and reach out a hand for help.”
Written in collaboration with Nadja Freeman.