How Vakmanstad became Vakwerf and DOK21 came to life. A story of innovation, partnerships and the transformation of environmental sustainability with personal growth in secondary vocational education. Building bridges for education using ecophilosophy.











How DOK21 came to life

How Vakmanstad became Vakwerf and DOK21 came to life. A story of innovation, partnerships and the transformation of environmental sustainability with personal growth in secondary vocational education. Building bridges for education using ecophilosophy.


2013 - 2015: Phase 1 Experimentation and Reflection. Characterized by "Craftsmanship and Ecosocial Development: Life-Stage Aware Education"

2015 - 2016: Phase 2 Validation and Testing Phase. Characterized by "VakWerf - Consolidation and Validation"

2016 - 2023: Phase 3 Further development phase. Characterized by "DOK21 Foundation - Growth and Expansion".


2013 - 2015: Educational leader, co-initiator and program developer

2015 - 2016: Education leader, program developer and advisor

2016 - 2023: Chairman of the Board and Strategic Liaison


2013 - 2015: To create an educational environment within vocational secondary education (MBO) that is founded on and starts from the developmental stages of the young people directly involved, using the ecosocial circle.

2015 - 2016: To test and validate the adapted Vakmanstad program to Vakwerf approach in the vocational education system.

2016 - 2023: Sustain and expand the program through the creation of DOK21 Foundation.

Tasks and Responsibilities

2013 - 2015: Integration of the ecosocial circle with elements from social-psychological and pedagogical science and empirical experiences, such as (dis)bonding, identity formation, building social and functional networks, and support for learning and career development linked to vocational images and field of work.

2015 - 2016:  Strengthening the program with a series of targeted interventions and trainings and workshops to help autonomous growth, competency development, and building a support network for the students. Monitoring the program implementation and link to occupational context, evaluate impact, and adjust where necessary. In collaboration with project management establish separate foundation to ensure multi-year continuity.

2016 - 2023: Governing the foundation, fundraising, expanding the program, and building partnerships.

Core Values in Practice

2013 - 2015: Applying core values such as self-determination, self-direction, self-regulation, socialization, person formation and community building, and thus equity and respect from the learner(s) themselves. This in order to thereby develop an educational model that does justice to the psychosocial needs and the uniqueness and diversity of students at different stages of life.

2015 - 2016: Transparant evaluation, respect for stakeholder feedback, and loyalty to the program.

2016 - 2023: Honor in standing for the program, self-control in challenges, and courage in entrepreneurship.

Impact and Results

2013 - 2015: It resulted in a robust program that supports young people in their personal growth, promotes social engagement and prepares them for sustainable skills and future careers.

2015 - 2016: Improved program approach, confirmation of working principles, and positive feedback from the student and business community. Implementation of the program led to a noticeable strengthening of social cohesion among the students, higher learning efficiency through increased interest and clearer awareness of their own learning and development path, and a sharper focus on future vocational images.

2016 - 2023: Primary successful fundraising, expanded programs, and strengthened network structure. Secondary sustainable implementation of the DOK21 program as AlbedaYou! within Albeda College. Establishment of OLC21 foundation as a new experiment. Use of working and guiding principles in career coaching of youth, implementation in innovations and strategies in Real Life Learning programs.

Learning Outcomes

2013 - 2015: The importance of recognizing and supporting the social and emotional aspects of the student experience and the ability of an educational program to adapt to their changing needs. Providing this foundation creates space for curiosity and motivation for learning.

2015 - 2016: The importance of continuous iterative improvement, and the importance of feedback mechanisms. Teaching teams were found to still have limited ability to implement what they had learned in its entirety due to ingrained patterns. Study career counseling and increased attention to self-regulation proved to be of immediate value to education professionals. Further implementation was dependent on additional co-funding.

2016 - 2023: Understanding nonprofit management, importance of networking, and strategic planning.


2013 - 2015: Designing adaptive educational programs, building relationships between education and society, and promoting self-discovery in students.

2015 - 2016: Evaluation skills, critical thinking, and cocreative decision-making.

2016 - 2023: Fundraising, network management, strategic planning, and social entrepreneurship.


2013 - 2015: Theoretical frameworks concerning the ecosocial circle, socialization, and identity development, evaluations and feedback from students and colleagues.

2015 - 2016: Evaluation reports, testimonials from participants.

2016 - 2023: Annual reports Verweij Jonker Institute, and partner recommendations.

Additional Information

At the age of 13, I began training Aikibudo under the guidance of Sensei Teun Tromp. Teun's lessons provided a broad Budo perspective that soon made me interested in related Japanese martial arts to strengthen my AikiBudo. In these early days I read the Kendo book by Loïs Vitalis and Henk Oosterling (1985). This led to me attending Kendo clinics at Fumetsu in Rotterdam (founded by Henk Oosterling) several times between the ages of 16 and 19 to improve my AikiBudo, Kobudo, Ken-Jutsu, Daito-Ryu and Aiki-ju-jutsu techniques.

Henk and I met again years later during one of the meetings of Albeda and Zadkine colleagues to form the merger organization Techniek College Rotterdam. We decided then and there that we wanted to work together and this from the perspective of the way of the students and not the teachers. Although teachers want nothing more than to assist their students in their development, they find themselves in existing paradigms and their own conditioned perspectives. We therefore took the initiative to bring together the worlds of ecosophy, vocational education and the existing program of Rotterdam Vakmanstad as a learning and innovative practice and supplement to the existing curriculum.

Rotterdam Vakmanstad


The collaboration with Henk Oosterling was a logical and inspiring choice for me. His profound, practical knowledge and philosophical approach to Japanese martial arts, is evident in his work. His holistic view of personal growth and development through Eastern Philosophy and Japanese Martial Arts fit me perfectly. In addition, his scientific contributions (Erasmus University) and practical knowledge and involvement in the Rotterdam community made him an ideal partner to bridge the gap between the existing Vakmanstad program and MBO education. In 2013, we started working together. It was our joint mission to achieve the integration of EcoPhilosophy into the VET education from a holistic perspective of student development.

I knew Rotterdam Vakmanstad as an innovative educational program that focuses on developing sustainable craftsmanship among young people in Rotterdam. The program integrates physical, social and cognitive skills with a strong emphasis on ecological sustainability and self-development. Through participation in various hands-on activities such as gardening, cooking, and martial arts, young people are not only empowered with practical skills, but also develop a deeper understanding of their role in society and how they can contribute positively to their community. Rotterdam Vakmanstad approaches education from a holistic perspective, focusing on the well-being of the learner and their environment.

Henk Oosterling and I saw the potential to translate the unique approach of Vakmanstad - which focuses on the integration of physical, mental and social development - to the specific needs and challenges of vocational secondary education (MBO) students. Our goal was to create a program that promotes not only vocational skills, but also personal growth and a deeper understanding of sustainability and community spirit.

Different periods and partnerschips

In the first phase of our collaboration, Henk Oosterling, Martijn Kathmann, Marjolein Vink, and myself took on the task of revising the existing Rotterdam Vakmanstad program and adapting it to the context of MBO students. By joining forces, we were able to create a more inclusive and tailored approach that took into account the diverse needs of the students, their life stages and the unique challenges they faced.

In the first period of our collaboration, we immediately made some concrete adjustments to better tailor the program to students' needs. For example, we made adjustments to incorporate the integration of practical ecological and sustainability skills from a vocational training perspective. We immediately realigned Aikido classes with their personal needs, and set up workshops aimed at developing social and vocational networking and identity formation.

In addition to focusing on the individuals and peer group, an important aspect of this phase of experimentation was the formation of partnerships with local organizations and businesses. These partnerships contributed significantly to the practical application of the curriculum and strengthened the connection of students in it with the community in which they are engaged. By providing students with direct experiences within through the use of experiential experts and experts from local industries and social institutions, they were able to put the knowledge they gained directly into practice. This not only promoted their learning and career development but also embedded the importance of community involvement and sustainability in their professional ethos.

The follow-up phase focused on refining and validating the customized program of Rotterdam Vakmanstad/Vakwerf, where feedback and results proved key to continuous improvement. Through careful monitoring and evaluation, the working principles were confirmed and the program could be tailored to the needs of students. By giving students in specific cases a role in this, openness and respectful communication emerged and students began to strive for excellence within their own learning and development process, both for personal growth and professional preparation.

Experimenting, validating and learning

In this second phase, the program was strengthened with a series of targeted trainings. These included "CPO training mindset" for cultural and personal development, "Motivation Compass" for identifying curiosity and motivation, "Relationships" for stress management, "Increasing self-confidence" through theater and talent development, and "Learning and career development" based on Ikigai principles. Each component was carefully designed to support students in their autonomous growth, competency development, and building a support network.

As a result, students gained greater confidence through improved understanding of their own passions and motivations became central. This showed a self-reinforcing effect towards the educational professionals and professional practice, greatly improving the lack of institutional connection as well as increasing the motivation of professionals. Students reported more meaningful and meaningful learning. We also saw that self-regulatory capacity and self-afficacy were enhanced. They appeared to be better able to identify, recognize and appreciate their talents and qualities. This gave them confidence to take on challenges they would otherwise shy away from.

The third phase began in 2016, with my transfer to the role of principal at ID College. This marked the beginning of a new chapter namely the creation of the DOK21 Foundation, and the sustainability and increasing impact of the program. I became director of DOK21 and together with the project leaders took on the role of continuing and expanding the program. Rotterdam Vakmanstad-Vakwerf had to focus itself on primary and secondary education due to its subsidizer, Stichting Verre Bergen. Consequence would be that the program had to be terminated. Everyone involved in the program did not want to let the success go to waste. We created new partnerships and strengthened the DOK21 program.


Expanding the DOK21 program to other schools was also at the same time a strategic move to test its maturity and broad applicability. By implementing the program at various educational institutions such as Zadkine education colleges Administration, Praktijkschool HPC Charlois, and as a possible central program for Albeda College, the DOK21 program was able to increase its impact.

Each of the new collaborations had its own funding model and forms of cooperation, which underscored the flexibility and adaptability of the program. To further increase its impact and make it a learning and innovative program, we continued to partner with the Social Work programs of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences to strengthen peer coaching and offer 15 college students a practical learning placement each year. In order to be able to continue the impact on a long-term basis and measure it, we have had the program co-funded by the Oranje Fonds from the program "More Opportunities for Young People". Through the Verweij Jonker Institute, the impact of the program has been measured and accounted for over several years.

As a result, the program could be perpetuated, the impact proved to be demonstrably effective and the funding model became increasingly visible. At the end of 2021, both the final report and the financial accountability were submitted to the Oranjefonds and the cooperation partners. Albeda has now implemented the program under the name AlbedaYou!

The name AlbedaYou was coined by assistant project manager in apprenticeship Kai.

The DOK21 program initially focused mainly on students within the educational process. Given its positive impact, more and more interest in the program arose among education teams and schools with the need for a preventive methodology to avoid school dropout. In 2018, we received more and more requests from professionals and students who had already dropped out to join the program. After a successful period of experimenting with this target group as well, we chose to establish a separate foundation Open Learning Center 21 (OLC21) for those students who had already dropped out.

And from DOK21, OLC21 was then born

Kai then founded the OLC21 foundation, an Open Learning Center for young people who left education early. A self-supporting community working on a new way of education, where learning is possible in complete freedom and all young people are welcome. A platform of young people, by young people, for young people where networking and entrepreneurship and learning and building their own curriculum through the path of personal development and 21st century skills are central. OLC21: "The place for young people who like to learn outside the regular education system"