Stijn Verhagen, a social scientist, is Professor in Participation and Society at the Faculty of Society & Law at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. Moreover, he is director at Institute of Ecological Pedagogy at the same HU University. He previously worked as an advisor to the Council of Social Development. Prior to that, he was a lecturer and PhD candidate (in the field of market mechanisms in healthcare) at Utrecht University and the University of Amsterdam. Stijn publishes on subjects such as integration, citizenship, social support, debt prevention, sport and youth culture. He is a member of various committees and is on the editorial team for the Tijdschrift voor sociale vraagstukken (‘Journal of Social Issues’).
His Participation and Society research group explores how citizens can be encouraged to participate in Dutch society and what role professionals (in the field of social work, education, etc.) can or should play in this. This involves participation in local communities, schools, associations and society as a whole. The focus of the research group is on preventing problems rather than finding post hoc solutions. In cooperation with professionals in the social sciences, the research group sets up activities and projects for the benefit of numerous groups in the community. The effectiveness of these activities is also scrutinized.
Examples of this work include preventing young people from getting into debt or enhancing opportunities for schoolchildren by increasing the participation of parents and local residents in community schools. Improving relations between ethnic groups is a particular focus for this research group. Participants in the group’s projects include organizations that play a role in the ‘traditional’ social sector (community work, social work, youth work, etc.), but also organizations involved in education, civil society, housing and business. The research group seeks to create meaningful connections between the social sector on the one hand, and the more mainstream social infrastructure on the other.