The Living Lab in the Hague focuses on the neighbourhood of Morgenstond in the Hague. The coordinating organisation is the Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS), who works together with the local municipality and many other stakeholders. The project offers sports activities to groups that typically don’t have many opportunities to do physical activity, adjusting the approach based on research and the needs of the community.
With approximately 20,000 inhabitants, Morgenstond is a relatively populated neighbourhood in the Hague. However, the total area of the neighbourhood is rather small, making it quite densely populated.
In 2007, the Dutch Minister of Living, Neighbourhoods and Integration described Morgenstond as one of the 40 “most problematic” neighbourhoods in the Netherlands (RTL Nieuws, 2019). This meant the area received special attention from the national and municipal governments to help alleviate the often very complex problems that existed in the neighbourhood. However, the programme, which was supposed to run for at least ten years, was discontinued prematurely by a new national government. It is hard to say to what degree the efforts of the programme were successful.
The area is also ethnically diverse, with migrants making up almost 75% of Morgenstond’s population (Allecijfers, 2022), while in the country as a whole 25% of residents have a non-Western migrant background. People with a Turkish, Surinam and Moroccan background are especially well-represented. The average annual income in the neighbourhood is approximately 21,000 euros, compared to the national average of 36,500 (Allecijfers, 2022). The average education level is also below average.
Many of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants also don’t have the opportunity to practice sports. The Living Lab aims to address this by offering regular sports activities, as well as a venue for people to expand their social networks and connect with each other.
Many stakeholders coordinate project activities, including the Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS), who are a partner on the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab project. Prior to the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab project, THUAS was already working in Morgenstond through organising several activities, mainly focussed on providing migrant women with a chance to participate in sports activities.
- The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS): Heavily involved in the project by monitoring and evaluating the process in Morgenstond but also by actively organising activities themselves
- ISA: Prior to the project, THUAS was already running a Living Lab in Morgenstond. It was decided that ISA would set up a second, complementary Living Lab in the area. However, this faced a number of challenges, including that ISA’s headquarters are in another part of the country. This meant they couldn’t be in Morgenstond regularly enough to build meaningful relations with the local community, and the Living Lab was disbanded. This experience however provided valuable learning that will be shared in the final toolkit of the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab project
- SWSDH (Employer of Sports Clubs The Hague)
- Vreedzame wijk: A national organisation that is active in numerous schools and neighbourhoods throughout the Netherlands
- Bureau MHR: A local organisation focusing mainly on providing a process of reintegration of young ex-convicts
- Municipality of The Hague: Supports some of the activities of the LL (especially the ones that are organised in collaboration with SWSDH) with funding
- Inhabitants of Morgenstond: Taking part in activities of the LL, but also participating in focus groups, interviews or brainstorm sessions to shape, coordinate, and reflect on these activities
- Local sport coaches
- The Dutch Korfball Association
- Migrant women and children of elementary school age. This is particularly important because they generally don’t have the opportunity to participate in sport, often because for religious or cultural reasons they can’t be seen by men when doing physical activity.
- Young people from the area, who often also lack sports activities and find themselves socialising on the streets.
- The Living Lab aims to involve the whole residential area as far as possible and would like to expand to further target groups.
- Living Labs in two locations in Morgenstond
- Podcasts have been created with some of the women, telling their stories
- Following a focus group on public familiarity, THUAS are now writing an article on the topic. This will how to make public familiarity measurable
- Based on participatory action research with Muslin women who are active in a sports activity in the Living Lab, an article is going to be written about the valuable meaning of sport for these women.
The approach has heavily focused on building trust in the community. This was established by using participatory action research. This requires a regular presence of the project team in the community, which encourages participants to open up about their needs and wishes for the project. The Living Lab coordinators acknowledge different people will find it easier to build trust among some target groups than others. For example, the project coordinator from THUAS has been able to connect with mothers on the project through also being a parent, but others are more appropriate for leading discussions with young men.
The Living Lab provides regular sports activities for different target groups (for example, there are weekly activities for non-Western migrant women, for 4–7-year-olds, for 7-12-year-olds and others). Living Lab participants are asked about their wishes through focus group discussions, and the project team tries to meet these wishes as far as possible.
There has also been a heavy emphasis on the governance structure of the project, which is especially important due to the large number of stakeholders involved. The Living Lab has a Steering Group of those leading the project, as well as a Programme Group that is comprised of one or two representatives from each organisation in the programme team. The latter meets fortnightly, with an emphasis on co-creation and assessing whether they are meeting their shared goals.
The Morgenstond Living Lab was also one of six Living Labs that were part of a study on the governance structure. This research provided recommendations, which helped to reduce bottlenecks and improve planning.
While the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab project emphasises social cohesion, the project team has found that is not really the focus of local organisations or particularly desired by the local community, so the project has not emphasised that in its activities. However, the Living Lab has enhanced public familiarity between groups – participants are now more likely to recognise and interact with people from the Living Lab when they meet on the street. This could lead to more feelings of belonging and trust in the neighbourhood. The Living Lab has also focused on increasing the target groups’ participation in sports, boosting their life skills and expanding their involvement in the community.
- Weekly sports activities for migrant women and other groups that lack regular opportunities to play sport.
- Collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders.
- A flexible and participatory approach has enabled adjustments to the governance and management of the Living Lab based on learning from the project.
- Difficult to meet some requests of participants due to external factors. For example, some women requested swimming activities. These would need to be women-only and out of sight of men due to the religion of some participants, but the local municipality doesn’t allow single-sex hours at its swimming pools.
- The distance of ISA from the Hague made it difficult for them to attend regularly to build the relationships with the community in Morgenstond. ISA pulled out of the Living Lab and set one up near their office in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
- Difficult to find participants that can attend programme meetings regularly, especially as payment is not available, which can feel unbalanced. The Living Lab team would recommend engaging the local community from the very start rather than creating a plan and then engaging them.