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Annual report Orange Knowledge Programme 2018 / General overview

The 5-year Orange Knowledge Programme ran its first full year in 2018. Roos Hogenkamp, manager Global Development at Nuffic looks back on a lively year: “The new policy launched by Minister Sigrid Kaag in May 2018 gave us real focus.”
Posted by Mike Cooper

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series:

Providing education and training is an effective way for the Dutch government to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is sustainable and inclusive. The Orange Knowledge Programme, which we manage for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is a new integrated approach to providing international education and training. An overview of results, highlights and lessons learned for the €220 million scholarships and grant initiative.

Jewel in the crown

"The Orange Knowledge Programme is one on the many jewels in the crown of Dutch education in the Netherlands and abroad," says Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands' Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. "It gives an opportunity to people from developing countries to learn new skills, come to the Netherlands, return back home and give back to their societies. It is a quiet channel for public international diplomacy." Minister Kaag visited the Nuffic office in September 2018, where she also spoke with an Orange Knowledge Programme scholarship recipient.

"Education is key to economic growth and the future of societies. It's empowering, it's emancipating, hence we also have a special focus on women and girls. This programme is also based on the sectors that the Netherlands is very proud of: water management, agriculture but also technology," the minister added.

Manager Roos Hogenkamp is responsible for the Global Development team at Nuffic in The Hague. Her team manages the Orange Knowledge Programme, among other programmes for the Dutch government, EU and private funders.

What do you see as the highlights of 2018, the first full year of the Orange Knowledge Programme?

Hogenkamp: “The new policy launched by Minister Sigrid Kaag in May 2018 gave us real focus. Officially called ‘Investing in Global Prospects’, it underlines some of our key areas of expertise: providing education and training in fragile regions. The minister announced that the Dutch government will invest €60 million annually in new education initiatives focused on 4 specific regions. This policy direction underlined for us how essential our work is.”

“Through the year we saw a lot of high-quality proposals from a wide variety of education institutions. The Orange Knowledge Programme is quite different from previous programmes. That means the education institutions also had to get used to a new way of working. They handled it really well. We have funding to give, but we need good proposals in order to be able to implement the programme. We are strongly linked to each other. It has therefore been stimulating for both parties."

Can you give an example of this new way of working?

"We have made a committed shift in this programme to offer knowledge institutions the lead in projects. In the past, consultancies often took the lead, being experts in proposal writing. Of course, consultancies may still be part of a consortium, but this measure better serves the principle of reciprocity. In institutional collaboration, knowledge exchange and experience of cooperation is mutually beneficial. As a result of this shift, we now have more knowledge institutions participating than in previous programmes. That is a real achievement and I'm proud of this success."

Was that the only change?

"Certainly not. We have also successfully implemented co-financing requirements into group training and institutional collaboration. We believe that the Orange Knowledge Programme will have more impact if the institutions in the partner countries contribute financially. This encourages ownership and makes projects more sustainable. And it works. In many cases it is now compulsory to include other parties as co-financiers of proposals. That is new and exciting.”

Does the Orange Knowledge Programme have a wider range than previous funding initiatives?

"It does. We have a more holistic approach, integrating and orchestrating our instruments more to local demands. For instance, if a country needs strong development in Food and Nutrition Security, we design specific calls on that theme: for institutional collaboration projects, but we also try to align group training courses, and select people in these sectors specifically for individual scholarships. In the past, the instruments (scholarships, group training, institutional collaboration projects and alumni events) were implemented in separate programmes. Now these are interlinked.”

“We also encourage Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions and universities of applied sciences to participate, as we have a stronger focus on employability and private sector development. We aim to close the gaps to the local job markets. TVET institutions are at a slight disadvantage in participating in the projects. They do not have the means and experienced staff to submit complex proposals and can find the process intimidating. We try to encourage them by engaging them to join in consortia. We also ask the higher education institutions who are more experienced in making these proposals, to collaborate with TVET institutions and universities of applied sciences."

"We have a more holistic approach, integrating and orchestrating our instruments more to local demands."

Are there other challenges that applicants to the Orange Knowledge Programme face?

"There are quite a number of institutions in the partner countries who want to participate, but struggle to find a Dutch partner. The local Dutch embassies help us a great deal with this. Many of the more well-established higher education institutions in the Netherlands also have a lot of local knowledge and networks, but we do not get enough brand new partnerships, meaning that quite a few requests still remain unmatched/unanswered. That should change as we want to be as inclusive as possible – offering a level playing field. We are therefore looking into new ways to spread the word about specific calls, such as social media. The message is clear: we want to widen the programme's horizon, so if you want to join in and you can’t find a partner for a call, contact us (!"

Are you on track with the Orange Knowledge Programme?

"We are. This first year has been demanding, but our team at Nuffic is very dedicated. Our people have worked tirelessly to develop all the ‘Country plans of Implementations’, change the formats and adapt processes accordingly. We set out all the calls we aimed for and implemented the instruments on all the respective priority themes. I look back on a lively year with a lot of action!"

What made the set-up especially rigorous?

"A lot of countries, a lot of instruments and many variables across interdependent budgets. Throughout the year, we have been building very complex computer models to deal with this. We have country budgets, but we cannot always influence the budgets allocated per instrument. Scholarships, for example, are demand-driven. This means if there is a major demand and all the proposals are good, then we will honour them all. That has a financial consequence for budgets for institutional collaboration projects, for example."

How was the new programme received by the institutions?

"Some of our participants did at times wonder why we seemed to take a long time to launch our calls. But I believe the new structure that is now in place is part of the way forward for the Netherlands to be able to fairly and most effectively stimulate social and economic growth and the future of societies through educational development."

"The message is clear: we want to widen the programme's horizon, so if you want to join in and you can’t find a partner for a call, contact us."

What are the programme's themes?

The programme takes 4 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' priority themes into account. These are Food Security, Water, Security and the Rule of Law, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, as was also underlined in Investing in Global Prospects. There are also what we call "cross-cutting themes" which are always present. These focus on inclusion of women and marginalised groups, employability and private sector development and (environmental) sustainability."

Which one do you connect with most?

"For me personally, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is particularly significant. I really believe in helping girls and women in developing countries to get access to education and training, to build a career and develop themselves. I think it's wonderful that we have numerous instruments that can help them. Also, in a lot of countries reproductive health and sexual rights are still taboo, not only hampering women, but also the LGBT communities. The Netherlands is one of the front runners in inclusion and equal rights on these themes, having a lot of knowledge available to share, to effectuate change.”

How about the other priority themes?

"I initially struggled to understand the significance of the priority area Security and the Rule of Law. However, after visiting Indonesia I totally understood it! There I visited the national anti-corruption agency, and I saw how they were training people to combat corruption, and how they collaborated with the Netherlands' anti-fraud squad, the FIOD. In Indonesia, the anti-corruption agency receives a very high level of support among local people."

What is the significance of Food and Nutrition Security, and Water?

"These are the biggest 2 priority themes of the programme! So, hugely important. Offering countries the opportunity to strengthen themselves in providing the basic elements: safe food and water. As a country mainly below sea level, the Netherlands has overcome its own challenges with water and the government almost sees it as our duty to share our lessons learned. Also, being a small country with a lot of mouths to feed, we have found smart ways through agriculture to meet this challenge. As a result, Dutch agri-food knowledge institutes like Wageningen University are reputed worldwide as well as our ‘green’ vocational colleges. So sharing that knowledge makes sense."

What are some of the motivating factors for you in your role at the Orange Knowledge Programme?

“I think that with the way we implement our programme in the priority themes, we contribute substantially to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Education is the engine for growth as we always say, and I am a strong believer of that. Furthermore I believe that in order to tackle the global challenges as defined in the 17 SDGs you cannot act alone as a country. You have to cross borders and think more globally to try and address these challenges. This is all about collaboration, global partnerships and pooling all the knowledge that is out there in order for us all to achieve peace and prosperity."

What was your personal highlight in 2018?

"Meeting the students! We organised a gathering for all the Orange Knowledge scholarship recipients in the Netherlands on International Students' Day. Around 200 students gathered in Delft. Meeting them really underlined for me why we do this. I heard many personal impact stories of the Orange Knowledge Programme. It was also emotional: I spoke to a mother who was in tears. She had left her children in their grandparents' care in order to come and study and improve her family’s chances in the future. We also received an enormous appreciation for what we do. Really heartfelt gratitude. It was a wonderful day, and we all felt like we were part of a change for a better world."

Looking ahead, how do you see the Orange Knowledge Programme evolving?

"To further align our programme to the policy, we recently received extra funding from the Ministry of Foreign affairs. This enables us to add new countries to the list of full-programme countries, like Iraq and Tunisia. It also creates room for regional calls – on Food and Nutrition Security and Security and Rule of Law - and for specific interventions for instance regarding refugees in the MENA region. A challenge is our limited experience in complex countries like Iraq. It is my personal goal to make sure that we as an organisation are able to gain a thorough understanding of those countries and their contexts.”

“Also, we have to accelerate. There is a hard deadline for the Orange Knowledge Programme. We need to communicate and demonstrate the high impact that our programmes have around the world. That also goes for the education institutions. It is in everyone's interest, for the continuation of such programmes, to recognise the common ground that we have and celebrate and communicate how important our education initiatives are for global development."

"We need to communicate and demonstrate the high impact that our programmes have around the world."

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series: