Action research

for professionals, inhabitants, leaders of organisations, experts, policy makers

Action research

This dynamic, inclusive research method combines research, learning, experiment and change. People who are involved with the problem in various ways play a leading role, which results in a broad base of support: these include professionals, residents, leaders of organisations, experts and policy makers. We explore the problem together, develop solution trajectories through experiment, and also evaluate the effects of these together. Examples include action research into service to the community, flexworking in healthcare, the future of secondary education, better civic education at MBO (intermediate vocational education) level and a vision for a future care centre.


for inhabitants, innovators, unusual suspects


A challenge (contest) – usually linked to specific policy goals, and combined with a support programme – delivers a rich variety of innovative ideas and initiatives from across society: from residents, local authorities, business and education to social organisations. It is an instrument for crowdsourcing innovation, which first and foremost allows you to reach the unusual suspects. Policy and practice come together in concrete initiatives. Examples of challenges we have developed include a challenge for new school concepts in Amsterdam, a challenge to find and support radical innovators in the Netherlands, and the annual European Social Innovation Competition (EUSIC) for social innovators across Europe.


for professionals like teachers, school leaders


Our Incubator approach offers professionals in the public sector, such as teachers and school leaders, an R&D environment to design, develop and most of all try out new ideas and interventions. At the same time, they work to develop their own innovative leadership and new networks. This ‘in-between space’ offers them the opportunity to learn from one another beyond the boundaries of teams, departments, organisations and sectors. This may be with educational professionals, or by tackling a specific problem such as the design of integrated children’s centres (integrale kindcentra, IKCs). In addition, an Incubator is often the start of a sustainable movement or improvement in the public infrastructure.

Pioneer programmes

for teachers, innovators in general

Pioneer programmes

Kennisland believes you can learn to be a pioneer, and that potential pioneers who can benefit from support and connections can be found at every level of society. In 2002, Kennisland launched the Digital Pioneers programme for social internet pioneers. In 2008, Kennisland began the Education Pioneers (now known as the Teachers’ Development Fund (Leraren Ontwikkel Fonds, LOF)) programme, to allow teachers themselves to take the initiative in educational innovation again. Kennisland has also set up various pioneer programmes within organisations, and supported pioneers who were selected via challenges, for example pioneers in health care in Living a Whole Life.

Leadership programmes

for organisations, education, culture

Leadership programmes

Together with leaders in education, culture and other sectors, we seek out what innovative leadership means. We discover strategies, tools and principles for learning and innovating in the context of the current developments in society. The emphasis lies on developing participants’ own capacity to lead innovation. We work with concrete problems from their own practice. Important results include: insights into their own leadership, concrete changes within their own organisations, new connections with society and other sectors and the emergence of a sustainable, learning community.

Learning communities

for teachers, social innovators, leaders in culture

Learning communities

We learn from books, from experts, from leaders in the field, but we learn the most from practice, from stories, experiences, perspectives and insights. This is why KL builds sustainable learning communities, based on mutual trust and openness. This involves bringing together everyone connected with a social problem, because this is the only way to identify the best opportunities for innovation and progress. This includes projects in education, such as InnovationImpulse Education and the Teachers’ Development Fund, social innovation, such as the Hivos Learning Community, and in culture, such as Leadership in Culture.

Social Labs

for municipalities, neighbourhoods, policy makers

Social Labs

Social labs are experimental spaces for social challenges. The social lab makes complex problems understandable by bringing together the perspectives of citizens, professionals and policy makers, and involves these groups in carrying out research, analysis and in developing problem-solving capacity. This delivers better results for the community, important insights for the system and a package of instruments for policy makers. Read more about our labs in, for example, Nijmegen, Dordrecht, Amsterdam, Schiedam, Hong Kong and Vienna.

Lobbying and agenda-setting

for innovation in education, social innovation, public domain, open data

Lobbying and agenda-setting

Since our founding in 1999, we have argued that the socio-economic development of the Netherlands should be based on knowledge as a source of welfare and well-being: the Netherlands as a knowledge economy, as a knowledge land (“kennisland” in Dutch). Once this had gained a place on the political agenda, we increasingly focused on how to do it. In the years that followed, we lobbied for causes such as the modernisation of European copyright law, open government data, a strong public domain and open educational materials. We continue to work hard to put the importance of social innovation on the agenda, alongside technological innovation, and lobby for sustainable innovation in education.

Solutions, inspiration, knowledge and tools

for everybody who wants to go forward

Solutions, inspiration, knowledge and tools

KL has produced a rich collection of publications. We believe that publications should not be written to be filed away in a drawer, but that they should inspire, provoke, help or activate as many people as possible. We write our publications to be as accessible as possible, and share our accumulated knowledge, insights, approaches, methods and tools. They are published under an open licence, so others can build on our work. For us, knowledge is only valuable once it is shared. Read why we share our work openly here.

About KL

Kennisland researches and designs social progress

The Netherlands is prospering in many respects, at least on paper. But who benefits from this? Old ideas, systems and organisation structures often clash with new values, needs and opportunities. Our education system is excellent, but under enormous pressure. Our population is ageing and is becoming increasingly diverse, but too few people are willing and able to deliver good care. Our cities are booming, but inequality is increasing. These are just a few of the complex social problems that stand in the way of an open, learning, inclusive and sustainable society. For more than twenty years, we have worked tirelessly to realise such a knowledge society – with knowledge in all its forms as a source of prosperity and well-being, through social innovation.


Sustainable social progress rooted in practice

Kennisland excels when dealing with complex situations that affect everyone. Instead of allowing ourselves to become paralysed by the complexity of social problems, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Because we are not just a think tank – we are also a do tank. We make society smarter, more social and more creative through practical experiments with new opportunities for the future – because this is the only way of finding the best answers and questions. We apply what we learn in practice to improve that same practical environment.


Always together with those directly involved

Whatever we do, we do it together with those directly involved. We harness the knowledge and experience of people closest to the problem. These include teachers, nurses and residents, but also policymakers, politicians and scientists. Together with these stakeholders, we experiment to develop future-proof, positive change that benefits society as a whole, rather than just the happy few. Our projects create space, time and resources to step out of the daily routine and innovate. Thankfully there are many courageous people who share our concerns, dreams and ambitions. We find them in every layer of society and bring them together. Based on the principle of equality, we work together to develop interventions, strategies and methods that realise social progress.

See how our projects and custom made methods and approaches contribute to a better society.

Connecting the living world and system world

We bring the world where people actually live and the world of systems closer together. We operate in the space between policymakers, organisations and citizens. We transform “target groups” back into people. We are not afraid of shaking up or challenging traditional mindsets by asking the question: do they still work for the people who have to live with them? We seek out and create space for innovation, because better ways are often found off the beaten track. We work to create a society where social systems support people rather than holding them back, where new technologies lead to progress rather than inequality. Our goal is to bring together knowledge, experience and policy.

Sustainable innovation through increasing learning capacity

A solution that works today may be outdated tomorrow. That is why we encourage others to be enthusiastic and curious about innovation. After all, innovation imposed from the top down does not work that well – it must come from people themselves. Complex social problems demand that we are always willing to learn and be inquisitive. We challenge people to be part of the solution themselves, within their own sphere of influence. Our ambition is to anchor learning capacity in policy. We believe in an open knowledge society. That is why we share everything we learn from our projects and research, so society as a whole can benefit from our solutions and approaches.

Work with us to create a better society

KL is part of a stichting (a foundation under Dutch law), an independent group of academics, strategists, researchers, designers, prototypers and lobbyists. We are the driving force behind positive innovation, a fighter for the public interest. We are a reliable, empathic and dedicated partner. Our flexible, pragmatic attitude means we can rapidly transform plans into action. We are a critical but optimistic ally with infectious enthusiasm for everything that can be done better in our society. We believe in the power of collaboration and diversity. That is why we forge strong and often unexpected coalitions with other pioneers and maverick thinkers. Are you ready to work with us to create a better society?

You can view a selection of our partners, clients, funders and spin-offs here.


Kennisland (KL) was founded in 1998 with the goal of putting the Netherlands on the map as a knowledge economy. KL later grew to become an important player in the field of social innovation, education, copyright and digital heritage. Through the years, we have increasingly embarked on international partnerships to deliver social progress. The enthusiasm with which Kennisland tackles complex social problems has remained undiminished through all these years. Read more about Kennisland’s history

KL in brief

Kennisland works on sustainable social progress

  1. We make society smarter, more social and more creative through practical experiments with new opportunities for the future. Whatever we do, we do it together with those most closely involved with a social issue.
  2. We transform “target groups” back into people. We operate in the space between policymakers, organisations and citizens. We bring together the world where people actually live and the world of systems, so that social systems support people rather than holding them back.
  3. We teach people to innovate themselves. In doing so, we contribute to a learning society, a knowledge society. This is the only way of realising sustainable innovation together.
Check our cases

It's the people who get things done.

At KL political scientists, sociologists, social geographers, anthropologists, philosophers, communications specialists and generalists work together on social progress. Get to know our team. Marieke van Doorninck is Kennisland’s director. The Advisory Board advises the director. View the members here.

Contact and practical information

Bank account
Bezuidenhoutseweg 5, 2594 AB, Den Haag
IBAN: NL62 RABO 0168 7809 76

Chamber of commerce: 41158878 (NEW)
VAT: NL803281638B01 (NEW)


Deze tekst heeft een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-licentie (CC BY) en is gekopieerd van de Kennisland-website. Ga voor de volledige versie met afbeeldingen, streamers en noten naar

This text has a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) and has been copied from the Kennisland website. For a full version with images, streamers and notes go to