Entrepreneurship with AMS Chamber of Commerce

A nationwide study recently conducted in The Netherlands reached out to Dutch entrepreneurs to assess how they thought various regions supported their activities. This quantitative study saw Amsterdam emerge with a relatively low score – something the central and district councils there were keen to rectify. They reached out to STBY whilst launching several initiatives designed to turn things around – tasking us with making sure local entrepreneurs felt included and engaged with this process.

The project we designed sought to capture the experiences of various entrepreneurs who’d recently had contact with local government. Collected through contextual interviews in the workplace, these experiences covered both daily routines –such as arranging licenses to place cranes at buidling sites – and more infrequent endeavours, like moving an established retail business to a new location. Regardless of the specifics, all of the entrepreneurs we spoke to were highly engaged, each looking for constructive cooperation with the local government departments involved.

To try and capture these stories in a rich, but structured manner, we used a variety of tools. Customer Journey Mapping saw the stories carefully documented on individual maps, these then being synthesised in the analysis stage to identify recurrent patterns and issues that require improvement. Some aspects of these service experience stories were also captured on video, allowing us to produce Design Documentaries that could directly expose local government staff to the entrepreneurs stories.

Once the analysis was completed it was obvious that the majority of entrepreneurs experiences involved the same recurring process:  initiating a specific request, applying for a service, negotiating the details, waiting for an answer, then implementing the results. Throughout this process there were clearly several barriers and gaps for the enterpreneurs to navigate. Limited opening hours, confusing switchboards, alternating colleagues with different interpretations and attitudes, unpredictable processing times and additional requirements – all were highlighted as clear areas for improvement. What’s more, our analysis was able to contrast these problems with the entrepreneurs relatively positive experiences of digital platforms, highlighting those areas where online/offline synergy could be improved, and where the latter could learn clear lessons from the former.

The conclusion of the project saw the results of the research been presented during meetings of the Chamber of Commerce at both the central city council of Amsterdam as well as the various district councils. The stories gathered on video together with the visual overview of the patterns and issues created on a poster meanwhile helped the client team recount the stories collected to their colleagues.

Inspired by this first round of research, the City Council subsequently ordered an extra round of interviews to complement the initial series. This was intended to widen the representation of local councils and their particular population of enterpreneurs. By using the same methodology, we were able to generate additional data in a short period of time that we could  then merge with the initial synthesised data. The second round of interviews also helped strengthen and confirm the outcomes of the initial round.

Overall then, the project was a big success – to the extent that it’s now triggered a similar follow-up project with the city of Haarlem. Currently ongoing, this new study is a great way for us to build on the approaches and insights we’ve developed in this uniquely challenging area.