Getting connected in The Hague


The Hague is renowned for innovation, internationalism, peace and justice. It’s a powerful brand and the city is growing. But it’s not a straightforward journey to further heights.


The Hague  – a city with history and an exciting future. Ref.

I attended my third International Community Platform (ICP) event in Den Haag in November and was struck by the potential and power of this group to connect businesses, educators and communities. It is unusual to find such a multi-disciplinary group (schools, universities local authorities, businesses, local enterprise partnerships) committed to working together; we’re proud to be a sponsor at the BSN.

Our keynote for this event was Jeroen van de Hoven, Professor of Ethics and Technology at Delft University. His key theme was the power of global connectedness and technology as a differentiator in The Hague’s economy. Three Universities circle the city and a well-publicised dynamism about the culture helped lure me from Plymouth in the UK last year.

The ICP’s stated mission:

“improving the work & living environment for the (international) employees and families in The Hague and surrounding municipalities and thereby, the working environment for employers themselves.”

But the ICP remit has extended as its research reached the conclusion that it’s not as easy to recruit, retain and connect talented people in the city as you might expect. On a scale of 1 – 10, across all sectors, the city has scored consistently at a surprisingly low – 6.1.

The ICP is certainly doing its best to make connections. Its headlining “Showtime” events held at the World Trade Centre in the heart of The Hague are compelling and engaging, hinting at what might be possible in the city of possibilities.


Nicole van Haelst – Director of the ICP in discussion with Rens de Jong


Lots of connections can be made at headline events but are they sustained?

Some of the perceived difficulties surround opportunities for partners, the bureaucracy and the language barrier (the Dutch are great linguists but most of the main businesses work in Dutch – which is tough for internationals). This leads to issues with retention as partners often have careers and ambitions which they find more difficult to pursue than they expected.

The huge irony of course in this problem with connecting talent is that we are living in the most connected, networked period in human history – right?

In an age of global reach it seems we may be unintentionally isolating ourselves from the necessary face-to-face interactions that secure trust and ongoing relationships. Matteo Consonni, Country Manager @Elva, Co-Founder @NOC Lab, spoke at the recent ICP event about a “blue table” initiative at which clients can only sit if they put their devices away.

I am very interested in this concept of space and genuine connection. It has always been one of the challenges in education to join students’ learning and assessment journey with what follows school.

And I know what doesn’t work.

Parachuting projects and limited funding into schools to develop “character” or a purely competition-based or work-experience based approach for young people to access ideas about life after school don’t stick. Something more sustained and sophisticated needs to happen.

My contribution at the ICP seminar was to wonder if there could be a shared space that genuinely connected these different groups of educators, businesses and talent-spotters in a more sustained manner?

About the author


Kieran Earley is currently CEO and Principal at The British School in The Netherlands, one of the members of the International Community Platform (ICP, initiator of Check-NL). He has an extensive background as a Head Teacher in the U.K. He now lives in The Hague with his wife and three teenage sons. Kieran regularly enlightens us with his posts on