‘I want to get people in motion’

‘I want to get people in motion’

05/16/2024 - 09:36

Judith van den Berg obtained her bachelor's degree in Leisure Management in 2008 and came to the BUas campus in January 2020 (just in time ;-) to receive her MBA certificate in Imagineering. Now she is back on base for a moment.
Leisure & Events

Making people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That was what I read on your LinkedIn profile. The funny thing is you found this interview quite exciting, as you told me before. How uncomfortable does it feel now? 

‘Not at all! But, you know, I sometimes have to cross a threshold myself. Then, I think, you want to get people in motion; then you have to set a good example.’ 

What I find great is that ten years after your bachelor’s degree you started your master’s programme. 
‘I’ve surprised myself as well. I spent six years doing my bachelor’s – I was working really hard as an event manager at De Voltage in Tilburg during my studies. I still remember that I got a postcard from BUas around Christmas every year: Gosh, you have yet to complete your studies or something to that effect.’ 

And yet, that master’s programme! How come? 
‘Imagineering was a course during my professional bachelor’s programme. It mostly revolved around experience at events. I was really enthusiastic about it. I had a 9 for it even though I did not have a penchant for learning at all. I now dare to say that I was not really intrinsically motivated for doing a course until during my master’s programme for the first time. I really wanted to know more about it. It was a conscious step; I made a choice to develop.’ 

And how did that journey look like? 
‘After De Voltage I did a range of things. Eventually, I started working for the Municipality of Heusden as a Tourism & Recreation policy official. Together with the Hart van Brabant region, I mostly worked ‘outdoors’. I’ve always enjoyed engaging people and as a civil servant of the municipality I certainly didn’t want to decide on everything from the city hall.’ 

A municipality is not the first employer I think of in the area of Imagineering? 
‘The faculty delivering the master’s programme, in particular, cooperate a lot with municipalities. Heusden is really willing to do things differently. That helps. I started ‘prodding in the system’ a little. Just to give an example, I drafted the annual social report as an infographic together with some colleagues. It didn’t end up in a drawer, but in a prominent place as a poster in the coffee corner! I noticed that you have to start small and – yes – these sorts of things were really new in 2014.’ 

Prodding in the system. That suits you? 
‘Doing things differently is ingrained in me, yes. Through the collaboration with the Hart van Brabant region I came into contact with STUDIO.WHY and was introduced to Design Thinking. We were able to present an issue from the region and we worked on it with a group of students. I immediately thought that was very cool! After that hackathon, I took a master class in Design Thinking and that’s how I found out that there is a methodology for the way I like to work. How great is that? A little research eventually led me to the MBA Imagineering at BUas.’ 

How did that feel? To be a student again? 
‘That felt right straight away. I had a conversation with Liliya Terzieva, who was the coordinator at the time and she put me in touch with an alumnus who also worked at a municipality. This allowed me to find out how I could apply it to my work.’   

Was it lots of work? 
‘If you like something, it’s less burdensome. But I did put a lot of energy into it. I remember that we had to compile a portfolio in block 2. I started working with Instagram, which was pretty unknown at the time. I’d created a profile as Imagineer and three shadow profiles: the co-creative catalyst, the researcher, and the designer. Those are the three roles the Imagineer fulfils, and I had them respond to the content of my first profile. It was quite a lot of work. Night work, in particular.’ 

What has it given you? In addition to sleepless nights? 
‘Yes, that’s it! But what it gave me most of all is a bit of reflection on what you pick up in such a block. Imagineering doesn’t define us. We define Imagineering. There’s no blueprint. You fill and shape it yourself. The assignment in the master’s programme was mainly: figure out how you’re going to fulfil those roles. My Insta concept was well received; surely, Imagineering is mainly about looking at things from different perspectives, and that was very much part of it. People tend to look at things from their own perspective and that makes sense. But don’t let that guide you too much and certainly not initially. Sometimes you have to slow down. Listen to understand.’ 

I want to return for a sec to how you can use it at work. Do you have an example? 
‘I’d just started formulating new art and culture policies at the municipality. Using the tools from the master’s programme, I ‘drummed up’ the industry to work together to understand what is needed. There was someone sitting in the front row who asked: “... and what’s the municipality going to do now!” Wait a minute – it’s precisely up to you to shape that, I thought. All of a sudden, I realised how difficult that is. People are used to the municipality deciding on anything, but we have a new role and that’s to facilitate things. Something like that has to land with stakeholders. I’ve just said: listen to understand. On that point, I had to try even harder. I listened and heard that I was going too fast.’ 

Pretty comfortable, right? When the municipality decides? 
‘Exactly! And also when the municipality makes or does. So I had to take this member of the audience into a new role, however uncomfortable that may feel at first. The working methods you learnt in the master’s programme are very useful then. In the beginning I found it exciting. And then I was happy with that day in the week when I saw my fellow students. Every week we got together and then I heard: I did this and tried that. That’s so valuable. We’re still in touch, asking each other all sorts of things: I need a method for... , I’m struggling with... , do you recognise that…? We are still building our community.’ 

And now you feel comfortable in your role as an Imagineer? 
‘Ha, ha, not always. I now think of a communication project with young people. Pizza works anyway, said the youth worker. “OK, I’ll bring the pizzas, you’ll bring in the young people.” And then they were sitting there eating the pizzas, deliciously comfortable, but little else came out. Then I really had to improvise. I had brought a big paper tablecloth. “Draw what you want from the council,” I said. I took that cloth to the council table, pizza stains and all.’ 

But, eventually, those young people did take the stage? 
‘Sometimes you have to force it a bit. The method is very decisive. You have to choose it with care. Between knowledge and understanding is feeling. I didn’t come up with that one myself, but it’s true, it’s about experiencing. I once invited civil servants and aldermen to a nursery school. Please, sit down,’ I told them. On those low stools. And these young kids were literally given the stage at the front of the class. How does that feel!? Very uncomfortable, without a doubt, for the civil servants. Especially the realisation: Oh, yes, we mostly fill things in, we make assumptions, but often forget to test it!’ 

Meanwhile, you are a trainer at STUDIO.WHY? What do you do there? 
‘Yes, so I knew it from my time at the municipality. It’s a cooperative and a spot became available. Among other things, I deliver training courses in facilitation and I facilitate hackathons myself. I’m now orientating on my own business and I’d really like to combine that with my softball activities. Sport is of course a great metaphor for team building.’ 

Because that’s what you also did during your master’s, coaching top sportsmen! 
‘Indeed, during my master’s, I became Dutch Champion with my team. I trained the National Youth and am still active as a coach.’  

And now back to BUas for a moment? 
‘BUas continues to attract. Soon I’ll organise a hackaton here during Leisure & Events’ Learning Festival. I’m having a meeting about that in a minute. And I’m also talking today to a fellow master’s student who’s going to write a book on Imagineering. She wanted to have some practical examples. Super fun to engage with your profession in that way, too!’ 

About the MBA Imagineering 
In the one-year programme of this professional master’s programme you will learn to innovate from a people-oriented perspective. You will learn how to make people co-design their own story or that of their organisation by using imagination. Innovating and changing by strengthening collective creativity, that is the core of this MBA programme at Breda University of Applied Sciences. There is also an executive variant, which lasts eighteen months. 

Interview by Maaike Dukker - 't Hart