Skip to main content

The Facilitation Impact Awards (FIA) honours organisations that have used facilitation to achieve a measurable and positive impact as well as the facilitator(s) who worked with them. More about FIA. 

Gold award
Stichting Onderwijsarbeidsmarktfonds MBO
Den Haag, The Netherlands

Strategic Vitality Management in the MBO sector


57 schools (88%) have developed and implemented Strategic Vitality Management, affecting 52,000 employees.

A strong network of 530 professionals established itself and is being successful on HR-subjects beyond Strategic Vitality Management.

A strong network of cooperating stakeholders contribute to facilitate schools developing and implementing Strategic Vitality Management.

Zero-absenteeism (employees without absence) in the sector increased from 47% to 51%.

The approach is spreading in the sector and beyond. Other sectors and Ministries have begun their own facilitated community-based change movements.

Context and challenges

Stichting Onderwijsarbeidsmarktfonds MBO (SOM) is the Vocational Education Schools fund in the Netherlands that contributes towards:

  • more sustainable labour
  • better working conditions
  • improving worker’s professionalism.

The MBO (intermediate vocational education) sector comprises 65 schools with a total of 54,000 employees and 492,000 students. SOM is governed jointly by employer organisations and labour unions.

Vitality Management is a growing trend in the Netherlands. Its goal is to create a sustainable working culture and environment that enables employees to work professionally and to reach their pension in good health. In 2014, Vitality Management was almost non-existent in the MBO sector. Only a few MBO’s had developed some Vitality Management initiatives, but none were of considerable scale, nor integrated in a comprehensive strategy. SOM started a program to stimulate MBO schools to implement Strategic Vitality Management.

Traditionally sector funds, including SOM, choose a persuasive approach—design a program, build a website with tools and best-practices and launch a communication campaign that creates awareness and tries to persuade schools to adopt the program. This usually leads to around 10% conversion. Maaike Sauerborn, the Program Leader for Strategic Vitality Management, set off on a different path and approached Pepijn Nicolas (lead facilitator) with a question: “I want to start a big movement in our sector and just another website with best-practices won’t do the trick. Can you help?”

Project objectives

SOM set itself three goals:

  1. Start a broad movement towards Strategic Vitality Management in MBO schools.
  2. By the end of 2016, at least 17 schools (25%) have developed and implemented Strategic Vitality Management, affecting at least 14,000 employees in the sector.
  3. Create a large and active network of professionals who contribute to Strategic Vitality Management within the sector.


Our approach led us far away from the traditional persuasive approach. We had no central campaign, no campaign website, no toolkit and no answers. Instead we created a community-based change movement, which we describe as a facilitated fellowship of heroic knights. The main elements were:

  • Heroes choose their own path. Each has its own drive, starting point, goal, path and pace (individualism).
  • They act as fellows. Participants help each other (peer support instead of central support).
  • They act as knights. Older generations that started earlier help the younger get on their way.
  • Facilitative leadership by SOM. Offering meetings, time, space, knowledge, a team of facilitators and facilitated methods for empowering participants to find their own path and create a movement together.

We organised (only) four facilitated national meetings—using a wide variety of methods, triggering mental, physical and emotional resources—to help create a movement in the sector. And then we organised three masterclasses, Change DNA, to help transfer this way of working to each school. Powerful school teams became effective in moving the schools to achieve remarkable outcomes and creating their own network of fellow knights in their own region.

Thomas Scharwz, CPF and IAF Hall of Fame member with Maaike Sauerborn, Pepijn Nicolas, Kersti Vervloet and Floor Daver at the 2017 Facilitation Impact Awards ceremony in Paris.