Startup in Residence behind the scenes | Ministry of Social Affairs challenges innovative startups

How do challenges get formulated? The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) challenges startups with not 1 but 4 social challenges. Barbara Kits, coordinator of the Innovation Support Team at SZW, guides the teams that are linked to the 4 challenges during the Startup in Residence program. In this blog you can read more about the challenges and the stimulating role of the government via Startup in Residence.

Support team Innovation at SZW

The scope of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment is broad: from childcare and pensions to inspections of companies in the field of health and fair work. Barbara Kits is coordinator of the Innovation Support Team at SZW. This team has existed for about a year and was set up to support employees of SZW in the successful application of innovations in their work. For example, innovations that startups develop for SZW’s policy related tasks!

Submit challenges for Startup in Residence

Barbara faces a lot of creativity in developing challenges for SZW. That was the reason to participate in Startup in Residence. When selecting issues for Startup in Residence, she mainly looked at the applicability. And the great thing is that many SZW employees were immediately enthusiastic. As a result: 4 challenges for the first program.

SZW’s 4 challenges

Challenge 1: Recognize the Benefits of Older Workers

Challenge 1 is about older people searching for a job. This concerns people aged 50 and older. When people in this group lose their jobs, it is often more difficult for them to find work again than people under 50. In practice, it appears that employers have certain incorrect assumptions about older job seekers. These assumptions make it more difficult for this target group to find work. The challenge: come up with an innovative solution that ensures the image employers have of older employees is more positive and in line with reality.

Challenge 2: Research into collective labor agreements

A CAO contains agreements between employers and employees. There are more than 600 collective labor agreements in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment wants to know how many CAOs contain agreements about, for example, wages, working hours, payment of overtime or further training, and what exactly these agreements look like. The Ministry wants to encourage employers to work on such themes. In addition, this knowledge is useful for identifying trends in the collective labor agreements. As collective labor agreements are frequently renewed, they must be regularly reviewed to gain insight. In practice, this means that 600 texts have to be analyzed to answer specific questions. The challenge: develop a new method with which this process can be automated.

Challenge 3: The inspection toolbox

Challenge 3 focuses on the inspection of SZW. The inspectorate monitors and checks whether companies comply with the regulations regarding fair, healthy and safe work. The Inspectorate SZW uses the intervention toolbox to determine and implement intervention(s). The inspectorate wants the intervention toolbox to be used by the widest possible group of project leaders and inspectors. However, using the intervention toolbox requires specific knowledge about the intervention toolbox and how to apply the method. The challenge: ensure that the toolbox better matches the daily environment of project leaders and the inspector.

Challenge 4: Training of the inspection

Most inspectors and investigators focus on one specific part of the inspectorate. That is why new inspectors and investigators receive training to gain insight into the broad field of activity. The inspectorate, together with the internal training party, is looking for a method to secure the knowledge before concluding that training. The challenge is therefore: designing a closing activity of the training with which the knowledge is permanently secured.

The execution

After the challenges take shape, the process starts. Barbara Kits and her colleagues supervise the four SZW teams for the four challenges. They are guided in knowledge about the program, validating the issues, selecting a startup and co-creating solutions with the startup. Expectations per challenge differ: some challenges require more technology, others do not.

If a startup comes up with a suitable solution for a challenge, it might get a chance to perform a pilot or further develop the solution. The solutions are often also of interest to other parties outside the ministry. If the solutions are scalable, startups may also develop their solution for parties outside the ministry.

Are you an ambitious startup?

Can you and your team come up with creative solutions for the government? Then sign up for a challenge! Registration is open:


This article is written by The Young Digitals under assignment of Startup in Residence InterGov.