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“If you want daring and creative ideas, ask Generation Z”

Character 4min. Sara Terburg

With the Shaping New Commons essay contest, Tilburg University is taking the next step in taking stock of ideas about the world during and after the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has affected society in a variety of areas such as health, safety, the environment, education, the labor market, and digitization. Generation Z members will share their perspectives and ideas, and the best essays will be featured in the book Shaping New Commons. Ronald de Jong, professor of practice at Tilburg University, and Simon van Rijsingen, student and events manager at Asset Tilburg, are part of the organization of the competition.

According to Ronald de Jong, one of the New Common writers, it is about time that the perspective of Generation Z is exhibited. “Last summer, Emile Aarts, Margriet Sitskoorn, Ton Wilthagen, and I asked ourselves the question of what we had to do, as a university, with the ongoing pandemic. In the New Common book, we have tried to explain the crisis. Now we must think about the transitions that are required in society to tackle challenges such as the growing inequality in education and the climate crisis. This is why the second book does not feature the voices of researchers and current leaders, but those of the leaders of the future. Generation Z. “This generation will spent most of their time in the future, and they will provide the leaders.” The essay competition gives students and young professionals a chance to get published.

Simon van Rijsingen

I think it would be interesting to be able to see the different insights and solutions side by side

Event manager Asset Tilburg Simon van Rijsingen

A Platform

De Jong approached the board of Asset Tilburg, the student association of the TiSEM department. Events Manager of Asset Simon van Rijsingen is an International Business and Administration student and is working full-time for the association this year. “I am pleased that my generation is being given a platform, especially because attention is primarily given to the ideas of the older generations at the moment. This is logical, as they have more experience, but if you want daring and creative ideas, you have to ask my generation. There is a lot that will be different forever: who had thought that working from home would be appreciated by so many people?”

The Broadest Possible View

Over the past few months, the events manager contacted students and organizations throughout the Netherlands. “We want to give the broadest possible view, which we do by looking for participants from all fields of study in the Netherlands.” And they were successful, 86 participants have said they will write an essay. “It includes students and starters from the fields of Law, Economy, Psychology, Sociology, Global Arts, and from the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs from universities such as TiU, Delft University, Maastricht University, and the youth sections of the Social and Economic Council (SER), the United Nations, the society for social entrepreneurs Ashoka, and the Ministry of Foreign affairs.

Ronald de Jong

I think it's fantastic that collaborations arise

Professor of practice Ronald de Jong

Cash Prize and Internships

De Jong expects a lot from the submissions. “That solid core of 86 participants is a group of very committed young people who actively think about our society and future. I am very curious about the prospects they see. I think it's fantastic that collaborations arise, such as between a student from Tilburg University who works together with a student from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a member of the youth division of the SER.” The best ten essays will be compiled as selected by the organizers. “After that, a jury consisting mainly of members of Generation Z from Tilburg University and the organizations we work with will decide which three will also win 2500 euros.” For the top three, there is also the option to do an internship at Philips, the Philips Foundation, or the SER, for example. “We will actively supervise that from Tilburg University.”


Simon is curious about what participants from fields other than his own will write. “I think it would be interesting to be able to see the different insights and solutions side by side.” As an organizer, he is not allowed to participate, but he knows what he would write about. “About workload. Our study time is very different from that of our parents. They studied and did almost nothing beside it. Now it is normal for students to do extra-curricular activities. Without them, a resume isn’t worth much. At top companies, a year spent on a board is sometimes even a prerequisite. I am curious to know how this pressure impacts students.”

A Contribution to Policy Plans

After the book is published, the current generation of leaders should take note of it. De Jong: “Because the jury is largely made up of young people, the document will not be dismissed as youthful enthusiasm.” Simon: “I am hopeful that Shaping New Commons will contribute to policy plans.” The organizers’ network is up for it. He finishes by saying: “The document will be important, you can’t just turn it down without looking at it, as that would mean ignoring Generation Z.” Shaping New Commons will be concluded with an event. De Jong: “It will be in April or May and hopefully with an audience at our university.”

New Common 1, 2 en 3?

Ronald de Jong: “When it became known that the first Dutch patient came from the Tilburg region, we realized what the impact would be. We believe that COVID-19 will accelerate transitions in areas such as climate, poverty, and education. The United Nations has defined Sustainable Development Goals that must be achieved by 2030. A lot still needs to be done to actually achieve that. We came up with the name New Common, because it's not about a new normal, because: was it normal before? It is about joint responsibility in certain policy areas, in other words about commonalities or ‘commons’ and not about continuing to stumble ahead in line with classical market thinking.” De Jong predicts that after the book New Common and the second book Shaping New Commons, the third phase could be a movement. "It's about mobilizing those changes."

Requirements for the Essays

All essays must be submitted by 15 January 2022. Participants may work in teams of up to three people and submit 3,000 words. De Jong adds: “The essays must meet scientific criteria and offer solutions to the problems of our time. We are looking for concrete recommendations for organizing society and the roles and tasks this entails for the various sectors such as government, science, and business.”