Tim Natte is a project manager with Den Haag’s city government, in the Department of Work and Income. He enjoys helping people connect with community organizations that can help improve their lives, and he recently developed a program that helps unemployed young people obtain government assistance, job training and financial guidance. Before earning a college degree in human resources, Tim considered a career as a saxophone player. Now 42, Tim lives in Leiden with his wife and two children.

“I work for the municipality of The Hague. I’m a project manager in the social domain … it’s about poverty and about getting people to reintegrate in the labor market … working with people who are vulnerable … working on income and welfare and debt solution issues … I started this job in October 2015.”

What aspect of his work provides the most satisfaction: “The most fulfilling part of the job is making the connection between … the people who make the policies and the people on the streets and the community organizations … to not only look from the government perspective of what needs to be done, but also to find what people want to be done. What do they need and how to help them get it.”

“I’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all about using civil society, empowering groups, connecting them. My last project was about young people between the ages of 18 and 27 in the city who aren’t working, who don’t go to school and also don’t have social security or welfare [benefits]. So actually they’re not existing. We try to tempt them to get in contact with us and talk about their future, talk about how to get a career. To go back to school, to combine school with work or just go work. We place them with jobs ... We’re in the neighborhoods they live in, and we have three physical locations … We try to disengage a little bit from the municipality, so it’s not a large threshold. The process of connecting with city services is intimidating for some people. “There are all kinds of demands and reasons why you can’t get service. And [in our project] it was just ‘come, talk to us and we’ll help you.’”

Connecting with young, unemployed people can be difficult. “We did this through going to festivals, the street, knowing the neighborhood. You need partners in the area … you need people that organize things for youth … or people who are like social workers who know lots of people … in the slipstream you’ve got a lot of young people who need some help.”

Tim also collaborated with Single SuperMom when the organization launched in Den Haag. “It’s an organization for single moms … it started in Amsterdam, but it’s also active in The Hague … there are lots of single moms on the boundaries of poverty, and they have lots on their minds. And sometimes they have so much on their minds they aren’t able to make long-term decisions that are good for them and for their family, they are just surviving. And this is an organization that tries to connect with these women. They have lots of volunteers who are also single moms. Sometimes [the volunteers] are very successful, and sometimes they are just out of their [own] problems. And they try to reach out to connect and to try to get these women activated, try to educate them, try to give them workshops in how to manage their family and still keep time for yourself, how to be good to yourself, how to deal with the separation with your ex-husband. And it’s really all volunteers, and they’re really good at connecting with them in a way that’s not from the perspective of ‘you have problems and we’re going to help you’ … it’s not paternalistic or maternalistic … there’s a low threshold to connect … and these women are really glad that they’re getting out of their isolated position.”

“I did a project [with Single SuperMom] and they guided 20 of the women who get social welfare from the municipality, and they did really well. Four or five of them went back to work, and the others had lots of success in other areas of their lives. Being less isolated, doing volunteer jobs, getting their finances in order, getting the right help in the welfare system or the right medical help … For us as professionals [in city government] it’s very hard to achieve this kind of success … it’s the kind of project where when [the city] works together [with a community organization] they can teach us how to do it from another perspective … that’s a good example of how the connection is made from society itself and not” from a conventional, top-down approach.

After completing his university degree in human resources, and an HR internship at a Heineken factory, Tim’s “first full-time formal job was giving advice to employers and guidance to employees who were sick … we had new legislation in Holland where the employer is responsible for a sick employee for two years … you can’t fire [the sick employee]. You have to pay them and help them to get better, making plans with each other to get better and get back to work … I also did some coaching for people who were long-time unemployed and had [received social security benefits] for a long time … I coached them in how to find new jobs, starting as an entrepreneur, that kind of stuff.”

Before starting his work with the Den Haag municipality, Tim “was a manager of the HR department of a social work place ... where people came who weren’t able to get a normal job because of mental disabilities … they work at social work places, and I was the manager there of the welfare workers” at the agency. “I managed 17 people. I did that job for two years.”

Why did Tim move to city government? “What’s always interested me in the HR business is the way to self-sufficiency for people. For the first few years of my HR career, I specialized [in working] with people who are sick and trying to get back to work, and building systems with employers to facilitate that … it was a bit boring for me. Then I went to the public employee security system, and it was the same question about how to get back to work when you’re unemployed. In the course of this work, Tim met “a lot of really vulnerable people. And that’s what really struck me. I grew up in a middle class environment, and I had the opportunity to go to university, and I didn’t have a lot of contact with people in that area of society. And I was interested by it … I was interested in how to do that as a government and how the local government worked and the political influence of policy making.”

“That interested me. How do we do that? How is the political policy going, and how does it affect the regional policy making? … It was complex … and there are a lot of facets … and it still interests me. It’s really intriguing how society works. A big city with lots of nationalities, a high class and a very big lower class.”

Tim is currently developing an anti-poverty program called Helpdesk Geldzaken. “It’s about raising incomes by looking at the financial situation of people and making sure that they get every bit of income they’re entitled to and [finding ways] they can spend less on certain things … there are a lot of people who aren’t able to make their way on the Internet … but they need to apply for these things. That’s a big problem … there’s a lot of poverty in The Hague.”

“You can really see the results in dramatic ways.” At a recent event, “we had a few customers of my new project, and they were telling about their situation and how they were helped … we had a very big influence on their lives. They were really relieved, and they saw a light at the end of the tunnel, because they didn’t know how … they weren’t equipped to solve their problems … They were medium-sized problems, but if you didn’t do anything about them they were going to become very big problems. So that’s nice to see.”

Whatever happened to your dream of becoming a professional saxophone player? “I went to a pre-college music conservatory and I studied saxophone. (laughs) After that, I was thinking ‘I can play pretty good’ … but you can fill the canals with good sax players … I wasn’t really that good.”

What do the next few years have in store? “I want to do this project with the poverty program … it’s really new and innovative … because it’s really focused on prevention … it’s a new area for me, so I like that ... after that maybe being a consultant and going to different municipalities , or maybe become a higher level manager … I don’t know what the future holds in store for me, I’m not really planning ahead.”

Information about Single SuperMom is available at http://singlesupermom.nl. Information about Helpdesk Geldzaken can be found at http://schuldenlab070.nl/project/helpdesk-geldzaken