2023-01-24 | By Gary Hays
After more than a decade as Chair of the Board for the ACCESS Foundation, Gary Hays looks back on his time with the organisation.
In 35 years of ACCESS, the core reason for our existence may not have changed, but in the last ten we have seen changes in the ‘type’ of internationals coming to live and work here, in the way they think, how they move between countries, and how ACCESS has adapted to continue to serve them.
Internationals are maybe younger now with fewer married couples and more singles. There are maybe fewer men relocating with their ‘trailing spouse’ and more females. Perhaps more are moving to join a new company versus being transferred abroad by their current employer.
In general, internationals now get less support from their employer when making the move to come to the Netherlands but are more independent and digitally savvy. This is why ACCESS invested in a new website–attracting 40,000 unique hits a month (over half from abroad)–and ensured remote access to our database. This also helped when we switched to virtual work modes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Political views on ‘internationals’–at local and national level–have also changed. There’s now an understanding that inward investment requires a mobile workforce, which is why we partnered with the first Dutch ‘Expat Centre’ in The Hague. We since expanded our agreements at centres in Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Leiden and, as municipalities change their priorities, ACCESS also adapts our support. A recent example being at our newest centre in Amstelveen where we’ve been helping the growing Ukrainian community.
Working with centres also generates income. Although we’re a not-for-profit volunteer organisation, we need money to provide information (free at point-of-contact for the individual) as many large companies employing internationals no longer give donations. Our Patron Programme–through which we helped the European Medicines AgencyEuropean Medicines Agency move to Amsterdam–was developed because of this.
Counselling has been part of ACCESS’s DNA since the beginning and our popular baby courses–and new First Aid courses–grow from strength-to-strength. Peer-to-peer support might be a new concept in managing global mobility, but it has always been at the core of what we do–a psychological process where trust is built, and information can be more readily accepted and understood. Our volunteers have been through the same experiences as those coming to us for help and they also benefit from this peer-to-peer relationship.
I used to think ACCESS might not be necessary anymore, but it seems we’re needed more than ever. There will still be changes, external and internal, but ACCESS will continue to evolve, remain relevant, and be important in the lives of the internationals and the companies we support.