Blaauwberg consulting firm celebrates 25th anniversary in PLNT

August 29, 2022

A birthday involves presents. Sociological consulting firm Blaauwberg shared its 25th anniversary Thursday with a master class for its clients. An entertaining afternoon painted a picture of Leiden’s development: from poor Article 12 municipality to a vibrant city where knowledge is central.

Blaauwberg was founded a quarter century ago by Aart van Bochove, after the native of Groningen ended his political career as an alderman in the city. The one-man consulting firm has expanded over the years to include Rob Manders and Jeroen Bos. They kept a low profile Thursday.

With visible pleasure, Van Bochove led his audience – entirely in English – through the recent history of Leiden in the PLNT building on Langegracht.

The city may have been laughed at by the rest of the country in the 1970s and 1980s, but Leiden has taken full advantage of its dreaded Article 12 status to transform itself into what it is today. Leiden may have surrendered considerable autonomy in the 24 years it was under guardianship, but it emerged from the “Siege of Government” at least as well as from the Spanish siege after the Relief in 1574.

Did Leiden then get a University of William of Orange, now the Bio Science Park came into being through pioneering work of that same university. That propelled the city upward in its momentum. The old industry, based on fossil fuel energy, was steadily retreating and the knowledge economy was making its appearance. Young people moved to Leiden and defined the new future.

In that future, there are still plenty of challenges for ‘knowledge hub’ Leiden. Leiden may be leading the way and has discovered new sister cities internationally – Van Bochove drew a parallel with the Hanseatic cities of old, which traded with each other and used their own legal forms – but its small size means there are limits. Simply merging with the surrounding villages and expanding the hinterland is not the solution. Van Bochove: “That’s too cheap. Work together. Deal locally, but think globally.”

This article is a publication of Leidsch Dagblad

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