An insider’s guide to visiting Amsterdam

Guest post by Claire van Teunenbroek, 4th year PhD student at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU University.

There are more than enough museums in Amsterdam. In order to make a selection I asked several real ‘Amsterdamers’ about the ‘must see’ places in Amsterdam.

The history of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city like no other. It started as a little fishing village (named Amstelledamme) in the 13th century and since then the city has always been driven by trade. Fun fact: the early progress of Amsterdam in the 14th century is partially due though exclusive trading rights to beer imports from Hamburg. During the 14th  and 15th centuries, Amsterdam underwent a rapid development. This time was called the Golden Age. Unfortunately only a handful of medieval buildings survive today: among them are the Old and New Churches (see below) and the Houten Huis (Wooden House) at the Begijnhof.

By the 17th century Amsterdam turned into the richest city on earth by trading in beer, wheat, guns, tobacco and diamonds. While Dutch ships sailed all over the world, artists such as Rembrandt led a cultural renaissance in the city. Some of the oldest buildings date back to the Golden Age, such as the town hall at the Dam Square (now Royal Palace). In addition, the Amsterdam residents were and still are a diverse group resulting in part from the high rates of immigration from those fleeing persecution in their homelands (especially in the 16th and 17th century).

From 14 may 1940 to 5 May 1945, Amsterdam was occupied by Nazi Germany. More than 100,000 were deported, among them Anne Frank (you can visit the Anne Frank house where the girl and her family hid from the Nazis for more than two years, but note that the Anne Frank house is almost always fully booked during the summer times so try to get your tickets in advance). Now a days, the city is again home to many different nationalities. Just go for a walk in the Amsterdam forest or ‘een rondje Bosbaan’ and see for yourself.

Places to visit

Amsterdam has several interesting places to visit but ISTR Conference participants will have limited time to be tourists.  Visiting the following places will give you an idea of the rich history of Amsterdam. If you want to visit any of these places I advise you to search for additional information about possible reservation requirements.

Amsterdam Heineken Beer Museum


Admission: €18 p.p.

Opening times: daily 10.30am – 17.30 pm

Where: Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE Amsterdam

Beer helped build Amsterdam and it is still an important substance for the city; if you love it as much as the Dutch, you can visit the Amsterdam Heineken beer museum. This iconic and historic beer museum is a top tourist attraction. The brewery was established in 1864 and now a days Heineken is a huge multinational company. During the tour you can see their old defunct brewery, with several amusement park attractions added to the exhibition. You can admire the 19th century architecture, old photographs and other memorabilia from the Heineken family. Beer tasting is included in the admission price (for adults only, of course).

Oude Kerk (Old church): 13th century church

old church

Admission: €10.00 p.p.

Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm

Where: Oudekerksplein, 1012 GX Amsterdam

Built in the 13th century, this protestant church is the oldest in Amsterdam and it was originally built as a Catholic place of worship, which is why the Oude Kerk features things characteristic for Catholic cathedrals (like sculpted misericords in the choir, high windows, impressive old gravestones and exceptional architecture). In 1566 the interior was demolished when the Amsterdam population revolted against the Catholic Church. Traces of vandalism remain visible until today. Another interesting fact is the that contrast between the religious house and its surroundings could not be bigger: next to the church you will see a coffee shop.

Nieuwe kerk (New church)

new church

Admission: free

Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm

Where: Dam Square, Amsterdam

Adjacent to the Royal Palace you can find the Nieuwe Kerk, a church of the highest order. It was built circa 1400 to make up for the shortage of churches in the city over the years. Contrary to the Oude Kerk, it managed to escape major damage during the revolt against the Catholic Church. However, two centuries later it was completely demolished when plumbers accidentally started a fire. It was restored to its former glory, exhibiting the early Renaissance style. Today, the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam is the most important church in the Netherlands. Since 1814, Dutch monarchs have been inaugurated here, including the reigning King Willem – Alexander. In between coronations and weddings, the Amsterdam New Church is the venue for the temporary art and history exhibitions.

In addition, you can taste some wine under the Nieuwe Kerk at The Wine Cellar. This cozy (and often overlooked) location is below grount at the side of the historic church.

Houten huis and Begijnhof

het houten huis

Opening times: daily 8am – 17 pm

Where: Beijnhof, number 34

Het Houten Huis is the oldest house in Amsterdam, dating from around 1420. It is one of the two remaining wooden-front houses in the city; timber houses were banned in 1521 after a series of catastrophic fires. You can find the house at number 14 at the Begijnhof courtyard. The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard dating around the early 18th century. The courtyard was originally built for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns.

Ons Lieve Heer op Solder: Amsterdam’s secret religious house

secret church

Admission: €11.00 p.p.

Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm

Where: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38, 1012 GE, Amsterdam.

Museum Ons Lieve Heer op Solder is a 17th century canal house with a catholic church in the attic. Catholicism was officially outlawed after the reformation in the 16th century. As a result, many followers of Catholicism were forced to worship in secret. Some built hidden churches like this chapel. The chapel remains almost completely intact. The chapel is tucked away in the hearth of Amsterdam’s inner city. The church symbolizes the characteristic (religious) tolerance of the Netherlands, established by the Dutch in the sixteenth century under Willem of Orange. It is also the oldest museum in the city, second only to the Rijksmuseum.

Town hall at the Dam Square (now Royal Palace)

town hall

Admission: €10.00 p.p.

Opening times: daily 10am – 17 pm

Where: Nieuwezijds Voorburg 147, de Dam Amsterdam

Originally the town hall, the building was built in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. It was then the largest secular building in Europe. It later became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal house. Fun fact: the building includes 13,659 wooden piles.

Het Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam: accurate replica of a VOC ship and more

ship museum

Admission: €15.00 p.p.

Opening times: daily 9am – 17 pm

Where: Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam

You don’t even have to go inside to be marvelled by this museum. The building was built in 1656 to house equipment for Dutch warships, like canons, munition, sails and ropes. Now a days the building hosts several exhibitions related to ships and the sea. In front of the museum lies a replica of the VOC-ship Amsterdam. You can enter the ship while visiting the museum and touch the canons, sails and ropes. Also, you can go below deck to get hands on experience.

Cheese museum: because the Dutch love their cheese

cheese museum

Admission: free of charge, but a donation is always welcome

Opening times: daily 9am – 10 pm

Where: Prinsengracht 112, 1015 EA Amsterdam

The Dutch love their cheese and have a more than 600-year tradition of cheese-making. Most of the cheeses you can find (and bite if you buy one) in the museum are named after Dutch cities, like Gouda, Maaslander and Leerdammer. The museum is about a step away from the Anne Frank House, on the other side of the Prinsengracht, and is completely dedicated to Dutch cheese. The museum also has an attractive shop. At least one of the sellers wears traditional Dutch clothes and so could you! You can visit the “photo corner” where you can dress up as Dutch farmers in order to take a picture (all free of charge).  

Amsterdam Forest, Bosbaan and Dutch pancakes at a local farm: Boederij Meerzicht

pancake house

Opening times Boederij Meerzicht: daily 10am – 19 pm

Where: Koenenkade 56, 1081 KG Amsterdam

Site Boederij Meerzicht:

After a busy day I advise you to take a walk through the Amsterdam forest (2,471 acres) and enjoy a delicious (and very Dutch) pancake at the Boederij Meerzicht. The farm was built around 1857, long before they planted the Amsterdamse forest. The farm is one of the few farms that managed to remain even after the forest was built. The farm is now run by the third generation, but grandma’s pancake recipe remains the same. Enjoy!

If you feel like walking, you can follow the Bosbaan, which is a rowing lake situated in the Amsterdam forest. The Bosbaan measures a length of 2200 metres. The Amsterdam forest has several open areas and meadows. Some of which are located along an artificial beach along ponds.


Traditional Dutch Cuisine: Restaurant Moeders


Opening times: 17 pm – 24 pm (Monday – Friday) Weekends: 12.00 pm – 24 pm.

Where: Rozengracht 251, 1015 sX Amsterdam

Moeders (Dutch for “mothers”) opened in 1990. During the opening the guest were asked to bring their own plate, glass and cutlery. As a result, the wooden tables are set with a diverse range of plates, wineglasses and cutlery.  Moeders is known for several Dutch specialties. You can order several traditional Dutch home dishes. In addition, the desserts are simply amazing.

We look forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam!



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Upcoming ISTR Roundtable: Revisiting the Legitimacy and Credibility of NGOs: Readings, Reasons and Research

The following is a guest post reflecting on one of the roundtable sessions at the upcoming ISTR Conference organized by Alan Fowler, Honorary Professor Chair in African Philanthropy, Wits Business School and Professor Emeritus, International Institute of Social Studies and Kees Biekart, Associate Professor International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

The problem of trust.  Can non-governmental organisations dedicated to development and humanitarian relief (NGOs) be trusted?  Does their legitimacy matter!  NGOs will surely answer that their credibility is essential.  Without it, fundraising becomes more difficult, supporters retreat, governments become (more) suspicious and media thrive on adding to the negativity.  A recent highly publicized flurry about the behaviour of a few NGO staff and remedial actions taken are a bit of a distraction from the systematic forces that appear to be eroding the legitimacy and credibility that these organisations have built up over many decades.  What is going on and why now?

Ending of a golden era?   A golden decade of NGO legitimacy, public standing and support from official aid agencies started to ebb away as one millennium gave way to another.  Four erosion processes appear to weave together.

Comparative advantages. Really?  One is a challenge to NGO efficacy.  Doubts about NGOs being more effective than other development actors in reaching and working with the billion poor at the base of the pyramid are growing.  Compelling evidence to the contrary is difficult to find.  Faith in NGOs’ comparative advantages in relief and development faded and gave way to many demands to demonstrate results.  Despite the significant investments in monitoring and evaluation, technical difficulties hamper convincing responses.

The accountability challenge.  Legitimacy is also challenged by issues of inadequate accountability to the complex mix of stakeholders involved in who NGOs are and what they do for who.  12 accountability committmentsParticipation principles notwithstanding, feedback mechanisms from intended beneficiaries on the relevance and quality of NGO work remained overshadowed by accountability to those providing resources. The Accountability Commitments set up by leading international NGOs with its twelve commitments shows the range of demands to be met and promises to be kept.  The seriousness of accountability for reputation and negative consequences when perceptions of inadequacy arise should not be underestimated.

Political suspicion.  A further source of erosion for NGO legitimacy is coming from many governments, particularly those whose own legitimacy is open to question.  The ‘shrinking of civic space’ – that is the freedom for citizen action – is tracked by the Civicus Monitor project.  Far more countries limit such freedoms than enable them, while the list and range of restrictive repertoires is growing.  One government strategy delegitimizing NGOs is to declare them as being unelected as well as acting as ‘foreign agents’, beholden to external funders.  Another is to call into question NGO credibility to represent the interest, if not the voice, of those in whose name they operate.  Countering these politically inspired messages to shape public opinion is made difficult by the fact that NGOs are often ‘disassociated’ from the population at large.  In other words, there is often a lack of a strong bonding with the people from which legitimizing support and action should come.

A vulnerable moral high ground.  A fourth force working against NGO legitimacy is associated with organisational morality.  For the past decade or more, a zeitgeist has taken hold that the private sector and market principles may be a better solution to poverty reduction.  The moral underpinnings of the logic of non-profit organisations working for the public good rather than private gain bring an uneven vulnerability to charges of immoral behaviour than is the case when, for example, corporate corruption is exposed.  This might also hold true for #metoo within NGOs.  Their reputations can suffer more from a bad press because business behaviour is not strongly associated with an ethic of fairness or justice.

The knock on effects of reputational set-backs for the NGO community as a whole should not be underestimated, nor should the degree of collective solidarity be over-estimated.  It seems that many NGOs choose for an individual solution to a problem that can better be viewed as collectively shared.

The roundtable will take place Wednesday 11th July, 09:00 – 10:30 in Room 12A 33 and will feature an interactive discussion with Prof. Thea Hilhorst, of ISS, Dr. Irene Guijt of Oxfam UK, Anabel Cruz of Civicus (Uruguay) and Dr. Patricia Mendoça from the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil).  Kees Biekart of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) will facilitate. Click here to see the full ISTR Conference Schedule.

Tickets to the Anne Frank House

Many visitors to Amsterdam will try to visit the famous Anne Frank House, the hideout where Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, and seven others lived during World War Two to escape from the Nazis.  After more than two years in hiding they were discovered and deported to concentration camps.  Anne’s diary of her time during hiding become world famous.

Tickets sell out quickly so you should consider reserving them online now.  All visitors need to purchase an online ticket with a time slot in advance. Note that the tickets are only valid for the persons they are issued to, and for the date and time you have selected. Tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded.

During the ISTR Conference, the museum will be open until 10pm

Practical information about the museum and tickets can be purchased here:


Special Sessions at the ISTR Conference

Several professional development workshops and exciting special sessions are planned for the upcoming ISTR Conference in Amsterdam this year.  We want to make sure to draw your attention to these events as some of them request advance registration.

Story Collider Storytelling Workshop

Tuesday July 10, 2018 9am-12pm

50 spots available by registration only.  Sign up by completing this short registration form.

The best available science tells us that for most audiences, stories are more interesting, understandable, convincing, and memorable than evidence‐focused communications. However, scientists are unfamiliar with this literature and often resist or distrust storytelling approaches. This storytelling workshop explores how to develop and tell personal stories about science with intellectual honesty and ethical consideration. Lecture and discussion will share research on storytelling and narrative persuasion and highlight the value of personal stories in science. Participants will learn how to find, develop, and perform their own deeply human stories of science.   This workshop will be facilitated by Story Collider.

Getting Published

Wednesday July 11, 2018 5:00-6:30pm

Taco Brandsen & Ruth Simsa, Editors, Voluntas

Susan Phillips, Editor, NVSQ

Rob Macmillan, Editor, Voluntary Sector Review

Hakan Seckinelgin, Editor, Journal of Civil Society

Filip Wijkstorm, Editor, Nonprofit Policy Forum

Moderator: Jeffrey Brudney, Former Editor NVSQ

Post-doc opportunities

Tuesday July 10, 10:30-11:30am

Please complete this short form to register to attend this event.

In this session, panelists will discuss how to secure a (funded) post doc, what to expect from a post doc, and how to best use the years spent in a post doc position and plan ahead for the next stages of your career.

Teaching AND Learning:  Perspectives on Engaged Scholarship in the Third Sector

Wednesday July 11, 9:00 to 10:30 am

This instructional, demonstrative and interactive workshop will present best practices and lessons learned about teaching in a nonprofit graduate program where a comprehensive model of engaged scholarship has been refined over the last 14 years.  Faculty and current students will present how they have used cases and applied consulting projects to teach and study nonprofit management topics. Impact data and examples of finished projects will be presented.  Systems for managing student team dynamics, fairly assessing group projects, and strategies for ensuring a good experience for “client” organizations will be shared as well as a detailed applied project guidebook that was written by and for students.

Laura Deitrick, University of San Diego, USA

Hans Peter Schmitz, University of San Diego, USA

Lyn Corbett, MA, University of San Diego, USA

Ashley Nadar, University of San Diego, USA

Bethany Gilbert, University of San Diego, USA

The Non-Academic Job Market

Thursday July 12, 2:00 to 3:30pm

A range of non-academic career paths are available for researchers in the Third Sector.  Speakers in this session will discuss how they found their current position, what the position requires, and how a PhD could/should present themselves as a possible candidate for similar positions.

Rachel Wimpee, Rockefeller Archive Center, USA

Inés M. Pousadela, CIVICUS/ Institute of Communication and Development, Uruguay

Navigating Job-market and Career Strategies

Thursday July 12, 2:00 to 3:30 pm

This discussion will identify pathways to different career opportunities for those in the early stages of their career development and those considering a transition mid-career.  What types of career opportunities are available for those in the Third Sector?  What types of jobs might be a good fit for ISTR members seeking work?  What are the main factors that should be considered in choosing a career path?

Angela Bies, University of Maryland, USA

Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Macquarie University, Australia

Marlei Pozzebon, HEC Montréal & FGV-EAESP Brazil

Academic job interviews

Friday July 13, 12:30 – 2:00pm

This session will offer perspectives on the academic job interview process from those who have participated in search committees in Europe, the United States, South America, and Australia.  Participants will hear insights on what is expected during academic job interviews and what faculty are looking for from candidates.

Marc Jegers, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium

Elizabeth Dale, Seattle University, USA

Gabriel Berger, Universidad San Andres, Argentina

Ruth Phillips, University of Sydney, Australia


Announcing ISTR’s Closing Plenary Keynotes

Natalie Fenton and Shih-Jung Hsu are ISTR’s keynote speakers for the closing session of the conference on Friday July 13, 2018, entitled Transforming Democratic Contexts: Challenges for the Third Sector.

This session will focus on how civil society responds to disruptions to democracy and climate change.

Natalie Fenton Natalie-Fentonis Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London where she is the co-director of Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre and the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy. She is also the research lead for Civil Society Futures (CSF) – an independent inquiry into civil society in England in partnership with Forum for the Future, CitizensUK and openDemocracy. Natalie’s own research addresses issues relating to civil society, voluntary sector, political resistance, democracy and the media. She is active in civil society herself as Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and (until recently) as Vice-chair of the Board of Directors for the campaign group Hacked Off – both of which campaign for a free, plural and accountable media. Her latest book is Digital, Political, Radical (Polity 2016).

At the conference, Dr. Fenton will discuss the interim findings from Civil Society Futures: An Inquiry into Civil Society in England – an effort to consider how civil society can best prepare for the futures that may lie ahead.  She will discuss emergent social, political and economic strategies developed from new ways of thinking about how economic and social lives connect through attempts to put more power in the hands of more people.


Shih-Jung_HSUShih-Jung Hsu is currently Professor of the Department of Land Economics at the National Chengchi University (NCCU), Taiwan, and is the Director of the Center for the Third Sector.  Dr. Hsu’s research concentrates on local environmental movements, urban and rural planning, land use policy, and sustainable development in Taiwan. He was former president of the Taiwan Association of Third Sector Research (TATSR). He is also a leading activist in Taiwan, and he has established one important NGO — the Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) to help farmers and local residents against land grabbing and forced eviction from the state, and he served as founding president of the TRF. His recent book, Land Justice, has received the National Tripod Award 2017 from the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

Golden Tripod Award

Dr. Hsu received his Ph.D. degree from the College of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, University of Delaware, USA (1995). He also possesses two Masters degrees, one in Political Science from the University of Delaware (1990); the other one in Land Economics from the NCCU (1986).

At the conference, Dr. Hsu will discuss his current research efforts: (1) Land governance and Taiwan’s sustainable development, (2) land use policy and its historical context, (3) environmental and human right NGOs in Taiwan.


The PhD Seminar: A bit like coming home for me

The following is a guest post by Mieke Berghmans, former ISTR PhD Seminar participant.

I am one of those PhD students who had the chance to attend two ISTR PhD seminars: a first one in 2012 in Muenster and a second one, two years later, in Stockholm.  Needless to say,  I am very enthusiastic about the whole program. I have been encouraging fellow PhD students to apply too.

The ISTR PhD seminar meant a lot of different things to me. Let me share a few with you.

The ISTR PhD seminar was a great chance for me to meet other academics who are passionate about the same things that I am passionate about. At my home university, my colleagues have a shared interest in education, society and culture. They are all great people with interesting subjects of study. But unfortunately, not one of my colleagues is working on international NGOs, the topic that I love. This made me feel quite ‘lonely’ in the beginning of my research. Attending the ISTR PhD seminar and meeting folks who can talk endlessly about the difference between social movements and NGOs and other ‘sector related’ issues was really a bit like coming home for me.

What I also loved about the ISTR PhD seminar is the ‘formula’ of the small group sessions. In these sessions, students quickly – in five minutes or so – present their work to the group members. After that, the members of the group ask them questions. I hadn’t come across this way of working until I participated in the ISTR PhD seminar. Before that, I had always participated in debates where one person presents his or her work extensively and then a shorter time period is reserved for critical comments, questions and suggestions of the public. The formula used in the ISTR PhD seminar turned this upside down. It reserved more time for the discussion than for the presentation and it allowed the presenter to ask questions to the group.  I must say I found this a very fruitful approach. In this formula, students were not pushed in to a defensive mode. Rather, we could openly present the issues that had us stuck and that we were struggling with, and our fellow group members would spend 45 minutes constructively working with us to look for alternative perspectives and solutions, helping us to get ‘unstuck’ again.

Most importantly, both ISTR PhD seminars were a lot of fun. I had a great time and laughed a lot during the sessions, in the pub, and in the park. Through the seminar I met some great people who became good friends. I look forward to meeting them again in July. See you in Amsterdam!

mieke photo

Mieke Berghmans

Writing a PhD on ‘accountability in international NGOs’ at KU Leuven, Belgium