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Netherlands: ECHO Diversity Award

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Type of Information

Case studies


ECHO: Expertise Centre for Diversity Policy

Contact Person

Pravini Baboeram-Mahes (Login to send email)

Contact Person Function

Program Manager

Project Start


Ongoing Project



Every year, ECHO - the national expertise center for diversity policy - invites the Executive Boards of all higher education institutions to nominate students for the annual ECHO Award. Students who are eligible for the ECHO Award are successful students with a non-western background who stand out because of their excellent academic performance, their ability to think outside the box, their capacities to build bridges in society, show active community involvement and leadership. By awarding the ECHO Award, the project generates positive attention to individual successes of students from the Dutch multicultural society. The winners win an all-inclusive summer course at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Previous winners have attended Harvard and Cambridge as well for a summer course.


Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption

The ECHO Award addresses the negative image, often associated with the multicultural society. This image determines the way the Dutch population approaches youngsters with a foreign background. The ECHO Award provides a positive narrative when addressing the multicultural youth, which focuses on excellence, leadership and social engagement. This narrative represents the lives, diverse backgrounds and experiences of students who are nominated. These students are considered to be future leaders and role models who can encourage and inspire others to pursue their academic and professional dreams. Every year around 20-30 students are nominated. Just 2-4 students eventually win an Award. Since the first edition of the ECHO Award over 400 students have been nominated. The basic assumption is to make excellence inclusive, which means ECHO believes in creating a society that allows everyone regardless of their social or cultural backgrounds to maximize their potential.


How does it work

Higher education institutions are invited to nominate their top students for the ECHO Award. An independent panel of jury members, representatives from companies that sponsor the ECHO Award, determines who are selected for the finals based on criteria that touch on excellence, leadership and social engagement. The selected students are invited to present for the jury and share their vision, goals and dreams. The winners are announced during the ECHO Award ceremony. All students who have been nominated join the ECHO Ambassadors network: students and young professionals who carry out the mission and vision of ECHO: making (academic) excellence inclusive.



In the past 15 years, over 400 students have been nominated for the ECHO Award, they make up the network of ECHO Ambassadors. Over 30 students have won the ECHO Award. Most ECHO Ambassadors are still in touch with ECHO through social media and are willing to share their experience and expertise when needed. Even though some students who have been approached for the ECHO Award feel somewhat stigmatized, most ECHO Ambassadors appreciate the initiative and are aware of the necessity to highlight the successes and narratives of individual multicultural students to contribute to a more inclusive Dutch society.




Most ECHO Ambassadors do feel that the experiences and networks they have gained through the ECHO Award have been very valuable for their professional development. Having the ECHO Ambassadorship mentioned on their resumé showcases a certain level of excellence and social engagement that is very valuable to the corporate industry. The platform provided by the ECHO Award really showcases their talent to a range of companies and institutions that are looking for diverse perspectives and need human capital. 

The award provides a network the students can use in their career. They have, through the award - nomination or ambassadeurship - been able to do an internship or get a job at one of the partner companies of ECHO. Many students have also been approached by event organizers to speak at panels or share their experience as ECHO Ambassadors. ECHO also distributes information on many networking opportunities or other interesting events and programs among the ECHO Ambassadors network.

In addition, the students who are nominated mention that the nomination strengthens their self confidence and confirms their experience. They also feel recognized for their work and feel the responsibility of acting as a role model for students who have a similar background and face similar challenges. They appreciate the opportunity to interact with like minded students and to gain access to a network of companies who value diversity.

Who will benefit?

Annually around 20-30 students from non-western backgrounds who are considered high potentials benefit from this initiative. But also the companies that act as sponsor of the ECHO Award benefit, because they are able to learn from the perspectives and experiences of these students.


Source of funding and Resources used

The ECHO Award was initiated by ECHO with Government funding. For the past 10 years the majority of the funding is by partners of the ECHO Foundation. The ECHO Foundation is a fund and programme of ECHO. Partners are companies from the corporate industry that value diversity and want to attract a more diverse workforce. By investing in the ECHO Foundation they are able to connect with potential future employees from diverse backgrounds on a personal level, learn from their experiences and perspectives and translate this to their diversity policy.