Heleen van Balen studied Corporate law & Change management at the Rijksuniversiteit van Groningen and she is specialized in Governance and Strategic management, Risk management and Leadership. She runs her own company “Commutatio Group B.V.” dealing with job market inclusion, consultancy, education and various projects. She is a board member of multiple organisations. With her past as vice-president in the Commercial Club Groningen, Rotary and the Groninger Entrepreneurship Award, Heleen has an extensive business network in the region. The Embassy looks forward to many interesting projects and close cooperation in the coming years.
Caring for people with less opportunities runs as a red thread through your career, not the least with your current position on the Supervisory Board of Werkpro where people with a distance to the job market get help to find new work. Why is it important for you to engage in social responsibility questions?
- I have a warm heart for Werkpro, which owns some 40 companies in the North of the Netherlands. Werkpro provides many workplaces for people who, with a little more guidance, can contribute to producing or providing products and services for consumers and and who can contribute directly or indirectly to the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Based on the vision of what people can do, nobody needs to sit at home!
You have a long-standing link with healthcare, for example your work for Zorgplein Noord and as Supervisory member of the board of Het Behouden Huys. Can you elaborate on why?
- The health sector is of great social importance. I want to contribute and add value there too. I was asked to play a role for both organisations at the time and the match was good.
For many years you teach and advise at the Hanze University for Applied Sciences. You are also on the Supervisory board of a group of Primary Schools (OPON). What do you like most about education?
- I was the dean at the Hanzehogeschool for 9 years and member of the supervisory board at the University of Groningen. I have had many positions, tasks and roles, but of course all education starts at primary school, which is very important for children. I am now involved in this field through OPON. I like to develop people and stimulate their talents, and that does not just have to be higher education. More practical training can also allow people to contribute to society.
Where does your interest in Sweden come from?
- I think Sweden is an attractive country, because of its values and democracy. Sweden is for me an example on sustainability and gender equality. But also the developments in the tech scene, music and fashion industry appeal to me. I also admire the effort on health, sport and keeping fit in Sweden and there is still a lot to discover! But I think the most beautiful word that characterizes part of the culture is LAGOM! By the way, what is also great about Sweden is the right of public access.
Not too little not too much, just right!
Have you been to Sweden? If yes, what’s your favourite place/city?
- Yes, I have been to Sweden, but my favourite region or place I am bound to discover this summer as we are going to spend several weeks traveling around Sweden with a motorhome.
Why did you want to become Honorary Consul for Sweden?
- First of all, I was honoured to be approached for this. I hope to connect Sweden and the North of the Netherlands mainly through my social and business network and people in areas such as healthcare, education, energy and entrepreneurship. I think we can learn a lot from each other and mean a lot to each other in order to make the world a bit nicer again.
And lastly, what are you looking forward to the most by being the Honorary Consul in Groningen?
- Actually all of the above mentioned. And for myself perhaps to put LAGOM more into practice and learn about it. Starting with a FIKA moment in the morning!
Thank you Heleen, and a warm welcome to you and your colleagues at the International Welcome Center North (IWCN) in Groningen!
(scroll to the bottom of the page to see the address and opening hours of the Honorary Consulate)