How to mobilize support for vulnerable people during the corona-pandemic?

Vulnerable in Amsterdam: The organisation and effects of support to vulnerable groups during and after the corona-crisis

Elco van Burg, David Kroon, Rebecca Ruehle & Sanaz Kateb
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vulnerable people, like migrants, homeless people, and psychiatric patients have suffered eminently under the impact of the Corona-pandemic. Not only were they over-proportionately affected by the direct consequences of the virus but many of them also experienced a reduction of social support through the lockdown. It is likely that the economic fallout will give them the next blow.

The VU Center for Business & Society at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam leads a 2-year research project to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on these groups funded by ZonMw.

This project investigates the organization of support for vulnerable groups in Amsterdam during and in the aftermath of the Corona-crisis. The project partners involved in this research are Leger des Heils, HVO Querido, De Regenboog Groep, and GGD Amsterdam. To organize support on a large scale in a short time, they made decisions that need to be evaluated, such as the use of online tools. What is the effect of such solutions both short-term and long-term on vulnerable groups? How are the supporting organizations and their employees affected? Especially in light of the expected second wave of the Corona-pandemic this evaluation is urgently needed. Building on the gained knowledge, the project team will develop and implement organizational solutions for supporting vulnerable groups during the current and future crises.


The key goals of this project are the following:

  1. Map out the vulnerable groups (defined as people who experience disproportionally negative effects) which are affected by the corona-crisis in Amsterdam in the period February-August 2020.
  2. Describe how different support organizations have responded to the corona-crisis, how decisions are taken, and how the crisis-response is organized in the per
  3. Describe the direct effect of these crisis responses in the period February-Augustus 2020 by the different support organizations on a) (new) vulnerable groups, b) existing target groups of these support organizations, and c) on (existing) activities of the support organizations.
  4. Describe how social and technological innovations (such as e-health) have been used in the period February-Augustus 2020, resulting in what effects, and what ethical dilemmas were involved.
  5. Understand the medium- and long-term effects (till December 2021) of the corona-crisis on vulnerable groups and establish which support can be given to diminish negative effects for different vulnerable groups.
  6. Develop organizational solutions to help support organizations to prepare for similar crises, in collaboration with other stakeholders, based on the lessons learned in this project.

In light of the goals of this study, we use a multi-method approach in which we combine qualitative interviews, ethnographic observations, diaries and surveys.


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