Earlier this January, Dr. Jerry Stein from the Minnesota-based program Learning Dreams was in Amsterdam.

A Day in Amsterdam

A blog written in Dutch by Henk Waveren

Translated by Google Translator and Kathryn Nelson


Stein visited the Einstein Community Center in Amsterdam-Slotervaart, enjoyed lunch and conversation with professionals from the education field, and spent the afternoon with members of Parents United in Amsterdam Southeast.

Stein was accompanied by Maurice Specht, publicist and Rotterdam community leader from the organization Specht in de Stad (translated to “Woodpecker in the City”), as well as Tessy Britton, producer of the books Hand Made and The Community Lovers Guide to the Universe, and Laura Billings from U.K. based organization Magic Breakfast.


Stein founded Learning Dreams fifteen years ago. The program works with individual families to help connect them to learning resources in their community. Stein developed Learning Dreams at the University of Minnesota, where he acts as a Senior Fellow of Social Work.


Stein said his organization is all about realizing dreams – the dreams of parents and children.


Stein said he believes that if parents are actively involved in realizing their dreams, there is a good chance they will also be involved in supporting the learning of their children.

In a community of Minneapolis, MN. Stein calculated that approximately $16 million is invested in schools per year. But, he said, approximately $45 million is invested in other learning entities such as libraries, museums, music lessons, etc. More learning takes place, and more money is invested in learning in the community. This understanding of learning differs from the traditional image of learning in which education is mostly rooted in schools.

And for children, it is essential that parents are connected to learning opportunities as they can act as motivators in their children’s learning as well.

Employees of Learning Dreams, called Neighborhood Educators, work with both parents and their children to specify and support learning goals. Stein emphasized that nobody is forced to participate in Learning Dreams and many people simply join freely because they want help achieving their dreams.

Ria King, Director of the Einstein Community Center, told Stein about the school and how children and parents there work together on various activities inside and outside of school.

Local attendees at the Einstein Community Center discussed how their work was similar to Stein’s Learning Dreams model, explaining how they have also aimed to increase the role of parents in the learning activities of their children.

At the restaurant, The Colour Kitchen Amsterdam, Christa Compas, director of ABC and oter education policy leaders, talked with Stein about the Learning Dreams program, its design, implementation, financing and results.

In regards to evaluation and outcome, Stein pointed out to them that the Learning Dreams program can be initially difficult to determine success based solely on quantitative data.

Instead, the program is better evaluated over years, preferably in 3-year increments, which assess if the learning and social capital networks of the parent expand. If they do, then you have an indication that the program is successful.

Stein also discussed Learning Dreams with a group of parents who were with Parents United in Amsterdam Southeast. Together, they talked about implementing Learning Dreams in their own community.

Afterwards, one of the members of Parents United in Amsterdam Southeast proposed that further conversation should be given to the idea of starting a Learning Dreams program there.

Finally, Stein explained that when parents find their dreams, their children better relate to both their parents as well as their teachers.

This has been known for centuries as, “the stuff dreams are made on …”

(Henk Waveren is a former City Council member in Amsterdam. He’s now working for Stad in Beweging (City on the Move) co-authors of the Wikicity manifesto in Amsterdam arguing for a reinvention of the way we organize society based on the strength of people themselves.)