Debates about debts

How should we tackle financial debts of young people? How can we prevent them from getting into debt in the first place? And why is it so difficult to talk about this topic? The latter actually appeared no problem at all for the 57 young people participating in the Mind your Wallet weekend from May 30 to June 1. They debated all weekend about financial issues and debt problems. They often mentioned the individual responsibility of young people and the need for them to take maters in their own hand to solve their problems, but they discussed state responsibilities too. Have a look at the pictures of the final debate. 

The weekend started with a city game on Friday, in which the participants and their coaches strolled through Rotterdam going through a series of stories of debt and gains. They solved puzzles and overcame challenges to earn money, and get to know each other and the city better.


Saturday saw the start of the competition in a specially designed format for four speakers on each side. The two teams introduced their side of the debate in short speeches, and then responded to each other in brief statements until after twelve minutes, one speaker for each side would provide their conclusion.

Teams came from R-newt Rotterdam and Dordrecht, ROC Tilburg, Koning Willem I College Den Bosch and MBO Amersfoort. They competed in five rounds on motions discussing whether having fun is better than saving money, whether young people are too easily influenced by other in their consumption patterns, whether financial education should become mandatory in secondary school, whether parents should be liable to pay the fines of their minor children and whether young people should be allowed to pay of their debats to companies by working for those companies. 

Ten teams participated in the competition, they were ranked in the following way:

Team name

Number of wins

MBO Amersfoort 1


Kuip 2


Kuip 3


MBO Amersfoort 2


Kuip 1


Twern 2


Rotterdam 1


Twern 1


Rotterdam 2


Koning Willem 1


As Kuip 2 had beaten Kuip 3 in a direct challenge, they stood in the final against MBO Amersfoort 1. The six best speakers were, Miloud Yachaoui , Yhachine Brown, Gregory Koeiman, Robyn Diepeveen, Miriam el Bali and Manar Saghou.

The day ended with a dinner in restaurant Bazar and the play Crisis by theatre group Playback. The interactive play challenged the audience to find solutions for its characters, who have fallen on hard times due to peer pressures and their family situations. The Mind your Wallet participants were able to give plenty of good advices after their debates.


The participants enjoyed a boat tour through the port of Rotterdam on Sunday. Although they were on a cruise ship, their was nothing leisurely about the trip: they watched or participated in the final, and a public debate about financial issues. A total of seventy people attended the debate. 

The day started with a public debate moderated by MC Excellent. Two of the six best speakers introduced each of the motions and gave their opinion on the topic. A number of panel members and the audience then responded to the motion as well. The panel consisted of Frederik Verhorst, Director Corporate & Investment Bank at JP Morgan, Rob van Maanen, Director FlexPay Tilburg, an organisation helping long-term unemployed to find work, Ton Sonneveldt, Board member IDEA NL, Willemien van Heugten, debate teacher and project leader Jongeren met talent MBO Tilburg, Kiza Magendane, participant of the IDEA debate project Inclusion of African youth in Europe and Judith Thompson-Sepmeijer, manager Public Affairs and External Communications at T-Mobile.

The first motion prposed to ban commercials for loans. Most speakers considered this a bad idea as everyone knew that borrowing money is risky and we should not limit people's responsibilities. Commercials are a way to make the economy function. The second motion dealt with an idea to reward young people who quickly pay off their debts. This was unacceptable to most people as it would promote bad or risky behaviour, although it could stimulate the economy. The third and last motion dealt with the quesiton whether internships should be mandatory for lower vocational schools, as many students are unable to find an internship and therefore leave school without a diploma even though they completed all other parts of the curriculum. The proponents argued that these young people are often victim of a lack of support from school, companies or the municipality or of discrimination and should not be punished for that.  On the other hand, opponents argued that learning in practice is essential to make good on the skills your diploma says you have.

Half of all young people in the Netherlands have debts, sometimes even thousands of Euros. This can lead to problems and is often a cause for shame. This became clear during the final of the competition, with the motion that young people who are in debt counselling should participate in awareness campaigns for other young people. Kuip 2, in favour of the motion, argued that young people learn better through experience and that this type of awareness raising would be effective and important. MBO Amersfoort 1 argued as opponents that forcing people would not lead to full commitment, and that these young people should not be forced to reveal things they may feel ashamed about. In addtiion, they argued that their message would not reach others as they were losers who had made mistakes. 

Frederik Verhorst, from JP Morgan, praised the speakers in the final and the audience. He had seen many good speakers and hoped thety would continue to work on themselves and their skills. The official winners of the weekend were the MBO Amersfoort, Yhachine Brown as winner of the spirit award, Hamza Raji for being the most unique contributor and Robyn Diepeveen as best speaker. But the weekend truly knew only winners thanks to the lively program and great interaction. Of course the winners from Amersfoort had extra reason to be happy: they won a spot to participate in teh Mind your Wallet weekend in Antwerp that will take place in the fall.

Mind your Wallet

The Mind your Wallet project stimulates young people to debate the sensitive topic of financial problems with each other and policy makers.

IDEA offers teachers and youth workers training in debate methodology and information about debt problems. The participants then organise debate sessions in their youth centre or school and organise public debates.

Almost all training sessions for teachers and youth workers are now finished and our supermotivated “trainees” have run their debate seminars with young people. IDEA has run training sessions in AmersfoortTilburgAntwerpAmsterdam, Roosendaal, Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

The youth sessions have taken place in most of these cities and public debates have taken place in Tilburg, Leiden, Utrecht, Dordrecht, and Den Bosch. The final weekend concluded most of the project in the Netherlands, while the Belgian project runs into fall of this year.  

For more information, e-mail Roos Keja (Netherlands) or Joost Leys (Belgium), or follow us through our webpage and Facebook.

Mind your Wallet! is made possible with funding from JP Morgan and Youth in Action, a youth fund from the European Commission.