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= Dutch social insurance scheme for freelance workers, " succesful in providing the Dutch freelancers with an insurance for their income disability by helping them organize this themselves".



0. Kristine Wong:

"Breadfunds: an alternative kind of disability insurance that can replace lost income. Participants pay a set monthly contribution to a pool, plus a small administrative fee, that's made up of contributions from other self-employed folks. When someone in the group needs the funds, they file a "claim" with Broodfonds group leaders and are gifted the money for as long as they need it — receiving it as a gift allows recipients to accept the funds without paying income taxes. The first Broodfonds group was founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs Biba Schoenmaker, Haiko Liefmann, and André Jonkers. Seven years later, there are now almost 13,000 members in close to 300 Broodfonds groups throughout the country — each made up of freelancers living in the same geographical region." (

1. David Bollier:

"Consider the Dutch organization BroodFondsMakers, based in Utrecht, an insurance-like system for self-employed individuals. When a public insurance program was abolished by the government in 2004, a small group of self-employed individuals got together to create their own insurance pool. More than a commercial scheme, members of the groups meet a few times a year, and even have outings and parties, in order to develop a certain intimacy and social cohesion.

When someone in a group gets sick for more than a month, they receive donations from the group, which usually have between 20 and 50 members. The mutual support is more than a cash payment, it is a form of emotional and social support as well. BroodFonds now has more than 200 groups and about 10,000 members participating in its system." (

2. Caroline Roberts:

"So how does a bread fund work? Most groups are built from local networks, but a few are industry-based. They have a minimum of twenty members to ensure adequate funds and a maximum of fifty. “Because they’re based on trust, you have to get to know other participants.” says Biba Schoenmaker, a founder of the first bread fund and partner in BroodFondsMakers (Bread Fund Makers). The Netherlands co-op was set up in 2010 to help establish and support new groups. “When you have more people, it will be more anonymous and maybe people will misuse the fund by asking for a gift when they’re not ill. When everybody knows each other, people won’t do that kind of thing,” she says.

The funds are managed by boards comprised of small groups of elected members, and are changed after a set period. The board organises regular meetings where members can get to know each other and new participants can join on the recommendation of an existing member.

Payouts are based on need and members can choose from eight levels of contribution. For example, for a monthly gift of €1,000, the contribution is €45 a month; for €2,000, it is €90. Unlike insurance companies, there is no risk assessment or medical questionnaire.

The money does not go into a central pot. Each member has their own separate bread fund account, which is managed by the board, so a sick member will receive a small monthly gift from each of the other members. If someone leaves the fund, they can withdraw their share, although exits are only allowed at two points during the year.

The main challenge comes when several members fall sick in the early days before the fund has built up a buffer. In this case, participants receive less then the full gift for a period of time. This has only happened once so far though, says Schoenmaker, and only 1% of bread fund members has asked for a gift. Nevertheless, contingency plans are in development. “We’re now looking at ways that funds can form alliances so that if one has a problem, the other can help,” she adds." (


Co-founder Biba Schoenmaker, interviewed by Kristine Wong of Shareable:

* Kristine Wong: Tell me the story about how Broodfonds got started, and any challenges you faced when making it a reality.

Biba Schoenmaker: We [the co-founders] were already part of a group of entrepreneurs that had our own businesses related to social issues and sustainability. When we got together, the group would talk about problems we all faced as entrepreneurs who worked by ourselves, and try to find solutions.

One of the issues we talked about a lot was how it would be a big problem if one of us became ill, because we didn't have insurance to pay for our living expenses if we couldn't work for a few months due to illness or an accident. Two-thirds of self-employed entrepreneurs don't have disability insurance because the monthly cost to pay for this as an individual is too high.

That was why we started to think about how we could create our own solution. It took about two years for us to figure out how it would work, after talking with professionals and legislators about what was possible. When we created the concept of Broodfonds, we immediately started with one group that was made up of 20 members from our group of entrepreneurs. Then the group became 40 people. We named it Broodfonds because bread is a basic provision, and the funds give people money to buy food to eat.

In the first year no one was ill, but after a few years several people had become ill and we gave them support. We saw that it worked. Other people around us heard about the idea and became interested. They asked if they could join, but most of the time when you want to become a member of an existing Broodfonds group, you need to be introduced by another member.

* Why do you have to already know at least one member of a Broodfunds group to join?

This is because it works on the basis of trust. You don't need the system to be controlled by doctors, because it's not necessary if you have a small group — maximum 50 people — who all know each other and live in the same area. In the beginning, people didn't know it could work that way, because people aren't used to using the concept of trust for such a system.

* Walk me through what someone has to pay to join, and how it works if someone has to use the funds due to illness or disability.

Anyone can become a member regardless of your age or health conditions, as long as you can show that you have a steady income of at least 750 euros a month. You pay a one-time joining fee of 250 euros. You also pay 10 euros a month as an administrative fee.

Then you choose the amount you will contribute per month to the pooled funds based on how much you want to receive per month in case you become ill. There are eight contribution levels you can choose from. If you decide to leave Broodfonds, you get back the money you contribute minus the administrative fees. If you move to another area, you can transfer your contributions to the new group’s pool. The monthly contributions are much lower than a premium for an insurance company.

Each of the Broodfonds groups has a small board of about three people. The board arranges practical things like in-person meetings. They have to have at least one meeting a year, but normally groups have two to three meetings a year, and some groups have more meetings.

When someone becomes unable to work, they tell the board members they are sick and they want to ask for help out of the Broodfonds group. The board members talk with the sick person and ask how the group can help on a social basis as well. They ask the person when the person became ill. Most of the time the groups have a 30-day waiting period before you can get the money because it’s not for small illnesses like the flu. After the board members have talked to the sick person they send the information to Broodfonds administrative offices. Then the people in the administrative office will make the gift ready. The board members also inform all the members that they now have a new sick person, and tell them who the person is. The person will have written something about the illness and share what the situation is like for them." (

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