Ocean Quest

Nature Quest is at sea! 

Together with Utrecht University School of Governance (USBO) and with support of the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Quest is organizing the first Ocean Quest this fall: an adventurous, 4-month research program for students who have ambitions to become social entre- and intrapreneurs. The program has started with a five day ‘wayfinding’ voyage on the historic schooner ‘Jantje’, followed by three months of getting things done ashore.

The ideas of students for social innovation and sustainable entrepreneurship are leading in experiential learning experience. There is also a lot of room for personal development questions. The Ocean Quest is a ‘natural’ variant of the awarded Learning Lab Overvecht of the UU, but with a start at sea and broader themes and questions. The contact with the sea and the elements serve as a learning school for doing research, studying the difference between ‘wayfinding versus navigating’.

Sailing expedition

Our adventure begins in the first week of October with a 5-day sailing expedition on the North Sea, where our ship serves as a platform and incubator for research into the great questions of our time. At first, not so much to come up with solutions, but to learn to ask better questions. This results in clear next steps, each student with his/her own goals.

“Wayfinding rests on being in the present moment, staying still, and becoming calibrated to signs. 

Day 2

Virginia and Dorian set sail and head into the unknown waters of podcasting on the second day of the Ocean Quest. The keywords they explore are “intentions” and “goals” which are found to have a nuanced difference in how they lead to where one wants to go.

Their first two quests are Manon and Remco, who are invited on deck to talk about their reasons to join the project and their impressions so far. Manon is amazed by how fast she makes progress, finds inspirations and gains new insights. Meanwhile, Remco marvels the magic of teambuilding and its necessity for social entrepreneurship and co-creation. 

To give you an impression, you can listen to our PodQuest (podcast) of day 2:

Day  3

By day three, things have gotten more concrete on board of the Jantje and fresh ideas are seeing the light of day upon leaving the heads and being noted. Virginia and Dorian introduce two other crew members: Sophia and Rebecca – the cook and the PR person – who talk about their intentions and motivations for the Ocean Quest. While Sophia shares her concrete idea of converting food waste on the UCU campus into energy, Rebecca’s intended outcome for now is an internal change. The manifold ways in which the Ocean Quest is used to create value shows its potential as an incubator.

To give you an impression, you can listen to our PodQuest (podcast) of day 3:

Day 6

The crew members sit down and reflect on the Ocean Quest together.They share their views on the group and the work done over the past days on board of the Jantje. How did the ship and being on the move facilitate the learning process and how is it applicable to learning on land? What have we learned on the difference between navigating and wayfinding? And where do we find sustainability in all of this?

We talk about the boat as a methaphore, as a place to learn in a different manner, and as a beautiful catalyst for teamwork. The Ocean Quest will continue on land and you can hear from us again after the first meet-up.


Back ashore our wayfinders develop and implement their own learning journey, with peer-to-peer coaching, mentoring and follow-up sessions. For more stories follow us on Instagram account.

Innovating academic education

It is clear that this program wants to add something substantial to current academic curriculum. Co-creators who want to investigate with us how this sailing expedition could eventually become part of the master thesis trajectories are very welcome to join us. This first Ocean Quest is therefore a pilot, where a combination with existing courses is certainly possible.

The intention is to organize a longer trajectory at sea in 2020 or 2021 in which students look for new value cases based on multiple value creation for sustainable initiatives and social innovations. In doing so, we will visit several European ports. This may result also in other end products than the classical, written thesis.

More information

For more information and questions, please contact Henrik Looij: henrik@naturequest.nl / 06-44195969.