by Mattia Miccichè
Content specialist

Oct. 23, 2019

Mattia Micciche

Dear Exceptional friends & partners, What a month September was: after gathering with the international systems thinking community in London, on Friday the 20th we celebrated 20 years of pioneering work in the sustainability field.

The first Symbiosis in Development (SiD) book was launched here, after 10 years of work. At the same time, just in time for our anniversary, Except’s certification as a B Corp™ landed us squarely into this inspiring global movement of purpose-driven organizations. We celebrated this achievement at the B Corp Global Summit in Amsterdam, on September 23rd-24th.

An action plan for exponential global change


From our founder, Tom Bosschaert:

“When we started 20 years ago, we were regarded as strange and unusual. We see today that the purpose we exist for, and are designed and built for, is becoming recognized. A great many people see that the time for true, fundamental change is now. The movement is starting to create massive awareness worldwide. The global climate strike this September saw 7.6 million people around the world take to the streets, the biggest one in history. Extinction Rebellion took off in October, putting all governments to shame for their lack of action, and calling for global rebellion. The time for change is now, that much is clear.

In a world of growing uncertainty, a clear vision is now more than ever necessary. Leaders of organizations that are touched by the mounting awareness of the movement, and wonder what to do: find a clear vision and arrange full support for true change. Now that 20 years are behind us, we bravely sail into the next 20. If it’s up to us, 2019 and 2020 will be the period of the ‘big flip’: from hesitation and growing awareness, to real action.

To support these leaders even better going forward, in the next year, we add the final touches of Except’s core structure and team, and then push the start button on a number of projects for global positive impact. In this newsletter, we share the latest happenings with you, and reveal a little of what to look forward to. In the next year, we’ll slowly reveal the plan for change we see before us, and how you can participate.”

X|X: Except Integrated Sustainability 20th anniversary


On Friday September 20th, Except celebrated two decades in the sustainability field. A full day program animated the delightful stage of the Utrecht Community for Pioneers (UCo). In the main hall, Tom shared the past and future of Except, and how its reason for existing transitioned in the last 10 years - from fiercely embracing complexity, to accepting uncertainty and vulnerability as necessary companions when pursuing systems change. Three guest speakers then shared their vision of the past and the future of sustainability with us - Noor Huitema (Copper8), Han Dijk (PosadMaxwan), and Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe). During her speech, Noor reinforced this vision: she acknowledged that actual change is the one we achieve in the process of trying and failing. Engaging complex systems often entails ignoring the right questions, even before starting to imagine solutions.

A live set by the ALMA String Quartet delighted the crowd, while InStock prepared a surprisingly delicious dinner out of discarded food from local supermarkets. The night was brought to a close with a dance party by our in-house DJs de Kikker en de Reiger. We thank all participants, speakers, musicians, and food truckers for sharing these moments with us, with their warmth and enthusiasm.

Symbiosis in Development (SiD) Book launched


September 20th also launched the first full book on SiD. Symbiosis in Development - Making new futures possible is the first A to Z handbook for systemic sustainable development, capturing experience of over 700 projects worldwide. 10 years in the making, it covers all aspects of sustainable development process, from theory to practice, supported by dozens of examples and use cases, and over 100 unique hand-made illustrations and diagrams.

The book is released in a long lasting limited edition hardcover, consciously produced. The book is also released digitally for a voluntary donation, and fully open source. The SiD book is available for purchase and download on the website.

Except joins the B Corp movement


The B Corp movement is changing the face of business the world over, joined by hundreds of organizations that meet the highest social and environmental standards. We are thrilled to announce that our work in building the foundations of a sustainable society were awarded this September with a B Corp certification. We joined the Beat, and on September 23rd-24th we celebrated the milestone attending the B Corp Global Summit in Amsterdam. We look forward to connecting and collaborating with other B Corps, and do our part in embedding systems thinking within the foundations of the movement.

If you are a B Corp and interested in knowing more, or working with us, reach out through our channels.

System Innovation Conference in London


Earlier in September, Except visited the Systems Innovation Conference in London, organized by the collaborative platform Systems Innovation. Tom held a keynote, showing the power of systems thinking applied to on the ground impactful practice. The conference marked the start of a new community of practice from around the world, from governance and NGOs, to corporates and knowledge institutions.

A major outcome of the conference was the acknowledgment of the importance of a shared language for systems thinking to upscale in the practice. Paying close attention to how we describe what we do, and what kind of change we aim at, is key for a paradigm shift.

SID fundamentals training September 2019


This September, Except hosted an intimate Symbiosis in Development (SiD) fundamentals training. In a three-day trajectory, participants challenged complexity head-on, getting acquainted with systems thinking-related theories and tools, and applying them to a transdisciplinary case.

Marion, senior at CGI, reflects on the experience: “The journey in SiD was a homecoming experience. All these different ideas I had about sustainability had a logical place in the framework. It all made sense. In some way, it was like learning how to read again”.

Subscribe to November’s 3 day SiD fundamentals training here.

Co-designing a circular future for Heineken Nederland

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Heineken Nederland is following up with actions on their commitment to go 100% circular by 2030. After we developed a roadmap and various high-impact projects - stemming from packaging, to governance and supply chain innovation, we are engaging the company in co-creation sessions. Attended by enthusiastic stakeholders from both within and outside Heineken, the workshops aim at co-designing circularity guidelines, and explore opportunities for future application.

Future-proofing Roosendaal


If you haven’t heard of the city of Roosendaal (North Brabant) yet, make no mistake, you will. We are working with the municipality on several projects aimed at future-proofing the city. During various co-creation sessions, we collected the vision and ambitions for the city, as expressed by a wide set of stakeholders. On the basis of these inputs, we tailored an actionable plan, populated with a set of sub-projects that transform Roosendaal’s city center into a hotspot of climate adaptation.

Among others, these projects include a garden that serves as a buffer zone for rainwater, a system of green walls, and the re-naturalization of roadsides. Follow our channels for updates on the future of Roosendaal.

Bridging the knowledge gap on Blue-Green Infrastructures


Blue-Green Infrastructures (BGI) are solutions rooted in ecology and resilient design to issues stemming from unsustainable spatial planning. Hurdles exist in the process of translating BGI-related knowledge and data from science to practice. To pinpoint key preliminary knowledge on how to facilitate this process, we conducted research in collaboration with BiodivERsA, IFLA Europe, JNCC, and NRW. During the project, we deepened our knowledge on the barriers and opportunities to streamline the knowledge to practice flow.

We found out that the BGI community of practice still lacks a shared language that cross-cuts sectors. This translates into bottlenecks in the practice, with challenges stemming from the lack of design, construction, and mainenance standards that put the many stakeholders involved on the same page. On a higher level, discrepancies across policy levels hamper the creation of an enabling environment, needed for the uptake of BGI.

Find out more on the research and the report on our project page.

Welcome new Exceptionals


We are delighted to introduce our new members - Kelly Cram and Anurag Bhambhani. Straight from the gently rolling hills of Iowa (US), Kelly is our new head graphic designer: her  talent, experience, and clinical eye are heading us and our identity towards a bright future. Originally from the roof of the world (Nepal), Anurag is our industrial ecology bright star, and resident systems analyst. These Exceptional individuals add up their unique skills and energy to our team, increasing our cultural baggage and supporting us in building the foundations of a sustainable society.  Giving them a warm welcome is Malik, our office dog - also cuddle and circus tricks expert. Welcome on board!

Keep following us for our latest updates and next events. In the meantime, enjoy this 2019 slowly coming to a close.

We surely will.

Mattia Micciche
by Mattia Miccichè
Content specialist

Oct. 23, 2019