The Rotterdam Collective (Ro-Co) is a real world laboratory of a radically new business model for sustainable development. It’s been operational and successful in working towards its goals since December 2009, in the center of Rotterdam. Ro-Co currently hosts more than 25 entrepreneurs in a collective building, who are focused on environmentally and socially innovative projects. Except initiated and developed the collective from scratch with game studio Sparpweed.
Ro-Co is the materialization of a “new way of working” that is mostly theorized about but rarely executed. Ro-Co is both an empowered network and a single, physical entity. It harnesses the power of collaboration, resource sharing, multi-disciplinary work, and open source development.
Ro-Co experiments with new ways to move forward faster and more efficiently. As a collective, Ro-Co operates collaboratively, socially responsibly and sustainably, while maintaining complete transparency. It progressively engages the city of Rotterdam, the streets, its people, and other local initiatives.
We call these new business models 'Innovation Communities', and have set up a service to support municipalities and companies to take advantage of the incredible power of collective entrepreneurship. Read more about the service here.
Ro-Co was started by Except and Sparpweed in 2009, after several years of plotting, planning, scheming and building searches. In December 2009, we found the perfect place to execute our dreams. We renovated the place, together with the community, with only the most sustainable materials and equipment we could find. Most of it was built by our own hands with just scrap material. In March of 2010, Ro-Co officially opened.
The collective operates under a set of jointly-agreed principles, drafted by Except, that encompass some of the organization’s key philosophies: a commitment to sustainability, a belief in social responsibility, the use of open source technologies and knowledge sharing, and the recognition of values beyond just profit.
These principles have also been used in one of the first joint projects: the creation of the physical space used by the collective, which had previously stood empty for over a decade. Only the eco-friendliest materials and techniques available were used, making the Rotterdam Collective an example for innovative, sustainable office design.
Ro-Co is the physical embodiment of the network generation. Through the shared effort of its individuals, Ro-Co generates a force of positive energy and change within its home city. Ro-Co believes that together, we can contribute to making the world at large a more beautiful and inspiring place.
When interesting people work together, interesting things happen. Many inspired and entrepreneurial people work alone, in small groups or as freelancers. Ro-Co combines the freedom of independent entrepreneurship with the benefits of a large organization. By actively managing the diversity and quality of its members, a large number of disciplines is jointly managed to collaboratively develop large, innovative projects.
The collective draws on both the freedom and personal drive of its members as well as the joint responsibility they share to create fast and efficient development.
Ro-Co shapes a new joint work environment that is based on a long-term vision of the future and an understanding the changing role of individuals in organizations. The collective is a network organization as well as a real place with real people. People rent fixed places and are therefore not as transient as in flex-hubs and similar work environments. Individual commitment to a single space creates opportunities for long-term collaboration.
All members retain their autonomy in addition to becoming members of the collective. The collective is a central point of reference for potential clients, and can invest in searching for assignments that can be jointly executed by members of the collective. Together the members can complete larger projects, increase their visibility and share resources to cut operating costs. In this way the collective can work in a truly interdisciplinary and integrated way.
The collective is managed by Tom Bosschaert and Richard Boeser, themselves part of the collective with their respective companies (Except Integrated Sustainability and the game studio, Sparpweed).
The collective is effectively a non-profit organization, registered in December 2009. Its business model allows it to be financially independent. The physical office officially opened on March 1st, 2010. Except continues to participate in and evaluate the project. Our goal is to document successes and failures, and evolve the concept in order to potentially deploy it in other cities around the world.
The Stadhuisplein Gebouw is located a few minutes away from Rotterdam’s central train station. It looks out onto City Hall Square and flanks the historic, modernist Lijnbaan shopping district. After having stood empty for over 10 years, it is now an inviting and engaging space. The building was renovated by Ro-Co members using only waste materials and ecologically friendly products.
The collective shares facilities and equipment to save on unnecessary overhead, as well as to save energy and materials. As an expression of Ro-Co’s principles, only waste materials were used in constructing the building’s furniture. The space has primarily LED lighting and has been outfitted with only natural paints and materials.
The collective works on a variety of projects for both businesses and governments. In addition to client projects, Ro-Co hosts discussions and movie nights, organizes conferences and field trips, gives workshops on a wide variety of subjects, and creates books, designs, and products. If you are interested in working with Ro-Co, please inquire on the collective’s website www.ro-co.nl.