by Tom Bosschaert

Dec. 1, 2009

Tom Bosschaert

The Rotterdam Collective (RoCo) is a real-world laboratory of experimentation and radically new business models for sustainable development. Located in the heart of Rotterdam, this innovative and productive workspace has been operating in full swing since December 2009.

RoCo currently hosts more than 25 entrepreneurs and sustainability-minded businesses focused on environmental and socially innovative projects. Except initiated and developed the Ro-co collective from the ground up in collaboration with Sparpweed, a Dutch game studio, and continues involvement with current operations and management.

Innovative communities: a paradigm shift

RoCo materializes a 'new way of working' - often spoken in theory but rarely executed well. The building is more than a physical structure and only exists to support a vibrant and empowered network of like-minded individuals and organizations.

The RoCo collective harnesses the power of collaboration, resource sharing, multi-disciplinary work, and open source development. It encourages an experimental mindset and a rapid and efficient pathway to sustainable growth.

RoCo operates through cooperation and values social responsibly adaptability, resilience and maintains complete transparency in its operations. This approach to doing business helps engage the entire city of Rotterdam, the streets, its people, and other local initiatives more progressively and productively.

Innovation communities are models of a new way of doing business and support municipalities and companies to take advantage of the incredible power of collective entrepreneurship.

Click here to read more about innovation communities.

Communities like RoCo are about moving beyond the theories of network and cooperative ways of working and putting them into practice.

Beginning the initiative

The realization of the RoCo concept was born in 2009 through a close collaboration between Except and Sparpweed. After several years of plotting and planning designs and searching for the proper structure, we found the perfect place to execute our dreams.

We initially renovated the building together with the newly formed community and ensured we used only the most sustainable materials and equipment we could find. Most of the interior was built by the team and used scrap material from various sources to help reduce costs and the building's carbon footprint. In March 2010, RoCo was officially opened and became operational.

A coalescence of shared principles

The collective operates under a set of jointly agreed principles that encompass some of Except's key philosophies: a commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and the widespread adoption of open source technologies and knowledge-sharing platforms, acknowledging that there is value beyond just profits.

The community's first joint project (RoCo) used these principles to create this physical space to be used by the collective. Bringing a disused building to life gave us a blank canvas to use as an example to showcase what the Rotterdam Collective stands for - cooperative, innovative and sustainable design.

Roco has a variety of working spaces within the building, ranging from large, open planned areas to more private and isolated spots.

Enabling a new entrepreneurial generation

RoCo is the physical embodiment of what is often referred to as the 'networking generation.' Through the shared effort of individuals, RoCo generates a force of positive energy and change within its home city. In terms of systems thinking, it fosters a circular, regenerative, and resilient set of relationships within a physical environment designed to encourage it.

The inherent philosophy behind the emergence of RoCo encourages the coming together of like-minded actors. Through honest and open collaboration, we can contribute a small part and begin to make the world an even more beautiful and inspiring place.

Click here to visit the RoCo website.  

Follow this link to read more about innovation communities.

Much like its physical structure, the relationships built within RoCo aim to enhance the community's resiliency, harmony, and overall sustainability.

More details about RoCo

Individual power, collective responsibility

When exciting people work together, exciting things will happen.

Many entrepreneurial-minded people like to work alone, as freelancers, or in small groups. RoCo combines the freedom of independent entrepreneurship with the benefits of being part of a larger organization and the human capital that comes with it.

RoCo attracts diverse and quality members, meaning that many disciplines can be coordinated to collaborate and support the development of large and innovative projects. The collective draws on both the freedom and personal drive and the joint responsibility they share to create fast and efficient progress.

Roco's workspace walks a fine line of providing an environment to enhance the autonomy and individuality of its users while at the same time encouraging cooperation and teamwork between all members.

Different from a flex-space

RoCo shapes a new joint work environment based on a long-term vision of the future and an understanding of the changing role of individuals in organizations. The community is a network of an organization and a physical place with real people and works in a truly interdisciplinary and integrated way.

The RoCo building is different from the common flexible co-working spaces. At RoCo, people rent a fixed space/office, and therefore, the environment isn't as transient as in flex-hubs and other similar work environments. The entrepreneur or business' commitment to a single space creates more opportunities for longer-term collaboration.

Despite the shared space, all members still retain their autonomy yet remain part of a collective. This design serves as an impressive point of reference for potential clients and makes it easier to find partners who can invest or take part in assignments. Members can complete more significant projects, increase their visibility, and share resources to cut operating costs by working together.

Organizational structure and management

The RoCo collective is managed by Tom Bosschaert and Richard Boeser, who are part of the collective with their respective companies (Except Integrated Sustainability and Sparpweed).

The collective is effectively a non-profit organization. Its business model allows it to be financially independent and the physical office space to be co-managed. The overall goal is to document all the successes, failures, and evolution of the concept to be more straightforward when integrating the idea and into other cities and locations worldwide.

The careful design of the layout, furniture, fittings, and plant life at RoCo has ensured there isn't dull space in the entire office.

The physical building

The Stadhuisplein Gebouw is located only 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 standing empty for over ten years, it's now an inviting and engaging space. The building was renovated by RoCo members using only waste materials and ecologically friendly products.

The collective shares all facilities at RoCo to help save unnecessary overheads, reduce energy and resource use. As an expression of RoCo's principles, all furniture in the building was produced using recycled materials, LED lighting used where needed, and decoration was strictly carried out with natural paints and other recycled fittings.

The flexibility of the RoCo innovation community makes it an ideal space to hold after-hours events, performances, and workshops that only work to enhance and strengthen the community.

Community-minded events

In addition to client-driven projects, the collective works on various activities to continue enhancing the work of organizations in both the private and public sectors. RoCo regularly hosts discussions and movie nights, organizes conferences and field trips, organizes workshops, and creates books, designs, and products.

Click here if you're interested in working at RoCo.

Dec. 1, 2009

Client & Partners

  • logo Sparpweed.png

Project team

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