What is a Zoöp and why is Tetem considering becoming one?

Publiceerdatum: 19 juli 2024

What is a Zoöp and why is Tetem considering becoming one?


“I would like for us to become a Zoöp.”

This is what Tetem’s director, Wilja Jurg, told me on a train ride we shared after work a few weeks ago. Of course, she also mentioned how this is not fully her own decision, as it is vital for most teams within Tetem to agree to the same intention.

The term and its parameters were explained to a group of Tetem workers, volunteers, and freelancers on a Saturday afternoon in the Evoluon in Eindhoven. With carefully balanced notepads on our crossed legs, the team listened favourably and took notes as a representative of Nieuwe Institute from Rotterdam talked through his presentation slides. Zoöp, or Zoöperation is a type of cooperative that opens a seat on the decision table for other-than-human life. The term is a nice wordplay of “cooperation" and  “Zoë”, an ancient Greek word meaning life.This means that when it comes to making any sort of substantial decision within the zoöp organization, the interests of different forms of life are also a variable to consider, these lifeforms being anything from animals and plants, to full ecosystems and even monumental spaces.

As I was taking notes for this blog, a couple of questions came to mind: what makes it different to just having sustainability efforts? How does an organisation take into account the best interests of non-human life? For which the answers came as more slides were presented. At first I could not see the difference between being plainly sustainable and a Zoöp, but learning that a Zoöp goes from being sustainable to regenerative, the idea became more appealing to me. As I understood, a regenerative practice is when decisions and actions go beyond the protection of what is currently, and moves towards regeneration and setting up life for even greater success than before: the creation of circumstances that make even more life possible.

Zoöp in practice:

For my second question, our speaker introduced the concept of a Speaker for the Living. Beyond the poetic aspect of the name, a Speaker for the Living is a third party individual that takes this new seat at the decision making table and brings attention to the wellbeing of non-human life. This made me breathe a little easier after hearing it, because how can I expect myself and my peers to know what our ecosystem would like from us?How can we make sure that our guesses are educated and efforts are in the right path? The Speaker for the Living will act as a sort of advisor or board observer, whose main intention in the meetings is to keep these interests in pivotal consideration for any and all of the organisation’s moves.

A knowledgeable person that has more criteria over the matter can be in charge of putting themselves in the shoes of other-than-human life within the Zoöp structure. Each organisation has their own Speaker for the Living, and the job’s single requirement is to have a substantial connection to nature and non-human life. Examples include an ecologist, botany enthusiast, researcher, or in the case of Nieuwe Instituut, a landscape architect.

Will Tetem become a Zoöp?

As our director mentioned on that train ride, the decision is not up to one person but to all teams. After all, the transition to Zoöp includes taking some more time and conscience to move forward with projects and tasks, and this is an effort to which all teams have to commit to, not just our leadership. If Tetem is set on making the Zoöp work, the intention and action forwardness must resonate in every meeting held.

Ecosystem building and regeneration are at the core of Zoöps, meaning some extra paths and longer tracts will be coming in order for Tetem to truly invite life to create more life within the premises. This new path will potentally spring us into new levels of commitment on the improvement of the future and the community around. Tetem is always welcoming new ways of taking action on the improvement of society, culture, and the uncertain future. I myself am looking forward to the decision coming up, as I could sense the presentation room on that Saturday afternoon a general sense of acceptance towards the idea. After all, many of the conscious decisions that a general Zoöp might make are already being made naturally within Tetem.

Blog geschreven door Juanita Pineda Oviedo, Programmamedewerker Talent en Publiek.

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