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About Idealism and Pushing boundaries

What is the impact of Fundamentals? Fundamentals’ educational programmes are geared to the personal and professional development of students and young graduates. And the senior and junior professionals in their team want to work towards a better world. So, why shouldn’t they combine the two?

Writer Mariek Hilhorst spoke with five people from the Fundamentals network about their experiences with the organisation in the past five years. In this article you can read about what Erwin, Francine, Ilya, Leonie and Ruud had to say about the impact Fundamentals has.

Exploring the boundaries

“The interface of design agencies and education is the place where new developments emerge. Fundamentals pushes the boundaries, and they explore the possibilities of higher education. By doing so, they contribute to educational innovation within universities. Universities innovate from the inside out or in collaboration with outside parties, such as Fundamentals. I hope that Fundamentals keeps searching for true innovation and does not become mainstream,” Ilya Zitter, senior lecturer in Learning Environments in Vocational Education at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, says.

Unwieldly organisations

“In unwieldy organisations, Fundamentals proves that an alternative approach may be effective. In educational institutions, healthcare institutions, and municipalities, for instance,” Ruud de Voijs, a creative strategist and coach, says. “Even in places where you wouldn’t expect it, the team helps people to reshape their thinking and tap into their creativity. They connect the lines and bring the parties together. Together with his team, Jens Gijbels, the founder of Fundamentals, gets the creative thought process going, whatever the project goal may be. He has ways of getting things done. At the start of a process, many people tell us that they are not that creative. But by the end, they report that they, too, ‘want to go innovative!’ They are energised and eager to take a new approach.” Erwin Elling, a senior programme developer, says, “When so many people with a learning mindset are brought together, something happens. It’s about working together in new ways – with creativity, innovation, and less rigidity. And clients are involved in a totally different way.”

Sustainability and circularity

“Fundamentals is moving towards increased sustainability and a circular economy, and that’s great. It’s so valuable to have the team work on things we really care about,” Leonie Vlaar, a slow-Fashion designer and coach, says. “Jens Gijbels stays in touch with the coaches and keeps up to date with current developments across industries and with different entrepreneurial perspectives. Clients feel heard and share their concerns with Fundamentals. The global textile surplus, for instance, or EU legislation that will require fashion industry players to take back textiles for reuse in a few years. Fundamentals knows the issues at stake and can act swiftly.”


“Fundamentals is an idealistic concept, and it’s about more than making money. Even so, it needs to be economically viable,” Francine Groenewoud-Knüppe, psychologist, coach, and trainer, says. “We do want to have a social impact. People in the community are very passionate about their work, but they also need to earn a living. We are still looking for the best ways to combine the two. Of course, we also have an impact by giving our people a platform. They make me reflect on my choices, too – do I really want to continue eating meat? Our impact is not limited to companies and students; we also change each other. The reflective capacity at Fundamentals is remarkable. We are all aware that there is still a lot to learn.”

Wealth of expertise

“Fundamentals should start sharing more of their project results,” Ruud de Voijs, creative strategist and coach, believes. “What was the process, what was delivered, what was achieved? The website is full of big ideas. And what happens after a project is delivered? Fundamentals could organise internships with clients by way of follow-up programmes. That would increase the impact even more.” Ilya Zitter agrees and feels that it is unfortunate that the team does not document the development and implementation of its projects yet. “This way, a wealth of expertise could be lost with every project. It would be useful for Fundamentals to elaborate on their own design processes while holding on to the knowledge and insights gained. I dare Fundamentals to find creative ways to do so and to share their new approach with budding designers.”

Text: Mariek Hilhorst

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