Systems Thinking Delivers Better Solutions

Sustainability touches upon all aspects of life and society, and so does our work. To be able to do this work in an integrated way, we developed the first fully integrated systems thinking framework for sustainability, the Symbiosis in Development (SiD) framework. SiD has been in development since 2001, and is used in hundreds of projects by a wide range of sustainability professionals around the world. It is made freely available and open source by the Except Foundation.

Symbiosis in Development (SiD)

SiD is an open-source systems-thinking method and framework. It deciphers complexity and uncertainty into clear, actionable insights and improves strategic decision-making. It was designed with systemic sustainability at its core, and can be applied to any complex, dynamic challenge, including policy, strategy, design, industry, and business development.

SiD’s main development portal and documentation channel is the website. This is also the home of the Symbiosis in Development omnibus book, a complete reference work published in 2019 after two decades of work. Additionally, we offer SiD workshops and online video courses, as well as a range of tools.

From Idea to Implementation

Symbiosis in Development guides projects from start to finish. It doesn’t prescribe specific solutions, but guides an innovation process together with systems analysis and design thinking that together leads to critical new insights, true co-creation, as well as realistic and feasible solutions.

The process starts by questioning assumptions, involving important stakeholders, and collecting critical data from a wide range of sources, including resources, ecosystems, culture, social, policy, and financial data. Key systems are then mapped to create system understanding, uncover hidden challenges and opportunities, and identify the best areas to strategically intervene. Based on these insights, holistic, innovative solutions are designed and delivered.

Integrated, systemic & multidisciplinary

Symbiosis in Development combines a range of previously disconnected fields of sustainability, including the circular and bio-based economy, industrial ecology, transition theory, resilience, iterative design, and social justice. As an overarching framework, it serves as a unifying language that allows interdisciplinary teams to collaborate more effectively.

SiD includes practical hands-on development processes and management tools. It encourages projects to be executed by diverse multidisciplinary teams, comprised of analysts, creatives, and business experts, led by experienced project managers, and involving all relevant stakeholders. Harnessing the insights from all these fields and players results in custom, inclusive, long-term solutions that work better across all dimensions, for the long term. It also prevents unseen risks and systemic failure from slipping through the cracks.

Open Source & freely available

Our Symbiosis in Development documentation is entirely open-source and freely available. To achieve the kinds of systemic changes necessary for society to be truly sustainable, we need everybody – businesses, governments, communities, and individuals – to do their part, and to do it well. To accelerate this, we share our knowledge and tools in seminars, publications, and workshops, and have published SiD open-source using a Creative Commons license.

More SiD resources

Visit the central Symbiosis in Development website,, for all documentation on SiD. Beyond this, we have the following resources: