Workshop on the Circular Economy Toolkit with Design Austria

Workshop on the Circular Economy Toolkit with Design Austria

On Wednesday we held the workshop for the Circular Economy Club for the second time, this time together with the Experts Cluster Sustainable Design of Design Austria. And the mix of the group of designers, people from industry and NGOs, service providers and consultants brought many exciting insights. The aim was not only to learn about best practices, but also to deal with the various fields of circularity for concrete challenges and to discover possibilities for rethinking.

Applying circularity strategies

In the first round, when the focus was on creation, use and maintenance, still strongly on improving the product, the selected challenges “chair”, “refrigerator for 3rd world countries”, “packaging for pharmaceutical or food products” and “diapers” were still viewed strongly from the product side and improvement possibilities were identified, taking into account used materials, modular and simpler production and extension of the service life as essential factors.

In the second round, the rethinking of “Products as a Service” in particular led the groups to very creative solutions – to move the focus away from products towards user-oriented cycles. So from “how do I get the fridge into the cycle” to “how do I solve the challenge of users with less money to have fresh food available”. One of the solutions went even further: “How do we give local people the opportunity to create and operate solutions with local resources and additionally support community thinking”. By considering also the social aspects and the view of the users as the centre of the cycle, innovative proposals were made which are definitely feasible.

This also applied to the other groups, which, among other things, use packaging as dog food, use separable nappies with leasable in-house composters to produce plant soil or provide designer chairs on loan with an option to buy. If such a workshop is held in-house, such creative ideas can be incorporated into the own portfolio and pursued further. This then has a much greater potential to bring the circular economy further to life. However, the knowledge and understanding can be spread very well through this type of workshop, so we will continue to offer this inspiration, sometimes with specific questions that will be raised in advance.

Benefits of the practical application

Because of the practical application of the toolkit there were many aha-effects among the participants, who can bring them into their daily work: “Networking can produce very creative thinking that can solve ALL the worlds’ problems” and “being capable to make a difference about what is needed as a product/service and what is culturally/socially inherited and accepted” were only 2 of the findings by the participants of the workshop. For me, this brought me back to the realization how important my own experience in the application of Circularity is, in order to really understand the potential that still lies dormant here.

It is also exciting to see how an openness regarding our perceived limitations, especially what “owning” with perceived control and flexibility can lead to other ways of thinking. If we abandon the basic assumption that people would like to own, many new options arise, as was seen, for example, in the group that was looking after chairs. In the business world today, there are already some solutions where the chair is no longer sold, but the “sitting” and the materials are designed in such a way that the manufacturer can reuse them when he takes them back – these solutions do not exist for private use. Although our chairs are not used at home most of the time. The other participants felt a similar situation – if, especially at the beginning, the statements “we never asked this question”, “I haven’t thought about that”, “this is legally not possible” or “I assume there is a reason for doing it like this” come up, this is a good sign that there is still some potential for innovation.

How to apply these ideas in a sustainable way

The ideas were great, however, as the group of people just came together for this event, the follow-up is difficult. The potential of this workshop became clear to everyone: If you bring together a group of people with different backgrounds, knowledge and experience, new ideas can be bourn very quickly. It is important to provide a protected space where they can speak out ideas freely without being judged. Then others will connect to the ideas and some really innovative solutions can be born. We facilitate these workshops also inhouse to use the potential of employees and to create a cross-functional exchange of ideas. This ranges from a 2-3 hour event up to a 2-day-workshop. Connect with us to find out which solution fits best to your needs.