Sub-Themes > Track 9: Collective Creativity for a Circular Economy

Collective Creativity for a Circular Economy: Connecting Approaches of Education Science, Social and Organizational Change with Playfulness and Digital Technologies


  • Antonino Ardilio: Fraunhofer Institute of Industrial Engineering, Stuttgart Germany

  • Anu Kajamaa: University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Kamel Mnisri: ICN Business School, Nancy France

  • John Potter: University College London, UK

  • Klaus-Peter Schulz: ICN Business School, Metz France

Description: Discussing sustainable development with regard to economic, ecological and social aspects, the complexity and comprehensiveness of perspectives and interdependencies need to be taken into account. With regard to a circular economy this means, natural resources, production, producers, use, users, after-use, waste management, re-use or environment may be considered (Schmidt et al. 2018). The different steps and people within the economy represent various stakeholders and perspectives, more or less independent from each other. Furthermore perspectives of (political and economic) decision makers are independent from workers, users and social as well as environmental systems affected.

Current discussions such as political, economic or academic summits as well as social movements (e.g. Friday for future) show the disconnectedness of perspectives. Furthermore, it looks like creative attempts to solving such issues, are facing challenges, including different agendas and concerns from other stakeholder groups, often do not comply with sustainable development principles. Whereas, dealing with problems of sustainable development requires comprehensive solution finding and applying through new creative ideas (Shrivastava et al. 2016).     

Often stakeholders have only limited and selected perspectives to understanding and appreciating sustainable development. These perspectives are influenced by their local and cultural backgrounds, education and professional backgrounds or work and life contexts (Schulz et al. 2018). As a result, these perspectives usually lead to giving different directions to what would be a priority due to constraints or interests. Consequently, supposed sustainable effects for one stakeholder group may have a negative impact on others. For instance, recycled textiles are reused after long distance transportation and compete on their second use with the emergence of local manufacturing businesses. Or, the use of electric vehicles reduces local emission but exploits specific natural resources and demands high production effort. Hence, to bring about sustainable development in terms of a circular economy, the following stages of action can be concluded:

  1. First, it is essential to draw a comprehensive picture of economic chains, which represent the coherence between all steps, constraints and framework conditions.
  2. Second, to create a basis for exchange, discussion and development, shared understandings of the comprehensive picture have to be developed among stakeholders.
  3. Third, based on the shared understanding, new ideas can emerge through revealing stakeholders’ creative potential.   

Intensive research has been carried out on the topics of analysing value chains and developing a circular economy (Geissdoerfer et al. 2016), of the characteristics and emerging of shared understandings among different stakeholders (Schulz 2008) and of collective creativity in interdisciplinary teams (Mnisri & Nagati 2012; Sannino & Ellis 2013). However, the dimension and complexity outlined here, is ranging further. Stakeholder groups represent not only cultural diversity, but also different professional and educational levels, generations, various social conditions as well as different influence and power. Furthermore, stakeholders’ local contexts are remote and therefore represent different social conditions, experiences, wealth and living constraints. Nevertheless, all of these stakeholder groups can contribute to sustainable development, even further: they are needed to bring about sustainable development. They are affected by the current economy, albeit in different ways.

Consequently, there is a need to find ways to address this diversity of stakeholders and to make them understand each other, to enable them to discuss the complexity and develop the topic of a circular economy in an adequate way. 

This track discussion aims to address this demand from a conceptual and interdisciplinary perspective. The question is mainly methodological, however closely related to the complex demand of discussing economic process chains.

The methodological aspect shall research the question how shared understandings and creative idea development can be achieved among the stakeholder groups and framework described above. Particularly when taking into account a “democratizing” effect of stakeholders, which requires the integration of diverse levels of education, backgrounds and understandings, ways of communicating on an equally accessible level have to be found (e.g. Feldman et al. 2009).  Outcomes of current and past research indicate that traditional approaches only addressing cognitive aspects of communication and perception do not lead to satisfying success (e.g. Sköldberg et al. 2015). Alternatively, there exist approaches, which proved convincing results in other contexts. Hence, the following approaches shall be discussed with regard to developing economic cycles towards circular ones:

  • Arts based intervention (e.g. Antal 2014)
  • Playfulness and hands-on-modeling (e.g. Schulz et al. 2017) 
  • Change laboratories (e.g. Kajamaa 2012; Virkkunen 2013)
  • Positive deviance (e.g. Singhal & Bjurström 2015; Spreitzer & Sonenshein 2004)

Furthermore, question arises what role education plays in bringing about understandings of sustainable development. This question is also closely connected to methodology, since children naturally experience their world in collective processes of playing and creative interaction using materials and situations at hand (Potter 2006). Hence, the relation of education with developing shared understanding of economic cycles is a topic to be researched.

Additionally, the asynchronism of time and space due to the distance of stakeholders within economic cycles demands ways of communication and collaboration, which go beyond face to face meetings in small groups. Hence a further question to be considered will be the integration and use of digital technologies in “democratic” approaches of intervention, sharing and idea development (e.g. Riedel et al. 2001; Anthes et al. 2016).

The track will be organized in round table discussion about:

  1. Characteristics and demands of a circular economy.
  2. Experiencing and discussing methodological approaches of intervention and change with the aim to develop a collectively shared understanding and to reveal creative potential to develop new solutions. Particularly to be considered:
    1. Arts based intervention
    2. Playfulness and hands-on-modeling 
    3. Change laboratory
    4. Positive deviance
    5. The role of education to understanding and developing circular economy
    6. Integration of digital technologies to bring about new paths of creativity and to overcome asynchronism in time and space.

Any contribution to this discursive process is welcome.  


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