After three months, six full days of workshops, several half-day team meetings and countless Skype calls, interviews, Slack posts, reading and reflecting — nothing like a cold, rainy Sunday to take a step back and think about the whole Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab experience.
Two important insights come to my mind first: how well the collaborative process worked and how important it is to solve the increasingly complex problems we are facing.
Before we started, it was far from obvious that 25 so different people, co-creators and organizers (this distinction became less and less important throughout the process), with different backgrounds, lives, experiences and extremely divergent ways of thinking would find anything in common at all, let alone build such a community and produce something coherent and potentially very useful. A bit of patience, a general interest in the topic of Circular Economy (CE), a good deal of openness and curiosity and broadly aligned values was the seeds that grew into a real community based on deep respect and friendship, as well as beginnings of promising projects. None of the usual “motivators” of our society, like money, power, status, material rewards played any role whatsoever, and this was because we connected at a deeper, human level. In my personal opinion, openness and value alignment were the two key ingredients.
Secondly, to appreciate the importance of co-creation, it is useful to note how much more complex our world has become, mainly due to interconnectedness (meaning that effects cascade around the world and cannot be understood or treated in isolation) and urgency (for the first time in human history, we’re hitting the hard planetary limits of energy and entropy in a closed system, most vividly illustrated by climate change and biodiversity loss). We have very few decades to solve problems that were centuries in the making. And knowing what to do is the easy part. Much more complex will be finding how to transform most societies and almost every economy on Earth, against a backdrop of ignorance, long-held beliefs, lifelong aspirations, vested “interests”, almost all pulling in the same (wrong) direction. This kind of problem requires the very best of our collective intelligence, and structured co-creation based on Theory U is an excellent example.
Theory U is a co-creation and change management method developed by Otto Scharmer, based on a deep level of mindfulness in a group, overcoming prejudice and usual blind spots, and creating new solutions without falling in the trap of re-creating the past. The MIT course “u.lab: Leading From the Emerging Future” on edX is a good place to start practicing.
Three months ago I was curious, not knowing exactly what to expect; today I’m convinced that some form or shape of co-creation to mobilise our collective intelligence is key to our future, should we have one.
Sascha Nick tries to live sustainably, and motivates others to do so as well – at BSL, UNIL, with CO2-monitor, learning and co-creating whenever he can