What does it take to generate a new idea? A new way of thinking? A new societal order? For those of us who were lucky enough to participate in the Circular Resources Lab between September and December, we learned that it is more about emotional intelligence and interpersonal connection than we had originally assumed.
When we gathered for our first session of the Circular Resources Lab, the room was full with first day of first day of school jitters: eager to learn about each other, about the project, and how we would contribute with our individual talents. We shared our motivations for being in the lab, where our interest in the circular economy came from, and how we imagined ourselves making a difference through this process.
Our group was fostered through a mutual understanding of the value of the human side of circular economy, choosing to focus on this oft-ignored but deeply important cog of the future sustainable economy. Without the human commitment to the circular economy, we cannot move forward, even with a huge range of impressive and far-reaching technological advancements.
We connected on an interpersonal level, using the techniques of the Theory U process like case clinics and social presencing theatre to understand each other better and to therefore create a safe space to generate ideas. Our group benefited greatly from this trust, allowing each of us to harness our own unique talents and perspectives to create a stronger proposal. In practicing tools like deep listening, we managed to foster a space of creativity and acceptance, working together and pulling each other through the curve of the U to arrive at the end with an idea we felt proud of.
Would this process have happened if we had not followed the Theory U process? Perhaps we would have arrived at the same idea, but, as we discovered over our 3-month process: it is not only good ideas that make up the circular economy, but rather the courage and the trust to jump into the unknown to implement them. Through focusing on each other, rather than the issue at hand, we came to a deeper understanding of each other’s motivations and roles, allowing us to dive headfirst into this project without fully knowing where it might end up. We allowed ourselves the freedom to fail, to test ideas, to see how they resonated personally, and, most importantly, to see how they resonated with the team atmosphere. What resulted was an idea that both reflected each individual member of the time as well as our collective work together.
As we move forward in the months following the lab, we continue to stay in touch to share how we might move forward in the process to implement circular economy initiatives in the canton of Vaud. What this lab taught us, certainly, was that if you have a strong team, you can co-create something beautiful if you choose to trust in each other and in new, innovative ways of thinking.