Prototyping while participating in a format that is a prototype itself
When I was asked to join the Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab in spring 2018 I felt two emotions: Excitement and doubt. Excitement about the opportunity to finally have the chance to be part of a practical experience of what I had learned about Theory U in my formal studies as well as my participation in the entry course U.Lab: Leading from the Emerging Future. And excitement, about the topic of Circular Economy, dear to me since my studies and the chance to learn much more about it during this Social Lab. But there was also some doubt about my contribution to this endeavour. How could I support this process that is so different to what I did most of my life? Would I be sufficiently equipped for this?
I eventually joined the convening team in August to support the communication and harvesting for this Social Lab. This role soon expanded my initial idea about it as it became clear that I will not just be there to observe the process and write about it. This was the first Social Lab of its kind on Circular Economy in Switzerland. Actually, this was a prototype in and of itself. There are not many clear manuals available on how to do it and how it should look like. And even if you use them, they are normally laid out for a organising team of 10 to 20 people – compared to our group of 4, simultaneously involved in convening, organising and hosting. Naturally, I got closely involved into the design of the Lab. At times this was quite a challenge for me.
At this point, some words about me. I grew up and did all of my studies in Switzerland. The education system of this country is basically made forpersons like me. I was always very hungry for knowledge and at ease with studying and understanding things that I was taught at school or university. So going through school and university was easy for me. The processes were clear and I was able to shine in almost everything that was asked of me. Never would I have guessed that I could have perfectionist tendencies as giving 80% for something was always enough to have great results – this is at least how it felt to me. It was my work at collaboratio helvetica, that showed me another world. When I was put into a setting where processes are not clear or sometimes not even yet existing I started to realize something about myself. I am indeed a perfectionist. I often struggled to meet my high expectations on the things I did and experienced quite some frustration at first. This realization does not really come as a surprise, being brought up in a system that fosters and also expects perfectionism in all its parts.
Being a perfectionist is not necessarily an advantage in such a highly experimental endeavour like a Social Lab. There is a constant urge within me to make everything I take up perfectly but this was just not possible here. Often we had to test new methods and tools without any prior testing and just jump into cold water. Or just move forward with something that we did not fully understand at the moment. But all of this gave me access to a different kind of creativity, openness and most of all trust into new, experimental approaches. Last but not least, the experience of this Social Lab, being a prototype itself that eventually would lead to prototype solutions for Circular Economy transition, strengthened my trust in myself. Trust that I can do something that does not need to be perfect from the beginning but that can serve as a starting point to tap into the unknown. Being part of Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab allowed me to go through my own U process! To let go of old convictions, judgements and mindsets and open up for new perspectives and understandings.
PS: I tried to put the perfectionist in me aside to write this blog post. I wrote it in a writing session of 1h and just gave it forward to two friends for quick feedbacks on the content and the English. I could have gone over it a million times to get to a better feeling about it. But I take this as another practice to challenge my perfectionist tendencies 🙂
Isabelle Ruckli works in Coordination & Partnerships at collaboratio helvetica, a project that opens spaces for collaboration, experiments and dialogue to co-create the Switzerland we want to live in. She was part of the convening team of Beyond Waste | Circular Resources Lab.