Raising students’ awareness about circular economy
Sunny Lee is a certificated CSR consultant and a Circular Economy Business Model Consultant based in Taiwan. She had the opportunity to show how to generate new Circular Economy business proposal using Circular Canvas with 50 students with variety background from different universities in a 4-days Young Sustainability Leader Camp in August 2020.
Sunny Lee explains the origin of this project and the execution details:
In May 2020, I was contacted by Mr. Zhang, the project manager in CTCI Education foundation sponsored by CTCI CORPORATION, Taiwan, to conduct this training camp. After an online meeting with the project sponsor explaining him the course’s design and format, I won the case and got full authorization to coordinate the hands-on workshop using the Circulab methodology.
Though Circulab has no track record of organizing this type of event of this scale in Taiwan, it was the first time I worked on a case with CTCI. The top management of CTCI knew they could trust the quality of my work for 2 reasons. Firstly, Mr. Zhang personally participated to one of my introductory workshops in July 2019. He was convinced that our Circular Canvas was the most relevant tool to use in this workshop, compared to the other business model canvas he had been able to use in previous training camps. Besides, I am a certificated CSR consultant in their sister foundation, the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy.
The 4th Young Sustainability Leader Camp occurred on August 25th to 28th, 2020. 50 students (undergrad & graduate students) were selected out of 130 candidates from different departments among 24 leading universities in Taiwan to attend this event.
Circular Canvas was displayed as the main tool to discuss green business proposals and recycling economy during the whole event.
Towards Circular design Thinking
Most of these participants didn’t know each other and as many of them didn’t have any business background. Also, the circular economy theory was new for them as well. That is why we needed to design a program that could help them learn effectively while encouraging them to extensively interact with others from various backgrounds. We deliberately merged learning courses and working groups into the daily schedule. We also divided them into groups two times to nurture their interactions. The overall program arrangement can be summarized into both aspects below:
Students first discovered circular economy theory and some achievements through 3 sessions of circular economy conference from 4 companies’ representatives. Afterwards, all 50 students were divided into 10 groups. I used 1 Circular Canvas and 5 sets of questions cards for each group.
The students first tried to apply Circular Canvas to analyse a few real-world cases. Then they were asked to select their favorite business case among 10 business ideas suggested by 5 instructors. The purpose here was a simulation for them to work in a project with members they just met.
Beside designing new business models by brainstorming with the Circular Canvas, the Organizer also invited 2 well-known professionals to provide students a holistic view of sustainability theories and international development trends. They benefited from 2-half-days directly guidance and a 3-hour group work.
The last day in the morning, each group had 15 minutes to pitch their business ideas to 4 judges, academicians and industry experts, with a reward as a bonus: from 600 Euro up to 2,500 Euro.
Preparing the circular economy training
I invited 4 experienced instructors to animate this workshop. Their work is related to Circular Economy or Circular Supply Chain. They all attended my workshops in 2018 to 2019. This was the first time that the 5 of us worked together in a project.
During the preparation, 1 month before the event, we had used IM and online conference call to communicate about the work arrangements. I also provided them with a 2-hour online training to prepare them to better understand our new Canvas. On top of that, I conducted some extra 1-on-1 session according to their needs.
I also asked them to design 2 business models for the circular economy and to ensure all business idea were relevant and in different aspects, ranging from extended product lifespan, circular supply to product as service. This was the best way to shorten the learning curve for students in their circular economy training. I also helped organizers to design the proposal guidelines for the business proposals.
Based on these two aspects, I could secure the overall teaching quality provided to the students, and so ensure that we could meet the objectives and deliver the expected results.
To conclude, I can say that even most of the students did not have any business background, the circular canvas was extremely easy to use for them as beginners. After the lectures, real case presentation and hands-on practices in this 4-days camp, they were able to grasp the circular economy opportunities and transform them into new business proposals. They are now able to develop circular thinking and apply circular economy fundamentals on their own.