Archive by Author | erikaniemivanala

Going Circular

Event: LOOP Circular case studies, webinar series in May and June 2020

A couple of months ago I participated in a circular design workshop, where I became acquainted with the key concepts of circular design. As the topic was really interesting, it was inspirational to find a webinar series with presentations of concrete cases how to move from linear to circular economy in practise. Webinar series was provided by LOOP which is a Nordic Innovation ecosystem with interest in making companies go circular. It was founded in 2018 as a cooperation between Avanto Ventures, Sitra and Nordic Innovation, and the network is continuously expanding. As circular economy demands partnerships and collaboration, LOOP ecosystem is a response to those demands.

The webinar series, which included four webinars, was held during May and June 2020 and all the cases were extremely interesting and highlighted well different aspects that must be taken into consideration in circular design – for example new business models, importance of collaboration and role of ecosystems. In this blogpost I will go through briefly three cases: case Fiskars Vintage, Omocom and TotalCtrl. In addition to shortly explain the cases, I will focus especially on discussing my main takeaways from the circular design point of view.

Circular into profitable business – Case Vintage from Fiskars

In the first webinar Nora Haatainen, Director, New Business and Growth, from Fiskars Group described how Fiskars Group, an old consumer goods company, has started to create value to the customers through new business opportunities in the circular economy. Fiskars Group has set sustainability targets, which aim to find ways for reusing, reselling, and recycling their main brand products. It was really interesting to hear how a company with a long history of manufacturing moves towards circular economy.

The project that Haatainen explained in her presentation was about one of Fiskars’ main category, tableware, and considered especially brands Iittala and Arabia. The purpose was to find out specifically what kind of aftermarket business opportunities there exists from circular economy point of view. Focusing on the smallest circular loop – reusing and reselling – is logical from the profitability perspective because it retains the value the best way as the products do not demand processing. As any business projects, also circular business projects must be profitable and valuable to the customer in order to be successful in the future. For this purpose, key performance indicators were specified right in the beginning of the project, defining aims for the business perspective as well as customer perspective (Picture 1).

Picture 1. Key performance indicators (Slide from the presentation of Haatainen)

It was interesting to hear the different steps of design process, how it proceeded from ideation, hypothesis creation and co-designing with the customers to business simulation and in the end, selecting four most potential service concepts for piloting. The first new service concept from the project – Vintage Service – is already normal business for Fiskars Group. It allows people to buy and sell old and used Iittala and Arabia tableware products through Fiskars Group’s own retail channels. Currently Fiskars Group has done piloting for another service concept, Arabia Tableware Service, which is a subscription-based tableware service.

For me, the presentation showed well that it is possible to move from linear to circular business models, but it also became clear that there are many challenges along the way. The first challenge is to look beyond the linear model – it requires a fundamental shift in thinking, because circular design demands overcoming the dominant industry logic. Another challenge is to remember that having a circular business model is not good enough, it must work also in practice. Based on the experiences from the project, Haatainen emphasizes the importance of the core team: they should have different kind of skills, a lot of can-do attitude, and they must be empowered. Another advise is to start piloting as early as possible in order to get things to move on – endless discussions will not take you anywhere.

Circular economy demands new solutions – Case Omocom

The other speaker of the first webinar was Ola Lowden, a Founder of Omocom, a Swedish digital insurance solution start-up. The story of Omocom began when the founders worked for Swedish government as digital trade experts and they interviewed big insurance companies about their capabilities to answer to the demands of new consumption types of sharing economy. They found out that insurance companies were not able to adapt their offerings to these new requirements. It became clear that moving towards sharing and circular economy requires a new kind of insurance model, which encourages people to share their belongings.

Based on this, Omocom created a digital insurance solution for sharing platforms. Having an insurance is important for sharing platform providers, as it builds trust between people who do not know each other beforehand. Also, even if damages happen, insurance keeps customers satisfied and willing to continue to use the sharing platform. In the solution, Omocom does collaboration with insurance companies who bear the insurance-related risk, while Omocom takes care for example development of software and insurance solutions.

From sharing and circular economy point of view the founders of Omocom found traditional insurance challenging especially for three reasons (Picture 2).

Picture 2. Challenges with traditional insurance and circular economy (Slide from the presentation of Lowden)

The first challenge with traditional insurance is the model, as the focus and responsibility are only on product owner, not on the product user. This kind of model does not encourage people to share their belongings, especially with strangers. The answer from the Omocom solution is to focus also on product user and provide short-term insurances that are suitable for renting and sharing. The second challenge is that insurance companies are highly dependent on data. If they do not have enough data for risk calculations, they are not willing to take the risk. Omocom deals with this challenge by collaborating with sharing platforms, and based on the data that they provide, Omocom has developed their own risk calculation algorithm, which can be used for risk assessment. Third challenge is that some of the services from insurance companies are still analogue, which makes them quite slow and inflexible, and digital solution responses to these challenges as well.

I think that Omocom is a good example of how moving from linear economy to circular economy creates new business opportunities. There is a need for new kind of solutions and business models, which answer to the demands of circular economy. Also, it clearly showed that in order to make a successful circular business model, it must be a part of an ecosystem of circular business models to ensure the circular flow of resources. This means, that when designing circular business models, the focus should be also on systems level.

Preventing food waste with technology – Case TotalCtrl

The topic of the last webinar was food waste, which was extremely interesting subject for me, as food and eating have been the subject of many of my work projects. From circular economy point of view, the food waste problem is enormous, and solving that is really crucial in the future. Charlotte Aschim, the Founder and CEO of Norwegian start-up TotalCtrl, gave a presentation of how their solution – food waste prevention software called TotalCtrl Restaurant – is tackling the problem in restaurant context (Picture 3).

Picture 3. TotalCtrl Restaurant (Photos from the presentation of Aschim)

The food waste problem became familiar to the founders of TotalCtrl already when working at grocery stores as students. Based on their own experience and later when doing collaboration with different restaurants, they noticed that food waste problem was due to the fact that many restaurants did not have a proper control over their food inventory. The result from this is that food expires quite easily and finding out how much food and what kind of food there exists in storage requires a lot of manual work. It was understood that there is a demand for an easy-to-use digital solution, which helps restaurants to know what kind of food they have in their storage, in which storage it is and when it is going to expire.

Based on the experiences with TotalCtrl Restaurant so far, it seems that it is possible to diminish food waste even up to 85%. In addition, the solution saves time and money, as it simplifies daily routines. For me, TotalCtrl was a good example of how going circular actually can go hand in hand with profitability. Also, it shows that sometimes with right kind of technological solution, it is possible to take a huge step in business and in profitability.

From the perspective of service design, it was interesting to hear the importance of observation in developing and designing the digital solution. Aschim mentioned that although restaurant staff answered to several questions during development work, many things that were important from the perspective of food waste did not come up until doing observation days in restaurants. It seems that many restaurants have inefficient everyday routines, that are taken for granted, and recognizing these could provide opportunities to improve business.

Above I went through just some of the cases which were presented in LOOP webinar series. If you are interested to know more concrete examples from circular economy and circular design, there is a possibility to join to LOOP digital ecosystem where all the cases are available.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

Designing from linear to circular economy

Event: Circular Design Workshop, “Designing sustainable future”

4th of March, in Maria 01, Helsinki

I had a pleasure to participate in an interesting design workshop, which dealt with the topic that seems to be in the headlines everywhere – circular economy. More specifically, the workshop was about circular design, and from a service design student point of view, this sounded a chance too good to miss. The info about the event promised an introduction to circular design and practical guidance how to use circular design tools, especially from product and service design point of view. Definitely, this was something that I got, and a huge amount of material and tools to go through.

The workshop was arranged by Taival, a management consulting company which provides business, strategy and technology advisory services. The company was founded in 2017, and it currently operates in Finland and Germany. Taival arranges events related to circular economy under the title “Digitally Circular”. Workshop was facilitated by Tapani Jokinen, who works as a Principal Design Advisor at Taival and he has over 25 years’ experience in design.

As mentioned before, during the workshop we were introduced many practical tools that can be used in circular design. However, my aim in this blog post is not to go through all these materials in detail, rather than to discuss the themes and topics that I consider as my main takeaways from this workshop and what kind of thoughts came into my mind as I went through all the provided materials.

Circularity starts with design

From the circularity point of view, decisions made in the product design phase are very important. They affect enormously to environmental pollution, and also to the possibilities for example reusing, remanufacturing and recycling the product. These aspects are very critical from the circularity point of view and it is very challenging to make changes into those features later. That’s why it is important to take these dimensions into account already during designing – and that’s why we need circular design!

There exist terms, that are similar to circular design, such as ecodesign or sustainable design, which can be more familiar and understandable for many. However, the term circular design is nowadays often used, because it describes well that the focus of the design phase should be very holistic, in systems level, and it emphasizes the importance of “closing the loop”.

New mindset of circular design

In circular design, you must have a totally new mindset: waste doesn’t exist. This means that products and services are designed in a way that the waste and pollution are designed out. Waste should be considered as a resource that can be utilized. The focus of circular design is trying to retain the value, and this can be designed through different loops. This means that instead of just thinking about recycling the waste in the end, as in the linear economy, the focus is on how to retain the value the best possible way – through repairing, reusing, remanufacturing and finally, through recycling.

Loops help to follow and design circular flows

The possibilities how to retain the value and in this way extend the life of a product can be thought through following circular flows, which are presented as loops (Figure 1). The inner loops are preferred, as they retain value better than the final loop of recycling, which is important, but considered as the last option.

Figure 1. Four loops of retaining the value (Slide from Jokinen’s presentation)

Loop 1: Repair, maintain and upgrade

First loop describes how the products are kept in use as long as possible. This is done through design by making durable products that are easy to repair and maintain, and also easy to upgrade when needed. A good method for this is for example modular design, which makes it easy to change only a part of a product, if it is damaged. Additionally, modularity enables customising which means that the product is easier to modify to the needs of different users.

Loop 2: Reuse

Second loop focuses on what happens to products and materials after the first use. This refers to reusing products in their original form. Ways to do this are reusing, re-selling and redistributing. This has also increased the interest in sharing economy, which refers to the shift from ownership to access, “product-as-a-service”. Quite often people only need an access to a product for a short period of time, and after that the service provider is able to pass the access on to another user. This is seen to make better use of materials and resources, and through these kind of shared services the result is also that less products needs to be produced.

Loop 3: Remanufacturing

Third loop refers to remanufacturing process. If the remanufacturing is already considered in the design phase, the product is made in a way that all components are easy to replace, if needed, before re-entering the market.

Loop 4: Re-/Upcycle

Last loop is recycling process, where raw materials from the product are recycled. There can also be a process of upcycling, which means transforming for example waste materials or unwanted products into new materials or products.

For me, going through these loops helped to understand that there exists many different possibilities of retaining a value – circular economy is so much more than just thinking about recycling in the end.

As a final sprint in the workshop we prototyped circular system with Learning Factory Lifecycle Design Canvas (Figure 2). That sprint definitely was a concrete reminder of all the different perspectives that should be taken into account in circular design – so many different things, so many different stakeholders.

Figure 2. Learning Factory Lifecycle Design Canvas (slide from Jokinen’s presentation)

Time for redesigning

After this introduction to circular design I surely can understand that transformation from linear economy to circular economy is not an easy one – many things must change. I think, that from the service design point of view one of the most important things is changing the focus to more holistic level, because we have to know and understand how the whole circular system works. However, based on this half-day workshop, I can say, that circular design is definitely something that I warmly welcome to change the way we think about owning and using products. It will be very interesting to follow the future of the circular design – are we going to redesign everything?

Below are links to some of the reference materials provided in the workshop. There are many useful tools and informative materials for those who want to know more about circular design.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

LINKS:

Sustainability Guide

Circular Design Guide

Ellen Macarthur Foundation

 

Dealing with complex global challenges

Event: Sitra Heräämö XL
21st of November, in Helsinki

Sitra Heräämö XL event is a part of Sitra Lab’s Heräämö breakfast event -series. This specific event was extra-large, because instead of one there were three interesting international speakers, who gave presentations about societal innovations and global challenges: Indy Johar from Dark Matter Labs, Piret Tõnurist from OECD’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) and Joseph D’Cruz from the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) global Accelerator Labs network.


The presentations formed a good combination, because Johar explained the need for systems change, Tõnurist on the other hand explained what systems change does mean in practice, and D’Cruz gave an interesting example of creating a lab network.

Indy Johar – A Great Transition

Indy Johar is a designer, an architect and a co-founder of Dark Matter Labs – an organisation that designs institutional infrastructures and new forms of collaboration that help build democratic futures.

The name of the presentation was “a Great Transition”, because according to Johar, the next ten years is going to be a very significant transformation in our society. This is because many global challenges we face today, like climate change, water pollution, poverty and global inequalities, are very wicked and complex challenges: there are many actors involved and due to interdependency, everything affects to everything. This means, you can’t solve these problems alone, “there is no magic bullet” for that. In fact, Johar argues, that these challenges are only the symptoms – the real problems are the structural failures in the system, “deep codes”, which are historically very deep rooted in our society and economy. If we want to make changes into the real problem, we need a systems change.

However, the challenge in systems change is, that there are many actors who have to be involved, who have to act – nothing happens if all actors are not committed to the change. Johar states, that if we want to make a change, we must think and act differently: systems change requires a new way of organizing. It is not enough to say that you know what the problem is – it is fundamental to build a shared understanding of the problem. Shared understanding can be constructed through co-creation, for example in labs, and through shared understanding there can be commitment to the problem solving. Solutions can be tried out as small scale experiments, which can be indicators of larger scale transitions.

The presentation and the slides are available below.

Piret Tõnurist – Systems Change: how to get started and keep going?

Piret Tõnurist works for the OECD’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) where she promotes practical approaches in Systems Thinking and Anticipatory Innovation Governance.

Tõnurist talked about systems change and according to her, systems thinking is a good approach to dealing with many societal issues, because they usually are quite complex. However, defining the problem through systems thinking and setting the development goals are usually not enough to make something actually happen. The most difficult phase in systems change is the phase of implementation, and that’s why it is said to be the phase where “the ideas go to die”.

According to Tõnurist, the challenges in systems change are associated especially to three following problems:

  1. Knowing and “knowing”. You might know existing problems and challenges, but it is quite another thing to “know”, to actually internalize the problem. For “knowing” purpose, systems thinking is an excellent method: it is useful in framing complex, societal issues and it helps to understand how to get into the intended goals. However, the negative side of systems thinking is that it is quite difficult and time-consuming method, which needs a lot of effort and investments. So, it is worth to think about when it is a good time and place to use it.
  1. Knowing and ”doing”. Knowing and analysing systemic problems is very different than actually doing something systematically about them. It is possible, that even though you are able to understand the whole systemic framework of an issue and the interconnections between different factors, it does not lead to solutions. The result of systemic analysis can be a complicated map full of different factors and connections, which leaves you just wondering that what on earth you are supposed to do. The systemic analysis doesn’t give you a direct solution and sometimes, in the end, there will be only a “complexity paralysis”. In order to be able to go further, Tõnurist argues, that first, the new purpose of the system must be defined. There should be done a problem framing exercise, where you can start comparing also what has to be changed in that complicated system in order to be able to deliver the purpose – the complexity of the system has to be analysed with the purpose and goal in mind. For example, “Mission Planning Canvas” is a good tool, where you can make the value proposition for the pubic and the private sector. In this way, it is possible to make all the actors committed.
  1. Powerful feeling powerless. Tõnurist has noticed, that even very powerful people feel powerless, when problems are not directly under their control, under their mandate. In dealing with the complex problems, the organisational boundaries and silos should be surpassed, there is a need for new ways of working.

As a conclusion, in systems change, the challenge is not only framing and analysing the complex problems, but also building capacity to do it continuously. Tõnurist states, that in systems change, if there are involved people who are willing to act – anything is possible!

The presentation and the slides are available below.

Joseph D’Cruz – Reimagining International Development Cooperation to tackle 21st century challenges

Joseph D’Cruz works as a senior advisor in strategy and planning in the UNDP. He gave a presentation about UNDP’s initiative in which the aim is to find out a new approach to deal with complex and wicked development problems which currently are increasing more rapidly than the ability to solve them.
Against this background, UNDP defined following three main questions:

  1. How do we better tackle complex and fast-moving challenges?
  2. How do we find the most relevant solutions that work locally?
  3. How do we learn more quickly about what works and what doesn’t – and then bring solutions to scale?

For this purpose, UNDP has built a network of Accelerator Labs in 60 countries, with the aim of creating the world’s fastest learning network of solving development problems. The mission of the network is: “To catalyse positive change by finding and sharing solutions that fit the times we live in, and generating new ideas for the times yet to come.”

D’Cruz explained the structure and function of labs and network, and the very interesting part from design perspective was to hear about what kind of initial tools the labs are provided (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The initial tools for Labs (slide from D’Cruz’s presentation)

From the point of view of development projects, D’Cruz stated, that the key insight is, that the phase of solutions mapping should be done properly. Before, in many international development projects, this has been neglected, and the knowledge that already exists in the context have not been used efficiently or not at all. D’Cruz emphasized that people who are already working in the contexts where development problems exist, they are very likely already working with the solutions. The way to start is to find out, who have already identified the problem, which different actors are already working on it and then solving, how to bring them together as a network to leverage the expertise they have.

Another problem in international development projects traditionally has been, that projects have a linear approach to the problem. The result is that the learning process is very slow, because usually learning reflection is done at the end of a project, which lasts usually three to five years. So, instead of this, in Lab network, the aim is to design and conduct experiments around portfolios of solutions rather than individual solutions, which enables to learn about what works and what doesn’t – and this will be done in weeks or months instead of several years, so the learning process is much faster than before. The Accelerator Lab cycle is presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Accelerator Lab cycle (slide from D’Cruz’s presentation)

The presentation and the slides are available below.

For me, as a Service Design student, this event as a whole, was very interesting introduction to systems thinking, societal questions and global challenges. Especially from a service design point of view it really inspired to dig deeper into the topic of how to combine systems thinking and design thinking.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

Participation, participation, participation!

Conference: People-Driven City 2019
27th of September, in Dipoli Aalto University, Otaniemi Espoo

In the end of September, I had an opportunity to participate in an interesting conference, People-Driven City 2019. It was the main conference of Lähiöfest – festival of neighborhoods and this was the second time the conference has been arranged. Conference gathers together actors from different sectors of society – for example cities, companies, NGO’s – to discuss current urban topics. The purpose of the conference is to emphasize the local perspective and participation of local actors in urban planning and in solving different kind of urban challenges. Themes of this year’s conference were sustainability, participation, learning and democracy.

As a Service Design student with an interest in Economic Geography, I was very eager to hear how and with what kind of methods people are enabled to participate in urban planning and innovation processes. From this point of view the following presentations of the conference were in specific interest to me: Päivi Sutinen from City of Espoo, Amin Khosravi from urbz and Kristian Koreman from ZUS.

City as a Service

As an opening for the day, Päivi Sutinen, Services Development Director in the City of Espoo, gave an introduction about how to enable different actors to participate in the development and innovation processes of the city. From this perspective, Espoo is an interesting case because for many years it has invested into people-driven innovation and has also been awarded for its accomplishments. Last year, the city of Espoo won the international Intelligent Community Awards 2018 for ‘humanizing data’, which refers to the use of data for people-oriented service development. In addition, just recently on September 2019, Espoo was chosen as one of the top six cities in the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) Awards contest organised by the European Commission.

From a perspective of Service Design student, this opening presentation offered an interesting introduction to how a city applies Service-dominant logic (explained more thoroughly in Lusch & Vargo 2014) in practice. Presentation introduced many concrete examples how Espoo accelerates City as a Service development locally: for example, Data, AI, Software & technology, platforms, networks, Living Labs, Experiments, Tools and methods and Financial resources. Based on Service-dominant logic, Espoo wants to enable co-creation in innovation, as presented in a video ‘The Zero Friction City – Dynamics of Innovation Ecosystems’.

Participation is a process

Amin Khosravi, urban strategist, presented the framework for participation of urbz in his presentation “How do we create truly participatory planning processes?”. Urbz is an international company which works with issues related to urban development and planning and is specialized in participatory planning and design.

For Urbz ‘residents are experts of their neighborhoods’ – and this was also the basis of Khosravi’s presentation. He emphasized the importance of locality and human scale in urban planning and sees participatory planning as a good opportunity to gain deep understanding of cities.

For me, the main takeaway from Khosravi’s presentation was that participation is a continuous process. In fact, the first step in a participatory process is “recognition” – which means that in the beginning of the participatory planning process, one must explore the current situation and everything that already exists, because the participatory process is already going on, it happens all the time among people. And, on the other hand, the last step in the participatory planning process is “participatory governance” – which means that the participation actually continues after the planning process, for example by activating neighborhoods in the matter.

From Instant Urbanism to Permanent Temporality

Kristian Koreman is an Architect and a Founder of ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles), which is a design office that works with projects related to architecture, urban planning and landscape design. He gave an inspiring presentation, which offered interesting perspectives especially from Design Thinking point of view: a holistic, human-scale approach and an experimental and participatory method to urban planning.

The main theme in Koreman’s presentation was that traditionally the perspective in urban planning and architecture tends to be too narrow, there is too much ‘top-down’ planning which takes poorly into account the human perspective. Thus, too often the results of this kind of planning, which is called Instant Urbanism are buildings and infrastructures that do not serve people’s needs in real life: too big infrastructures and too big offices that no one uses. Instead, more holistic and human-scale approach is preferred, which is called Permanent Temporality, which seems to have a lot in common with Design Thinking. This approach always starts from city’s existing forms and takes into account the whole context and city’s evolutionary character. Koreman summarized this idea simply: “keep the local, add the global later”. Also, Permanent Temporality includes experimental and participatory method of working: “plan, test, adapt”. In short, this means observing people’s behavior in the city, doing experiments based on that and then observing the reactions to the experiments and modifying it according to the feedback.

Koreman presented interesting cases from Rotterdam where ZUS has initiated or been a part of projects that have created a new image for Rotterdam: for example Luchtsingel, which is a 400-meter-long pedestrian bridge connecting different districts in the centre of Rotterdam and it is the world’s first crowdfunded piece of public infrastructure; and Schieblock, the old and vacant office building in Rotterdam which was transformed into a vital “city laboratory”.

Based on this conference I am happy to notice the increasing importance of human centricity in urban planning and development. It seems to me, that in addition to the old mantra of important things in Economic Geography, “location, location, location”, we are nowadays also able to acknowledge the importance of “participation, participation, participation”.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

REFERENCES:
Lusch, R. F. & Vargo, S. L. 2014. Service-dominant logic: Premises, perspectives, possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.