From 5 to 75: Lifelong Learning in a Circular Economy

From 5 to 75: Lifelong Learning in a Circular Economy

We need to engage our whole community in the topic of circular economy for Berlin to become a circular city, which means teaching circular principles to small children and seasoned professionals alike. But how? What are the practical ways we can inspire kindergarteners to think about waste and material loops? Or challenge a C-level executive to set aside their old business mindset to embrace a circular one?

We explored these topics and more at Circular Berlin’s first digital meet-up, “From 5 to 75: Lifelong Learning in a Circular Economy,” on the 27th of April with about 40 participants from the globe. 

Mifactori shared how their Kreislaufschule (Circular School) program engages school children in circular economy workshops. Each class takes on a specific resource and not only learns about it, but finds ways to incorporate what they learn into their own school environment. In one school, students successfully advocated for their school to switch to a greener source of energy. By each taking on one material, together, the whole school tackles the big challenge of transitioning to a circular school and learns about the power of collective action. And the project is open source; all of the details about how the team put on the Kreislaufschule workshop are available online, so that other schools can replicate their work. 

Project “Circular School”, Lars Zimmermann

For insights into how circular economy is used in education for practitioners, Oliver Peters from the Akademie Mode & Design discussed his experience in engaging design students in hands-on upcycling work and problem-based learning, what was also explored through the project Upnovation. The most attractive R-strategies for the creative students focus on repair, refurbish, and repurpose. He also shared how creative practitioners can be engaged in developing designs & stories that foster consumer’s attachment to products so they are cared for and last longer. 

TU-Berlin’s Melanie Jaeger-Erben brought in the perspective of circular education at the university level. She described the concept of “circular literacy” which involves 1) ‘System knowledge’ about how the current metabolism of consumption and production within natural systems functions or dysfunctions 2)  ‘Target knowledge’ about what the transformation is aiming at and 3) ‘Transformation knowledge’ about how the journey from the current state to the desirable future can be undertaken. Circular literacy is a building block for a circular society–a vision of a circular economy that puts social well-being front and center–which Melanie and her colleagues have written about in-depth.

Workshop with Falling Walls, 2020

And finally, Leon and Natalie from the Circular Berlin team offered our insights into working with professionals through Circular Berlin’s workshops. They focused on the importance of incorporating and building on professionals’ existing expertise while shifting their mindset to a more systems-based approach with lots of trial and error. They also showed that there are many free and open tools out there for all learners to take advantage of: either on their own or in a facilitated workshop setting. Circular Berlin has recently compiled a list of these tools.  

All the slides from the meet-up are available below or you can download them hier

In hosting this meet-up about teaching, we were also learning! We experimented with new virtual ways to get participants chatting with each other, to capture feedback and insights, and to engage in dialogue with our speakers. With the help of breakout rooms, polls, and digital post-it notes, we made it happen. 

Using one of our new digital helpers, Mentimeter, the group created this image of what skills are needed in the circular economy. Collaboration, creativity, systems thinking and communication came out on top – sounds exactly right!

We also learned that there is interest in our meet-ups from around the world. While many Berliners participated, we also had attendees from all over: from Brussels and Vienna to India and Indonesia. It was a great reminder that our community doesn’t stop at our borders and that what we do here in Berlin can impact not just our city but a global network of circular pioneers.