Leveraging circular initiatives for systemic change in Argentina
In the move toward sustainability, grassroots innovations, particularly circular initiatives, are becoming crucial players, as they embrace the Circular Economy as a promising way forward. Recent graduate Caro Martellotto explored the potential of the Circular Value Flower as a method to empower circular communities in Argentina as key players in this systemic transition.
The Circular Value Flower (CVF) is a method of analysis and design Developed by Els Leclercq and Mo Smit after their experiences with Circular Initiatives (CIs) in Rotterdam (Leclercq & Smit, 2023).
After testing the CVF with civil servants, designers and other professionals, the developers understood the need to further improve it including citizens’ experiences as well as knowledge and experiences from the global South for knowledge cross pollination. In order to achieve this and aligned with Caro’s intention to create positive social impact while developing her graduation project, she defined the approach of this project.
Circular value flower (Leclercq & Smit, 2023).
Caro was motivated to contribute to the development of the CVF in a different local context: Argentina. Argentina’s relevance in this project is twofold. Firstly, its rich landscape of initiatives and social movements is highly influential, shaping not only the prevailing system within the country but also across the entire Latin America. Secondly, this project seeks to amplify the voices of the Global South within the design discipline and the academic sphere of Circular Economies (CE), areas predominantly influenced by voices from the Western Global North.
As the CVF is designed for community engagement, Caro started working closely with two Argentinean CIs (ReUSAR and Siempre Monte) with a decolonial and participatory approach. Given the complexity of this endeavor and the need to challenge traditional knowledge hierarchies, the overarching mode of thinking leading this project was Sentipensar (feel-think).
The two local initiatives Caro collaborated with: ReUSAR and Siempre Monte.
In order to cast light, with a sentipensante mindset, on the potential of the CVF to leverage the participating CIs, four phases constituted this project: Research for Design, Redesigning the CVF, Action Research and Guideline Design.
In the first phase Caro defined and situated key theoretical concepts, gaining a deep understanding of the local context, analyzing the current state of the art, and initiating her self-deconstruction as a researcher. The second phase, Redesigning the CVF, focused on adapting the method and its tools to align with the project’s mindset and the Argentinean context. The design outcomes of this phase are named the Circular Reflection toolkit and Circular Value Map. These tools are designed to facilitate the participatory application of the CVF method during the third phase, which is the Action Research phase involving ReUSAR and Siempre Monte.
After several weeks of active engagement with the CIs and numerous group and individual reflections, the primary insight discussed was the CVF’s potential to support Argentinean CIs by creating a space for pausing, reflecting, and engaging in meaningful conversations. These conversations center on addressing member alignment and both internal and external communication, which are among the primary uncovered issues faced by Argentinean CIs today. Moreover, tackling these challenges aligns with two of the three essential conditions for their success, as identified in the existing literature: shared expectations and networking.
To enhance the accessibility of this research to other practitioners, the primary insights have been translated into a practical guideline referred to as the Tomate Un Mate guideline. This constitutes the fourth and final phase of this graduation project, the Guideline Design phase, with the hope that it will also serve as a starting point for further developments.
The ‘Tomate un Mate’ guideline.
Drawing upon her personal experience, Caro explains the following:
During this project, I discovered unexpected aspects of Argentinean reality and challenged my perspectives, a process that was enriched by my experiences living in the Netherlands. Regarding the collaboration with the initiatives, most aspects went smoothly, even if they were different from what I initially expected. I believe that maintaining a sentipensante mindset was a key factor that facilitated this process and enabled me to achieve meaningful impact for them. Numerous initiative members mentioned how eye opening the application of the CVF was for them, and suggested several aspects that could be improved in the method itself and the tools employed to apply it (the Circular Reflection toolkit and Circular Value Map).
“Having the chance to explore areas and modes of action of my own interest allowed me to gain insights into the kind of designer I am but, more importantly, into the kind of designer I aspire to become.”
Caro and her supervisory team are currently exploring opportunities to extend and enhance the collaboration with these initiatives, taking the journey further and pushing the development of the CVF to new heights.
The full graduation report can be found here.
Leclercq, E., & Smit, M. (2023). Circular Communities: The circular value flower as a design method for collectively closing resource flows. nai010 publishers. https://doi.org/10.34641/mg.62