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Meet Willem Zwagers – MSc Student Strategic Product Design

The graduation project of Willem was in collaboration with 4 municipalities in the north of the Netherlands. Bergen, Uitgeest, Castricum & Heiloo are 4 municipalities that work together in one organization. The graduation had the aim to provide this work organization a strategy for transitioning towards circular economy. With 101.000 citizens that is quite a challenge!

Starting a thrift shop

During the project, Willem almost started his first thrift shop! By having a participatory city making approach in the project, Willem spoke to many motivated and passionate people. This sparks a lot of creativity and motivation. Having all those people with you on your side during participatory sessions is very cool. Willem was flabbergasted how much creative and innovative potential is unlocked in participatory sessions. When you bring the right people to the right table, you keep getting surprised.

From European Union towards practical impact

For Willem the most important thing for graduating was to have practical impact. Making the lives of people more comfortable or better. Finding the right balance between city makers and citizens is not easy. It is a challenge to find that strategic fit. A participatory city making project with a strategic design background is a very interesting combination to do that. All the way from the European Union policies towards practical solutions that work. The balance from top-down and bottom-up is very specific to participatory city making projects. This makes it also very satisfying to translate abstract policies and theories towards tangible and practical solutions that have impact.


The participatory approach enabled Willem to explore the potential pathways for the circular economy transition of the BUCH municipalities. These are the strategic fits for that specific local context. The next step is to design a custom-built tool that enables the municipality to further develop and realize these strategic fits themselves. This multi-facetted approach is what makes the project for Willem so interesting.