It is clear that we use so many resources and raw materials today that we are beginning to feel the impact on the health of nature and ourselves. A transition to a more circular economy may offer a solution.
But is this circular economy socialenough? In Flanders, many workshops, trainings and bootcamps on circularity are already being organised. However, most of these projects have very ambitious goals and mainly attract a certain learning audience of highly educated, enthusiastic young minds with a certain stability in life. But circular economy must also be accepted by less traditional population groups: students with difficult home situations, single young mothers, newcomers, underprivileged people, etc. The Platform for Community Service wants to respond to this with the C-Power project.
The Platform for Community Service is a Belgian non-profit organisation that tries to mobiliseyoung people from all layers of society around social issues. Young people can participate in a project with a host organisation and receive all kinds of training in citizenship. They gain lifeexperience, get to know themselves and their talents better, and at the same time make themselves useful in a project that benefits society.
With C-Power, we have developed two programmes on circular economy: one in Leuven on circular food systems and one in Mechelen on circular clothing and textiles. Under the coaching of academics and the educational supervisors, young people were able to discover the many facets of circular economy through various workshops. Besides a theoreticaltraining, they were given the opportunity to temporarily work in a hostcompany that applies the principles of circular economy. Finally, they were challenged to develop their own circular idea or project.
Platform voor de Samenlevingsdienst
PartnersStad Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, (vertegenwoordigd door KU Leuven Research & Development), Leuven 2030 vzw, Wendy Wuyts
By working with a very diverse mix of young citizens, the host companies gained more insight into the needs of a non-traditional circular consumer audience. After all, there is criticism that circular products and services are not designed sufficiently from a userperspective, or too often focus on a particular nichemarket of citizens.
The succession of different small learning experiences during the projects were also steps towards a betterself-image for many young people. This strengthens their capacity to achieve more circular thinking patterns, and in general also provides them with more opportunities to tackle societal challenges.
We have invested heavily in communication. We created a websiteabout C-power with an explanation of the project and the partners, educational material and short updates on the programmes. We also published an article for Generation T and several zeronaut blogs for Mo* Magazine . We made an aftermovie of the two trajectories which was distributed through various channels and partners.
We created a lot of interesting pedagogical material. This was collected and distributed through various channels, such as the website of C-power and the website of KlasCement, a teaching resource network for teachers. The material is also used by Parents for the Climate. Furthermore, we distilled a permanent training of one day for young people who do a Society Service.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
We learned a lot about the social side of circular economy, what skills are needed and what learning methods do or do not work. However, it was not easy to determine our impact in concrete terms. The learning process of the young people, for example, was difficult to measure. For us and the host companies, it was often a matter of finding a balance between letting go in order to learn and offering specific guidance and a framework.
Although the social mix of young people created enormous added value, the language barrier and the difference in knowledge levels were the biggest challenges when talking about a complex theme like circular economy. Visual ways of working and links to their own living environment helped, but it remained difficult to go deep enough in terms of content.
Embedding this project in an existing route of the Community Service meant that we could involve the desired mixed audience. A disadvantage was that the young people did not consciously choose to participate in the routes themselves, and that attendance was compulsory. This led to little involvement on the part of some young people.
A deep-rooted feeling of inferiority also formed a barrier for many young people. After all, many were used to being rejected or not being heard in society. It also took some time to convince everyone that their ideas, opinions and input were important to us. Time and patience were crucial here.