Mindshift from linear to circular

A methodology for a holistic transition with case example SON site

The project Mindshift from linear to circular was created by Glocal4impact bvba. The aim is to develop a methodology to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the development or renovation of a certain neighbourhood, district, city area, etc. and to let everyone think along in a circular way. The focus is on the cooperative engagement of all parties involved (architect, landscape developer, contractor, owner, local residents, etc.) through various activities.

We base this on the Theory U method, a change management model that allows people to break away from an existing frame of reference in several steps in order to make room for the new without prejudice and with an open mind.

We tested the method with a case study: the transformation of the SON site in Mechelen into a European eco-innovation hub on sustainability, by Sundry Seeds Mechelen. On the renovated site, there is room for entrepreneurship in various chains: a city farm, brasserie, Fairbnb, co-working space and co-relaxation space. The key question is how the CVBA can involve enthusiastic citizens and local residents and make them take responsibility during the different steps of the reallocation.

The project consists of two phases. In a first phase, the focus is on gaining theoretical insight by means of stakeholder mapping, an analysis of the renovation process, the target group, etc.

In a second phase, all kinds of activities are developed and tested that enhance the interaction and involvement of local residents, building professionals and sustainable sympathisers: an open day with circular lecture and impact discussion, a change trajectory with building professionals, workshops on circular renovation for local residents and building actors, circular mentoring of contractors, a neighbourhood consultation on the masterplan ...

Glocal4impact BVBA

Partners GOESTHING BVBA, Architectenassociatie ARAS BVBA, Buurtcomité Heihoek (feitelijke vereniging)





  1. We have applied several tools in the redevelopment of the SON site to support citizens' initiatives and to advise stakeholders in developing ideas into concrete projects, for example a stakeholder inventory, neighbourhood consultations ...
  2. We tested a series of activities to get different groups of stakeholders to think in a more circular way. These are now useful to facilitate a mind shift from linear to circular in other circular neighbourhood participation and development projects.
  3. We developed a conceptual design for a materials hub, a practical application of our theoretical concept, whereby we share knowledge on the development of a local materials hub in a learning network with initiatives from Leuven, Ghent and Antwerp.
  4. We created a theoretical framework to facilitate transition projects with a target group-specific focus, based on the five steps of the Theory U method. (Due to the corona crisis, we could not yet test this).


  1. There is a tension between citizens' initiative and project development when a sustainable idea develops into a circular project with a value-driven commercial approach. Prejudices make an integral holistic transition difficult.
  2. Our applied methodology asks for distancing from one's own frame of reference. That is not easy and many people involved find it difficult to think out of the box. A clear definition of the goal and a core group working together on that goal are basic requirements.
  3. We still have to try and expand our reach. Despite our communication efforts, it remains a challenge to reach a larger number of participants for the activities. Moreover, significantly more men than women show interest.
  4. It is very important to get contractors on board to apply circular principles hands-on on site. However, taking part in professional circular workshops is less obvious for contractors.
6 context-exploring methodologies
4 in-depth interviews with the construction industry
9 awareness-raising activities
1 material hub design


The project generated a lot of knowledge and experience on how to involve the neighbourhood and other parties in circular development projects. Based on this knowledge, we formulated advice for Sundry Seeds Mechelen for the next phases of the redevelopment. For example, a circular site coordinator can help steer the works in the right direction by facilitating communication between the various stakeholders. A questionnaire, which contractors complete at the start and on delivery, can help to map out the mindshift. Furthermore, a circular coach can monitor the application of circular principles through weekly meetings. Awareness-raising workshops for local residents can also increase involvement in the further approval process of the master plan.