The transition to circular and regenerative cities is a long-term process that requires systemic change. And systemic change requires brand new collaborations, synergies and pooling of resources and assets across public and private sectors. Which frameworks and tools can support municipalities and their stakeholders on their circular transition journey?
In the second webinar of the REFLOW webinar series, experts and practitioners from the European REFLOW project – which aims at co-creating and testing regenerative solutions at business, governance, and citizen levels to create a resilient circular economy – presented different governance and strategic tools and their applications, in order to steer the transition to circular and regenerative cities. The video recording and main takeaways are summarized below.
The REFLOW Collaborative Governance Toolkit
Valentina Frosini from P2P Lab introduced the new REFLOW toolkit developed as part of the governance activities of the REFLOW project.
How can we frame Collaborative Governance for Circular Cities? Within REFLOW, collaborative governance can be defined as an “open-ended infrastructuring process”, that is a continuous work of providing the means for circular action, discovering and learning, within a loose steering and coordination framework that supports both present and future circular collaborations.
Figure 1: The REFLOW collaborative governance website
This infrastructuring operates at different scales and scopes and with different emphasis including a strategic dimension, focusing on creating synergies and alignment across different actors and related agendas so that resources can be made widely accessible and pooled towards collective impact; an operational dimension focusing on building operational capacities and tools in a way that allows different circular experiments and activities to exist as a highly connected, systemic process; and finally a relational dimension, focusing on building trust, distributed agency and legitimacy while developing shared value. Each emphasis can be fostered by a combination and activation of different levers in a process that is iterative – thus facilitating the emergence of innovations at micro, meso and macro levels (from material, products, busines models, to societal innovation) and over time.
The REFLOW collaborative governance Toolkit is thus organised around these three dimensions and integrates the different levers that can steer the transition towards circular cities (Baseline assessment, Prototyping and Experimentation, Capacity building…). Currently, 12 specific tools have designed (for instance the Circular theory of change, the Circular portfolio canvas, or the Matrix of circular collaboration). Each tool is described in terms of objectives, and a step-by-step approach describes how the tool can be used in practice. Currently downloadable as PDF files, the tools will in a second stage be integrated in the Miroverse, an online platform for visual and collaborative work. Beyond the tool collection, the platform curates relevant initiatives and stories and will in its final version collect learnings and governance models from the six Reflow pilot cities implementing the REFLOW tools and methods.
REFLOW in practice:
The case of Milan and the circular transition of food markets
Next, Andrea Patrucco, project officer at the Municipality of Milan introduced the work currently implemented in the context of REFLOW.
Figure 2: Milan Circular Food strategy priority mapping
Milan, a city with a strong background in sustainable food initiatives, is focusing within REFLOW on experimenting around a new concept of circular food markets by engaging diverse stakeholders to co-produce sustainable solutions.
Municipal markets and Milan wholesale market are framed as “places to co-produce circular solutions” engaging citizens and companies by combining food flows with the experimental and entrepreneurial attitude of three Fablabs (WeMake, Open Dot and PoliFactory) and other actors (local start-ups, public companies, NGOs) focusing on circular business models in the food sector.
Starting from a baseline assessment combining a material flow analysis and a list of existing circular initiatives (around agrofood materials, technologies and key stakeholders), the foody hub (fruits and vegetable markets) became a central node to design relevant interventions.
A three-step interactive process focusing on co-creation, co-design and co-production with key relevant stakeholders led to define, prototype and test different innovative solutions. As a highlight, Andrea presented the Foody Zero waste concept, an automated communication system facilitating the reallocation of unwanted/surplus fruit and vegetables between market wholesalers and food bank NGOS. The objective is to reach a 100% recovery of unsold fruits and vegetables through a data-centred governance scheme.
Digital tools to support the transition to circular cities: Highlights from Circle Economy
Finally, Claudia Alessio, from Amsterdam-based foundation Circle Economy, presented a set of tools the foundation is currently working with to support cities on their transition.
The circle city scan is a multi-stakeholders process of co-developing a circular economy strategy for a city or subregion, guided by data. Cities have unique identities, cultures, governance models and ambitions. The approach here focuses on bringing together the different stakeholders of the city to create co-ownership of the strategy and motivate them to act, through a four-step approach (city baseline, material flow analysis, circular strategies and circular city action planning). To accelerate and extend its impact, Circle Economy recently started developing Ganbatte, a digital tool that offers clear insights based on different sets of city data (material, emissions, employment…) to help municipalities set priorities according to thematic areas (food, construction, mobility, water, energy…) and implement relevant circular solutions based on an extensive collection of existing worldwide case studies. The final version of tool will be launched in May 2022 with additional features focusing on businesses and nations. Figure 3: Ganbatte interface
Finally, reflecting from her experience working with such circular tools, Claudia highlighted several benefits. Circular tools:
- provide a very effective way to set the scene and a starting point to kick off a transition.
- can be used as an advocacy strategy to help broader understanding of the concepts of Circular Economy.
- can engage stakeholders in cities and be used to communicate across departments by highlighting progress made through different metrics and indicators.
- can help create a vision, show a journey, and remind of the end goal.
- can prevent inertia by providing examples that help stakeholders understand how to act and prioritise actions.