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The importance of perceptions: the first global initiative on perceptions of circularity

Sep 3, 2021

The notion of circularity has deep historical and philosophical origins. The idea of feedback, of cycles in real-world systems, is ancient and has echoes in various schools of philosophy. It enjoyed a revival in industrialized countries after World War II when the advent of computer-based studies of non-linear systems unambiguously revealed the complex, interrelated, and therefore unpredictable nature of the world we live in – more akin to a metabolism than a machine. With current advances, digital technology has the power to support the transition to a circular economy by radically increasing virtualization, de-materialization, transparency, and feedback-driven intelligence.

The essence of circular economy lies in humanity’s tendency to be able to mimic the economic system, upon which nature functions – where raw materials that go into creating a product in nature are not lost, but only transformed from one form into another. In the face of overpopulation, overuse of finite resources, environmental degradation and its impact on the wellbeing of humanity, it is clear that the linear economic system, which began several hundred years ago, and took off from the industrial revolution and onward, is not sustainable to accommodate the impact of climate change facing humanity in the long run.

Sören Bauer, President of REVOLVE Circular a non-profit organization based in Vienna, Austria, which advocates for a systemic transformation from a linear culture obsessed with economic growth towards a just and inclusive circular society says that: “The “Circular Economy” is a new concept, which is increasingly used – and sometimes misused – by different organizations. There are various definitions of this concept, based on different visions and ideas, thus resulting in a variety of interpretations. In other words: the answer to what the Circular Economy is depends on who you ask; there is no single definition that is agreed upon by everyone.”

Sören Bauer, President of REVOLVE Circular

The global initiative to map perceptions of Circular Economy

Imagine Circularity, is the first-ever global survey on perceptions of circularity which seeks to understand how different stakeholders see and imagine the circular economy.

According to Sören: “Imagine Circularity is the first global survey on how people perceive – and what they think – when they hear “circular economy”. At the same time, it is more than a survey – it is an initiative with three main objectives:

  • To educate more people on the basics of a circular economy by exposing them to a range of key questions related to the concept, within just 15 minutes
  • To create a representative sample of how one million people globally perceive a circular economy
  • To use the results and findings to provide input for the development of  circular policies and practices”

The world needs a “Circular Economy Perception Survey” because as Sören says; perceptions might be more important than factual knowledge, because many circular economy enthusiasts are convinced that there is something deeply wrong with the predominant linear economy and if we want to change towards something different, we need to educate people and create a common understanding – or “perception”.

“We find that many Circular Economy strategies and policies are developed top-down, not bottom up. While many organizations and governments write that people need to be educated about alternative economic models, we do not see many related activities. Thus, Imagine Circularity has set out to educate people and, secondly, provide data on what people around the globe think about circularity.”  He continues explaining the importance of this survey.

Recently Kosovo also joined the global initiative to map perceptions of Circular Economy. Imagine Circularity in cooperation with KosovaLive, a non-profit organization which utilizes media as a means and promoter of education, dialogue, and equality have adapted the first global survey on circular economy in Albanian.

In Kosovo, the lack of familiarity with the circular economy terminology and concept among the masses is evident; there is a lack of clear understanding of the essence of the system, as well as its building blocks that enable its development. While environmental benevolence is apparent, there is an absence in holistic understanding on how business actions and individual choices interact with one another. Moreover, there is lack of trust that anything can be done on an individual level to shift the direction of the economy and a very high dependency and reliance on support from the government.

Sören believes that it is really important for developing countries, such as Kosovo, to join initiatives like this.

“I believe that this is important because the necessary transformation from a linear towards a more circular economy is a global question, not one that applies to rich industrialized countries only. In fact, countries like Kosovo have a lot to gain if they build in circular practices and policies as part of their socio-economic development and future strategies. For anything like that to happen, various stakeholders such as policy-makers, scientists, journalists, students and others first need to have a basic understanding of the alternative models to a linear economy. Imagine Circularity aims to support this objective “. He says.

Imagine Circularity aims to engage one million participants from around the world to produce a representative sample of their views and understandings.

Sören is determined that even though they might not be able to reach one million people – they will keep trying.

According to him: “Three things are for sure:

  1. We will develop and publish a global report about the findings to feed into policy-making processes.
  2. We might continue in a second year, with more partners, and a different survey or other activities related to building circular literacy, our key objective.
  3. We will particularly engage the media in order to ensure that the findings are well communicated and disseminated. “

If you are interested you can join the study in English here: How do you imagine a Circular Economy?

And you can find the Albanian version through this link: Si e imagjinoni një ekonomi qarkore?

Edona Shala

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