CONNECTED CIRCULARITY: Collaborative design of transformative pathways towards a bio-based circular economy (Olga Schagen)

As part of the larger Connected Circularity program of the WUR this research project has its focus on developing concrete pathways for the creation of a bio-based circular economy. The bio-based economy converts biomass from land and sea into food, fuels, chemicals and materials. Principles of a circular economy involve: replacing -of- towards renewable energy; elimination of waste; zero emissions; redesign of materials, products and systems (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2012).

To ensure a sustainable future it is crucial to move towards a bio-based economy based on a circular instead of a linear use of resources. This entails a fundamental change in technological, organizational, behavioural, market and institutional practices (IPCC 2012; Grashof-Bokdam et al. 2018). For this reason the research takes place in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary co-creation and co-learning setting in which different research groups within Wageningen University take part. The involved groups are Public Administration and Policy (PAP), Animal Production Systems (APS), Plant Research (WPSR), Livestock Research (WASG), Environmental Research (WENR), Marine Research, Economic Research (WECR) and Food Bio-based Research (WFBR).

Because of the systemic and non-linear nature of the transition towards a bio-based circular economy an alternative governance approach is required. The small wins governance framework (Termeer et al. 2017, Termeer & Metze, 2019) will be used to further explore these pathways to enhance change. In this framework, small wins are defined as concrete, completed, in-depth changes (Weick, 1984). Small wins include technological innovations, innovative regulations, new collaborative networks or innovative business models. The set-up of the research is first the analysis of case studies within the different domains from the perspective of this framework to identify small wins and failures. These small wins and failures will form the basis for learning through intervention and experimentation to signal out possible mechanisms that are at play in upscaling change.