Circular Human Flows

Enhancing Humans as an integral part of Circular Economic Flows.

Alexandre Lemille
Sep 30, 2017 · 5 min read

Published on Linked In on April 6, 2017

Alexandre Lemille, adapted from The Ellen McArthur Foundation

This proposed Diagram will most probably evolve in the near future. The aim today is to open up the floor to discussions, views and co-creation approaches that will ensure an inclusive Circular Economy is being designed within any markets. Our current linear model is anything but inclusive. And that is true everywhere, in developed markets as well as in the emerging ones.

A socially-embedded approach of a circular tomorrow is what we want.

Global Social Risks

As previously explained in these articles — “HumanSphere added”, “HumanSphere Business Models” and “Inclusive Circular Models” — there is a strong belief that a social dimension would be needed as an integral part of the powerful Circular Economic framework to preserve and enhance human value.

In Circular Economy 2.0, a suggestion was made to eradicate both waste + poverty, where possible and at the same time. Both concepts do not exist in Nature. Both should be eradicated using the “Circular Thinking”. There is a global recognition that the system — in which we live in — has been so far designed in a narrowed economic approach. Opening it up by embedding other dimensions may well be spurring genuine innovations.

Yet, while major risks — as listed in the Global Risks 2017 Report from the World Economic Forum — are for most of them interconnected with the social dimension (top three risks being inequality, social divides and job losses), socially related points of reference seem to be missing when deciding whether a future service or solution can be considered “Circular” or not. The Circular Economy will not fix it all, but one can try harder to ensure we will design it the best possible way towards a desired future for all. It is possible.

By applying the Golden Circular Rule — which starts by questioning whether our innovation will enhance environmental then human values — might generate unexpected findings in the way we will re-value the TechnoSphere.

Adapting the “Diagram”

Inserting a HumanSphere in-between the BioSphere and the TechnoSphere — in the so-called “Butterfly Diagram” from The Ellen McArthur Foundation — could help us rethink of the role of humans within these two cycles, the biological and technological nutrient ones. By doing so, it will help us pause and question ourselves whether we could position humans-as-flows or humans-as-resources, prior to look for answers in the technological spaces.

We know challenges out there are numerous, complex and multi-layered. Yet, if we create disconnects between corporate deciding on the way to design a product-of-services without the understanding of human needs, circular outcomes might not be the expected ones.

For once we have the opportunity to co-create something appealing to most. For once, we can all suggest ways to take advantages of a model that sees flows of energies and materials from a new angle. This system thinking approach could be highly flexible and distributed, well-enough to address our needs, any needs. A service-based model with modular financial approaches could better adapt to what we desire, while re-valuing manpower (Stahel). With this in mind, we could master the economy towards a thriving tomorrow, no longer be its victims.

In this “adapted Butterfly Diagram”, one see the role of humans being integral to the flow of nutrients, resources and energies. We too are nutrients, resources and energies. We too form many flows. We could take advantage of these today.

Us and the Two Spheres

ADAPTATION: The arrow going towards the BioSphere might help us think at ways we could re-build our ecosystems by implementing adaptive strategies seeing ourselves as energies and resources. As explained in the book “Cradle-to-Cradle” from M. Braungart and W. McDonough, ants weight more that all humans, yet they re-build the BioSphere, so why can’t we? Looking at own self as being part of the solution could change the nature of the debate: whether technologies will save us from climate disruptions, with, at the back of our mind, the exit solution as the final answer: the planet B…

EVOLUTION: The arrow coming from the BioSphere focuses on our own change of behaviour in our relation with environmental services. It is about evolution here as we will have to rethink about our interconnected role on and with planet Earth. We need to learn from Nature (the Biomimicry perspective) but, beyond this, we need to become an integral part of Nature — for real.

Both arrows (Adaptation & Evolution ones) in relation with the BioSphere are about humans and their interactions with the ecosystem. These rejuvenated exchanges should evolve to the benefit of both spheres — BioSphere and HumanSphere — moving us away from the current destructive relation: building on one another in beneficial ways, starting with the preservation of the natural capital.

VALORISATION: This arrow emphasizes the value humans represent as highly qualified labour serving the TechnoSphere. Valorisation is about the preservation of our stock of knowledge, education and skills that, put together, will keep improving the value of that sphere. Questioning ourselves about the abundance of human energies in innovative ways might help us see some positive outcomes of a growing world population, why not?

DEVELOPMENT: Lastly, the fourth arrow is about this beneficial “development-within” as a result of the cross-fertilisation of exchanges created between the three spheres: decisions taken with human well-being as an integral part of a forthcoming economic framework would provide healthier access to our economy as well as experiences designed to fulfil our needs. In this development-within approach, there is a fair space for anyone to enjoy dedicated and value-based co-designed services.

Feedback Loops to the HumanSphere

Feedback loops from the BioSphere and the TechnoSphere into the HumanSphere are numerous and virtuous. From the enhanced BioSphere, Humans will enjoy higher conditions conducive to life, as explained in biomimicry. From an evolving relation with flourishing environmental services, they will access better food and invigorated life conditions. From an enhanced TechnoSphere, Humans will be granted access to a preferred path towards further development enabling better life experiences.

With this approach, well-thought-of technological advances will generate safe and just benefits to most of us, in a desired future.

Alexandre Lemille

Written by

Advocate of a Circular Economy inclusive of a HumanSphere. “Highly Commended” in Leadership (World Economic Forum). Co-Founder: African Circular Economy Network

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