Seriously Circular Gaming

Ecobulk partner FCBA has been thinking about how they can help companies become more circular. Sometimes companies need to be inspired by new ideas and possibilities, other times they need to consider technical challenges, and always they will have to take into account the business models that might have to be adapted to fit a circular value chain. At the latest Ecobulk meeting in Coventry, FCBA gave the partners a chance to play test their new educational game.

Both during the project and in the of work promoting circularity and sustainable models, it has been found that people sometimes learn better by doing, by trying something out. To help businesses think in a more circular way, they need to be challenged to start with an idea and then see how they can go forward with it. By creating a game around circular concepts, it is possible to challenge people to think about new ways of doing things in a safe format. The safety is not only due to the simulated nature of the exercise, but also the game aspect that removes the participants from their normal reality and allows them to be more creative and think in different ways than they normally would allow themselves to. FCBA likes to quote Einstein for this:

“Creativity is intelligence having fun!”

The game challenges participants to collect cards that represent concepts and materials that combined could form a credible circular product concept. Each player gets project and a challenge that defines some of the circular economy pillars that the project should fulfil. Players pick random concept cards from the table, each of them a real-life example of the circular pillars applied to a product or service. Players use the concepts as inspiration for proposing their own complete product that fulfils each pillar. After pitching their idea to their fellow players, the others decide how much money they should invest in the idea. Of course, in the end, the most investable idea wins.

The game works on several levels to increase the knowledge and circular thinking of the participants. At the more abstract level, some of the concept cards contain a pillar description instead of a concept, which gives players pause to reflect on what the pillars of the circular economy are.

  1. Sustainable Supply – material and business choices that consider environmental factors
  2. Eco-Design – taking into account all life cycle stages, including EOL, at design phase
  3. Industrial and territorial ecology – opportunistic exchange of energy flows and materials
  4. Functional economy – supply the function or use of a product
  5. Responsible consumption – mutualization or sharing of products and services
  6. Reusing – extending the product or part life cycle
  7. Recycling – turning waste into resources

At a more concrete level, each of the concepts presented during the game gives a tangible example of the fulfilment of the pillars. Players may draw on this inspiration by either applying similar solutions to their own similar challenges or considering when the particular approach might be appropriate depending on the product or context. Particularly surprising or inspiring concepts tend to become a short discussion item at the table, which engenders an interesting exchange of knowledge and experiences.

At a systems level, the players are forced to try to think of coherent product concepts that incorporate the different partial solutions that they have so far encountered. This is important, particularly from the Ecobulk perspective, the main goal of which is exactly to push the different enabling solutions into a demonstrable, working circular chain in real-life.

Finally, at an entertainment level, all those who participated in the game agreed it was seriously enjoyable to play!