The Economy is Changing

Last week Friday was the final day of the second annual Schmidt-MacArthur Summer School and the occasion was marked with an afternoon exploring Oxford, punting down the river (unbelievably nobody fell in!) and enjoying a sumptuous farewell/awards dinner. After an intensive week of lectures, interactive workshops and heated discussions, all centred around the circular economy, the relaxation was hard-earned by all.

The prestigious "Leeky Flows" award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.
The prestigious “Leeky Flows” award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.

The week-long Summer School, held this year at Cranfield University, is an opportunity for the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellows and Mentors from all over the world to come together to share their thoughts and understanding of the circular economy. Through the intensive programme of lectures, workshops and activities it is also a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the principles and practicalities of transitioning to a circular economy. The week began with a “get to know you” session and escalated rapidly from there with the setting of the Summer School Challenge. Fellows were tasked with applying their learning to the question: “How can a city like Detroit evolve positive or regenerative cycles of development?” and were to present their solutions at the end of the week. A full run down of the week’s activities can be found here.

The Summer School experience was possibly the closest I have (and hopefully will ever) come to being caught in a whirlwind. I was swept up on Sunday evening, when I met some of the other Fellows for the first time, into the world of the circular economy and only came back down to earth on Friday afternoon in Oxford. I’m not even sure I have fully recovered yet! After five days of listening to and interacting with business leaders, thought leaders, designers, academics, subject experts and incredibly bright students I feel overwhelmingly that the momentum of the circular economy is building at a rapid pace. I am very excited to be a part of that momentum.

Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.
Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.

One of the highlights of the week was attending the CE100 Summit held at the Royal Institution in London. The annual gathering of companies that make up the CE100 as well as a selection of academic and business leaders, the summit was nothing short of inspiring. Hearing businesses present their successes in the circular economy, often achieved in the short year since the inaugural summit, demonstrated that the circular economy is not simply a dream, but can be made into reality. If the buzz on Twitter is anything to go by, then simply the engagement and debate provoked by the summit speak to its success.

A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.
A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.

With the presentations of the Fellows’ solutions to the challenge set at the start of the week and the relaxing afternoon spent in Oxford, the second annual Summer School came to a close. Those Fellows who travelled from distant lands have now returned and work will begin in earnest on all of our Circular Economy Innovation Projects. I am well on the way to creating a vision for fast-moving consumer goods in the circular economy, in the hope that sharing provocative, compelling stories about the possibilities of the future can spur the innovation and commitment needed to get us there.

The week may be over, but the Fellowship most certainly is not. As with the Fellowship that set off for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, the road before us is a long one. But it is an incredibly exciting one, supported by people who are committed to turning the idea of a circular economy, an economy that is regenerative by design, into a reality.

PS: If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting space, take a look at the video below!

The Adventure Continues

It has been a year since I left South Africa. Since I set out on a journey that would take me around the world; from South Africa to Australia, New Zealand (or Middle Earth rather), the USA and, ultimately, The UK. I have now been in the UK for 7 Months and am 5 months into my masters degree at Cranfield University.


I am here studying an MDes in Innovation and Creativity in Industry at the Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield University. It has been a roller coaster ride thus far and I have worked harder than I ever have before, but I have learned more than I could have dreamed of. Not necessarily in terms of academic knowledge (I can hardly claim to be learning more than any other masters students around the world), but so much more than that.

I am part of a cohort of around thirty students who come from no less than 15 countries, including China, Mexico and Poland. Just having the chance to learn and work with such a diverse group of people has been an experience in itself. When you spend an entire weekend in the studio attempting to finish a piece of work with your team, you learn things about cultural differences that are impossible to learn while on holiday! We have, however, developed a great tradition: on Friday evenings, when the weeks work is done, we have an international dinner where people endeavour to share food that is traditional to their country. It always turns into an night of sharing stories of life at home and usually ends up on the Student Association dance floor.

C4D 2013/14

On the academic side we have been exposed to ideas and concepts at the cutting edge. We have been lectured by industry leaders, formula 1 engineers and world-renowned researchers. We had 8 week-long taught modules on topics such as innovation management, consumer trends and behaviours, and whole system design. We are now into the next phase of the program, a three month group project conducted in collaboration with industry. My own project, which involves research into the Circular Economy, is running full-steam ahead.

Following the completion of the group project at the end of April we will immediately begin our individual thesis projects. This will make up the final stretch of the one year masters degree that concludes in September. Once all that is done it will be time for me to start thinking about the next adventure.