Elise ElsackerComment

How to create a circular enterprise specialized in innovative design solutions?

Elise ElsackerComment
How to create a circular enterprise specialized in innovative design solutions?

That's the question I've been asking to all the entrepreneurs and mentors I've met so far. Some advised very interesting online manuals, Celine and Lucie recommended the best incubator program and Olivier explained me the reality of today's capitalistic economy with business angels and impact investors, but quickly I've came to realize non will help you in the daily management and hard choices your business need to be disruptive. Pierre-Alexandre gave me a very valuable advice this morning: be confident in the pioneer work you're delivering, no one else will tell you how you should handle you're own values, and it will take time to mature, you'll go though deserts with ups and downs.

The word "patent" returns regularly in all the conversations. The question is where we want to position the project? I don't know yet. That's why I've decided to openly talk (against the advice of my lawyer specialized in patents and intellectual rights, oups...) about the path we're following, the decisions we will make and the things we will discover. Why? Because we truly believe in the power of a collaborative society, based on the knowledge and involvement of people, instead of a heavy bank account and 100 patents.

"We think differently to consume differently" was one of the sentences during my 5' pitch at the Startup Weekend Changemakers that definitely had an echo in the audience and on my own later reflections. How to engage that transition to different social, ecological and economical systems, where profit, control and power are not predominant as they have been in the history of modern capitalism?

The real question is not how to produce and consume less, but how to develop new productive models which are capable of outperforming capitalist models by doing things differently and better.
- Michel Bauwens in Design Global, Manufacture Local (2015).

A radical shift has to take place from growth as the main objective of the economy towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy of sharing. To do so, Michel Bauwens, argues to build resilience locally, with the capacity of evolving without losing its core sense of identity. Resilience, a new word I've learned thanks to Sebastiaan, can be seen as the capability of the project to self-organize and adapt.

The key aspects of resilience, according to Lewis and Conaty (2012), are:

  • diversity, I understand this as the multi-disciplinary of the team members as also the diversity of products we will design,
  • modularity, assembly lines have dictated a world made of part, framing the imagination of our citizens. But you don't find material assemblies in nature, you'll find growth. So instead, I'd propose to change modularity into symbiosis, between micro-organisms and our products, buildings.
  • reciprocity, exchanging things with others for mutual (social and ecological) benefits,
  • social capital, the relations of trust and solidarity among the community members
  • tight feedback loops.

Commons-based peer production is a new collaborative and distributed of organization that fundamentally challenge the assumption of an economic production that seeks to profit maximization.

“Open design is now finding its place inside the collective imagination [...] there are no more isolated projects but a whole ecosystem is emerging through the weaving of collaborative networks”
– Massimo Menichinelli, founder of openp2pdesign.org

The emergence of terms such as "open source" and "collaborative networks" refers to a democratization of the current technological applications and the empowerment of the users of digital networks. However, the challenge is much more complex to "open" tangible objects (design and architecture), then intangible things (ideas and codes). How could designers build a new vision of collective design and open sharing of design? How can these cooperation be organized so that they provide an efficient solution to top-down structures? The sensitizing role of designers becomes also important when other practices claim the intellectual property of common knowledge through patents.

These are also questions that we're asking ourselves in the elaboration of Hackistan, bringing a community of changemakers (scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs) together to connect around a network of infrastructures (coworking, incubators, fablabs, biohackerspaces). Our mission is to provide support, visibility and prototyping facilities to disruptive innovation projects with high societal and environmental impact.

Furthermore, what happens when the things we design get shaped by organisms and challenged by its environment? What sort of embodied potential could we design into our things so that our users become authors and maybe even participants? How could living things shift the environmental picture? What would happen if things had a natural lifespan and could contribute to the local ecosystem when their task was done?

I was very inspired after a dinner with Michka - our travelling biomimicry connector. He let me understand the importance of your inner ecology, inspired by nature. What is the story you're telling that make sense?

To be continued soon with the first results of our tests...