The Importance of EMPATHY and INNOVATION


When addressing real-world pain points, how do we apply circular design to move from a linear “make, take, waste” approach towards a circular economic resource curation focus?

The reality of applying the circular design tools of empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions, and making best long-term use of resources, requires us to rethink the whole foundation of our economic system. To achieve this, we need to connect creativity, innovation and community engagement, to re-build the foundations of our predominantly linear economic system.

Underpinning this, as Dr Ashok Khosla, chair of the Development Alternatives Group of India says “If you are really going to have a meaningful circular economic impact in Asia, you need to create sustainable livelihoods on a scale that makes an impact on the lives of a significant part of the population.”

Case Study: Mr Rangaswamy, Panchayat of Kuttambakkam – Empathy and Innovation in Practice

One very clear example of re-thinking the foundation of our economic system, and creating sustainable livelihoods which are scalable, is the application of Panchayat Raj or Gram Swaraj (village self-governance) model village, in the Panchayat of Kuttambakkam, Tamil Nadu state, which has radically changed the future of 5000 inhabitants.

At the centre of efforts over the last 30 years, to create huge benefits for his local community, businesses and people across varied demographics, is Mr Elango Rangaswamy, a former engineer who, when elected President of the Panchayat, changed a culture of caste violence, illegal liquor trade and pollution to a model village environment in just 5 years.

Initially, Mr Rangaswamy brought people from all castes to build communal underground drainage, pavements, sanitation services, low-energy street lighting and to provide access to clean water supplies:

In 2000, for the first time in India, he built 50 twin houses in a single colony called ‘Samathuvapuram’ (Place for equality). In every twin house, one dalit and one non-dalit lives – the people made their own bricks by hand, from local resources and constructed their own homes, together.

Mr Rangaswamy, shortened supply chains by developing local manufacturing and retail businesses, driving employment opportunities for women at the centre of his efforts. He created an Innovation and Production Centre in the village to review local farming and manufacturing practices, and create income generation opportunities, to make it easier to produce local products, which were more affordable for the local population.

He also focused on improving food quality and health – especially for the children of the area, so they can fully benefit from their new schools. Part two of Mr Rangaswamy’s story of EMPATHY and INNOVATION tomorrow, looks at how we strengthen the longevity of the impact of applying design-thinking in our circular economic journey.

Building Sustainable Leaders for the Future


The Panchayat of Kuttambakkam – a case study in:

* Future-proofing work and communities, applying #Circular Economy and #CircularDesign
* Building resilience, capacity and capability during rapid-fire change
* Implementing sustainable leadership for the long-term.

Like all true leaders Mr Elango Rangaswamy, of the Panchayat of Kuttambakkam in applying circular design to real-world issues – is to strengthen the resources of the future of his village community, and of those around them.

He is building a self-sustaining development loop by training future Panchayat community leaders, through his Academy and driving access to good education, health and well-being for all village children.

Given the rate of change of the world around them, he is very aware of the need to design internal strength and resilience into the human infrastructure of his community – so it is not only dependent on his vision and energy going forward.

He also want to share the benefits of their learning to other villages, by creating strong networks with the communities around his. So, now he also focuses on building village networks, where the needs of the village can be off-set by the strengths and resources of other villages within the cluster, creating a self-sustaining, interlocked economic system.

Today, through participatory governance, technological intervention, and capacity building, Mr Rangaswamy is creating sustainable, and self-propelling village republics across the country.

For more information on Mr Rangaswamy, and other positive stories of building sustainable communities and applying circular design, I suggest you watch the documentary Tomorrow, trailer on the left side.

Circular Design – Building Success From the Ground Up


As leaders, in our Circular Design mission, we must actively engage with our families, communities, employees, consumers and suppliers, and bring them with us, on our journey of circular change.

Therefore Circular Design must not be done in isolation, instead it must be intrinsic to the way communities and businesses operate. This means:

* Building success from the ground up – designing structures and adapting resources to meet our communities basic needs first
* Focusing on building people’s confidence, capacity and capability to innovate, experiment and be resilient when trying things for themselves
* Creating future leaders who are capable of implementing the circular design approach, and sustaining the related change for the long-term.

To ensure longevity of the value of #Circular #Design in our communities, this therefore necessitates a complete review and redefinition of:

• The way we (re)design tangible products and use resources
• A redrawn service delivery framework to encourage consumers to buy our products
• Upgraded approaches to market and relationships with suppliers and consumers
• The business models which support the above, and frame how our organisations do business and fit within their communities.

Fundamentally, to put #Circular #Design into effective use, we need to apply new ways of doing business with our customers, new ways to work with our employees, and above all else – new ways to engage with, inspire and communicate with each other, as people. It all comes down how we work with PEOPLE!

• If we are going to drive effective social and economic change – we need to engage effectively with people
• If we are going to (re)define and (re)design new products and the strategies, processes and models for their
delivery – we need to engage effectively with people
• If we are going to drive the changes required in how we work, live and consume, respecting our very different traditions, cultures and societal norms – we need to engage effectively with people
• If we are going to create the understanding and behavioural change required to power re-development of our product design, development, purchasing, delivery and consumption models – we need to engage effectively with people.

To drive the massive shift required to move from a linear to circular economic approach in how we consume, live, work and connect as communities across Asia – it ALL comes down to how we engage with each other as people. As people we “need to connect creativity, innovation and business, and free up our human imagination”.