Leuven was the winner of the Green Leaf award and was named as the most innovative city in the EU in 2020. Leuven was also the European front-runner in sustainability and climate. The city’s circular economy manager decided to set up a circular hub that integrates the local social economy and asked for Happonomy’s guidance.
Together with eight different stakeholders in Leuven, which included among others, the university, the local economic network, a large social enterprise and two citizens’ movements, we had to map out a well-supported and economically meaningful approach. This tactic would serve as an important foundation for the city’s circular strategy, in which social economy would play an important part.
The biggest challenge here, of course, was to ensure that everyone agreed with the planned approach. The management structure, including co-financing, had to be set up as well.
We believe that inspiration, with a healthy dose of economic realism, is the recipe to get sustainable change on track. Therefore, we started off by organising two digital workshops which clarified each stakeholder’s perspective of the circular hub, and also sharpened the hub’s contours. Our expertise in process management came in handy here.
Having identified the opportunities together, we proceeded to navigate around any obstacles along the way and set up an integrated strategy for plastics and textiles in Leuven. We presented different business models and developed an action plan to implement two test cases, activate the local entrepreneurial organisations and integrate this in the broader circular strategy of the city.
We aligned the interests of the various parties, arranged the co-financing, sought and found a suitable coordinator, and developed an innovation dossier with the European Social Fund. We took charge of writing the dossier ourselves and helped to defend it.
For the next eighteen months, Leuven can continue to build a foundation for the wider circular economy in the city. Circular innovation issues are addressed by local knowledge institutions and companies, while start-ups and SMEs are supported in their sustainable transformation, and pilot cases for textiles and plastics are subsequently activated.
The answer the question, “How do you align agents from different segments of the economy and society to translate what connects you, in both vision and ambition, into a strategy?”, you can use an organisation like Happonomy that combines substantive baggage with strong transition guidance skills.
With a distinctly entrepreneurial eye, Happonomy can connect different perspectives into a coherent and carefully considered proposal, where different stakeholders can find their own interest and, in particular, a collective added value.”
Het C3000 consortium – Founders of the Leuven Circular Hub
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