The pre-incubator for circular economy in Flanders
Investing in the development of young potentials is essential. The Circular School Belgium was created by Act4Change to connect, inspire and provide knowledge to young people who want to start working in a circular way. We want to be a safe breeding ground for young pioneers who want to contribute to the transition towards a sustainable society.
The Circular School is a short-term training programme in circular entrepreneurship. For participants, this means networking, building professional skills and strengthening their competences around sustainability and circular entrepreneurship. During two weekends and a six-month follow-up trajectory, participants can think up, prototype and test circular projects until they form a launchable company, all under the guidance of Generation T circular experts.
Unlike many existing initiatives that focus on exploring new circular business models, we focus on the intermediate steps and act as a pre-business incubator. What is innovative is that we make use of peer-to-peer learning and let the entrepreneurs work together with so-called circular newbies: young changemakers who are interested in sustainability and the circular economy, but are not yet able to put forward their own concept.
The idea is that in the long term, participants will continue to expand their knowledge about circular entrepreneurship and social and ecological sustainability, because they were inspired to do circular business themselves or to introduce circularity professionally. The network thus formed remains active.
Four circular entrepreneurs were followed by Generation T experts and supported by Act4Change volunteers to test their circular ideas at their own pace and turn them into a launchable business.
The circular entrepreneurs were paired with 18 circular newbies during their training programme to promote peer-to-peer learning.
We organised a Christmas Pop-up Market where circular entrepreneurs could present their innovative idea to the general public. Also during the Impact Festival (Leuven), two entrepreneurs were able to show their project to the outside world.
The Circular School has greatly accelerated the start-up process of the young entrepreneurs. The creators report that the support and activities from the training programme had a very positive impact.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
There is a need for an accessible initiative in Belgium that offers young starters a springboard in a systematic and structural manner. Information, know-how and tips from more experienced entrepreneurs are central here. A peer-to-peer context helps to lower the threshold even further.
With the rightsupport, starters can move forward very quickly. Following a course together with interested peers (circular newbies) provides a boost of creativity, energy and motivation for the entrepreneurs.
Not only the participants, but also the Act4Change volunteers learned a lot: they could grow in their role as facilitator, supervisor and coach and gained the necessary experience to offer such trajectories again in the future.
One of the biggest challenges for the Circular School is that the working group consists exclusively of volunteers. In terms of workload and coordination, this occasionally creates stress and last-minute work.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
After the master class, five participantsdecided to join Act4Change. They want to develop their skills on sustainability and transition within our organisation in the coming period.
The majority of the participants committed themselves to remain involved with the creator of their trajectory and to contribute in the form of feedback, promotion and practical help.
We also thought about the continuation of the Circular School and our financial self-sufficiency. Based on the results of the design trajectory, a new project plan will be drawn up within the working group.