Circular Kent – Practice to Policy

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Global warming, resource depletion, the Circular Economy – these are powerful narratives and as a culture we need to use every resource we have available to tackle the problems we face, especially our imaginations, our inventiveness and our lateral thinking. We need to inspire and include everyone in seeking solutions, to take the circular economy out of the realm of experts (RSA) and into the hands of children, entrepreneurs, artists and communities. To create surprising interactions, memorable stories and clear first steps, to fire imaginations, inspire inventions and get truly hands on.

Circular Kent will draw on the principles of the Circular Economy to build a Kent wide youth and community programme to raise awareness of global issues regarding waste and resource depletion and challenge people to find creative solutions which are relevant to Kent communities but which might also inform wider national and international thinking and influence policy change.

The creative and cultural sector has a compelling arsenal of skills at hand, which Circular Kent aims to harness, from creating compelling narratives to devising memorable interventions and shareable wow factor videos and images.  As a community of influencers, placemakers, communicators, innovators and agents of social change; the creative sector has the ability to influence attitudes and behaviours, and to raise awareness through powerful messaging and engagement.

Future Foundry is working in partnership both the Culture and Waste departments at Kent County Council and Countrystyle Recycling, one of the county’s leading waste management company’s to develop this highly innovative social value programme.

Overall Aim
Sustainability requires the triad of environment, economy and society to work cohesively together. Negative environmental issues directly affect the economy and ultimately those less advantaged in society. Circular Kent seeks to turn negative threats into positive opportunities. Using bottom-up and creative approaches both practically and strategically, it will raise awareness of global issues regarding waste, resource depletion, and how Circular Economy principles can be applied at a local level. It will increase the capacity of, and establish the role of the creative sector in supporting the transition to a more circular economy.

Through research, conferences and networking we believe that there are few examples of Circular Economy practise being tested on the ground or embedded into communities. Much of the work is still within academic or highly technical spheres. This quote from Phil Myrick, Project for Public Space puts it perfectly:
…we can try to outsource our problems to a new generation of green engineers, designers, and architects, but we will only see broad, lasting changes when the people inhabiting these communities create a vision for the future and lead the process for change.

Working with towns and communities across the county, Circular Kent aims to translate that technical and academic knowledge into community facing practical activities and projects. To find what specific actions will inspire and engage specific communities.

Entrepreneurs, artists and young people are very often the source of innovation and new ideas so it is vital to create the conditions for increased awareness and knowledge, to generate experimental initiatives, which can be  robustly evaluated,scaled up and used to influence practice and policy.

Future Foundry aim to initially work with four pilot areas, iconic Kent destinations and chosen for the distinctive aspects they have that could offer interesting learning to the programme, for example: large student numbers, centres of tourism, economically struggling communities, current low levels of recycling etc. Our pilot areas are Circular Canterbury, Circular Dover, Circular Gravesham and Circular Sheppey. This gives us the student capital of the county, two iconic visitor destinations and world heritage sites, three ports, two ‘Big Local’ areas and an island, so lots of scope for very different activities.

We will connect with cultural organisations, creatives, environmentalists, scientists, entrepreneurs and business people together with prisons, markets, universities, castles, cathedrals, heritage groups, town centres and young entrepreneurs.

This ambitious programme will facilitate, support, test and evaluate bottom-up approaches that enable and empower artists, designers, businesses, social enterprises and communities to work collectively to build environmental and economic sustainability and social resilience (social value). The partnership will encourage innovation and new economic models which deliver improved outcomes for Kent residents, increase capacity in smaller organisations, and we hope, influence wider national and international thinking.