Blog

20.12.2021

New tools for circular service development

Circular economy business models are usually combining products and services, but there is a growing amount of strictly service-based companies in need of creating more circular business. EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 is a tool for these purposes.

The starting point for the development of EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 was the original EcoDesign Sprint model developed in the EcoDesign Circle project in 2016–2019. The first model was focused on products and materials; the new one focuses on sustainable service development. EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 was developed by Design Forum Finland, together with Hellon, a Finnish design agency pioneering in service design, and Ethica Oy, a Finnish consultancy of circular economy and design.

EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 is a combination of innovation, practical training and business development through circular economy thinking and design methods.

EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 is a combination of innovation, practical training and business development through circular economy thinking and design methods. It is a strategic and hands-on tool for companies of all sectors: a series of workshops where a multidisciplinary team of design and circular economy experts works with the client company, focusing on its needs and finding novel business opportunities. EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 is designated for a team of 4–6 interdisciplinary participants from the client company and it needs professional facilitation from circular economy experts and designers.

The primary goal is to create circular services and develop the business of the client company towards greater sustainability. Another goal is to provide the participants with in-depth knowledge on the possibilities of the circular economy, aiding in making a mind shift from linear to circular.

 

The development process

 At an early stage, an important finding was that although eco-design / circular design is already quite well-established in many countries, models and tools for circular service creation do not exist. Service design and circular economy both have their specific principles and framework, and bringing these two together appeared to be the most challenging part of the process.

The focus of the development work was to elaborate the previous Sprint method to be more suitable for service development as well as digitalize the tools. At the same time, we realized that here we are working with a topic that has great impact on the future and relevance for businesses and societies.

The original EcoDesign Sprint model had worked really well in our previous workshops and we decided to keep the main structure of the workshop as it is. However, we identified that the life cycle model of the Sprint plays significant role in the process and we need to focus on that, adapting it to be suitable for service creation.

The new EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 brings in service design thinking and extends the life cycle model into different service development phases.

The new EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 brings in service design thinking and extends the life cycle model into different service development phases. The Sprint is concentrating on aspects familiar to service design, such as customer experience and value creation. It is also characterized by its customizability. Each client company has specific challenges in their business and a certain level of design and circular economy maturity, and those aspects need to be considered. Customization is the key to gain bigger impact on the client company’s operations.

During the workshop days, the participants work towards developing the existing services of the client company to be more sustainable and circular, or creating completely new service concepts. These are then evaluated, and the most promising ones will be further developed.

EcoDesign Sprint usually starts with an Audit. The Audit gives the knowledge of the maturity of both circular economy and the use of design in the client company, revealing, what kind of opportunities for circular economy actions are found in the company. Instead of an Audit, a more compact pre-task is also an effective way to define the focus for the Sprint.

 

Pilots: Findings and perceptions

Altogether four EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 pilots were organized during the project, in Russia, Finland, Germany, and Estonia.

In the piloting phase, partnering design organizations had their role in choosing the suitable experts with specific competences to facilitate the Sprints. Involving the in-house design team of a company is beneficial for the implementation phase and in ensuring the continuity in circular service development. But as not all the companies have these or lack resources, it is a great benefit to have external design experts in the sprint.

After testing a shorter, two-day pilot, we found that the last phase or day is crucial.

The original Sprint takes three days. After testing a shorter, two-day pilot, we found that the last phase or day is crucial. Careful evaluation and selection of the ideas and concepts created in the Sprint strengthen the commitment of the company to further development. In the future more emphasis should be focused on the business perspective to evaluate the business potential, too. This would help the company to commit to the implementation of the concepts.

EcoDesign Sprint is generating at the same time lots of new ideas for the business but also increasing the knowledge of design and circular economy in the client company. Regarding the feedback all the findings and perceptions were considered valuable.

 

All the tools developed in the EcoDesign Circle projects. EcoDesign Circle 4.0 presskit

 

“Train the Trainer” – sharing knowledge

 One of the main goals of the EcoDesign Circle 4.0 project was to spread and share the knowledge and created tools. Both circular economy experts and designers got to know each other’s competences. This kind of knowledge sharing was considered indispensable to enable the sustainability and circularity in the future businesses and societies.

A wide view of opportunities for businesses is opening through circular design, both with products and services. Now it’s high time to start something new.  We believe that EcoDesign Sprint 4.0 is a good tool for this.

 

Aino Vepsäläinen
Project Manager
Design Forum Finland

Saija Malila
Producer
Design Forum Finland

Images: 1. Partner meeting, Jorigė Kuzmaitė, 2. Circular Design as a Driver of Innovation in the Baltic Sea Region,  EcoDesign Circle 4.0 presskit