Learning Circle – Accessible interactive learning environments to support the development of circular economy entrepreneurship (2020-1-UK01-KA226-VET-094435)
2019 was a landmark year for Europe with the launching of The European Green Deal with a target to make Europe the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. As Covid-19 struck in China and quickly spread to Europe with devastating social and economic impact the shine has somehow been taken-off this new era of environmental and social justice. Across Europe, Member States have gone into survival mode as the Covid-19 pandemic lays waste to society and economy as we know it. The ability of National Governments to save lives,
save jobs and sustain vulnerable communities and sectors of the economy are now the key metrics of success. But climate change has not gone away and any re-booting Europe’s economy must take the amelioration of environmental impact into consideration. VET as the key education sector providing education and training supports to businesses and would- be businesses will be tasked with providing the educational tools and resources to make the recovery of the Europe’s economy a fair, equitable and environmentally friendly recovery.
The European Green Deal emphasises the fact that “valuable materials are leaking from our economies. In a world where demand and competition for finite and sometimes scarce resources will continue to increase…Europe can benefit economically and environmentally from making better use of those resources.” Mobilising industry for a clean and circular economy is one of the key objectives outlined. In the State of the Innovation Union (EU Commission, 2015), the facilitation of cooperation among potential circular economy actors, the generation and development of social innovations through green initiatives and applying Circular Business Models, and the spread of knowledge to improve practice and policy-making in Europe were all highlighted. This commitment is now reinforced. As 80% of any given products environmental impact is determined at the product design stage it is essential that the ‘use, reuse’ model at the heart of the circular economy shifts its attention to how products are designed and manufactured, and that different service provision and ownership models are embraced by consumers.
There is a growing sense that moving from a linear economic model to one that is circular by design will require a transformation that involves systemic changes in product design, manufacturing, service models and the ways goods and services are consumed. In this sense, it will require innovation on many levels. Circular business models (CBMs) are disruptive innovative business models aiming to drive the sustainability of the whole business network (system) through circularity. They are instruments of translating products and services designed for reuse into attractive value propositions.
The LEARNING CIRCLE project is focused on supporting innovative circular economy entrepreneurs, in an eco or social entrepreneurship context. Innovation-based entrepreneurs play an important role in boosting economies all over the world. Although innovative entrepreneurs come from different backgrounds and environments, they share common traits, motives and competencies. Innovative entrepreneurs are known to have a strong educational background and work experience of 5-10 years prior to launching their first venture. They are neither beginners nor novices. True entrepreneurs are serial innovators who leave a portfolio of successful and not-so-successful ventures behind them at the end of their career. Supporting the growth of innovative circular economy entrepreneurs through VET can therefore expect to achieve an enduring impact.
Partners have helped to design the project timeframe during the proposal development stage and are comfortable with their respective roles in the proposed work-plan. On the basis that the project is approved for funding BDEL will, on receipt of notification from the UK National Agency, formalise the relationship with partner organisations by producing Partnership Agreements. These agreements will be signed by the legal representative of each organisation and returned to BDEL for countersigning. These agreements will set out the roles and responsibilities of all partners in the consortium and along with the project application, Gantt chart and budget will comprise the development framework for the project.
From the formal approval of the project until the first meeting, the partner leading each element of each intellectual output will develop a detailed action plan for the development of the intellectual output in question and present it to the rest of the partners for discussion during the online kick off meeting in M1. These action plan proposals will, taking due consideration of the feedback provided by partners, be the basis for future implementation actions and be regularly monitored throughout the project life-cycle.
The kick-off meeting will be held as close to the project start date as possible but not later than before the end of month 1 of the project life-cycle. Partners have confirmed their availability to participate in the online kick-off meeting in April 2021. To ensure that the maximum is achieved during the scheduled 4-hour meeting all partners will be expected to develop a presentation that provides a comprehensive overview of their organization; an insight into entrepreneurship training in their country; and an overview of in-service training supports and methodologies currently available to front-line VET tutors. These presentations will be uploaded to the project Dropbox at least 2 days before the online kick-off so partners can familiarise themselves with the detail contained therein before the actual meeting takes place.
There are 3 face-to-face partner meetings during the project life-cycle in Spain in M4, in Romania in M12 and in Northern Ireland in M20. These face-to-face meetings will be supplemented by online partner meetings in months 1, 8, 16 and 24. Partners have chosen this scheduling of meetings with a number of issues in mind. Firstly, it is unclear if travel restrictions will still be in place when the project start date arrives in April 2021. Partners are expecting that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant economic impact in all
Member States and are of the opinion that the LEARNING CIRCLE resources will be in considerable demand as local economies re-boot to face the challenges that lie ahead. Therefore, starting the project on-time with an online meeting provides the optimal outcome. In the second instance, partners are aware of the environmental impact that result from transnational meetings. In the wake of COVID-19 there is a need to demonstrate the solidarity that exists between partner organisations across Europe, while respecting climate
change challenges, and the mix of 4 online and 3 face-to-face meetings seems to be a workable and practical compromise. All partners will send 1 representative to all face-to-face partner meetings except BDEL who will send 2 representatives to support their role as secretariat to the project.
PM1 will take place online in M1
– to go through the project in detail
– agree the dissemination strategy
– agree the quality assurance strategy
– agree the project branding
– agree the impact strategy
– preview the project website and Facebook page
– discuss the development of the value proposition for IO1 and the delegation of development tasks will be agreed
– INNOVADE will conduct an Impact+ workshop to agree impact indicators for IO1.
PM2 will take place in Spain in M4
– a value proposition for IO2 and IO3 will be discussed and the delegation of development tasks will be agreed;
– INNOVADE will present an update on part 1 of the in-service programme
– agree a schedule for holding the TTE in Cyprus in M8
– the project website will be presented in all partner languages
– SEC will provide a posting schedule for the project Facebook page and lead a discussion about other appropriate social media channels to be used
– INNOVADE will conduct an impact+ workshop to agree impact indicators for IO2 and IO3
PM3 will take place online in M8
– SRC and BDEL will each present I prototypes EduZine & Interactive Infographics for Circular Economy Business Models at intermediate and advanced levels, BDEL will present the learning content for 1 EduZine & Interactive Infographic for Innovative Circular Economy Entrepreneurs developed to date
– RCA will present an update on part 2 of the in-service programme
– INNOVADE will present an outline of the MOOC and SEC will present the terms of reference for the Community of Practice
– agree a schedule for testing and providing feedback from local stakeholders
– review dissemination actions
PM4 will take place in Romania in M12
– sign-off on the now completed EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Circular Economy Business Models and the EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Innovative Circular Economy Entrepreneurs and agree a schedule for testing with local stakeholders and production in all languages
– sign-off on the content for part 2 of the In-service Training Programme and agree a timetable for translation and production
– review the TTE in Cyprus
– sign-off on the MOOC and Community of Practice
– sign off on the interim report and the impact assessment report
– agree a schedule for holding the TTE in Germany in M14
– review dissemination actions
PM5 will take place online in M16
– review the TTE in Germany and plan the implementation of the in-service training in their local area
– plan the Dissemination Events to be held in M18 to M19
– review dissemination actions and exploitation actions
PM6 will take place in Northern Ireland in M20
– review the implementation of the in-service training
– review dissemination actions
– participate in the Final Conference
PM7 will take place online in M24
– review the whole implementation process and agree actions necessary to produce the final report
– wrap-up dissemination, quality assurance, impact assessment and exploitation actions
At each of the 3 face-to-face partner meetings the project management committee will discuss satisfaction with project development to date. The risk assessment will be updated prior to each online and face-to-face partner meeting and reviewed. The working of the local stakeholder forums, financial reporting, etc. will routinely be discussed at all partner meetings. Quality assurance surveys will be conducted after each partner meeting and reviewed at the next meeting.
LEARNING CIRCLE will provide a comprehensive in-service training programme for VET tutors comprising 2 distinct parts as follows:
Part A – will be developed by INNOVADE and Permacultura and focus on (a) building an entrepreneurial spirit within the VET tutor target group; (b) an understanding of the circular
economy. This will support VET tutors to provide appropriate sustainable business development supports to Innovative circular economy entrepreneurs
The LEARNING CIRCLE project will provide EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Circular Economy Business Models that will bring learning opportunities to innovative circular economy entrepreneurs on their smartphones. EduZines and interactive infographics will be developed for each of the 5 most common CBMs as follows:
1. Circular supplies or closed loop recycling
2. Resource recovery or down-cycling
3. Product life extension or upcycling
4. Sharing platforms or industrial symbiosis
5. Product as a service
The LEARNING CIRCLE project will provide EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Innovative Circular Economy Entrepreneurs that address the ten trainable competences for innovative circular economy entrepreneurs: (1) Creative thinking; (2) Problem solving; (3) Leadership and team management; (4) Innovation management; (5) Agile management; (6) Strategic planning; (7) Risk management; (8) Business model development; (9) Raising venture capital and (10)rapid experimentation. Providing training materials that address each of these competences and presenting them in a bespoke online format that is accessible, attractive and appropriate for the very specific target group of the project is not only worthwhile but also necessary.
Partners will discuss the two main perspectives on MOOC design and presentation xMOOC and cMOOC. xMOOC adopts a cognitive-behaviorist lecture and knowledge dissemination
pedagogical approach similar to that of traditional face-to-face instruction. cMOOC follows a more constructivist learning approach, where knowledge is found in connections between
people, and learning is the development and traversal of those connections. Given the range of content that is being proposed for the LEARNING CIRCLE MOOC is it likely that the
cMOOC model will be most appropriate. INNOVADE will lead the development of the LEARNING CIRCLE MOOC & Community of Practice.
Multiplier Event 1
LEARNING CIRCLE dissemination event will be held in Ireland to present the findings and outputs of the project to tutors, senior managers and policy makers from VET and to serial innovators interested in developing a career as a circular economy entrepreneur. This event will be attended by a minimum of 25 key stakeholders drawn from the VET, business and broader academic sectors. This event will be held following the completion of all development work and the production of all outputs in all partner languages. All project outputs will be presented and all educators attending will be encouraged to participate in further iterations of the in-service training programme; to incorporate the LEARNING CIRCLE EduZines and Interactive Infographics into their everyday practice and to join the Community of Practice to avail of the peer support structures and the opportunities to exchange best practice with their peers around Europe. An appropriate key note speaker will address the assembled audience.
Multiplier Event 2
Supporting innovative circular economy entrepreneurs while building their understanding of CBMs is an educational undertaking of significant importance as Europe endeavours to rebuild its economic strength in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Developing the knowledge and skills of VET tutors and providing bespoke learning resources that take full advantage of new and widely used technologies are the key tasks that the LEARNING CIRCLE consortium will prioritise in their work-plan. Once these resources are developed, piloted and validated partners will promote the availability of the new CBM and innovative circular economy entrepreneurship resources without delay.
BDEL will host a major conference in Northern Ireland to present the In-service Training Programme; LEARNING CIRCLE EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Circular Economy Business Models; LEARNING CIRCLE EduZines & Interactive Infographics for Innovative Circular Economy Entrepreneurs; LEARNING CIRCLE MOOC and Community of Practice. Hosting this event will help partners to engage a wider target audience and raise awareness about this important VET intervention and demonstrate how new technology can be introduced into VET with positive impacts on service providers and service users. This event will be designed to incorporate online contributions from all international partners via Skype, Zoom or some other form of videoconferencing software if travel restrictions are still in force due to Covid-19 but otherwise each partner will use this event to present an overview of their experiences in their own countries. This will ensure that this event has a truly international component whatever the circumstances. BDEL will retain a key note speaker in Northern Ireland to address the assembled audience.
This first transnational training event will focus on building the knowledge of VET tutors about the new economic development framework that the European Green Deal sets out and the opportunities it provides for innovative circular economy entrepreneurs who follow CBMs in developing their business. Building the entrepreneurial spirit of VET tutors is an important first step to enable them to facilitate the learning of innovative circular economy entrepreneurs from a strong, informed standpoint. Understanding circular economy business models and how they inform business planning for sustainable new ventures is also a new challenge facing VET providers that this part of the in-service training will address.
This element of the in-service training will focus on VET tutors as learners and investigate how the new knowledge acquired could be integrated into their existing service provision and how it could apply in their local economic and cultural setting. Training will comprise 21 hours of face-to-face instruction, workshops and discussion over 3 days. This training element will be further extended with 14 hours of self-directed learning to be completed following the 3 day training event in Cyprus. This event will take place once Part 1 of the In-service
This second transnational training event for VET tutors will focus on piloting the face-to-face elements of the in-service training that address building the pedagogic and technical skills of VET tutors to enable them to produce media-rich challenge based learning resources and interactive infographics as access points to on-the-go interactive learning resources. This training will focus on VET tutors as developers of original media-rich content. Training will comprise 21 hours of face-to-face instruction, workshops and discussion focused on examining challenge-based learning methodologies and analysing the types of open source software programmes that are available to VET tutors to enable them develop media-rich content and how to develop best practice resources to address a variety of topics. This training element will be further extended with 14 hours of self-directed learning to be completed following the 3 day training event in Germany.