“The Hero’s Journey to the Circular Economy: Exploring the Role of Storytelling in the Transition from a Linear Economy to a Circular Economy”
by Shari Welsh, MA in Sustainable Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Thesis, April 11, 2014
… Society’s predominant economic model is built around a linear, “take, make, waste” approach to development. It designs for short–‐term obsolescence that comes at great social, economic and environmental costs. A variety of sustainability solutions have been developed to respond to the wide array of problems that exist with the linear economy model. However, many of these solutions do not deal with the underlying systemic problems of the linear model and are often simply add–‐ons to our current linear system.
The circular economy is a different type of model that has been developed to address the problems presented by the linear economy. The circular economy is regenerative by design and is based upon several key principles: design out waste, build resilience through diversity, shift to renewable energy sources, think in systems and think in cascades. The circular economy model allows us to reconsider our relationship to products by exploring two key areas: product redesign and system redesign, both of which provide the opportunity for value–‐creation on many levels.
Storytelling, and specifically Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is a powerful tool for encouraging social change and transformation. The Hero’s Journey is a story pattern that crosses religions, generations and cultures. It describes an ordinary person who ventures through multiple steps of a journey on a quest for achieving a greater good for the rest of society. The Hero’s Journey offers a unique perspective that can be used to guide businesses in the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy. The obstacles and opportunities one encounters during the 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey can be mapped to the parallel obstacles and opportunities one encounters when exploring the transformations required to move from a linear to a circular economy….
Here she discusses Parallels Between the Circular Economy and the Hero’s Journey:
… The Hero’s Journey offers a unique perspective that can be used to guide businesses in the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy. The Hero’s Journey has parallel struggles, obstacles and victories to those one would experience in taking the journey toward a circular economy. A direct parallel can be drawn to the three primary stages described above. In the separation stage, an individual—perhaps a business owner or an employee—decides to pursue the higher calling of looking for opportunities to move the business’ model away from the destructive linear economy model to one that does not destroy as it creates. During the initiation phase when one crosses the threshold into the special world—in this case into the circular economy and the opportunities that exist there—the business owner, the company, the products, and the stakeholders will all encounter a series of tests. And, during the return stage, the business owner—and at this stage the company—will be able to bring the knowledge, rewards and inspiration of the circular economy back to the “ordinary world.”….