Rethink the System, Together: 
Articulating a Circular Economy with Maker Communities in China

Book Chapter in “This is Distributed Design”  2021
By Dr. Kit Braybrooke, Sophie Huckfield & Prof Nicola Thomas

This is Distributed Design” is the fourth of a series of yearly publications developed within the Distributed Design Platform. Co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union. 2021

The chapter explores how practices such as ‘distributed design’ can assist grassroots maker communities in articulating sustainable development on their own terms, in ways that are personally meaningful.

Makers (from craft practitioners to designers, tinkerers to fixers) are creative thinkers and strategists, with a unique understanding of materials and production processes. They liaise with suppliers and distribution networks, and advocate for sustainable alternatives. What if they could play a more active role in reshaping the systems within which they live and work?

One of the models commonly explored in European and North American contexts to conceive of how ecological regeneration can work in practice is the circular economy (CE), a vision of economic development where things are designed, made, used and reused within planetary boundaries (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2018). As delegates of Living Research (2015-2019), a British Council initiative connecting makers and academics between China and the UK, we wanted to understand how this framing of CE translated into majority world contexts. China was the third nation in the world to institute the CE into national policy in 2013, and offers an example of how sustainable development can proceed in ways that retain local specificity.

The full chapter can be read here