Circular design galore in Thailand


This month Pieter van Os, Program Manager CIRCO International, visited Thailand as part of a larger trip through Asia. Thailand is working hard on its Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) program and has also energetically put it on the agenda for the region. Within this positive context, the CIRCO hub partner UN Global Compact Network Thailand , supported by the Innovation Office of the Government (NXPO), has done a very very good job, guiding 100 companies from different sectors within 18 months and building a strong circular ecosystem. Read Pieter's blog on his visit below.

Thailand blog Pieter 2022 dec

CIRCO-hub partner Thanyaporn Krichtitayawuth presenting the 10 Tracks executed

It was very inspiring and instructive to hear the experiences of the trainers, participants and partners in Thailand. We held exciting talks and workshops to define the second phase for CIRCO in Thailand and to see how CIRCO can play a role in circular capacity building in the Asian Pacific region. In this blog, I share in more detail about all the exciting circular design activities that are currently taking place in Thailand.

The trip

During the Covid period, CIRCO has trained just over 60 trainers in nine countries to activate companies and apply the CIRCO Method. These nine countries are fully digital and remotely trained. The results are better than expected, but the personal contact for matters such as personal motivation, uncertainties about participant ‘management’ and the details of the method is still a loss. That is why it is very welcome that travel can be done again and that I get the opportunity to visit the International CIRCO Hubs in Singapore and Thailand, and the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong in one trip*. This is a short impression of the second stop: Bangkok.

The CIRCO Hub partner

Global Compact Network Thailand has been very successful in the last 18 months, running 10 Track, training 100 companies, training 9 trainers and building a mindset and infrastructure to keep going. Tribute to CIRCO trainers Thanyaporn Krichtitayawuth and Kamonnart Ongwandee and everyone involved! NXPO, the party that supervises this from the Thai government, is very decisive and has big plans in the region. Thailand’s visit is therefore aimed at meeting everyone in the ecosystem and preparing for CIRCO phase II in Thailand and a regional roll-out.

The trainers

The trainers appear to be so passionate that they have set aside an entire Saturday to jointly evaluate the Tracks and provide feedback. Upon arrival, a very thorough analysis appears to have been made (see photo). That is good and very professional, but of course also quite exciting. There are a few serious points regarding the methodology, but most of the issues relate to participant engagement. Here too, the knowledge and design tools prove to be important ingredients to facilitate the participating teams, but a broad set of trainer skills, patience and perseverance of the trainers is just as important. The round of soft skills that followed was very instructive for me and hopefully supportive for the trainers.

Evaluation of first 10 Tracks by Thai trainers

The companies

So 100 companies from very different sectors participated. They were invited by the Dutch Embassy to a ‘Meet the Master’ (too much honor) meeting and I spoke to about 20 of them. An official alumni meeting has already been organized by the Hub, the results of which we have yet to discuss. I noticed that a larger part of the participating companies than, for example in the Netherlands, comes up with solutions in production and for the valorisation of residual flows. This will partly be because a number of Tracks were about Agro and Hospitality (food waste), but it is also a point of attention for the next phase. In 2023, at least 40 companies will be trained with CIRCO in this phase, but there is also a local program to guide some of the participants to a prototype. It will be very interesting to see how that goes and how CIRCONNECT’s knowledge and tools can contribute to this.

The Thai government

If you put three benevolent ministries together at the table, then some coordination turns out to be not a superfluous luxury, but you also see that in other countries. But that coordination is achieved during a round table at the Dutch Embassy. NXPO is now very active. They are a driving force in shaping the phase 2 of CIRCO in Thailand. In addition, they have acquired an important role within Apec. Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) approach, in which NXPO plays an important role, has served as the basis for the Bangkok goals for a sustainability program that was adopted at the Bangkok summit at the end of November. On the -C- of circular, capacity building within the Apec is a spearhead and we discussed how CIRCO can make an important contribution to this. That is very interesting, and I hope to be able to share more about it soon.

Round Table at Dutch Embassy Bangkok on circular design

 The Dutch embassy

The Dutch embassy is like a spider in the circular web. In 2019 they helped CIRCO quickly and well, but their role is also of great value now. Within two weeks a round table has been organized with three relevant ministries, the organization that allocates supporting science funds and industry representatives on board. These parties not only share their policies (first time in public, it seems), but there is also an interesting discussion about the role of circular design and CIRCO in this. Many thanks and admiration to Miriam Otto, Patarisa Boonserm and others from the Dutch Embassy Bangkok.

The designers and educational institutions

The activities in Thailand are currently mainly focused on companies and their ecosystem with yet limited involvement of design organizations and education. Didn’t have time for that this time either; ‘You can’t have it all’.

The pace in Thailand is extremely high, the ecosystem is very much involved in CIRCO and the opportunities are great. If the circular transition is tackled in this way in more countries, it will be good news for our planet. It was great to experience that up close and help to further fill in those opportunities.

* And indeed, I made a lot of air miles, but by doing a lot digitally, combining the journey and in the belief and expectation that the hubs make a significant contribution to the circular transition, that is justifiable for (at least) myself.