Designing for circularity: Reflections and real-world experiments on the concept of a circular society

Project description

Global climate change and resource scarcity call more urgently than ever for a “Great Transformation” (WBGU 2011) toward sustainable development. At the scientific and political level, the circular organization of value creation through circular economy is a widespread starting point. As a counter-design to linear economic activity, the circular economy pushes for a sustainable way of doing business that respects planetary boundaries by using recyclable materials and products, relying primarily on technical and industrial solutions to problems in order to come closer to the goal of a resource-efficient and eco-friendly society.

The proposal of a circular society extends this technology-centered approach of a circular economy by social and cultural aspects. From a scientific point of view, the concept of a circular society has hardly been explored and theoretically substantiated on a systemic and societal level. The dissertation project critically reflects the concept of circular society and analyzes it against the background of concepts of sustainable development and current social and cultural theories.

The starting points and central aspects of a circular society theory are tested in transdisciplinary real-world experiments and examined by strictly using approaches from the design and real-world lab research only. In the sense of transdisciplinary and transformative research, this involves both an experimental testing of theoretical assumptions and an experimental and provisional social design in the sense of a circular society. Approaches and results of design research and transformation design are consulted for the concrete design of the real-world experiments. The new link between real-world lab research and design for the transformation toward a circular society will not only be tested prototypically, but also reflected theoretically. Specifically, the two real-world experiments – embedded in the real-world lab “District Future – Urban Lab” of the Karlsruhe Transformation Center for Sustainability and Cultural Change – will show how design and real-world labs can contribute to the establishment of a circular society. In this way, the dissertation project aims to contribute to the theoretical foundations of the concept of circular society and to explore its implementation in real-world contexts.

Administrative data

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Advisor: N.N.
Doctoral students at ITAS: see Doctoral studies at ITAS


Anna König, M.A.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-28090