[This story was first published in Miljöbrons Annual report for 2016. That was the first stage of the project. Since then all of the venues which the students analysed have been further developed. They are run as innovation projects within the City of Gothenburg, in collaboration with Bostadsbolaget, Familjebostäder, Hyresgästföreningen och Chalmers, with financial support through Vinnova, Energimyndigheten och Formas within the strategic innovation program Re:Source. During fall 2018 Miljöbron relaunched the follow up of Re:Challenge. Olivia Sandström, employee at Miljöbron was part of the project.]
Re:Challenge stimulates students towards re-use
Re:Challenge gathered four organizations and more than 30 students from different fields of education for a four-month-long collaboration. The task: to find out how re-use, redesign, sharing and recycling can become integral parts of the day-to-day life in the city
Reuse, sharing and recycling are important parts of a circular economy and sustainable development in Sweden. But how do we enable these activities on a local scale, in a neighbourhood? In autumn of 2016, Miljöbron launched Re:Challenge: a platform to explore circular economy in business and society. The first round involved four organizations: the City of Gothenburg, the public housing companies Familjebostäder and Bostadsbolaget as well as the Tenants Union in Gothenburg. Together with Miljöbron, they collaborated with more than 30 students in seven projects around neighbourhood reuse, redesign, recycling and sharing in the city districts of Brunnsbo, Bergsjön, Majorna, Rannebergen and Torpa.
Widening the perspective of re-use
The surveys carried out by the students clearly show that there are interest and potential for re-use with the local communities. The driver for re-use is not only of environmental reasons. It is also related to financial reasons and the need for a local meeting place.
Martin Ahrin-Larsson, an employee at Miljöbron and project leader for Re:Challenge points at the importance of language.
– Students show that it is important how we talk about circular economy and re-use. Some terms are difficult to relate to. The level of engagement and interest can be increased when substituting terms such as tool pool to tool library and redesign workshop with crafts workshop.
The physical location also matters especially until re-use is integrated more naturally in the every-day environment. Thus, the chosen locations have to easy to get to, preferably close to already well-known meeting venues. Re-use also needs to be integrated, to a larger extent, to leisure activities.
Re-challenge involved students from several colleges and universities in Western Sweden. During the course of 4 months, they worked intensively in cross-sectoral groups both as part of their studies and more on a volunteer basis. It was the first time Miljöbron tried out this cross-sectoral cooperation between students from different universities and academic backgrounds. Throughout the project, workshops were organised to focus on knowledge of a circular economy and discuss practical aspects of the students´ experience in the project. Olivia Sandström was located in Majorna, Gothenburg and pinpointed some valuable experiences of the project.
– it has been an incredibly fun and rewarding project involving so many innovative and inspiring people. I'm very happy I participated in a project focusing on a circular economy and hope that I can continue to work on these issues also in the future. I hope that ReChallenge in Majorna will keep on going also after the project.
Nina Wolf, City of Gothenburg
"Miljöbron responded to our demands, gave a good support and guided the students. They handled the communication in a nice and creative manner."
Lessons learned on cooperation
One lesson learned was that it was difficult for students to propose how the re-use centres should be best organised and financed without first mapping out demands and stakeholders in the relevant area. Martin Ahrin-Larsson points out the complexity of the issue itself.
– It is not a small task to manage to navigate between various stakeholders and at the end of the day balance up the different interests to something we can work with. Local re-use centres also heavily rely on volunteer work. At the same time, the premises and staff cost money. Who is paying the bill? Which business models can be used to bring long-term economic viability and how can they be further developed? There are many loose ends that would demand further work. We want to call out to actors in the city and the region to join us in answering these questions. It is positive, that several municipalities already have indicated interested in a start-up of local Re-challenge.