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Children's Investigation of Resilient Circular Lifestyle

Using funding provided by Maastricht University's Children's Rights Research Fund, researchers from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University & Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen and CNME Maastricht have developed the CIRCLEcity project. The goal of this project is to empower children by activating their (urban) citizenship and to better understand their critical role in fighting against climate change.

Children's Investigation of Resilient Circular Lifestyle and Environments in the City

3 April 2024 - Özlemnur Ataol & Roger Thomassen

The world is becoming more urbanized. Cities, the ecosystems conflating mass production and consumption, face increasing challenges from resource depletion and waste generation. On that note, circular urban development is becoming prominent as a means of sustainable development. Circular development applies circular economy principles in cities, through which urban sources (land, energy, material, and water) never become waste by circulating products and materials by reusing, refurbishing, maintenance, remanufacturing, recycling, and composting. This process attaches a critical role to the social system of cities that covers citizens' daily lifestyles, shedding light on their consumption behaviors that directly affect the production in cities. Therefore, urban citizens need to be equipped with the knowledge, values, and competencies necessary for circular development toward creating resilient communities.

Children are urban citizens, and they are central partners in collaboratively building inclusive and sustainable futures in cities: Not only do 57% of the world's children population live in cities, but children also present the ability to comprehend the world's social and environmental problems, such as inequality, rapid urbanization, and climate change, and to suggest feasible solutions. More importantly, Article 3 (best interest of the child) and 12 (right to express views) of UNCRC (1989) empower children to participate in decision-making processes concerning their (sustainable) futures

The CIRCLEcity project designs a collaborative action research with children (11-12 years old) living in urban areas to co-investigate their perceptions of sustainable/unsustainable consumption behaviors and their approach to utilizing circularity in their action plans targeting their unsustainable consumption behaviors toward change in favor of sustainable development responding to SDG # 11 (sustainable communities) and 12 (sustainable consumption)

The CIRCLEcity project adopts a conceptual framework of Education for Urban Circular Development that is suggested by dr. Özlemnur Ataol with dr. Darian Meacham as an attempt to mainstream circularity in education/learning for sustainable development. Education for Urban Circular Development  aims to nurture one's comprehension of the pluriform society as a way of understanding various roles of citizens (producer, retailer, seller, and consumer) and activating willingness to take an active role in sustainable development. It also aims to enhance citizens’ inventory of skills with circular actions and circular thinking to forward circular development.

The goal of the CIRCLEcity project is to empower children by activating their (urban) citizenship and to better understand their critical role in fighting against climate change. In the long run, these collectively contribute to collaboratively building sustainable communities pron to improve the (urban) living situation of children of today and tomorrow. This goal is achieved through a three-folded protocol aiming at:

  • Collecting children's perspectives on pluriform society,
  • Investigating children's perceptions of sustainable/unsustainable consumption behaviors,
  • Exploring children's approach to utilizing a circular approach in their community action plans.

In parallel, the intended outcomes of the project present three dimensions, involving advancing children's critical thinking, enhancing children's awareness of their role in pursuing sustainable development, and enhancing children's circular thinking and circular skills. Additionally, in the long run, it is expected that children expand their ties with their own communities and cities.

The CIRCLEcity project creates awareness of circular development among children, who are the future of nations. Considering the announcement of 2023 as the European Year of Skills by the European Commission, the CIRCLEcity project timely contributes to enhancing children's skills in circular thinking and circular actions beneficial for sustainable development. With its action workshop, the project also provides them with the perception of their own responsibility within their community and a platform to experiment with new means of sustainable development. More importantly, the project highlights the critical role of children in paving the way toward sustainable futures. Also, the new novel circular approaches planned by children and their perspectives on unsustainable/sustainable consumption behaviors carry the potential to inform urban professionals and policymakers.

The CIRCLEcity will soon organize 3-layered action workshops with children living in Maastricht over three weeks, applying the tasks listed below. Evident in the literature that diagnostic and expressive methods are commonly used in collaborative research with school-aged children (6-12 years old), the action workshop utilizes discussions with children first to explore the roles of city actors and position themselves within and second to diagnose unsustainable consumption behaviors and interconnected interests exacerbating this; later the action workshop utilizes presentations to give voices to children to present their plan of community action, using the circular approach, to convert detected unsustainable consumption behavior to sustainable ones.

The CIRCLEcity project, funded by the Children's Rights Research (CRR) Fund , brings forces of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University and CNME Maastricht from January 2024 to September 2024. The project team consists of dr. Özlemnur Ataol, a researcher at Maastricht University and lecturer at the University of Groningen, Roger Thomassen, education specialist from CNME Maastricht and the founder of Made from Scratch, and Bruno Leijssen, a Master’s student in Supply Chain Management at Maastricht University. The CIRCLEcity project is designed by dr. Özlemnur Ataol and the CIRCLEcity workshops are organized in collaboration with Roger Thomassen and Bruno Leijssen.

Call funding 2023-2