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Circular Wonderings is an exploration of the role of digital, software and technology in the Circular Economy. Exploration is the key word here. I write regularly, reflecting on my current thoughts and research. Expect typos, incomplete thoughts, varied rambling topics and (hopefully) a journey towards clearer understanding and insight. Subscribe here to join my journey.

Paradigm Shift (part 3)

This post is part of a short series attempting to understand Carol Sanford's [1] "Four Paradigm Framework", with the aim of applying it to the role of technology in the Circular Economy.

There were two paradigm shifting moments for me when I first heard Carol talking through the 4 levels of her framework.

The first was a clarification of the risks of being limited to either "Arrest Disorder" or "Do Good" paradigms.

In the former we are only ever limited to reducing the impact of problems we identify. It's like reducing costs in a business. Yes, it is important, but if we only ever think about reducing costs we risk losing sight of opportunities or missing possible consequences. Another analogy might be returning home to find your house is flooding from a leaking pipe. If our focus is on reducing harm we might jump to protecting our stuff from the water, when perhaps a better first step is to turn off the water supply.

There are also huge risks to being limited to "Do Good". One example that comes to mind is stories of well intentioned European and US folks 'volunteering' to spend time teaching in rural Africa. Sometimes the local teacher was fired without pay to enable an uneducated, foreign volunteer to come in (bringing the money they paid for the experience). This is a concrete example of the 'white saviour' phenomenon. It seems to me that this kind of thinking can come directly from the assumption that we can define "good" regardless of the context.

When looking to apply Circular Economy approaches we can very easily find ourselves limited by either of these two paradigms.

My second paradigm shifting moment was when Carol described "moving back down" her four levels. To vastly simplify the point: shifting to the Regenerate life paradigm gives us tools to work in the lower paradigms.

The need to do good and reduce harm does not go away. Rather we are now working from a more holistic context and thus able to actually be regenerative by doing good and reducing harm.

We can even go back to the value return level and start to look at ways to ensure our own needs are met at the same time.