About how to trigger action to keep driving change.
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Change is an ongoing process over a longer period. We cannot take one action, make one attempt, and call it a day. Twelve action lines were selected that focus on three changing factors of values, roles and spaces. They frame the pathways in which the next steps can be taken to accelerate the transition process.

Find out more about the selected action lines on this page, and on the background of the changing values, roles and spaces in the documentary. Check our Process section to understand, step-by-step, how these action lines were created.


The 12 action lines in detail

Values in transition

1. Learning from present initiatives to steer future changes

Learning from present initiatives to steer future changes.The constitution of a tool making it possible to observe the innovation taking place in the field would facilitate the construction of a constant process of learning. The innovative practices in the field of circularity, active in the port areas, are in a process of continuous evolution.

The observation of the practice and the monitoring of their development leads to a progressive renovation of the status quaestionis in regard to the state of the transition to circularity in port areas. In fact, it represents, on the one hand, the new findings coming directly from the innovative practices, and, on the other hand, the new challenges and potentialities to be handled within the transition period.

Besides monitoring the projects, it is as important to observe how ecosystems are developing at a port, country and/or European level. All this would lead to study and discover new business models, not only to set up new circular initiatives, but also to steer the entire functioning of the ports and the connected practices in the system. It is crucial to consider how the gathered data is translated into different concluding elements. It can help build up a common knowledge and make the complex circular transition more graspable, as well as foreground the benefits of practices and ports to share and be transparent if they want to achieve a more circular mode of operation. Port authorities could play a role in demanding this transparency from their practices, not only at one moment in time, but on a regular basis.

2. Implementing hidden values and interdependencies through regulationImplementing hidden values and interdependencies through regulation.

In order for the new economy to compete with the old one, the hidden values of circularity should be uncovered, the external costs of the old economy should be internalized, and the value chains should be more thoroughly investigated. It can range from unbalanced costs between water, rail and road transport to the benefit of the less-carbon-producing new economy in comparison with the polluting old industries.

These hidden values and the internationalization of external costs should be researched and uncovered and be put into action through regulation. New kinds of indicators could come as a result of field observation, where the setting up of a set of instruments, in which impacts of circularity can be measured, is crucial. It can start with the revision of the old indicators, such as KPIs, giving them different bases to measure the efficiency of old and new initiatives, but with adding new kinds of added value. ‘Doughnut economics’ (Kate Raworth) already presents a way to integrate social and environmental parameters.

The constitution of these overarching tools should steer circularity on a general level, overcoming the lock-ins in which first movers are stuck. With this, it is important to state that these hidden values often look at the long term, while it is crucial to formulate short-term solutions as well. With these short-term solutions, more companies could be convinced to go towards a more circular functioning, if the win-win is proven.

3. Supporting new economic models via innovation- steered investments

Supporting new economic models via innovation- steered investments.A crucial stepping stone in this process of change is the construction of a framework that could lead investments to support the first movers and the many different initiatives in the field.

Investments should be done smartly, helping projects that foresee future changes or projects that require support to take the risk to experiment. These investments should create the possibility and the environment in which risks can be taken and where failure can happen in order to find the right way of working, facilitating this ‘period of grace’.

The investment in experimentation and innovation practices could also focus on shared infrastructure. Europe took a first step towards these innovation-steered investments via the research of Prof. Mariana Mazzucato’s ‘Mission-oriented research and innovation in the European Union: A problem-solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth’.

4. Investing in research, training, public sensibilisation and innovation around circularity

Investing in research, training, public sensibilisation and innovation around circularity.Accelerating the transition towards a circular economy in port environments means implementing a societal programme for circularity to raise awareness of the human capital for this new economy. This should envision different strategies of engagement and raising awareness, in order to make the circular economy part of our daily life, closely intertwined with the different dynamics coming together in our cities.

On the one hand, it will help to clarify the positive impacts that a circular port system can bring in the city and for the environment. On the other hand, it also represents a big opportunity in implementing strategies for social issues. Unemployment, low education and other aspects of human capital can find new opportunities in the implementation of a circular system. Therefore, the set-up of educational pathways, where cities and ports work together to build up employment strategies at the city and regional level.

As a public authority it is important to set a good example in order to make clear that it can be done: this is a first step towards this behavioural change. Moreover, strategies regarding the improvement of the natural environment should be built up, not only as a compensation measure, but also by actively respecting and regenerating throughout water management actions, nature implementation, soil care, etc. The creation of this programme is crucial to stretch and raise awareness on circularity beyond the ports’ borders. The circular transition represents a big opportunity in rethinking our society, our ways of living and our landscape in a more complex environmental logic.


Roles in transition

5. Setting up a strategic common agenda for ports and cities

Setting up a strategic common agenda for ports and cities.City and port authorities have the overview and power to accelerate and steer the systemic change that is needed. Strategizing upon a common agenda is a crucial step on the way to envisioning an overarching circular system, where the collaboration and interdependencies of cities and ports guides both new and already active actors.

Both city and port authorities can start up virtuous dynamics to support the transition by envisioning common actions involving the different communities of practices. In this sense, they can take on a new leading role, as the facilitator and initiator of key processes and matching new dynamics with the ongoing one, while constituting specific regulations that avoid lock-ins and ease the process of change.

By collaborating around specific topics, both authorities can share legitimacy and be stronger in the economic field. Building up a common agenda can be an incremental process, where the port and city can first focus on one barrier, flow, process, etc. This gives them the opportunity to take the specific knowledge they need and create a road map and business case. Building up a common agenda is not only valuable on the graspable scale of ports and cities, but can be interesting for other scales too. Strategizing can be done on the Corridor or even the Delta scale.

6. Bridging the gap between supra-regional goals and local opportunities

Bridging the gap between supra-regional goals and local opportunities.Appointing a supra-regional institution enhances the operationalization of European and national legislative frameworks in the development of circular port areas. In fact, the constitution of a mediating figure that can govern this change – by leading and translating certain norms and rules in order to feed the local questions in this transformation process – seems strategically important.

This would facilitate the constitution of specific processes, accompanying local parties in the development of a site-specific circular port system. This figure can represent the middle ground in which legislation and ambitions find their way through operationalization at the local level.

The Delta is a valuable scale to work with, where the translation of the European goals can be seen on this specific border-crossing region. This mediating figure on the Delta scale will then translate the specific stepping stones of the bigger goals to smaller regions, but can also look for collaborative co-financing at the scale of the Delta.

7. Creating a neutral ground for all parties to share, exchange and learn

Creating a neutral ground for all parties to share, exchange and learn.All the parties moving towards a circular system are working in the same parallel directions. This working in isolation should never be considered when envisioning a systemic change. Therefore, it is crucial to build a system of sharing, preferably on the scale of the Delta, in which the learnings from the different practices, knowledge institutions, port authorities and governmental bodies can be bundled.

Making this neutral ground should make it possible to look beyond the existing competition of ports and to form a base of support, where every participating party gains from its presence, collaboration, sharing, etc. From this shared knowledge, a learning process can be constituted to develop new insights on how circularity can move forward in the Delta’s port areas.

Lessons learned, new technologies, knowledge on innovation and know-how, but also findings from pilot projects and experimentation in the fields can come together in a neutral ground in which cross-pollination takes place in order to build new mutual knowledge to understand the transition and what the missing links are. Peer-to-peer collaboration can be facilitated by this process, in connection with the establishment of tailor-made programmes of collaboration in which specific needs and particular qualities come together in the same place, accelerating the process of exchange.

The initiation of different collaborative processes can help build up new circular dynamics and systems within the port areas, enlarging them towards the hinterland and the whole region. This peer-to-peer platform can help initiatives set new local value chains. At the same time it can enhance port-to-port collaborations in looking for a shared programme of exchange and partnership. It can also become a matchmaking platform and a pool of expertise of companies, actors and experts.

8. Starting a think-tank that puts circularity on the agenda and looks at the next stepsStarting a think-tank that puts circularity on the agenda and looks at the next steps.

The constitution of a think-tank represents a way to join the forces of different actors, like experts, leading port authorities, interested public authorities, overarching platforms, etc. It presents a tool for these willing actors to come together and exchange, strategize and take action together, starting up new (systemic) projects, helping to build up specific coalitions and put circularity on the agenda of their own and other parties.

The establishment of a think-tank can help incubate and accelerate differentiated programmes to tackle the circular economy transition. The ambition is to constitute dynamics in which willing actors from different levels can start to strategize in collaboration with others, and to find the right parties to discuss with.


Spaces in transition

9. Investigating the current circular spaces and imagining the future ones

Investigating the current circular spaces and imagining the future ones.Imagining and investigating the future spaces that facilitate the circular aspects and activities is crucial in order to implement the circular transition in our surroundings. These spaces are spots where new conditions are created based on changing frameworks, legislation, activities, clusters, etc. In addition, thinking about space, both in concrete sites or as a research tool, helps translate big goals into specific space-related elements.

When a testing project on a concrete site is successful, the knowledge and work method can be translated into a more general strategy, accelerating the transition. The spatial design, its interrelation with its surroundings and the spatial role it plays in a bigger plan of the port, city and region are currently not clear. Spatial thinkers need to have the opportunity, and also need to be steered and challenged, to think about these spaces, and this in combination with other (economic) experts.

The Building Blocks are a first stepping stone to imagine these spaces where the different conclusions of the explorative trajectory of Circular (City) Ports on legislation, specific projects, interrelation port, city and hinterland, etc. are combined in an imaginary space.

The same exercise should happen on other scales: circular area developments, cluster areas in ports, specific urban economies as a link between port and city, regional plans to connect circular hotspots along waterways, etc. Imagining these spaces also makes it possible to broaden the discussion on the circular transition: talking with a broader public about circularity will be more convincing with concrete images and plans. It will show the valuability of productivity close to living areas, and will try to facilitate a mental shift.

These new spaces for circularity will definitely have a place in the living environment of people, and creating imaginaries can help to open up the discussion and change the culture of how to look at these things: from the current negative connotation to a positive one.

10. Indexing vacant, underused and old plots for new circular ideas

Indexing vacant, underused and old plots for new circular ideasAn overview of two sorts of spaces is needed, where new circular practices can be implemented. First, existing vacant plots in ports, cities and regions should be inventoried and considered as crucial potential spaces where new activities can happen.

These activities should play a role in closing a gap in the ecosystem of its surroundings or should be an important place to launch new dynamics. An example is a building logistics centre in a city port area as a hinge between port and city. Secondly, an inventory of old industries or infrastructures, which could be valid for the new economy, is required.

This should prevent, on the one hand, the unnecessary demolition of still useful infrastructure, for which the reuse of old oil tanks for biofuels are exemplary. On the other hand, initiatives could be better clustered and positioned. For example, the investments made by ports for new quays for deep sea ships, while activities may be disappearing at existing quays.

Investments could then go to other crucial projects. These two sorts of spaces could be used for pilot projects and as testing grounds in order to experiment with new legislation, modernized concessions policies, new spatial design, circular area development, etc. As a testing ground, the recurring questions and opportunities in the (re)development are also a learning process: the (re)development with a circular mindset and the general learning of the experiment could be a leverage to start up new projects elsewhere. It is important that this indexation is not only done within the boundaries of the port, but also beyond, looking more at the Corridor scale.

11. Conceiving more agile and adaptable planning possibilities

Conceiving more agile and adaptable planning possibilitiesNext to the inventorization of vacant and reusable plots, an overview is needed of the different specific planning conditions.

Firstly, planning tools should be inventorized to find out which ones can be used or redefined in a flexible way so as to facilitate new circular activities in port and city. These should aid and protect the productive activities from real-estate and public pressure. Better coordination between economic expansion (the business demand), the available land and how this matches the leasing contracts is one example worth investigating.

Secondly, good examples of planning economic mixity in port and city port areas should be brought up as learning possibilities. Lastly, specific planning which touches upon the different scales of circularity in ports – company, city port, port region and the Delta as a whole – should be investigated or started up eas with different hotspots in the hinterland.

12. Making a multidisciplinary team, with spatial thinkers, to tackle the circular transition

Making a multidisciplinary team, with spatial thinkers, to tackle the circular transitionWith each next step that has to be taken in the circular transition, it is important to consistently include spatial experts in the conversation. Actually, a multidisciplinary team comprising economic, financial, juridicial, environmental, spatial and other expertise should always be considered in the development of new activities and initiatives.

This should be done in all phases of implementing circularity in our current ecosystems: from the experimentation phase and start-up to upscaling, from specific sites to a master plan of a broader region, from regional visions to a national or European level.

Spatial thinkers can present concrete material to talk about, in conversation with other experts but also with local stakeholders. Creating spatial imaginaries will help to change the culture of how to look at things, also for the spatial thinkers themselves. As spatial thinkers, there is a need to explore new instrumental tools to think not only about housing and cultural buildings, but also about industries, productive activities, logistics, etc.



Related publications

Circular (City) Port. Shaping future changes. (final report, June 2020)

Circular (City) Ports.
Shaping future changes. (final report, June 2020)

Download >

Circular Port projects. Online work sessions 5-6-7 (final report, April 28-29, 2020)

Circular Port projects.
Online work sessions 5-6-7 (final report, April 28-29, 2020)

Download >

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