Enabling Citizen-Power into the Circular Textiles Sector — an interview with Lynn Foster

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“The Amsterdam pilot team has given some thought to the question of narratives for citizens. One is to do a simple calculation of what CO2 was saved by a citizen donating used textiles into the circular economy, and display this to the citizen in the application, understanding that citizens do care. Another is the use of tokens as rewards for donations, understanding that material incentives can also be useful in raising consciousness. So an additional framing is that spending the tokens in neighborhood businesses encourages local awareness and more cycles of local economic activity, an ‘economic multiplier’ which increases local resilience and decreases energy use,” says Lynn Foster in our interview about DLT4EU Virtual Field Lab where she and her collaborative network together with the City of Amsterdam actively create sustainable circular economies, specifically enabling citizen participation in these.

DLT4EU stimulates cutting-edge distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) for public and social good by connecting the expertise of leading entrepreneurs and developers with real-world challenges and beneficiaries.

DLT4EU is led by a consortium comprised of Metabolic, Digital Catapult and Ideas for Change, with direct support and advice of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.

This interview is part of an ongoing DLT4EU Interview Series and was first published at “proofing future, bridging people + ideas”.

Lynn Foster is a retired software developer and analyst with 40 years experience in the field. In this DLT4EU Virtual Field Lab she coordinates the team and related efforts, gathering user requirements, providing developer specifications, and consulting related to interoperability with the Reflow application and use of the Valueflows vocabulary.

Sebastian Klemm: Which deep economic reforms do we need to tackle, in order to arrive at regenerative & intragenerationally just societies that manage to live within planetary boundaries?

Sebastian Klemm: What are the societal and environmental challenges that your particular DLT4EU Virtual Field Lab project called “Enabling Citizen-Power into the Circular Textiles Sectoraddresses?

Image Source: https://reflowproject.eu/pilots/amsterdam/

“Since a lot of textiles are trashed in the normal bin, the clothing and textiles go straight to incineration. The amount of correctly collected textiles needs to be increased (without people buying and trashing more) to provide feedstock for the recycling industry to, ultimately, supply all of us with products that contain recycled fibers.”

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Sebastian Klemm: How do you apply distributed ledger technologies in your project to help solve these challenges for the public good?

Lynn Foster: We are building an enhancement to the EU-funded Reflow project, which is built on top of a non-blockchain distributed ledger ecosystem called the “fediverse”, for “federated universe”. It is an ensemble of federated servers which, while independently hosted, can communicate with each other server-to-server using standard vocabularies and protocols.

It currently is focused on social networking using the ActivityPub standard, and other projects are enhancing it for economic networking using the ValueFlows standard so that it can be used to support coordination of circular economies, as well as other kinds of economic networks.

For the geeky among us, the following diagrams are borrowed from the Reflow technical documentation done by dyne.org: Using this actor model and federation, the actor at the left can interact with any other actor anywhere on a federated site:

Image source: https://reflowos.dyne.org/docs/federation

The following diagram shows details of the Reflow version of the federated architecture:

Click here to view diagram in high resolution at the ReflowOS website.

Sebastian Klemm: Could you elaborate on how you apply your non-blockchain distributed ledger ecosystem to enable citizen power into the circular textiles sector?

Sebastian Klemm: How exactly does your solution enable citizen participation into the circular textiles sector, indeed? How may this particular citizen empowerment be transferred to circular economies of other industries?

Sebastian Klemm: Which approaches from your vast collaborative resources of i.a. the DisCO.coop, Mikorizal, Valueflows, and Bonfire have you applied in this Virtual Field Lab of the DLT4EU programme?

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Sebastian Klemm: Why do you participate in the DLT4EU programme?

Lynn Foster: The DLT4EU programme is an opportunity to help organizations working towards actual circular economies, and at the same time it helps build the ecosystem of software infrastructure being developed for the commons. The latter can be used by other organizations internally and to develop economic networks that can better address the deep reforms that we talked about in your first question.

We believe that we can only do this kind of work by forming working collaborations between groups on the ground doing the necessary organizational and operational work, and people who can provide the necessary software infrastructure.

Sebastian Klemm: In a previous interview, Dr. Martin Wainstein, executive director at the Open Earth Foundation, says: “Currently, intellectual and financial capital is still the primary means for corporate valuation,but more and more we will start realizing this falls short since new companies will showcase value growth and impact through collaboration, open source and a growing network effect from shared purpose. The challenge is to capture this and find creative ways to translate this into financial capital, albeit a more enlightned version of financial capital.”

In how far do you see the ability of being able to add value by collaborating effectively with others become a new business imperative from your experience in collaborative networks? In how far does collaborative capital enable reimagination of economies and may even not need to be translated into financial capital at all?

Sebastian Klemm: What particular qualities of the DLT4EU accelerator distinguish this programme in your opinion?

Sebastian Klemm: In our preceding interview about DLT4EU, Alice MacNeil says: “One of my favourite experiences was with the Venture Teams as part of a Storytelling Masterclass by Hayley Bagnall of Altus Impact, as part of the Barcelona Bootcamp in November. It was rewarding to see how the teams shifted their narrative about what they were doing, from a technology-first perspective to a more social, impact-driven focus. Not only was it fun, but we learned a lot about how to tell the story of your project and the power of storytelling. DLT can be quite niche, and this kind of approach allows us to tell a better story to a wider audience, to connect DLT4EU to a more public and democratic space.

What have been inspiring moments to you personally during both your work together as a Virtual Field Lab team & within the overall DLT4EU programme so far?

Sebastian Klemm: Concerned with collaborative reuse of digital devices to reduce premature recycling, Natalia Moreno, David Franquesa and Carles Peidró Garcia apply numerous phrases and counts in our previous interview to highlight the value-creation benefits of circular economy practices, such as: extended device lifetime and durability, number of devices saved, amounts of resources saved, savings per refurbished device, number of devices reused.

Which new narratives and framings do you find helpful to support wider transition to a citizen powered circular textiles sector?

Sebastian Klemm: How will you sustain your engagement and project development beyond the final presentations at the European Commission in March 2021?

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