This Reflection paper of the ECESP Leadership Group on Network governance and circular economy hubs draws on the lessons learned when a group of ECESP Coordination Group members focused on road-mapping processes in various countries. The key to success is making the networks work, making them actionable, with a focus on network governance and the role of individual circular economy hubs.
Network governance is a crucial addition to conventional public governance in the complex transition towards a circular economy. While the government kickstarts change in the desired directions by deploying policy instruments, it is a bottom-up movement: initiatives, frontrunners and different practices emerge and demonstrate that the circular economy is in reach. Network governance is needed to get everybody on board, thereby helping put the circular economy into practice. Network governance needs transition brokers.
The success of CE hubs depends on several factors. A clearly defined and strongly portrayed and embedded mission is crucial to lay down successful foundations for the hub. Furthermore, circular economy hubs have benefited immensely from the support of public or private institutions that can lay the foundations for the successful consolidation of circular economy hubs. Private and public support can come in the form of funding, legal basis or other means. A strong circular economy hub that is made out of founding partnerships will benefit from interdisciplinary and complementary partners.
The vision of the hub has to be clear, with well-defined objectives, goals and milestones in the short, medium and long term. Their strong mission statement is magnified when embedded into their facilities/offices and actions. This means having an impact, with practical and tangible solutions that can demonstrate and pilot the transition.
A strong network is fundamental for the success of a hub. Strong national and international networks and a strong international presence have been beneficial for circular economy hubs. The ability to successfully engage local and international stakeholders is paramount.
A systemic approach is needed to understand and address the context and areas of interest. The success of hubs depends on the level of understanding of the needs of stakeholders and the dynamics of the context. Only in this way can the hub provide adequate services to stakeholders and produce an actual impact.