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  • Writer's pictureLonneke Boonzaaijer

Deep diving into the 'Circular Economy Design Sprint'

This is one of the 4 formats that I am specifically super excited about!

As we discussed in the previous articles the ‘Validation Design Sprint and the ‘Strategy Design Sprint’, we will now deep dive into the ‘Circular Economy Design Sprint’. Lastly I will publish the explanation and program for the ‘Branding & Campaign Design Sprint’.

Why create a sprint format for the circular economy industry?

When running the first sprint for a client with a circular economy purpose, we quickly found out that there are a few major things that sound good in theory, but work out very differently in practice, with regard to running a design sprint. For example;

The team set up

Since we’re figuring out how to create a certain business to become more circular or fully circular, it almost always means that there are certain chain partners that are essential for this to become a reality. As a result of this, the team consists out of stakeholders from these different chain partners, to add value and knowledge as to what is possible, or not. Because of this, the team is slightly larger than in a normal sprint. For example, when there are four essential chain partners that need to contribute, they can bring in two team members, which already means we’re with 8, plus the designer and the facilitator is 10 and in most cases we invite a specialist as well with regard to the topic.


When stating the long term goal in a circular economy sprint, you visualise a goal in the future that is addressing a certain way on how to run your business and refers to a type of process that needs be used in order to reach that goal. It is not so much a specific ‘job to be done’, but a much more idealistic framework, in which the team in-visions a future operations on how the business is ran. This makes it more abstract to begin with and secondly, is quite hard to map out.

When we start with the mapping exercise in a normal sprint, we normally work in a linear way right? We start with the ‘actors’ on the left and we work towards the ‘long term goal’ on the right. However, in a circular economy sprint this doesn’t work, all the actors come-in or leave the map at various ‘moments’ in the map. But most importantly, it isn’t a linear process that has a defined beginning or end. It is the visualisation of the entire process as it operates today, and therefore is… tadaa a map in the shape of a cirkel :)

Moreover, to visualise the current situation, it takes a good 2/3rds of the day to map everything out. (Ps: you will also need a much larger canvas to sketch the circular map on).


The same goes more or less for the sketching exercise. When people first need to start off with looking for inspiring examples, it normally means they can look for companies or businesses who have already come up with similar solutions or ideas to the defined problem. However, in this case we’re looking at process innovation -or creation with a circular economy angle. This means during the ‘searching for inspiring examples’ session we need to look at different companies who have set-up a system that enables them to work in a circular way.

During the rest of the sketching process people are working on a process description of the business operations. This is much more functional and technical as a posed to visual, as it would be in a normal design sprint. The final solution sketches are a visualisation of a future process, with all connected dots, chain partners and activities that are taking place.

*PS: give people magic white charts to make their solutions ‘process’ sketches on, as this won’t fit in the ‘linear’ 3 pane papers, we normally work on, as it will (most likely) be a circle with CTA’s in it.


Deciding on the best or most interesting ideas, the dot-voting, like in a normal sprint, is focused on the best ideas with regard to the process innovation / creation.

Circular Economy Process Boarding

In stead of the usual storyboarding we focus on creating a reinvented business process operations. We look at all our solutions and focus on the winning ideas, like we do in a normal sprint. We then look which elements can be put together like a puzzle and fill the gaps discussing how one dot connects to the other in the process. The final result is a ‘circular economy process board’, stating how the new business operations look like in the future and how all chains are connected and working together, in order to for example reach the goal of a zero-waist business, re-use of materials, ways of how waist is processed and so on. Further it indicates who is responsible where in the entire chain. The ‘circular economy process board’ is a blueprint for the collaborative circular economy business transformation. (*Due to signed NDA’s I can’t share any visuals unfortunately).


The prototyping, not surprisingly, is an interactive visualisation of the new process, or also roadmap. This is not about validating the UX, UI or business concept, but it is an illustration of the new circular process. Really important to know for this sprint is; invite an illustrator who can create digital designs and create a clickable prototype, in the form of a visual process description, resulting in what we normally see as a roadmap for example (but then much cooler and more effective of course ;).


In a normal sprint we test the prototype with actual customers or users.

In this case our target group(s) are the chain partners, since they will be the ones who need to work together in order to bring the new process to life. Therefore we invite colleagues of the chain partners, who haven’t been taking part in the sprint and show them the prototype / interactive model of the new process. We have them comment on it and give input on the various elements in the interactive roadmap. Further, we need to validate the feasibility of the new process; is it realistically and financially possible? If not, what are the bottle-necks that we need to overcome?

What do you get out of a ‘Circular Economy Design Sprint’?

A focused and visibly explainable roadmap of the circular business operations, involving different chain partners and call-to-actions they need to take in order to realise the newly created circular economy process. It is the blueprint for a collaborative circular economy business transformation.

The Program


10:00–10:15 Introductions & explanation of the program

10:15–10:45 Presentation from stakeholder about background & ambitions

10:45–11:30 Interviews (10 min.) with each chain partner present in the team + HMW’s

11:30–12:00 Stating the ‘long term goal’

12:00–13:00 Mapping the current business operations

13:00–14:00 Lunch

14:00–16:00 Continue mapping

16:00–16:30 Reviewing + dot voting the HMW’s

16:30–17:00 Deciding target (with regard to making the business process circular)


10:00–10:15 Recap of day 1 & program for day 2

10:15–11:30 Looking for inspiring examples with regard to circularity

11:30–11:45 Preparing inspiring examples in pitch deck

11:45–12:30 Presenting individual top-3 circularity examples

12:30–13:30 Lunch

13:30–14:00 Notes & Ideation — sketches out doodles + ideas for new process

14:00–14:30 Crazy’s 8’s (use A3 paper and give 3 min. per frame)

14:30–17:00 Solution sketching — sketching out the new circular process + descriptions

Use magic white papers for people to work on, as it will be a circular representation


10:00–10:15 Recap of day 2 & program fo day 3

10:15–10:45 The Art Museum (give more time, since there will be more detail) + *Q’s

10:45–11:15 Pitches (3 min.) — Each individual explains their process-sketch + *Q’s

11:15–12:15 Q + A round (every creator answers to the *Q’s on the stickies)

12:15–12:30 Dot voting

12:30–13:30 Lunch

13:30–17:00 Circular Economy Process Boarding



Digitising the ‘circular economy process board’Prepping the test roomDouble-checking the schedule & candidates for FridayMaking ‘next steps’ pitch deck for stakeholders



We use a feedback grid to gather all insights. Every section in the prototype (interactive circular process visualisation) get a column. Every intervee gets a row. This way we capture all insights per section and this way can identify similar input on very specific elements. We use pink notes for negative input (improvements), orange or yellow notes for general tips, comments, ideas and green notes for positive input (affirmations / validations of concept).

How to use the output for the ‘next steps’:

After the sprint is over, the feedback grid is the basis for next steps. We then focus on adjusting the prototype with the most important insights we’ve gathered during the test-day. Further, we can identify a realistic planning of execution, with regard to the prototype. It enables us to objective prioritise things that need to be done, in order to bring the ‘interactive circular process visualisation’ to life, with a clear plan of action. This plan of action gives the various chain partners a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and when. The way these chain partners work together, is as a result more transparent and can call on each other when specific action needs to be undertaken.

It is the blueprint for a collaborative circular economy business transformation.

Any questions, input or ideas? Please feel free to contact me at, or have a look at for more information.

With innovative regards,

Lonneke Boonzaaijer

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