Get to know us a little better
A young business
Scenario Sciences is a young business specialising in live-action simulations for a wide range of applications. What makes us stand out from the crowd is our ability to understand and integrate the subtle dynamics of social systems into our simulations. This makes our simulations particularly well-suited to people-centric challenges such as culture, security, innovation and communication.
Beyond CSR - Our attitude toward social and environmental sustainability
Scenario Sciences is built on the premise that economic, environmental and social sustainability are interconnected. Over the long term, it is impossible to have one without the other two. By creating value for our clients and ensuring a sustainable bottom line, we can also nurture the social capital and natural resources that our business depends on to thrive.
Naturally, this influences strategic choices we have made for our business:
- We use the non-profit banking cooperative JAK for all our banking needs. Although this means we do not earn interest, we are able to support local initiatives and local economies by simply having money in the bank. As the bank does not speculate, we are also insulated against volatility in the global financial markets.
- We collaborate with the international Impact Hub network for office space. This network caters to the needs of social and impact entrepreneurs on 6 continents. We gain from the creative exchange that occurs there and can offer beautiful, accessible and sustainable meeting and work spaces for our staff and clients.
Inspired by the principles of Blue Economy
Instead of always cutting costs, we have to generate more value with what we have - Gunter Pauli
Scenario Sciences was inspired by the Blue Economy Principles long before they were referred to by that name. They have since been applied to the business model and inspire how Scenario Sciences is run today. We don't try to be environmentally friendly or socially responsible. We take it for granted and have built sustainability into the very DNA of our business.
We have been inspired by and applied the following Blue Economy/ZERI philosophies and sciences:
- The 12 ZERI Axioms of Economics
- The 5 ZERI Intelligences
- The 5 Kingdoms of Nature
- Systemic Design (Prof. Luigi Bistagnino and others)
- Ecoliteracy and Systems Thinking (Fritjof Capra and others)
The Blue Economy Principles
The Blue Economy Principles are a distillate of the experiences and lessons from hundreds of successful sustainable enterprises built on the philosophies and science listed above. In essence, they are about creating more value with what we already have available to us locally.
The Blue Economy stands out from traditional "green" or "circular" economics through its focus on integrated systems, multiple cash flows, intangible resources (culture and tradition), practical implementation, competitiveness and innovation.
The Blue Economy report was originally released as a report to the Club of Rome and was created in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. The Blue Economy cases were identified and studied by the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) many years before the Blue Economy report was released. Several of them can be found in Gunter Pauli's book Upsizing: The Road to Zero Emissions, published more than 10 years before The Blue Economy report.
If you want to learn more about Blue Economy, we have provided an accessible introduction here. We also recommend visiting one of the official websites:
Meet some members of our team
THE FIVE KINGDOMS OF NATURE
The concept of The 5 Kingdoms of nature help provide a framework for how to go about cascading resources and designing sustainable systems. The 5 kingdoms are:
- Bacteria (prokaryotes and archae)
- Algae (protoctista)
An understanding of how these kingdoms interact with each other (ecoliteracy) provides the foundation for the 5 ZERI design principles that guide the mapping and design of resource flows underlying innovations in Blue Economy enterprises.
Design principle 1. What is waste for one species is food for another belonging to another kingdom
Generally, no one species eats its own waste by habit. Mammals may eat other mammals, but they will not normally eat the waste of other mammals. This waste product instead becomes food for other members of the animal kingdom, such as insects, that operate in collaboration with the kingdoms of bacteria, fungi and algae.
In industry this translates to cross-industry collaboration as a prerequisite for success. If an industry tries to re-use its waste, it will result in a waste of energy (entropy) or degradation of the product. This is the case of the metals industries, where used metals are re-smelted and recycled using vast amounts of energy.
For the flow of resources to work, the output of one industry must go through a completely different industry. This is done by partnering with another enterprise that can use the outputs generated by the first enterprise. An excellent example is the case of cascading brewing systems. The waste from the brewing process can be used in both fish farming and bread baking. This way, the outputs from the brewing industry become inputs for two different industries.
In the case of agriculture, it is a matter of putting the output through a different system based on a different kingdom.
Design Principle 2. Whatever is a toxin to one species will be neutral or a nutrient to another species in a another kingdom
A real-life example of this phenomenon is where Oyster mushrooms (an edible gourmet mushroom) have been successfully used to clean up oil pollution. The hydrocarbons in crude oil are very harmful to members of the animal kingdom (including people), but not so, for the fungi kingdom. The otherwise toxic oil is converted into nutrients and carbohydrates by the mushroom, decontaminating the area where it is growing.
Design Principle 3. Pathogens are rendered inert when processed through at least 2 different kingdoms
This phenomenon is commonly harnessed in the management of human waste (faeces). Human waste contains pathogens including harmful bacteria, viruses and other parasites. It cannot be re-used without significant health risks.
On the other hand, beneficial (thermophillic and aerobic) bacteria will feed on the waste (and the pathogens) and excrete a "waste" product that can be safely handled by humans - soil or humus. This is also the case when using earthworms as their digestive systems depend on bacteria doing the digesting.
This soil is still not very useful to us or other members of the animal kingdom, but it is a valuable source of nutrients for members of the plant and mushroom kingdoms. Now that the pathogenic components have been broken down and re-assembled through two different kingdoms, we (or another member of the animal kingdom) can now make use of the nutrients again without worrying about pathogens.
Design Principle 4. The more diverse and localised the system, the more resilient it is
A natural ecosystem becomes well adapted to it's own context (eg. rain forests in the tropics, pine forests in more temperate climates). There is great diversity and symbiosis between kingdoms. There are multiple species of mycorrhizal fungi, many different animals and so on.
This diversity has come about as the species co-evolved under millions of years within the boundaries of its own system. The diversity provides risk sharing, redundancy and innovation. Consequently, the system is resilient to change and recovers well from crises. Forcing a species from a different system to become part of the established system causes it to degenerate and become vulnerable.
This increased vulnerability is true also for a monoculture because it lacks the diversity necessary for resilience. If it is hit with a disease or changing conditions, the entire crop may be lost. Although this is a very tangible matter for agriculture, the principle is very relevant to enterprise systems. It has been proven time and again that companies embracing diversity do far better than companies that do not (Google, Patagonia, Semco etc.). The willingness to co-evolve with strategic partners provides both risk-sharing and access to new innovations at a low cost. The tendency to operate in silos, standardise processes and maintain a lid on communication, on the other hand tends to be costly, risky and makes the organisation vulnerable to change.
Design Principle 5. Reduce entropy by using the five kingdoms to produce at ambient temperature and pressure
Contemporary production methods require vast amounts of energy to control temperature, pressure and other environment conditions. These methods are inefficient, resulting in significant amounts of energy being wasted or lost. This inefficiency of energy use is known as entropy.
We can do much better than using high-entropy production methods. In nature, production is far more energy efficient, rarely requiring the addition of heat or extensive pressure. This is because natural processes make use of physics and symbiosis between different kingdoms. Key chemicals and materials are produced by the organism with inputs from its local environment (water and nutrients) and processed at the same temperature and pressure as its surroundings. Through sciences such as bioprocessing, permaculture and biomimicry, it can be done surprisingly well.
We have used bioprocessing for thousands of years to produce cultured foods and increase the shelf life of perishable goods. Some examples include the production of beer, cheeses and kimchi. Bioprocessing is also used in sewage treatment plants and in medicine, such as for the production of insulin.
The science of bioprocessing can also be used to mine metals from waste, avoiding the need for destructive mining methods and high-energy smelting. In the Blue Economy case Metals Without Mining, bacteria and water are used to extract pure metals from powdered E-waste.
The term permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison in the 1970s. It is about mimicking natural ecosystems in a permanently sustainable form of agriculture. Permaculture can also be used to recover arid land. At Las Gaviotas in Colombia (probably the oldest successful ZERI/Blue Economy project) the methodologies from permaculture were used to regrow several hectares of rainforest from an arid savanna.
Permaculture is a widespread practice and both training and expertise is available in many countries. To find out more about permaculture, we suggest visiting the global permaculture network website or the Permaculture institute:
Global Permaculture Network http://www.permacultureglobal.com
The term biomimicry was coined by Janine Benyus who outlined the science in her book. Today, Biomimicry is an academic science, that is widely implemented and has inspired a range of innovations and sustainable solutions. The common Velcro strap was designed by mimicking the hooks of the burr plant.
An excellent website for learning more about applications for biomimicry is Ask Nature:
Systemic Design considers how one can make better use of material and energy flows, so that one may model production and energy systems after those in the natural world.
Systemic design is simultaneously an academic discipline and a design methodology. It has its roots in the generative sciences, similarly to disciplines such as systems science, cybernetics and organisational theory. Building on the concepts of Industrial Ecology, Industrial symbiosis, Biomimicry and organismic systems theories, ZERI-member Prof. Luigi Bistagnino developed the methodology.
Systemic design is characterised by five fundamental guidelines:1. Input > Output
What is not used by one system becomes an input for another system, just like in the natural world. In practice, this means that any excess output or waste from one industry can be used as a raw material for another industry. This guideline supports local resilience, economic independence of the enterprise and ultimately, the creation of new, sustainable jobs.
Understanding the full range of relationships between the components of a system is prerequisite for understanding and subsequently influencing or changing it. This applies equally to ecosystems, communities and enterprises.
3. Towards Autopoiesis
Natural systems are self-organising, self-reproducing and self directing (they define their own course of action). If we integrate these tendencies when designing production flows, we could improve efficiency, energy use and resource distribution.
4. Act Locally
Just as an eco-system is influenced and shaped by its local environment, other systems are also influenced by their local context. This applies to organisations, projects, communities and so on. Local opportunities will always be available and a general approach that cannot adapt to such contexts will necessarily be inadequate and inefficient. Rather than using a general approach, one should increase local participation and adapt to the local context.
5. Man at the centre of the project
The Systemic Design paradigm proposes that common social, cultural, ethical and biological values should be at the centre of each productive process. This means looking at all the relationships in the production process and various flows associated with them (materials, information and resources) from a human-centric point of view. This is not the same as an anthropocentric view where the human being is superior to nature. Rather, it is about viewing the human being as an integral part of the natural system.
How is Systemic Design different?
Systemic Design is a key methodology and discipline in Blue Economy and it is therefore important to understand how it differs from related disciplines popular in green and circular economics. This is not a matter of establishing any of these as better than the other - only to identify how they are different from each other.
As Systemic design focuses on people rather than product, values and priorities become different. It results in a more holistic approach that encourages diversity through clustering of complementary industries. Unique aspects include:
- Open systems that interact with their local environment/context
- Cooperation and co-evolution, rather than symbiosis with a dominant industry or competition between individual actors
- Includes the flow of information in addition to materials and resources. Thus information networks and open source exchanges of knowledge become vital.
- Resilience through diversity - clustering of complementary industries, rather than more of the same
- In-depth territorial planning is key. The design of local clusters are unique and cannot be generalised and applied out of context.
- It is interdisciplinary
- Uses systemic flow studies, rather than systemic leverage points
Related models such as Cluster Theory (Porter), Industrial Ecology and Industrial Symbiosis have similarities with Systemic Design and can be confused with it. This is more true for Industrial Ecology and Industrial Symbiosis as they build on a paradigm more closely related to that of Systemic Design.
Cluster Theory is concerned with industrial clustering, but focuses more on geographical concentration and proximity to customer. Product takes precedence over people and the environment. In this form of industrial clustering, similar industries become part of the same cluster, rather than complementary industries. This results in competition, rather than collaboration.
Industrial Ecology and Industrial Symbiosis are focused on environmental, social and economical sustainability. They are both oriented toward closed-loop systems that aim to recycle all waste or manufacture and sell by-products. They are also less competition-oriented and focus on symbiosis. In contrast to Systemic Design, however, they use a more generic approach, do not integrate information flows and do not operate as an open system.
Systemic Design in the Academic World
Systemic design is an academic subject available at Masters and PhD level at the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy. It was developed by key members of ZERI and has been available there for several years. For further information about the programs, we suggest contacting the faculty of Design. Their contact details are available here:
To learn more about Systemic Design, we recommend the following books, as they are available in English:
Systemic Design by Luigi Bistagnino
We also recommend the following information site about systemic design (in Italian): http://www.systemicdesign.org
ECOLITERACY AND SYSTEMS THINKING
Ecoliteracy is the ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly. One must understand how to operate in such a way as to support and cooperate with nature's ability to sustain life. It requires an understanding of such subjects as systems thinking, living networks, autopoiesis (or self-generation) and self-maintained boundaries. It also requires an interdisciplinary application of knowledge.
Shifting perspective from a focus on parts to a focus on relationships
Capra and others identify the need for a shift in perspective to complement how we currently view and study the world. It is this systemic way of thinking that is a prerequisite for ecoliteracy. Fritjof Capra outlines this very well in his essay "A Science for Sustainable Living":
Living systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller parts. Now, in what sense exactly is ―the whole more than the sum of its parts‖? The answer is relationships. The essential properties of a living system arise from the interactions and relationships among the parts. Systemic thinking is thinking in terms of relationships. The shift from the parts to the whole requires another shift of focus, from objects to relationships...
...And finally, mapping relationships and studying patterns is not a quantitative but a qualitative approach. So, systemic thinking implies a shift from quantity to quality. These characteristics of systemic thinking are all just different aspects of the same shift of perception: a shift from the parts to the whole, from objects to relationships, from measuring to mapping, from contents to patterns, from quantity to quality.
- Fritjof Capra, A Science for Sustainable Living in Systemic Design by Luigi Bistagnino
Want to find out more about systems thinking and ecoliteracy? Start with these two books:
Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (if you are only to read one book on systems theory, make it this one)