Energizing a transformation to a circular bioeconomy: mechanisms to spread, deepen and broaden initiatives

O.M. Schagen*, T.A.P. Metze, E.M. de Olde, C.J.A.M. Termeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Transformative change is necessary to reach a circular bioeconomy. In this context, a variety of societal and business initiatives have emerged, which in their everyday practices aim to increase their circular impact. These emerging circular initiatives, so-called small wins, continuously spread, deepen and broaden and as such contribute to transformative change. A small win spreads by becoming larger and more numerous, deepens by becoming more radical and circular, and broadens by connecting with other themes and domains. This paper explores how mechanisms drive these processes and, more in particular, how circular initiatives stay or become more transformative while developing. By building on existing literature about mechanisms that contribute to the development of initiatives—we extend the small wins framework by focusing on the interplay between mechanisms and spreading, deepening and broadening. We applied this framework to two illustrative cases in the Netherlands: a circular laying hen farm, Kipster, and the community farming initiative, Herenboeren. We empirically explored how the interplay of mechanisms constitutes continuous transformative change. The results indicate that deepening the small win is mainly driven by learning by doing; spreading takes place through professionalization and broadening by partnering. Both case studies indicate that the energizing and logic of attraction mechanisms are key in continuous transformative change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1115
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number3
Early online date19 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Circular bioeconomy
  • Initiatives
  • Mechanisms
  • Small wins
  • Transformation
  • Transformative change


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