Interview with Hanne Melin

“CircularFutures champions and inspires system change. I came back from Amsterdam energised and excited.”

Hanne Melin is part of a small team at eBay focused on exploring and understanding the future of commerce. Her work involves talking to policy makers, academics and others and getting them excited about a future where new models of commerce are empowering small businesses to thrive. Hanne has joined CircularFutures as a participant and talks to Jim Playfoot about her experiences at the launch event in Amsterdam.

Hanne Melin finds system change compelling. By being part of CircularFutures, she feels she’s come to the right place.

“I’m fascinated by how we change systems rather than just moving chairs on the Titanic. And I’m fascinated by system thinking - how do we effect change in these systems. For me, this programme really about change at a systemic level.”

Although her role at eBay goes beyond thinking about the circular economy, she has seen a shift in focus over the last year. The circular economy is one of the pillars of eBay’s focus - the challenge is in understanding how eBay, as a platform, can enable people to resell and find a new home for their things. With physical objects, they are already ticking that box. But beyond that, there is a more compelling question.

“I want to start thinking about connected, digital things – the internet of things – what does this mean for ownership and the ability for individuals to repair and resell these things? Will the shift in commerce towards digital impair our ability to resell and repurpose the products we sell?”

A number of the speakers at CircularFutures touched on the emergent issue of digital commerce and its relationship with circular economy ideas. As Hanne explains:

“The challenge of ownership of digital products was something I was able to explore in Amsterdam. The risk is that the circular economy is only something companies do – if citizens can’t repurpose and resell products themselves, they become passive consumers rather than participants in the circular economy.”

Like many of the challenges identified in Amsterdam, this requires practical solutions and progress towards system change. Hanne is positive about the contribution that CircularFutures can make to both:

“What I’m trying to do is change the way policy makers think – how they think about the economy, about exports – and this programme will give me new tools and a refined conceptual framework for how I think about this and how I can be part of changing legislation.”

And she sees more immediate benefits to the programme:

“CircularFutures will help me with ideas and inputs for projects – thinking about how we at eBay can do much more than just selling and reselling. Can we take eBay further into circular economy practice?”

CircularFutures offers the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of thinker, pioneers and practitioners from across multiple disciplines. Hanne sees great promise in that interaction:

“There is real ground for collaboration – many of the participants are already forming those collaborations. The programme really challenges me to find ways of engaging with people from different sectors and backgrounds.”

And she feels positive about where CircularFutures will go next, with participants convening in London in early October.

“The whole experience was a great mix of listening, thinking and doing. We interacted with some really inspiring people. And we were encouraged to reflect on our own work and our own thinking. I’m excited about getting back to that energetic and inspiring bubble.”