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Carey Renn

Feb 13, 2024


min read

Design Swarm for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius

Success at GreenBiz24! Thank you to our amazing Lightning Speakers and participants.

Design Swarm for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius

The Global Impact Collective kicked off GreenBiz24 with our session, “Design Swarms® for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius,” and it was a huge success!


James Bernard, co-founder of the Collective, and Judith Hochhauser Schneider, founding partner of the Collective hosted 75 participants from over 50 organizations, representing marketing, technology, finance, corporate social sustainability, and everything in between. Organizations who attended included Microsoft, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., Diageo, WWF, USAID, Toro, KPMG, Aldi, and others.


Surya Vanka, Founding Advisor of the Global Impact Collective and founder of Authentic Design, led the group through his design thinking process, Design Swarms, and challenged the room to develop truly transformative ideas that will help operationalize circularity within companies.  Over the course of three hours, participants brainstormed solutions to the circularity challenge that can meaningfully impact our collective approach to this complex problem (more on this in our summary blog post coming out at the end of the week).

Participants at the GreenBiz session, Design Swarms for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius
Participants at the GreenBiz session, Design Swarms for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius

We especially want to thank our Lightning Speakers for inspiring the room to think about circularity holistically. They spoke about approaching the problem with curiosity, having a willingness to not only collaborate but to seek mutually beneficial solutions, and aligning corporate strategy and profitability with sustainability objectives.


Erin Simon, Vice President, Plastic Waste + Business at World Wildlife Fund, kicked us off with an insightful talk entitled, “Why You Should Be Like a Clownfish Today,” inspiring participants with examples of collaboration in nature such as the clownfish and sea anemone. In this demonstration of mutualism, the clownfish relies on the anemone for safe harbor and in return the clownfish provides food to the anemone. Like the clownfish and sea anemone, organizations need to tap into mutualism both internally, across departments, and externally with their suppliers, partners, and customers. She argued that businesses, governments, and communities should similarly collaborate to tackle global challenges in support of a circular economy.


Jennifer DuBuisson, Senior Director of Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. spoke to, “The Importance of a Questioning Mindset,” encouraging the participants to disrupt the status quo by engaging in the transformative power of asking the right questions. Jennifer advocated for a questioning mindset to uncover opportunities for innovation and improve consumer engagement in the circular economy.


Meghann Glavin, Director, Sustainability & Social Impact at Starbucks asked, “How Do You Turn a 200,000 Ton Cruise Ship?” emphasizing the importance of aligning incentives within businesses to foster sustainability. Meghann discussed how accountability and collaboration across functions can drive significant environmental progress. She highlighted the need for a cultural shift towards both optimism and realism in facing sustainability challenges and inspired the room to work smarter together.


Jim Hanna, Director of Sustainability - Construction Operations & Datacenter Equipment at Microsoft was our final Lightning speaker on how “The Business Case is not Dead.” Jim emphasized the importance of embedding sustainability into corporate strategy, illustrating how aligning sustainability efforts with business metrics can overcome internal resistance and drive change and greater impact.


Participants at the GreenBiz session, Design Swarms for Circularity: Harnessing Our Collective Genius

All four speakers inspired the room to think differently during our design session and to share these learnings with their own organizations after GreenBiz. If you’d like to connect with either Judith or James to learn more about how to utilize design thinking in your organization, please reach out at

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  • Writer's pictureJames Bernard

Launching the Global Impact Collective

It all began with a conversation — I reconnected with Don Coyner, who led the Xbox team I was on more than 20 years ago. He and several friends from the design world were looking for ways to give back. At the same time, I was talking to several sustainability and social impact colleagues looking to join forces.


Together we formed the Global Impact Collective, a design and strategy consultancy with a vision to use design thinking to help your organization solve global food system, health, and environmental challenges.


We will apply our decades of expertise toward these critical challenges, impacting millions of lives annually. Importantly, we don’t believe we have all the answers. In fact, we know we don’t. But we do believe that the collective and diverse experience of our network enables us to tackle hard and complex problems.


We believe in crafting locally relevant, effective, and enduring solutions through deep engagement, active listening and sustained learning. We also believe in teaching and mentoring the next generation of impact-oriented designers and doers, no matter their background, where they live, or their traditional place in society. We are entering an era of collective design, where anyone can build solutions that are relevant to their own lives.


We want to help you tackle these critical issues, whether you are a mission-driven company, foundation, family office, government institution, or multilateral organization. We’re ready to collaborate. To learn more about how we can assist you, follow us on LinkedIn or reach out via email.

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