ASU brings pioneering circular economy training to rapidly developing countries

May 10, 2016

Lagos, Nigeria, is an international megacity with an ever-growing population, dwindling resources and widespread environmental impact and has become the poster child for rapid urbanization in the developing world, despite being the center of the fastest-growing economy in Africa.

By 2050, the population of Lagos is predicted to double to nearly 36 million people, putting Nigeria on track to be the third-largest country in the world with a total population of 440 million, surpassing the U.S. and Russia. This unprecedented growth places an urgency among its residents, businesses and leaders to address its growing development and quality-of-life challenges. ASU Ethical Circular Economy workshop in Lagos, Nigeria Participants in the world's first Ethical Circular Economy workshop, held in Lagos, Nigeria, discuss their plans for local economic development through recycling and waste efforts. In a circular economy there is no such thing as waste; resources are remanufactured, refurbished and recycled to keep components and materials circulating in and contributing to the economy. Photo by Olufemi Olarewaju Download Full Image

In April, ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives hosted a three-day Introduction to Ethical Circular Economy workshop — the first in the world — at Sustainability School Lagos, an institution modeled after the Arizona State University Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The workshop was co-led by two senior sustainability scientists from the Walton Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Services, general manager Dan O’Neill and practice lead Rajesh Buch, with Olufemi Olarewaju (ASU Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership graduate), executive director and faculty member of Sustainability School Lagos.

“There is a tremendous amount of potential for a circular economy in rapidly developing countries,” said Buch. “It’s where the larger opportunity arises because it’s where most of the economic development is going to happen.”

A circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy. In a circular economy there is no such thing as waste; resources are remanufactured, refurbished and recycled to keep components and materials circulating in and contributing to the economy. This concept has been gaining momentum in Europe and the U.S. but has yet to take hold in developing countries.

“The biggest problems facing a rapidly urbanizing developing economy like Nigeria are inherently social in nature and include inequality, youth unemployment, poor public education and health systems, poor sanitation, poor habitation, inadequate water supply and energy inequity,” said Olarewaju, one of the founders of Sustainability School Lagos. “Successful implementation of circular economy as a sustainable development paradigm for our part of the world must mean that it delivers solutions to these challenges.”

The workshop is a component of a broader course provided by ASU also called Introduction to Ethical Circular Economy. The 35 participants who attended the workshop in Lagos included Sustainability School Lagos students, city and state officials and members of the New Nigeria Foundation, a group of Nigerian stakeholders committed to promoting sustainable community development through public-private partnerships. Prior to the workshop, participants reviewed four modules of content, requiring 20 hours of online work to prepare for the solutions-based learning approach of the workshop.

Participants left the workshop with a certificate, a vision for a circular economy in Lagos and ideas for solutions that will be documented in a future published report. During the Lagos Central Business District's planning summit later this month, the group will be discussing the redevelopment of Lagos' Central Business District using circular economy and ASU's recent impact on Downtown Phoenix as models. 

”The relevance of a program like this is in being able to apply its principles to address societal challenges,” said Patience Ogwara, workshop participant and programmes manager at New Nigeria Foundation. “The opportunity to do this, using the Lagos context, was personally and professionally enriching.”

Development and delivery of the course was funded by a grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. Earlier this year, ASU became a Pioneer University of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious international Circular Economy 100 (CE100) network. The CE100 is composed of premier institutions from across Europe and the U.S. tasked with researching and developing innovations and solutions that encourage a more circular economy.  

“Our hope is to deliver this learning experience to as many people as possible throughout the fast-developing world of Africa, Latin America and Asia,” Buch said.

As part of the grant, the next circular economy workshop will take place in June in Phoenix.

Communications and social media specialist , Walton Sustainability Solutions Inititatives


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Tippeconnic says farewell

ASU prof worked with schools and politicians to have impact on education.
Tippeconnic says Native graduates "have their head, hearts in the right place."
May 10, 2016

Director of ASU's American Indian Studies Program retiring after half a century of improving Native education

Quanah Parker was a Comanche leader and fierce warrior who sought and obtained peace for his people at a crucial point in their history.

The chief’s photo hangs above John W. Tippeconnic III’s desk in the office of Arizona State University’s American Indian Studies Program, where he serves as a professor and director. 

The 73-year-old educator, who is also a member of the Comanche tribe, is finding renewed inspiration in Parker’s life these days.

“Quanah Parker was one of the last great chiefs, and his rule coincided with the federal government’s colonization efforts by rounding up tribes, forcing Native Americans on reservations and moving them from their homelands,” Tippeconnic said. “He was a brilliant negotiator when it came to dealing with the federal government. This was not necessarily a good time for Comanches, but a difficult transitional time.”

Tippeconnic is experiencing a transitional moment of his own right now. The Phoenix Indian Center’s 2016 Leon Grant Spirit of the Community AwardHonorees of this annual award are noted for their service, commitment and dedication to the greater good of the American Indian community in Arizona. honoree is on the precipice of retirement, with 50 years of experience in teaching and educational leadership positions in organizations and programs serving American Indian populations.

“Professor Tippeconnic has profoundly impacted American Indian education at all levels and has supported countless Native scholars and educators over his decades in the field,” said K. Tsianina Lomawaima, a professor in ASU’s School of Social TransformationThe School of Social Transformation is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.. “I personally have benefited, like many, many others, from his generous, astute, detailed and constructive peer review and mentorship. He exemplifies Native values of intellectual excellence, hard work and care for others.”

That excellence was molded at a young age by his parents, who both attended boarding schools. Tippeconnic said boarding schools back then were militaristic in their approach and highly structured, and they attempted to assimilate Natives into Western ways.

“The United States practiced the policy of, ‘Kill the Indian, save the man,’” he said. “In other words, eradicate who you are and make someone out of you that you aren’t. It was all a part of colonization by using education as a tool to assimilate, eradicate and force change. That definitely had an impact on them, so they pushed me towards education, but an education where I was valued as a Native person.”

ASU professor John W. Tippeconnic III
ASU professor John W. Tippeconnic III (shown here and above in his office at Discovery Hall on the Tempe campus April 26) said the 100 percent Native faculty in the American Indian Studies Program is "a strength that you don’t see at major universities in this country." Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


His parents led by example. His father, John, was the first Comanche to ever receive a master’s degree and was a principal and teacher at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. His Cherokee mother, Juanita, was a cook at the school.

“My parents instilled in me the importance of education because they lived it, modeled it, so I was right there with them,” Tippeconnic said. “It was never a matter of if I was going to go to college, but where I was going to go.”

Tippeconnic chose Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he majored in secondary education. His first job was teaching math and social studies at Hayes Junior High in Albuquerque. It was 1966, and that particular public school system wasn’t what he had hoped.

“The principal valued discipline and bulletin boards in the classroom,” Tippeconnic said. “I wasn’t very good at bulletin boards.”

Tippeconnic spent two years there before taking a job on the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, teaching Navajo fourth- and eighth-grade students. He said the experience was much more meaningful than Albuquerque.

“The kids I taught were grounded in who they were as Navajo people, and all knew and spoke the language,” Tippeconnic said. “They were respectful, and discipline was not an issue so you could really focus on teaching students.”

His good work was noticed by an administrator at Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona, where he became an assistant to the president. The institution is known today as Diné College, the first tribally controlled community college in the United States, in which Tippeconnic played no small part.

“When I got there, the tribe had control of the college. The (college's) board of regents could hire and fire the president,” Tippeconnic said. “They could also institute and approve curriculum and hire faculty and staff.”

He still considers tribal colleges the best example of tribal control of education.

“A good leader is someone who puts others first and doesn’t say ‘I’ but rather, ‘we.’ ... Leadership, like education, is about people. It’s a people business.”
— retiring ASU professor John W. Tippeconnic III

After Navajo Community College, Tippeconnic got involved in educational policy.

“Policy is a key part of leadership because if you examine the history of the U.S. government and Indian tribes’ relations, it’s one that’s based on treaties, Congressional acts, court decisions and legal definitions,” Tippeconnic said. “Not only is it important to develop policy but also to see how policy is implemented. Good Indian policy, based on tribal sovereignty, is key to the success of Indian nation.”

After he received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Penn State University, his focus turned to Washington, D.C., where he eventually held director positions at the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education; and the Office of Indian Education Programs, Bureau of Indian Affairs. Both jobs required work with Congress, tribes, states, local schools, professional organizations and with various departments of the executive branch of the federal government that had an impact on education nationally.

And it would take an act of Congress to get Tippeconnic to take credit for his work. He still insists others should be lauded for his success.

“A good leader is someone who puts others first and doesn’t say ‘I’ but rather, ‘we.’ It’s someone who respects other people, earns their respect and listens to them and not only hears what they have to say but values their input,” Tippeconnic said. “Leadership, like education, is about people. It’s a people business.”

Tippeconnic directed ASU's Center for Indian Education for a number of years, beginning in 1976. He returned to ASU in 2010, serving as professor and director of the American Indian Studies (AIS) Program. The program develops future leaders in Indian country that are grounded in cultural integrity, sovereignty and indigenous knowledge.

“Our graduates know what colonization and decolonization mean. They know our history and the policies. They’re grounded in our AIS paradigm that is based on the experiences of American Indian nations, peoples, communities and organizations from American Indian perspectives,” Tippeconnic said. “One hundred percent of our faculty is Native American. That is a strength that you don’t see at major universities in this country. People look at us and value our AIS program. We’re just at the start of doing great things.”

Tippeconnic sees that after dedicating 50 years of his life to education. On May 11, Tippeconnic will officially say goodbye at ASU’s 26th American Indian Convocation at ASU Gammage in Tempe. There he will see a record-breaking 361 Native students receive their degrees who represent the future leadership of Indian country with the knowledge to sustain strong identity and sovereign status of Indian nations.

“That gives me hope because these young people have their head and hearts in the right place,” Tippeconnic said. “I’m so proud of what they have accomplished.”


Reporter , ASU Now