circular challenge 2022

Fashion Can Do Better

Join us as we reimagine the future of fashion

The Department of Geography and Environment at LSE and Experience Labs invite universities from around the world to join the Global Circular Challenge. Now is the most exciting time to be an innovator and this competition will equip students with both the skills and the platform to create fashion products that last longer and are designed with the end in mind.

Our generation is ready for meaningful shifts in how we live. We are tired of incremental changes to the status quo and have the courage to imagine and experiment with fundamentally new ways of how it works.

Dr Jason Wong, Visiting Fellow (LSE) and Assistant Professor (Occidental College)

Each participating university can select 1-2 student teams under the guidance of a relevant faculty advisor. These teams will be charged with designing solutions that improve the sourcing, manufacturing, use and disposability of fashion products in a circular world. We are confident this competition will help students find opportunities within the fashion industry and foster meaningful solutions that can contribute to the circular economy.

Watch the launch video

Thank you to our sponsers and collaborators: NatWest, Sustainable Futures, Experience Labs, LSE Department of Geography and Environment, PAGE and LSESU Geography and Environment Society.


The Global Circular Challenge kicked off on Wednesday 19 October 2022 with teams applying design thinking over the course of 7 weeks. Teams gathered on LSE campus for a finals weekend from 1-3 December 2022. Stay tuned for the 2023 edition!

The top 6 teams this year were:                 

Team 3 - Occidental College (3rd Place)
Team 5 - Northern Illinois University 
Team 6 - University of Calgary
Team 9 - LSE 
Team 11 - Columbia University (1st Place)
Team 13 - University of Georgia (2nd Place)

global circular challenge 2022
Global Circular Challenge 2022. LSE. 



The Global Circular Challenge’s internal engine and differentiator is Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a collaborative creative problem-solving methodology used to generate innovative human-centered solutions. It is a framework + a mindset that fuels innovation.

Design Thinking is driven by Three Core Beliefs:

Empathy – Establish a deep understanding of human needs. Design thinking emphasises the importance of developing deep empathy for the humans served by the creations we intend to design.

Invention – Discover new possibilities. Design Thinking focuses on possibilities rather than constraints so that the future ends up looking different than the present.

Iteration – Use the first solutions as stepping stones to a better solution. Design Thinking treats new ideas as hypotheses to be systematically tested and evaluated. Testing prototypes with potential users provides us with useful feedback that can be used to refine the idea and iterate to a better concept.


The industrial revolution ushered in the rapid pace of technological progress that has allowed our global economy to turn our vast resources into an extraordinary number of products. But our way of doing things is reaching limits and the current system is no longer working for business, people or the environment. We take resources from the ground to make products, which we use, and then, when we no longer want them, throw them away. This is the linear Take-Make-Waste economy.

We have an alternative. The Circular Economy seeks to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. According to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy could save $700 million USD in annual material cost savings, provide a 48% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and provide a $550 billion USD reduction in health care costs associated with the food sector. The opportunities are endless. It’s a new way to design, make and use things within our planetary boundaries.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

Watch a video from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.


Read our FAQs

1. Is there a cost to participate in the Global Circular Challenge?
No, there is no cost to participate in the Global Circular Challenge. However, participants must arrange for their own travels to London for the finals weekend at their own expense, and the Finals Gala dinner tickets will be available at a modest cost to participants.

2. Who should sign up for the Global Circular Challenge?
The ideal GCCers are students seeking a unique experience to collaborate and share a creative experience with others, committed to the process, eager to learn and practice design thinking behaviors and mindsets (regardless of pre-existing knowledge and experience), excited about applying these skills to a circular fashion challenge, passionate souls and team players.

3. What is the time commitment for the Global Circular Challenge?
It depends. It depends on the commitment you want to make to your experience. The minimum time commitment per week is roughly 3-4 hours. The breakdown of time is about 2.5-3 hours to complete your Team assignment and 1 hour to attend the weekly feedback session. However, the time flexes with the type of assignment you have, how well your group distributes the workload, and how your Team organises meetings.

Past participants will tell you that the programme is a fast-paced, high-energy experience. Smart teams will set up a meeting schedule at the beginning of the programme so that they are not spending a lot of time trying to clear calendars for group work at the last minute.

4. How much time does it take to complete assignments?
The time to complete each assignment varies depending on the complexity of the assignment and the work distribution across the Team. Here is a rough guide to how much time your Team can expect to spend on each assignment.

The following details are subject to change as the assignments for the competition are being updated

Assignment 1: TearDown Lab - 2 Hours (1 Hour to breakdown product and 1 hour to document results.)

Assignment 2: Footprint Analysis – 4 Hours (3 Hours to conduct analysis and 1 hour to document results.)

Assignment 3: User Poster – 4 Hours (2 Hours to conduct interview, 2 Hours to synthesize findings and document results.)

Assignment 4: Missing Actor – 4 Hours (3 Hours to conduct research and 1 Hour to document results.)

Assignment 5: Business Model Canvas – 3 Hours (1 Hour to brainstorm ideas, 1 Hour to complete Business Model Canvas and 1 Hours to document results.)

Assignment 6: TAM/SAM/SOM Financials - 2 Hours (1 Hour to create financials and 1 Hour to document results.)

Assignment 7: Pitch Presentation – 6+ Hours (1 Hours to create a storyboard, 2 Hours to organize data, 3 Hours to build pitch deck.)

5. What communications will we receive from the Leadership Team?

You can expect the following communications:

Weekly Check-In Email - Distributed Thursday afternoons at 1pm EST

Weekly Journals - Distributed Monday mornings at 10am EST/Due Wednesday afternoons by 3pm EST

Mentor Feedback - Presented Wednesday afternoons at weekly workshop

6. How much interaction will I have with other GCC students and the Leadership Team?

You will have many chances to interact with members of the GCC community.

1. Weekly workshops – You will engage with all of the GCC teams’ work product each week and will listen to individual team feedback from fashion experts during the weekly Zoom feedback sessions. This will take place every Wednesday. 

2. Speed Networking Session - We will host a speed networking session to meet fashion experts and learn about internship and employment opportunities students.

3. Dress Rehearsal – Every team will present their pitches to a panel of Judges for feedback and review prior to the Semi-Final round of competition.

4. Social Event – We will host a student-only mixer to get to know other GCCers during the Finals weekend.

5. Gala and Awards Ceremony – We will publicly celebrate every student participant in the GCC with superlatives and a Statement of Accomplishment at the Gala and Awards Ceremony.

7. How will I succeed if I am not a subject matter expert on fashion or the circular economy?
You do not need to be a fashion expert or a circular economy expert to succeed in the Global Circular Challenge. We will offer you secondary resources to learn about these topics, however, our goal is for you to apply the tools of design thinking to solve the challenge and flex new skills to sort through complex data, analyse inferences, and integrate data from a variety of sources to solve the challenge better. We will encourage you to facilitate discovery of new data sources, think in terms of creating value and quality for your end-user and express your ideas in ways that builds commitment to them across your team. This may require you to stretch your skills and practice problem-solving in completely new ways. We know that it may be uncomfortable at times but we also know that applying design thinking skills to a real problem will help you master the process.

8. Can I use my assignments as part of a design thinking portfolio?
Yes! We strongly encourage you to collect, document and archive your assignments from the beginning of Global Circular Challenge to create a design thinking portfolio. Many past participants have pivoted their careers based on their participation in the programme. The assignments are a tangible and valuable way to share your academic and professional development.

9. Will I be able to immediately transfer the skills I learn in the Global Circular Challenge to other school work?
Yes! As a GCCer, you will gain knowledge and further develop your leadership skills that are critical to your personal development. The skills that you will learn include:

Problem Solving - sorting through complex data and integrating data from a variety of sources to solve problems better.

Creativity - facilitating discovery and searching and reapplying proven ideas into new solutions to get better results.

Communication - organizing thoughts clearly and concisely to express ideas in a way that builds commitment to them.

Collaboration - building and maintaining productive relationships and persuading others across disciplines and functions.

Leadership - recognising opportunities to form a vision and make an impact on a meaningful community in a meaningful way.

Priority-Setting - thinking in terms of creating value and quality for users and working with the end result in mind.

Decision-Making - recognising ambiguity and overcoming obstacles to keep moving towards the end result.

10. Is the competition open to graduate students?
Yes – it is open to both undergraduates and graduate students. Past winners have included undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of fields including business management, fashion, merchandising, finance, architecture, linguistics, environmental science, computer science, retail management, logistics, economics, engineering, marketing, material science, urban planning, geography and public policy.

11. How many teams can each school send?
In order to promote diversity in the number of schools that can attend, each school may send a total of two teams. If there are more teams that wish to attend, we can help facilitate conversations between faculty members to decide which teams to attend. 



For any questions about the Global Circular Challenge, please contact Director Karen Hold or Faculty Director Dr Jason Wong.

Participating Faculty 2022:

Dr Jason Wong, Visiting Fellow and Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr Julia Corwin, Assistant Professor in Environment

Dr Thomas Smith, Assistant Professor in Environmental Geography