Measuring our impact is a hot topic in the CSF office, from a University perspective our impact has become key but its also a very personal objective, none of us at the Centre would be involved in the work we are unless we wanted to make an impact. But as we go round and round in circles questioning our work we come back to the main issue… how do we measure our impact? How can we honestly say that our work has had reach and significance, that our work has swung behaviours and influenced social change?
Whilst the University celebrates its research with a staff and student festival of over 70 events titled ‘Research Fortnight’, between 16 and 27 March 2015, I’ve been reflecting on the work I have been supporting of the CSF researchers for the last 6 and half years and it suddenly occurred to me “what impact has it had on me”. My initial thought is that it hasn’t changed my behaviour too dramatically, as a textile designer my focus has always been on creating work that people would have a personal connection with, creating prints based on travel and cities that evoked memories and created relationships, with the hope of creating longevity for my work.
The first project I supported at LCF was with Prof Sandy Black and this touched on this very subject. Considerate Design challenged traditional design processes to create personalised fashion products. Being involved with the project enabled me to see that there really was value in the way I had been working and for the first time it made be consider that my work was ‘sustainable’. Until that point I had just viewed my design process as a way of working, that for me was flexible, engaging and stimulating.
Prof. Helen Storey’s Catalytic Clothing project reinforced the power of collaboration, connecting science and art to create air purifying textiles and clothing to tackle a global challenge. The project was hugely successful with citizen action and public engagement; following tweets and Facebook posts across the globe was both challenging and inspiring, tracking for 3 months across 147 countries and 300 million people. Shortly after I graduated I begun a textile collective with two other textile designers, with the aim of sharing some of the difficulties of setting up your own studio. Very quickly we realized that collaborating on projects together was far more fun and brought the best of all of us to create something really quite special.
2012 saw Prof. Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom working with 7 international partners exploring the ‘craft’ of using garments in inventive and fulfilling ways. Kate recorded the stories and habits of members of the public and again I’m drawn back to the notion that design is people led and our connection with ‘things’ is or should be a life journey. The project makes me curious if the textile pieces I lovingly spent designing in the hope people would connect, love and cherish are in fact being cherished. It also made me reflect on my own wardrobe, do I have special relationships with my clothes, yes with some, but I want more…this has to change.
Lastly and most recently the team and I have been supporting our Director, Prof. Dilys Williams with her project Habit(AT) seeking to explore our habits of living through fashions actions, relationships and locations with fashion as a mediator to explore our concerns. Suddenly I’m provoked to voice my concerns and the issues, facilitated with fashion artefacts, which the project asks that you stand up for. So ‘I Stood Up’ for our right for well being and a supportive and inclusive NHS. As a mother with a young son and having just lost my beautiful Grandma I’ve very recently viewed both ends of the NHS – the beginning and the end, and whilst I value the greatness that is this organisation I worry that it continues to be disconnected and underfunded.
So on reflection how has working at CSF impacted and influenced me? Well I’ve been encouraged that my design work is of value and feel even more committed to designing with people at the heart of what I do and create. Collaboration is key in achieving the best of me and those I’m working with, together we are greater than apart. Citizen action and engagement can be heard and can influence. But most of all I’m questioning and challenging myself and others, so the question now is “what is my impact?”