Future thinking, Edventure Week 4

A time for reflection and planning in Week 4 of Edventure Frome’s Start-Up Repair Course

Making Space

The week began by clearing the workshop with Thomas. We used the time to organise materials and visualise how the space could look. Our aim is to create a workshop suitable for multiple uses with features for woodwork, crafts and textiles.

A Library of Things

On Wednesday we met with Aliss and Helen from The Share Shop to discuss how our projects can support each other. The Share Shop already runs many interesting events around fixing including regular Saturday morning repair sessions. Find out more here.

 Charting a Course 

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Johannes helped us to form clearer intentions for the remaining weeks using the GROW model. GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Will and is a simple structuring method. By breaking down our task into these four categories we were able identify the necessary next steps and formed a plan of action. We defined our individual roles and began dividing responsibility.

 Finding Answers in Nature

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We took a day out of the office on Thursday to explore our surroundings with Jez and Amelia. Jez encouraged us to appreciate the visible signs of the Spring as we walked while Amelia foraged for interesting plants for us to try. Together we lit a fire and thought about the things we wanted to move on from as we progressed through the course. We ate a feast of toasted bread and wild garlic that we found in abundance along the way.

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Thinking Funding

 On Friday Edventure hosted a talk on Crowdfunding by Andrew Denham; Head Teacher at the Bicycle Academy. Andrew shared his experience of using crowdfunding to raise £40,000 in order to turn the Bicycle Academy into a reality. He kindly explained the basics to us and advised us on the necessary steps to take. Reward based Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for a project through multiple contributions. Usually an entrepreneur or business will post a project they need help funding with a target amount and set deadline for raising the funds. Interested backers are then offered rewards based on the size of their donation as incentive for investment.

Something to Take Away…

 Andrew’s top tips for successful crowdfunding;

  • Tell a compelling story; involve your prospective customer.
  • Do the legwork before you launch; get your message out there, use social media.
  • Hit the ground running; make sure you have built up enough interest in plenty of time.
  • Know your customer, target your publicity to the right people.
  • Be prepared for hard work; make sure you have time to fully engage with the process – before and after.
  • Be open and honest; What can you realistically achieve.
  • Be realistic; make sure you can follow through on rewards.

 

Van’s poem of the week;

Week started slowly we uncluttered the abundance of all things unneeded,

inspiration still unmet,

what is it we work towards,

finalising our places in focusing on the time to come festival and fun after solid working strong,

walking long in wilderness inlooking and expressive,

an experience of overwhelming freedom let loose all stress and pain even if only for a few irreplaceable moments,

contemplative pictures painted do we understand who we are,

real world comes a calling.

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Putting Plans into Action, Edventure Week 3

Business strategy and user research in Week 3 of Edventure Frome’s Start-Up Repair Course.

Making money and making a difference

We began the week with business planning. Johannes and Adam introduced us to three different social enterprise models;

 

EXTERNAL

External: When business and social activities are separate. The business may or may not be related to the social enterprise.

integratedIntegrated: When a business is created as a funding mechanism to expand and enhance a social mission.

embedded1.jpgEmbedded: When a business and social programme are one and the same, i.e. the business was created for a social purpose.

Johannes also presented ‘The Ladder of Social Engagement’, a way of visualising the interest of your target audience.

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Van perfectly summed up the first thought-filled day with the following poem;

Monday

Sunshine beams goals we dream

Tantalizing future visions

Fixing ourselves, through expressive creation

Conversations and well informed talking

Form restless and sleepsome minds

Seeking the clarity of whatever we can achieve

Potential

Harmonious, Contemplative, Potential.

By Van Wajsblum

 

Meeting Gavin Eddy

Gavin is a local entrepreneur who has launched many successful businesses including Forward Space (a series of creative ‘workhubs’ for entrepreneurs) and the Frome Independent Market. We met him on Tuesday to discuss ideas at Forward Space, Frome. It was great to get feedback from someone with such a wealth of local experience and ‘Start-Up’ expertise. He advised us to clearly define our target audience and to consider ways of maintaining interest in our project long-term.

Speaking with Ugo Vallauri

Ugo is the co-founder of The Restart Project, a London-based social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to use their electronics for longer in order to reduce waste. Ugo kindly agreed to discuss the Restart model and our project ambitions with me over the phone. He explained how ‘Restart Parties’ (community based, free electronic repair sessions) reduce the barriers to learning and help people recognise the value in repair. During the conversation he gave me many insights into running successful repair events. He also mentioned the importance of recreating trustworthy relationships with existing repair providers. Read more about Restart’s research on the matter here.

Talking to the public

Throughout the week we developed a questionnaire to ascertain what kind of repair service people would most benefit from. You can read our full questionnaire here and if you are from the local area please take a moment to fill it out. Your input is much appreciated!

Presenting pitch 2

Informed by the week’s findings we presented a preliminary business plan to the Edventure team on Thursday.

Our mission is to launch a socially inclusive workshop space together with an online platform/mobile app focusing on ethical repair. By empowering people through creative skill-shares, we hope to strengthen social bonds, increase practical skills and reduce the amount of perfectly reusable household waste.

Guided by the initial response to our questionnaire we aim to concentrate on 3 avenues;

  • Regular affordable, themed fixing sessions.
  • Weekly, reasonably priced workshop-based classes.
  • An online directory to connect professional and amateur fixers, makers and doers.

Something to take away…

A poem from Van written on Tuesday when it was his turn to make lunch for us all.

The Sushi Situation

Best laid plans mislead big dreams

Unexpected time frames

Not bad for a first try

Saved by an angel and enjoyed by All

Earlier formation of pitch perfect questions

An air of arrival at what we can be

Morning information from a man

With proven know how

Big ideas on a small scale

We must know who they are

The providers, users and sustainers

Of our world

Cater, nurture and help them succeed.

By Van Wajsblum

‘How might we…?’ Edventure Week 2

Generating ideas in the second week of Edventure Frome’s Start-Up Repair Course.

What makes a good question?

The week began with a communications workshop led by Amelia and Judy Barber (Author of the book – ‘Good Question’). We learnt how to use an open questioning method to quickly develop ideas. By asking ‘clean’ questions, which focus on the person you are talking to Amelia and Judy demonstrated how we can enable others to see their goals more clearly, simply by reflecting their ideas back to them.

3 day design challenge

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Johannes kick-started design thinking by setting us the task of coming up with, and presenting our ‘Start-Up’ vision in just three days.

Start an enterprise which…

  • Works with the theme of repair and repurposing
  • Utilises the workshop space at the Welsh Mill Hub
  • Generates revenue and helps to grow a repairing economy in Frome

We began by considering the problems related to repair and then asked the question ‘how might we…?’ address them.

On the second day we began to visualise the workshop with expert carpenter Thomas who helped us define our ideas by asking the questions;

  • Why do we need it?
  • What is it’s purpose?
  • Who is going to use it?

After a final session with Dominic (fellow Hub user and owner of a Tech Start-Up) on user stories we were ready to present.

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 Our Vision

On the third day we presented our initial vision for the project to a team of local entrepreneurs.

To create an open and accessible workspace and online network which enables skill sharing, engages the community and fosters an ethic of creative repair.

The presentation went well (Josh even managed to fix our flip chart during the pitch!) and we received valuable feedback to work on next week.

Who holds the power?

The week ended with a session on group dynamics led by Lauren and Joana (past Edventure participants). The day began with a team challenge, which we then analysed together. Lauren and Joana encouraged us to think about how engaged we felt, how much we contributed and whether we felt we had power and influence within the group. This brought up a lot of interesting questions that allowed us to be more honest with each other. Louis summed up the feeling of the day by reminding us…

 we all hold power and influence when we feel empowered as individuals
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Something to take away…

Our six tools for developing ideas;

  • Start with the problem
  • Find Experts
  • Be open to creative chaos
  • Fail Often
  • Stick to time restraints
  • Have Fun!

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Fix That Thing; Edventure Week 1

A summary of the first week on the Start-Up Repair Course

What is Edventure?

Edventure is a social enterprise designed to combine education with community-based projects that work for all. As students, over the next ten weeks we will design and launch a repair enterprise that responds to the needs of the local community. With the help of Edventure’s team of expert entrepreneurs, communicators and educators we will learn first hand how to turn an idea into reality.

Find out more about Edventure courses here.

 Why Repair?

Consumer culture has taught us that it is often cheaper and easier to replace broken items than it is to fix them. This throw away mentality has led to an increase in unnecessary waste and a decrease in practical skills.

Extending a products life through repair helps to embed values such as ownership, creativity and problem solving in our material culture. From an environmental perspective it is also more efficient than recycling. For example, 20-30% of the material content of electronic items like phones is currently lost in the recycling process. As well as being ecological, a repair-based culture has the social benefit of connecting members of the local community and encouraging the sharing of skills. Our aim is to create a meaningful repair service that will contribute to a sustainable economy in Frome.

 What we have learnt so far…

 ‘A good idea today is better than a perfect idea tomorrow’

We began the week by sharing our personal stories, a common theme was the sense of being uninspired or let down by the current education system. The prospect of self directed, experiential learning felt exciting and new. During the week we explored where ideas come from and what makes them successful with Johannes and Adam. We met with Cara the Resilience Officer from Frome Town Council and Biz to discuss repair, learnt about communication with Neil and witnessed social enterprise in action at The Men’s Shed.

 Something to take away…

As team we came up with these 6 key ideas for effective teamwork;

  • Let ideas flow
  • Delegate
  • Offer advice
  • Get stuck in
  • Bring an open mind
  • Put things to the test!

Antiform; The Attraction of Opposites

Sustainable fashion is a perplexing subject, for some even an oxymoron. However, as pioneering brands like Antiform prove, this does not have to be the case.

The notion of fashion appears to rely on a framework of aesthetic obsolescence that is at odds with the principles of sustainability. Designers consistently rework and update styles in order to promote fresh sales, causing older garments to become undesirable despite being perfectly fit for purpose. At the heart of the fashion industry, this unsustainable rate of growth and renewal is entirely wasteful, transient and somewhat superficial. Sustainability by contrast is based on concepts of longevity, increased usefulness and the dramatic reduction of waste. Yet if approached in right way, fashion does not need to be unsustainable.

The term fashion revolves around the notion of popularity and time; styles go in and out of fashion, trends appear and die down. Ultimately fashion is about change, which is not an inherently negative or positive concept. In fact, as Stuart Walker puts it “fashion in design fosters creativity and the exploration of new, untried solutions”and thus has great potential to adapt to sustainable principles.

Antiform, founded by Lizzie Harrison in Leeds almost 10 years ago is an excellent example of the versatility of fashion. The brand addresses many of the conflicting issues of sustainability through creative designs and an forward thinking approach to business. Using my experience as a freelance production assistant for Antiform over the last few months, I hope to convince you to buy more sustainably in the future.

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Design Innovation

The traditional role of the designer does not usually involve consideration of the waste created through the design process. Designer’s sketches are often sampled in a separate department by garment technologists employed to recreate the design to strict specifications. This method leaves little margin for increasing the efficiency of the materials used and leads to the creation of waste throughout the supply chain. In contrast, Antiform’s holistic approach to design balances stylistic elements with inventive, waste saving techniques; from zero waste pattern cutting to utilizing remnants in patchworked garments.

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Locally available and reclaimed materials

Most commercial fashion companies conduct their supply chain around the most economical production route on a global scale. For commercial businesses while quality, service and reliability are important factors to consider when choosing suppliers, in this system the direct cost of production and distribution is the main motivating factor. This causes a race to the bottom effect whereby the environmental and human cost is often forgotten about or waylaid in favour of profit.

Small, local level production by contrast enables designers to directly feel and respond to the effects of their business while fostering relationships between communities and materials. Antiform works with reclaimed materials sourced from British Mills and produces each collection in Bristol. Short production runs mean the business can respond quickly to demand and even create unique made-to-order pieces via ‘Antiform x You’; an innovative, bespoke service enabling the customer to take part in the design process by supplying a personal piece of fabric or design idea.

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 A skilled, flexible and diverse team

For most brands success means a commercial agenda that revolves around a continual increase in production, consumption and sales. Alone commercial success in the private sector is not enough to combat the vast, multidisciplinary issues of sustainability. In order to most effectively innovate the industry designers need to diversify and take on new roles across economic sectors. Antiform is run by a team of local designers, researchers and communicators who offer research, consultancy and lecturing work as well as freelance design, sampling and ethical production services. This level of flexibility means the brand does not rely solely on selling product; Antiform has the capacity to teach, facilitate and encourage a more sustainable fashion system as a whole.

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 Community

Antiform is based in a shared studio space with the Bristol Textile Quarter. The room is divided in to small individual workshops that bring together a diverse mix of local artisans and designers working in similarly ethical and environmentally conscious ways. While each business is independently run, there is a sense of the importance of collective success and wellbeing. Ideas are brought together over communal lunches and there is an open approach to the sharing of knowledge, materials, contacts and expertise. In some cases even waste is shared.

This sense of community is essential for creating a new fashion system. It is time to move away from precisely measured systems, based on self-interest and impersonal, anonymous transactions.

Please follow the links to see a few of the incredible artists and brands operating from BTQ;  Tamay and Me, MademyWardrobe, Naomi Wood Photography.

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Vivienne Westwood says SWITCH! at Fabric

As part of her continued environmental activism, last Monday Vivienne Westwood launched SWITCH! at Fabric; a club night for the environmentally conscious, fashion crowd.

Vivienne’s social enterprise Climate Revolution teamed up with Ecotricity to host the event with a clear message; it’s time to switch to GREEN ENERGY!

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On entering the club we were reminded what it was all about; A Climate Revolution.

Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, Britain’s largest green energy supplier, opened the night with a video. He spoke about his former life on the road as new age traveller and the lessons he learnt from being self reliant. The idea of Ecotricity was born through the experience of making his own energy via a windmill on the roof of his van. He explained how a connection to nature and concern for the unsustainability of life as we know it has been the driving force throughout his life. Since burning of fossil fuels for electricity forms the biggest single cause of climate change, switching to green energy is perhaps the most significant change we can make as individuals.

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Next, Dame Viv herself graced the stage with an entourage of models sporting her latest collection titled ‘Ecotricity’ in tribute to the energy supplier. She reminded us of our power as active citizens to shape our economy, our future and our planet. The paper crowns served as metaphor for taking back power from the “rotten financial system” and richest 1%. She explained the imminent risk posed by climate change using the world map behind her. The red area indicates uninhabitable land if the sea level were to rise by just 5%. She urged the 900 strong crowd to “stop the demand for fossil fuels and further fracking and make choices that stop climate change”.

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After the speeches, guest DJ ‘A Guy Called Gerald’ provided the soundtrack to night with a little help from Eli Li who owned the stage (in Vivienne Westwood of course).

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Embracing the post apocalyptic, Mad Max theme.
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Guests wore Vivienne’s latest collection ‘Ecotricity’

Switching to green energy is the “one truly political act you can make as an individual”.

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“Paper crowns mean people power!”

Instructions on how to make you crown at Climate Revolution.

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In a truly sustainable fashion, guests were encouraged to reuse their cups.

While a club night during Fashion Week -one of the most highly consumption driven events in the year – might not seem an appropriate place to discuss climate change, this is where action is needed the most. It is essential to engage with fashion enthusiasts in order to generate change from within.  The resounding message of the night was people power and if the Climate Revolution starts now, what a way better to welcome it than through dancing.

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Finally, a couple of photos of me and my great friend Ffi. I didn’t get the memo about the dress code so went for a piece from my final collection teamed with sash made by Susanna Molla, an amazing craftivist and member of Sisters Uncut. Check out her online shop here.

Fashion ethics, a Feminist issue

A reflection on the responsibility of consumers to uphold women’s rights in the fashion industry

The subject of fashion in relation to feminism has been heavily debated throughout the 21st century. Many have fought against the stifling and oppressive elements of the socially constructed notion of fashion while others have embraced its empowering qualities as a means self-expression. The question of whether ‘the woman of fashion’, as Simone De Beauvoir puts it, has ‘chosen to make herself a thing’, an object to be admired or has liberated herself through her creative choices occupies much of the feminist literature surrounding fashion. Many feminists actively protest against the unattainable beauty ideals set by fashion magazines as well as the lack of diversity in the shape, size, age and creed of models in mainstream media. In recent years movements such as the ‘Slut Walk’ in Europe and North America has sought to empower women through their choice of clothing and remove the stigma associated with dressing ‘provocatively’. While many feminists are vocal about the sexism inherent within the consumption of fashion, the issues behind the production of fashion remain largely unexplored.

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Illustration: Abigail Garbett

Action Aid’s study ‘The Cost of Inequality in Women’s Work’ shows that at least 80% of all garment workers in developing countries are women. They are employed with no basic labour rights, often in dangerous conditions and at risk of violence or sexual abuse. Female garment workers will, on average, earn 10% to 30% less than men for the same job. Despite this, women are also responsible for a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic duties including child rearing, caring for the elderly, tending the home and feeding their families. A distinct lack of solidarity becomes apparent in light of the fact that, according to Forbes, women in rich nations also make up 85% of all consumer purchases.

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Image source: The Independant

In 2014, Whistles collaborated with The Fawcett Society, a charity for women’s rights to create T-shirt’s bearing the slogan ‘This is What A Feminist Looks Like’. While initially successful, the revelation that the T-shirt’s were made by women earning just 62p an hour scandalised the venture. ‘Commodity Feminism’ is a term used by Laura Harvey (lecturer from the University of Surrey) to describe the way in which the language and aspirations of feminism are being used by big corporations in an attempt to sell goods. By turning feminism into a commodity, the movement risks loosing its political power and becoming a ‘trend’ rather than a vehicle for social activism.

While the popularisation of Feminism through slogan t-shirts and merchandise highlight a positive shift towards mainstream acceptance, an understanding of the workings of the global chain of goods and it’s implications cannot be understated. Not only does the fashion industry rely on women to produce clothing, retailers also employ a female majority and target women as the main consumers of fashion. While men still dominate positions of power within the industry, women occupy the majority of junior positions and are most vulnerable to exploitation and low pay.

Any company outsourcing production to developing countries such as Bangladesh is likely to encounter some form of exploitation. Rather than create specific boycotts, consumers are advised by Bangladesh’s National Garment Workers Federation to lobby brands to take responsibility for their supply chain and offer greater transparency. The garment production industry is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh and many parts of Asia and as such is an essential part of the economy. In her article Primark ‘cry for help’ labels have painted Bangladeshi women as helpless’ Tansy Hoskins suggests that instead of viewing these women as ‘passive and in need of saving by western people’, it is important that we empower them through support of trade unions and active conversations with the brands we admire.

Hoskins sites Lilla Watson of the Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It is essential not to shy away from our responsibility as part of a global elite to take into account suffering on a global level. The Women’s March protests, which recently swept across much of the world including North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia was the largest single demonstration in US history. Events such as these illustrate our collective power. Feminism cannot focus only on a certain society, or group if it truly wishes to stand for women’s rights.

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Design: Abigail Garbett Model: Freya Tate