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fieldwork with the british council
chengdu & xi’an, china

in 2018 and 2019, our team was selected to join a delegation of makers & academics for the second phase of the british council’s living research project, which explores the diverse local ecosystems of maker cultures in china. we began fieldwork in the cities of chengdu in the sichuan province and xi'an in the shaanxi province, investigating the circumstances of over 40 collective spaces for making, craft and design in both regions, from corporate design labs to open hardware factories and rural villages focused on maintaining intangible cultural heritage.

our first field study in 2018 concluded that in china, there is a very close relationship between maker cultures and government policy, with makerspaces positioned as catalysts of economic transformation. in 2019, our research team was awarded a new £15,000 grant from the british council to return to chengdu, where the socio-ecological model of the ‘circular economy‘ was being newly instituted through compulsory recycling laws, to lead an investigation into how creative producers and policy-makers imagined and distributed concepts about circularity in their daily lives. we conducted interviews with locals in a variety of settings, and facilitated two participatory workshops to explore the possibilities and limits of circular economy thinking with 60 local makers, designers, entrepreuners and policymakers.

featured in the british council ‘creative economy’ series: 
making as national transformation?
wechat & makers in china: creativity, liberation & restriction

photo credits: british council, steve coombs.