I am a social design practitioner, researcher and lecturer. I trained in human-centred product design and as an undergraduate in the late 1990s made several visits to the IDEO studio in London and was inspired by their human factors work pioneering the involvement of people in the design process. I wrote my dissertation on how designers might interpret and implement the Cantle Report on community cohesion, this was a report following ‘race riots’ across the north of England in 2001 and suggested measures to tackle social issues in urban multicultural communities. Bringing together this movement in design toward greater user involvement in the design process, and identifying how designers might work on social problems set me on a path to what has become known as Social Design. I have worked in a range of third sector organisations and university departments. I was very active in the AHRC Connected Communities research programme, and have held a number of research assistant and research fellow posts. I have lectured in design since 2004, most regularly supervising undergraduate and MA dissertations in various design disciplines, and I currently teach social geography modules to Built Environment students at Leeds Beckett University. My research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary but have a common focus on developing a holistic understanding of the cultures that underpin our professional practice to support more informed and thoughtful decision making.
In my doctoral research I am drawing on urban social geography theories about the relationships between people and place and interviewing social design practitioners about how they experience the impact of place in their work. By bringing together these knowledges I am developing a place-based approach to social design practice which I am piloting in two social design projects, to produce research-informed design practice.