Whole Circles 2019

What can research leaders do help grow emerging circular economies?

This research created a model for leadership approaches in developing communities of designers for the emerging circular economies. As the field of circular textile design develops, we are questioning what skills designers will need to enable and support the complex and demanding systems, processes and products required.

Circular textile design differs from traditional textile design because it asks the designer of the textile to not only create a new material, but to prioritise the use and end-of-life of the product at the outset. This requires the designer to not only understand more about the processes of production, use and disposal, but much more about the many people in these new systems too.

In this journal article, Becky Earley draws upon first-hand experience of evolving from the making of circular textiles, to supporting others to make circular textiles. Reflecting on the leadership role of being the Director of a UAL research centre, the article shares the insights derived from developing from a textile design researcher to a leader. Taking the attributes for success of a high-performing research unit (modelled by HEFCE in 2015) with leadership signposts created by an experienced corporate manager (Ayelet Baron), Becky reflects on the experiences at the UrC across a 5-year period. The result is the Whole Circles model: textile designers must seek to ensure they have a good understanding of themselves as people, so that their leadership style is empathic and grounded. It also proposes a 3-dimensional form which supports the growth of other researchers to lead in their own expertise areas.