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28 September 2017

Living Research 2018: Call for makers and academics

The British Council is rethinking its programme strategy around making. Living Research will not go ahead this year but we are still very committed to carrying on our work on Making Cultures in the UK and China

Blackhorse workshop

The British Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are seeking three UK-based makers and three UK-based academics to work in collaboration with Chinese academics and makers in investigating the potentials and challenges of realising inclusive cultures of making.

The emergence of makerspaces, hackspaces, and Fab Labs over the last two decades has brought about a growing public interest for making. As maker communities continue to grow, so to does the opportunity for both technology and creative practice to reach wider communities of hobbyists and professionals. Yet, as recent research has shown, to date makerspaces in many countries - including the UK and the US - are often not representative of wider society and lack equal representation across genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic status.

This project seeks to advance research into the core issues and challenges of realising inclusive and diverse cultures of making. The project will bring twelve academics and makers - six from the UK and six from China - who are experts and advocates of inclusivity and diversity together to investigate the challenges of realising inclusive maker spaces and practices across the UK and China. The project will include a two-week research trip from 8-20 January 2018 in which participants will visit maker communities in Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Living Research 2015

In 2015 The British Council and AHRC developed the Living Research programme to gain a deeper understanding of the differences between making in the UK and China. The first research trip took place in Shenzhen and Shanghai. This project was marked by a blog series, dissemination events and fed into the development of the maker residency programme Hello Shenzhen.

WeMake Milano - Flickr

Living Research 2018: Inclusive making cultures

For this second cycle of research the programme aims to investigate how makerspaces and maker communities across the UK and China can be supported to develop more diverse and inclusive cultures of making. Experts and advocates from both countries will work together to develop a greater understanding of the core barriers to realising diverse and inclusive spaces across the UK and China. Participants will engage in a series of activities that could include;

  • In-depth interviews with researchers and representatives of UK maker communities to gain insight into the UK context.   
  • A tour of relevant spaces and organisations across the Chengdu and Shenzhen maker communities and creative tech industries more broadly. This will include; makerspaces, artist studios, design houses, cultural centres, and technology hubs.
  • Prolonged visits with maker organisations so that participants can run a series of interviews, directed conversations and focus groups.
  • Co-creation workshops where participants will be able to prototype potential methods and activities for supporting inclusive making in response to their growing insights.
  • A series of public-facing events whereby participants are able to share their insights with wider communities across China and the UK.

Restart Project

The key research question that delegates will tether their inquiry to is;

  • What role could cultures of inclusive making play in opening up makerspaces and communities in the UK and China towards greater equity and equality?

Possible sub-research questions include:

  • What etiquettes, protocols and methods are needed to ensure cultures of making are inclusive and diverse?
  • What kind of Chinese-UK peer-to-peer exchange can be created to support the development and expansion of inclusive cultures of making?

Outputs of the programme will include peer-reviewed papers and public dissemination events across the UK and China. The ambition for this programme is to develop knowledge exchange, new collaborations as well as contribute to new frameworks for best practice in inclusive making that can be shared across both cultures. The programme will also seek a follow-on phase in which participants will travel to the UK to further their insights and research.

Programme information

  • Call for applications opens: 17th October 2017
  • Application Deadline: 13th November 2017
  • Living Research 2018 trip: 8 - 20th January 2018
  • Paper publications and public facing events in the UK and China: Autumn-Winter of 2018

What support will the delegates receive?

The British Council and AHRC will cover travel, accommodation, visa and subsistence costs. This will be given in the form of a grant and participants will need to book their own travel and accommodation, with guidance from the British Council.

What is expected of the participants?

  • To embed yourself within the UK-China exchange and work collaboratively with the makers and academics from the UK and China on the theme of inclusive making
  • To write at least two blog posts for British Council Creative Economy website and document your experience through photos/videos and social media platform
  • Complete evaluation questionnaires
  • Share the outcomes of your research trip in public facing events in the UK.


 To apply you need to:

  • Be an academic or maker / creative practitioner looking to develop your practice
  • Be over 18 and a resident of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland)
  • Be proactive and a self-starter
  • Demonstrate your interest on the theme of inclusive making 

How to apply:

Fill in this application form by midday UK time on 13 November 2017

The British Council is committed to a policy of equal opportunity and is keen to reflect the diversity of UK society at every level within the organisation.

What do we mean by ‘making'?

We’re talking about people who craft, design, manufacture, tinker with, engineer, fabricate, and repair physical things. Art, craft, electronics, textiles, products, robots. Hi-tech and low-tech, amateur and professional, young and old, with digital tools or by hand.

What do we mean by ‘inclusive making cultures’:

While Living Research seeks to advance current understandings of what defines an inclusive culture of making, the research team will tether the beginning of their work to the below definition.

We define an inclusive culture of making as that which demonstrates the full integration of diverse people into the activities, community and space in question. Inclusive cultures of making should extend beyond basic representation of marginalized groups, towards a climate wherein respect, equity, and positive recognition of all differences is not only cultivated, but celebrated. This should encompass both formal and informal policies and practices that purposefully reinforce three core values:

  • Representation: The presence of underrepresented and marginalized groups across a range of roles, and leadership positions
  • Receptivity: Respect for differences in working styles, and flexibility in tailoring positions to the strengths and abilities of participants
  • Fairness: Equitable access to all resources, opportunities, networks, and decision-making processes

Any questions? 

If you have any questions please email

 The Living Research: Making in China programme is a partnership between the British Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Seeed Studio, and Litchee Lab.