Eleanor Snare | How I've Helped People and I'm Trying Not to Be Shy About It | Picture of hiding insect on leaf

How I’ve Helped People and I’m Trying Not to Be Shy About It

My name’s Eleanor and you might be surprised to know I can be a bit shy.

I’m shy about talking about my achievements because I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting.

(The social and psychological issues which cause this can be discussed another time.)

But I want you to know about what I’ve done because I might be able to help you.

 


Helping people is what I love to do.

I like to do it by removing the barriers which prevent people fulfilling their potential.


 

I didn’t know how to tell you what I’ve done because it kept ending up sounding like it was all about me. It’s not about me: it’s about what I can help you do.

To try and get round this I wrote down everything I could think of where I’ve helped people as a marketing consultant, copywriter and tutor since I became freelance. I tried to make it about them.

 


When I think about what these people and businesses have achieved, I feel very happy.


 

In no particular order, I have helped:

  • E-learning company Virtual College win Supplier of the Year twice in a row through writing their awards submission (hoping for year three Alex!)

 

 

  • Paul Lenihan feel more confident in marketing his new high-end accessories business, NOTINLOVE

 

  • At least 70 University of Leeds students understand what working in marketing is really like, how to develop campaigns properly, and how to work with integrity

 

  • People approaching retirement feel happier about the transition through writing around 60 articles for a brand new post-50 retirement advice website

 

  • Small, local businesses be better at digital marketing through writing 40+ articles for a new digital marketing advice website

 

  • A marketing agency stand out and service their clients better through researching and writing a white paper about future restaurant trends

 

  • Charlotte Raffo feel more confident and knowledgeable in her brand, customer and marketing her new luxury interior products business, The Monkey Puzzle Tree

 

  • Arash Mazinani develop new services in his image consultancy business that’ll help him stand out and better service his clients

 

  • The team at Home Agency discuss and understand mental health issues at work more easily and freely

 

  • MA students at London College of Fashion create more innovative, commercially-viable concepts for the final major project (blog post here)

 

  • Students at the University of Wolverhampton develop their confidence in getting a job after university through skills practise and action planning

 

  • Shoppers with a leading, European, quirky sock brand make the right choice through writing around 350 product descriptions

 

  • The team at Maxwell Scott Bags refine their tone of voice and use it effectively across all platforms

 

  • Make connections between marketing agencies, universities and students in Leeds and the local area so we can sustain our amazing talent pool in the North

 

  • A sustainable housing business see things differently through in-depth customer profiling

 

  • My fellow freelancers through support, advice and passing on work

 

  • Prospective students understand what one of our local universities can offer through a full prospectus rewrite

 

  • Encourage visitors to a high profile bank website to explore new places through writing 40+ travel articles

 

  • Multiple businesses and agencies fulfil their potential through brand work, website rewrites, editing, proof-reading and emergency copy support

 


 

Thank you to everyone who has hired me. You helped me by giving me these jobs. I’m honoured I got to help you.

 

I’d like to help more people through consultancy, training, copywriting and education in the next years of my freelance career.

Ideally people who value creativity, love what they do, and want to work sustainably.

But most of all people who want to start fulfilling their potential.

 

If you’re that person, get in touch: hello@eleanorsnare.com

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

 


Get in touch: hello@eleanorsnare.com


Textile protest

Why Millennials Need a More Human Way of Teaching

In my last article on human sustainability I outlined my interest in the subject – how people work and learn, and how they can do so more sustainably. I also gave a succinct definition of my use of human sustainability: a framework for fashion education which focuses on the complexity of human experience to improve how our industry works.

But why is this idea particularly relevant now? Sustainability is already part of fashion education, often used in design or material projects, and as a society we’re becoming more aware of environmental sustainability. We’re also acutely aware of the relationship between work and fulfillment; LinkedIn is stuffed with articles on how to be more productive or happier in your job.

So why is human sustainability important to fashion education and the fashion industry at this moment? In my conference talk I briefly mentioned four different factors which make this subject important now, including the industry reaching breaking point with many of its resources, and the omission of humans from discussions about sustainability in fashion (despite human sustainability being one of the “four main types” [1]).

However, in this article I’d like to go into more detail about the two most important factors making human sustainability a useful concept right now: a new generation of students and significant economic shifts.

———-

A new generation

This new generation of students are ‘Millennials’ (people born from 1981 to 2000) [2], and their personality traits have been praised, criticised and manipulated for some seriously targeted marketing. I think transposing a single set of characteristics onto a diverse generation is risky, and can result in cultural myths which then lead to poor intergenerational relations.

However, there are general observations about the world in which ‘Millennials’ have grown up and been educated (or will be) which ring true. They have all matured in a world of neo-liberalism, extremism and shifts in global power; they’ve seen the Millennium itself, the rise of the Internet, the end of apartheid and the collapse of the Soviet Union (or their effects). In England, Millennials were the first generation subject to tuition fees at university, which have increased year on year [3]. All of them were fundamentally affected, either as adults or children, by the 2008 financial crisis.

It’s not that any other demographic hasn’t experienced these things, but Millennials have experienced them at a crucial time in their psychological and social development. Meg Jaye, TED speaker and psychologist, argues that 20-something brains are “poised for transformation and change” [4], with the second and last neural growth spurt occurring from your teenage years to your twenties, preparing you for adulthood. If this process occurs in a global climate of economic downturn, acceptance/fear of multiculturalism, political upheaval, plus more communication networks and transparency than ever, it will have a resounding effect on shape of their ‘generational personality’.

Some of these effects include Millennials reporting greater stress levels and being more likely to seek help at work for depression than other generations [5]. They’ve also been described as narcissistic, ignorant of workplace hierarchy and ‘too’ ambitious [6].

These traits are widely reported, but they hide a bigger issue: this generation has grown up with a greater awareness of and transparency about conditions like stress, depression, fatigue and burnout, and are therefore more likely to self-report than a generation who was unused to this idea.

They’re also more acutely aware of the need for individualisation versus the requirement to be ‘part of the gang’; social connectivity online means there’s more people to compete with (as a successful individual) and share with (as an equal peer). I’ve also written about the ‘digital status quo’ which many Millennials have grown up under and are unlikely to challenge while at the same time being encouraged to be unique and creative in their self-marketing.

———-

Alongside historic events and changes to communication, the effect of neo-liberalism as an established economic and cultural weight upon this generation cannot be underestimated. David Harvey argues:

“This is a world [the mid 70s onwards] in which the neoliberal ethic of intense possessive individualism and financial opportunism has become the template for human personality socialisation…The impact is increasingly individualistic isolation, anxiety, short-termism and neurosis in the midst of one of the greatest material urban achievements ever constructed in human history.” [7]

This succinct explanation demonstrates just how difficult the job of learning and working is for the new generation of students. Surrounded by material excess and opportunity, the economic pattern of neo-liberalism and its cultural influence has burrowed a hole in their generational psyche; despite opportunities to have everything they could ever want, there is an emptiness.

———-

Every generation has rebellions against the norm, and within the Millennial generation there are many people who are strongly politically- or environmentally-minded, or those who ‘opt out’ of the system. But there doesn’t appear to be any one, great, youth movement (unlike those of previous decades which may be out of focus due to my rose-tinted glasses). There is, however, a strange phenomenon of the ‘gentle rebellion’ against neo-liberalism’s materialist ethic which seems to argue with it but actually affirms it, and comes from a very white, Western and well-off place.

Reacting against consumerist excess and economic obsession with the urban, Millennials create trends like ‘clean’ eating, quote motivational Pinterest images [8] and mantras like “do what you love, love what you do”, read homespun lifestyle bloggers and share photographs documenting a life in tune with the great outdoors and inner spirituality.

These reactions are unerringly affirmative. Every Millennial is described as having a unique contribution (“intense possessive individualism”), as an entrepreneur in the making who can simply live off their beautifully-shot lifestyle (“financial opportunism”), who should live in the now and always strive to be a better person tomorrow than they are today (“short-termism and neurosis”). Harvey’s list of psychological effects aren’t addressed in this rebellion, but papered over.

So not only are this generation of students suffering from acute psychological stresses brought on by global and historic events, the connectivity/isolation conundrum of social media, the cultural weight of neo-liberalism, and a lack of one, uniting youth movement, but their rebellions aren’t about change – only opting-out entirely or affirming what’s already there with slightly better photos.

———-

To me, this suggests we need to radically rethink how we’re teaching students. We need to consider how we’re teaching them to interact with each other in meaningful ways, how to combat isolation and neurosis, how to understand what “the greatest material urban achievements” means for our society and our surroundings. We need to give them tools to shape a new way of living that’s more psychologically supportive – and challenge their rebellions by analysing what they’re really doing.

For fashion specifically, this generational fearfulness and affirmative process mean creativity is going to run dry because new workers don’t want to challenge the status quo. And fashion really needs people to challenge the status quo to create interesting products, sell them and survive.

 ———-

Significant economic shifts

The second key factor in why human sustainability is an important concept now is the change in our economic environment.

Fashion education is a capitalist industry: it produces commodities – our students – and a profit (where possible). Education itself hasn’t always been a capitalist industry, as it hasn’t always produced profit, but it has always produced valuable commodities.

These commodities are, on the one hand, more valuable than ever as repositories of knowledge in an information economy. On the other, they’re less valuable as they become a more common commodity – more people with university degrees mean a degree is (apparently) worth less. Institutions have also increased their capital intake and profit generation by working with businesses who fund innovative research into products and processes (which that business may later benefit from). In England, another income stream is tuition fees, of which international students play an important role.

Whether you agree with education being a capitalist enterprise or not is less important than what you think these educational institutions will now become as capitalism itself changes. The banking crisis of 2008 was a crisis of capitalism, as those who sought to profit from the system made increasingly risky choices on unstable economic ‘bets’. Slowly, since then, the consensus on capitalism as an effective system has changed [9].

In large part, this is due to the political response to the crisis; the bailing out of banks while populations were forced under austerity measures. In the UK, all parts of the political spectrum are questioning whether our economic system works. In a system where government subsidises private workers’ pay, people are forced to use food banks, welfare payments seem unfair or not enough, public banks are sold at huge losses and the cost of living and education continues to rise, people are beginning to find fault with how our economy operates. Anti-austerity politics and parties are coming to the fore in the US, UK and EU, some of which are proposing activities which are positively pre-neo-liberal.

———-

On a global governmental level, no-one has figured out (or wants to admit to) a way to effectively deal with the 2008 crisis or its aftershocks. But on a community scale, new economic forms of ‘purchasing’ and ‘consuming’ are growing: Wikipedia, Bitcoin, Uber and clothing rental companies are just some high-profile examples. People are discovering new ways to interrupt the traditional patterns of consumption inherent to capitalism.

Paul Mason argues this is due to our new information economy having fundamental “dynamics [which] are profoundly non-capitalist” [10]; one of our most profitable commodities (information) is also the hardest to control as the Internet and digital communication networks become cheaper and extend to territories even where the traditional infrastructure required doesn’t exist. On the other hand, the pre-crisis ‘betting’ in the banking sector continues with capital investment in high-risk ventures, in this phase focusing on the Internet itself; many high-value tech ‘unicorns’ have no profitable business model in place and have been mooted as the precursor to another dot com bubble.

For those still profiting from capitalism, the 3% figure of continuous growth required to not appear in ‘recession’ is becoming harder to maintain as the realisation dawns there is little material resource left on the planet to invest in [11]. With a lack of regulation, the worst parts of financial trading (shadow banking, energy futures betting, etc.) are continuing even as those suffering from the worst effects of capitalism’s economic disparity are interrupting its machinations by dreaming up new ways of living and working together.

For educational institutions, a new(ish) wave of educational forms are now competing against them for profit and students. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), private institutions, online learning, apprenticeships and a host of other work-learn arrangements have made the traditional institution just one of the many options available to new students – and, potentially, one of the more expensive. Alongside new competition, institutions need to realise that these shifts in capitalism and how we like to ‘purchase’ things means their current business model may no longer be financially viable.

This is especially true for fashion education, which is so closely married to the fashion industry: a hub of the traditional capitalist mechanics of commodity production and profit generation through exploitation. Society’s transition to a new form of economy (whether capitalist or not) requires a new business model for institutions; a way to ‘future proof’ funding. Design and fashion institutions, whose students will be emerging as workers in this new economy, must also be aware of and teach these market developments. Historically institutions are slow creatures, reactive not proactive, yet the principles we teach now will be the scaffolding on which economies of the future (both in the fashion industry and further afield) will be built. When it comes to industry and economy, we need to be a hammer, not a mirror.

———-

This is where I believe human sustainability as an educational framework could be very useful, as it can address changing economic forms on an organisational and educational level by very simply asking ‘what’s the alternative?’. The new economic forms we’re seeing are in part a reaction to capitalism’s destructive effect on human beings; lots of people don’t want to be exploited or take part in exploiting others any more. We need to be looking at ways of funding education and running fashion businesses which don’t do that, and looking at alternatives to ‘classic capitalism’ is one option.

———-

In my next article I’ll look more closely at what human sustainability is: the current understanding of the term, what it does and doesn’t include, and how it could be expanded.

 

References
Ghazi Shebeen el-Kom workers marching on the local governor headquarters by Hossam el-Hamalawy via Creative Commons. More information on the story behind this image can be found here.
[1] Robert Goodland, Sustainability: Human, Social, Economic and Environmental, sample article from Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, 2002 (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.)
[2] This term was coined by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their 1991 book, Generations. The authors also established these birth dates, although Howe admitted the term has “been through a few phases” (TED Radio Hour: The Next Greatest Generation?, first broadcast in the UK on BBC R4Extra, 9 August 2015 7.00pm).
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuition_fees_in_the_United_Kingdom
[4] TED Radio Hour: The Next Greatest Generation?, first broadcast in the UK on BBC R4Extra, 9 August 2015 7.00pm
[5] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/generations.aspx; http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf; http://www.bensingerdupont.com/filebin/pdfpublic/BDA_White_Paper-Depression_and_Work_5_13.pdf
[6] Perhaps incorrectly so: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-persistent-myth-of-the-narcissistic-millennial/382565/
[7] pp. 175-6, The Enigma of Capital, 2010 (Profile Books Ltd: London).
[8] Some examples can be seen here
[9] “The OECD’s economists were too polite to say it…the best of capitalism is behind us, and for the rest it will be over in our lifetime.” p. x, Introduction, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Paul Mason, 2015 (Allen Lane: London).
[10] paragraph 24, The end of capitalism has begun, The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun
[11] Harvey mentions the 3% figure of continuous growth in The Enigma of Capital, stating if this was the normal and constant rate of growth by 2030 there would “be over $100 trillion in the global economy” (p.27).
kirkstall canal

Using Human Sustainability in Creative Education

This month I’m presenting at the Fashion Colloquia conference in Milan, which is held twice a year in different cities. The theme is Feeding Fashion Energy – new pathways for fashion education; a suitably topical conference, with the Business of Fashion launching their new educational platform and results from a global survey of fashion students.

My talk is on a concept I’m still developing, which has grown from my interests in fashion, economics and sustainable life and business. The subject is human sustainability and its use in creative education. Here’s my most succinct definition so far:

A framework for fashion education which focuses on the complexity of human experience to improve how our industry works.

I’ll be regularly publishing my ideas online as I develop this concept, alongside continuing to write on other things that interest me. This first article explains my background and interest in this subject.

My background

First, I have always been interested in people. Of all elements of fashion, the personal experience of clothing and its use as a facilitator for communication between people has always been the most fascinating.

In 2011, after months of research and a week of not leaving the house, I complete my MA thesis which looked at how a relatively new demographic of fashion people – bloggers – experience the ‘work’ of their blog. I interviewed different bloggers about how they perceived their ‘work’, whether it was enjoyable and to what extent they were ‘paid’. My research included theories of emotional labour (practising emotions as part of your job, like having to be nice when you’re an air steward) and the inherently precarious and cross-contaminating quality of creative work (the creative worker is never ‘off’ and always thinking about their ideas).

This thesis cemented my passion for how people work: what they see as work, what their work struggles are, how we think about other people doing (dis)similar jobs and, importantly, in what ways we react to perceived exploitation.

After this, I spent several years working in creative agencies on external and internal communications for clients like Marks & Spencer, Lloyds Banking Group, New Look and Unilever. Through this I developed my understanding of how creative and non-creative work effects people and their perceptions of acceptable work and remuneration, whether financial or otherwise. I also continued to produce research outside of work, which focused on the problems in fashion work and our relationship to fashion objects, all using Marxist-ish ways of seeing the world.

Through my work and studies, I became more interested in ‘sustainability’. Reading on the subject often brought up the same issue: sustainability in business was more about assets and the environment than people and their work. For example, CSR initiatives would reduce the unnecessary printing of emails, but not consider the sheer volume of emails a worker receives and the impact that has on their ability to work. Sustainability became a more important issue in my personal life, from what I ate to how I worked.

Establishing myself as a lecturer meant I considered work – and now learning – from a new perspective: how sustainable are the working methods we use, and are we teaching poor methods to new workers? Although I have a strong interest in fashion’s environmental sustainability, I’m more drawn to the problems of people (like forced labour, cultural homogenisation or the invisibility of work) in the industry.

Now, as a Teaching Fellow and freelance marketer, I’ve had more opportunities to consider all these elements – fashion, work, sustainability, human experience, education – and how they fit into a system of research. The concept of human sustainability is the nucleus of that system.

 

References
Leeds-Liverpool Canal: Kirkstall Brewery by Vaidotas Mišeikis via creative Commons