The global textile and clothing industry – and particular the fashion sector – is reputed to be the second most significant polluter on the planet. This reflects in turn a long declining trend in employment, export and production capacity, driven by globalisation and recession. Recent attempts to arrest this decline, exemplified by an EU ‘Action Plan’ for the fashion and high-end industries, have focused on supporting disruptive transformations in business models and supply chains within the sector. These aim to promote a radical shift from a reliance on conventional (price driven) manufacturing to one that is more socially and environmentally sustainable, for example by using more agile and customer driven approaches to production.
The Textile and Clothing Business Labs (TCBL) project is one example of these new approaches. It aims to develop an EU-wide ecosystem to stimulate large scale system change throughout the sector by setting up ‘Business Labs’ in eight EU countries. These Labs are spaces in which actors involved in TCBL can draw on existing and emerging models to freely experiment with new ways of designing, making and producing.
These kinds of interventions pose particular challenges for evaluation and impacts assessment – particularly with regard to establishing a ‘counterfactual’ analysis – in an environment characterised by turbulence, complexity and rapid and unpredictable change, with a long time lag between intervention and response; programmes with multiple interventions; large spatial scales of ecological processes and unique treatment units without comparators.
This presentation sets out our approach aimed at dealing with these challenges. It builds on a conceptual framework that draws on, and integrates, complexity theory, ecosystems theory and large scale change theory. Based on this framework, an impacts assessment methodology and design has been developed that combines process tracing, contribution analysis and multiple case studies. The presentation presents the rationale behind this approach and discusses early experiences in its application.
Dr Joe Cullen is Director of Arcola Research, London, and Professional Partner, the Tavistock Institute, London. He previously lectured and researched at the Universities of Cambridge, Loughborough, Leeds, London Metropolitan and the Open University. He has co-ordinated/ managed over 100 research and evaluation assignments, including evaluations of major EU-funded initiatives.
Dr Kerstin Junge is a Principal Researcher and Consultant at the TIHR. Her work focuses on process and outcome evaluations of complex and innovative projects and programmes. It often aims to both define and assess outcomes as well as to generate learning for funders and beneficiaries to support improvement and scaling.
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