In this blog, Aaron Moore from CNC Craft, shares with us a recent research project he conducted with the University of Exeter to explore and quantify the role of digital fabrication or digital craft participation in improving wellbeing, particularly for those from disadvantaged groups. The outcomes of the study are presented in a paper that was presented at Fab16, Montreal, 9-15 August 2021, a copy of this is available to download below.
CNC Craft have created specific wellbeing sessions following a 3-hour process successfully developed for the Marker Space. The premise behind these, is to support individuals to build their confidence in using IT, sharing the challenge in a small, supportive group environment, and resulting in the production of a small item of the participants own choosing. These objects provided a record of their achievement that could be taken home. Digital craft processes make the production process very accessible, as it is relatively easy to make complex and intricate products after some very basic CAD/CAM training.
Exploring the evidence, on craft and wellbeing, it quickly became clear that very little research existed into the specific value of digital crafts in relation to wellbeing, although many studies have shown the positive value of creative craft sessions on mental health and wellbeing. CNC Craft recognised that they needed support to find and develop evidence related to the impact of their digital fabrication courses, so in collaboration with Andrew James Williams and Emma Bland from Exeter University an evaluation process was developed for the wellbeing courses.
A feeling star was developed to capture participant responses measuring six key attributes; happiness, hopefulness, skilfulness, confidence, health and inclusion. Analysis showed that the average scores for each of the six attributes increased, with feelings of skilfulness and confidence increasing most. The results indicate that digital fabrication/craft sessions can have a positive impact on wellbeing, including for those with low levels of computer confidence.
The wellbeing star was used with 17 wellbeing workshop participants during the pilot programme and a further 45 participants between June 2019 and the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
The largest increases in score are seen in feelings of confidence and skilfulness, and of the 45 post-pilot participants:
- 59% increased their happiness score
- 52% increased their hopefulness score
- 64% increased their skilfulness score
- 67% increased their confidence score
- 55% increased their included score
- 41% increased their health score
Anecdotal evidence from participants across the Maker Space and pilot wellbeing course suggest that participating in sessions can go on to make significant positive change, with one participant crediting their success in securing a job on the skills and confidence developed as a result of their participation.
Whilst the changes in scores all appear to be statistically significant, the sample is small. CNC Craft would like to collect data on a larger, wider scale that could be used to establish beyond doubt the role that digital craft skills can play in the health and wellbeing of participants. Aaron Moore of CNC Craft would welcome interest in exploring this idea from other groups and organisations.
If you are interested in participating, please contact Aaron Moore at CNC Craft.