Emma Davenport

MA work

Dissertation: Designed to Give: Oxfam the Unselfish Shop

Oxfam opened its first gift shop in 1947 to raise funds for women and children suffering in Europe after the Second World War. This unique site of exchange encouraged the public to give up their unwanted possessions in return for a commitment to helping those more in need living overseas. These gifts, often collected from local fundraising initiatives such as jumble sales and coffee mornings, were carefully valued before being sold. By the early 1970s there was a recognised national network of shops across the UK, each a micro hub of social and political concern as their windows revealed a newly emerging world of decolonisation and development. Looking through their windows was a customer whose understanding and knowledge of charitable activity was also in a state of transformation. These processes as played out through the Oxfam shops have irrevocably changed our notions of gifts, commodities and exchange within the realm of charity retail over the last 50 years.

By reflecting upon how Oxfam has represented itself to the public in the UK and to what extent design has contributed to this activity, specifically through the mediums of advertising, retail space and branding, I hope to reveal and challenge ideas about the production of value and the creation of consumer knowledge. Using the charity shop as a frame of reference, this study will aim to analyse how Oxfam brokers our understandings of charity and consumption as a way to materially re-define the value of both things and people.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Fine Art

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2008

  • Dissertation: Designed to Give: Oxfam the Unselfish Shop

    Oxfam opened its first gift shop in 1947 to raise funds for women and children suffering in Europe after the Second World War. This unique site of exchange encouraged the public to give up their unwanted possessions in return for a commitment to helping those more in need living overseas. These gifts, often collected from local fundraising initiatives such as jumble sales and coffee mornings, were carefully valued before being sold. By the early 1970s there was a recognised national network of shops across the UK, each a micro hub of social and political concern as their windows revealed a newly emerging world of decolonisation and development. Looking through their windows was a customer whose understanding and knowledge of charitable activity was also in a state of transformation. These processes as played out through the Oxfam shops have irrevocably changed our notions of gifts, commodities and exchange within the realm of charity retail over the last 50 years.

    By reflecting upon how Oxfam has represented itself to the public in the UK and to what extent design has contributed to this activity, specifically through the mediums of advertising, retail space and branding, I hope to reveal and challenge ideas about the production of value and the creation of consumer knowledge. Using the charity shop as a frame of reference, this study will aim to analyse how Oxfam brokers our understandings of charity and consumption as a way to materially re-define the value of both things and people.

  • Degrees

  • MSc Social Anthropology of Children & Childhood, Brunel University, London, 2002; BA Education, Leeds Metropolitan University, 1999
  • Experience

  • Learning & Interpretation Programme Administrator, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2007 to present; Events Co-ordinator, Santropol Roulant, Montreal, 2004-6