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Helen Simmons

Postgraduate Associate

Department: Northumbria School of Design

Helen is a Senior Research Assistant in the Responsible Innovation Hub (ReIn) at Northumbria University. The hub provides an environment where new forms of publics can convene to understand and tackle some of the complex and contested challenges of the modern world. The ReIn team create spaces where design can be used to reveal patterns of harm in the status quo. The team are contributing to research on how design can help handle disputes, navigate tensions and facilitate multidisciplinary co-creation.


Helen's main research interest is in the role of design infrastructuring in creating conditions which support just and equitable co-creation. She is particularly interested in how grassroots participatory infrastructuring might lead to fairer futures for people and nature. Helen is exploring the role of design and the designer in these environments. Helen is currently working on a place-based enquiry into grassroots social innovation through her doctorate, working within a specific neighbourhood of Newcastle upon Tyne. 


Helen is keen to understand what spaces, roles, tools, languages and practices enable people to be truly creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. She wants to know how individuals within communities can be empowered to grow the confidence, agency and skills to address their needs and desires, creating a culture of sustainable social innovation.


Helen is keen to nurture a vibrant and fruitful research culture within the academy and through micro projects is exploring the role of a design school promoting social justice within a civic university.


Helen is working to develop new models of pedagogy making use of innovative technologies and accommodating different learning styles. She believes that providing students with experiential learning opportunities and collaborating with uncommon combinations of organisations and people, will create an environment where we can jointly take positive action on the grand challenges of the modern world.


Helen's practice-based research is multidisciplinary and grounded in values of inclusivity, accessibility empowerment and compassion.


Helen has recently worked in senior research roles on the Creative Fuse North East research programme and COST Action Multi-disciplinary innovation for social change. Helen was the Principle Investigator on a project exploring the impact of a podcast on research culture and is a Co-Producer of the Designamite Podcast which covers the research, teaching and practice of Northumbria University's School of Design.

Helen Simmons

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • A hyper-local place-based pedagogy for exploring design justice, ontological design and systems entanglement, Spencer, N., Carrion-Weiss, J., Simmons, H. 14 May 2024, 26th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
  • Final degree shows: culmination or invitation?, Simmons, H., Bailey, M., Spencer, N., Hemstock, O., Mutambo, N. 7 Sep 2023, DS 123, Glasgow, The Design Society
  • Taking the pulse of responsible design: exhibitions as a critical discourse venue, Simmons, H., Bailey, M., Spencer, N. 7 Sep 2023, DS 123, Glasgow, The Design Society
  • Innovation Constellations as a systems approach to social design infrastructuring, Spencer, N., Simmons, H., Bailey, M., Hemstock, O., Carrion-Weiss, J. 20 Jul 2022, In: Academic Design Management Conference Proceedings
  • Three degrees of influence in virtual workshops: towards an understanding of co-creative facilitation practice in technologically mediated settings, Hemstock, O., Bailey, M., Spencer, N., Simmons, H., Coombs, S., Carrion-Weiss, J., Richardson, C. 25 Jun 2022, Proceedings of DRS2022 Bilbao, London, Design Research Society
  • Tipping points in design-led collaboration: attending to moments of emergence in design facilitation practice, Hemstock, O., Simmons, H., Bailey, M., Spencer, N., Coombs, S. 20 Jul 2022, dmi:ADMC 2022: DESIGN AS A STRATEGIC ASSET : Academic Design Management Conference, Cambridge, US, Design Management Institute

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Art for Purpose 2023
  • Participating in a conference, workshop, ...: 25th International Conference on Engineering & Product Design Education 2023
  • Invited talk: Innovation Ambassadors 2023
  • Participating in a conference, workshop, ...: Complexity Outcomes 2023
  • Oral presentation: The Power of the Stottie 2023
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: COST CA18236 Working Group 1- Multi-disciplinary innovation for social change 2023
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Pint of Science 2023 2023
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Changing Futures North East 2023
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Springboard Event: Experiential Learning 2023
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: National Saturday Club 2023

  • Design Studies MA September 30 2021
  • Other Courses BSc (Hons) January 01 1998
  • Other Courses BSc (Hons) January 01 1998

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