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Gwendolyn Kulick


Issue of the Doctoral Research Study 

Linking Craft Production and Empowerment in Pakistan: Transitions Towards Fair Business Models

Craft producers in Pakistan are usually the weakest link in craft business value chains. They are vulnerable to financial exploitation, hazardous working conditions, poor infrastructure and insufficient market linkages. Nonetheless for people, especially women, in marginalized circumstances, craft production can offer an opportunity to fight extreme poverty and increase a household’s income significantly. In my research I examine how those producers can become more self-empowered business partners rather than aid receivers or cheap laborers. 

The main research method is an investigation of case studies in Pakistan and India, comprising of aid projects and craft businesses initiated by NGOs or individuals. Expert interviews, group conversations and field visits are an ongoing process. Action research through a self-initiated project contributes important data.

The aim is to suggest structural, conceptual and behavioral business strategies towards an empowering impact on the producers, through sufficient income and increased awareness of the processes involved in designing, producing and merchandising craft products.

Synergies and conflicts between empowerment, poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship, heritage protection and product innovation inform this research. They locate it at the intersection of design, grassroots development, sustainable business models and the socio-cultural and socio-economic meaning of craft in the sub-continent against the backdrop of colonial history. 

Current Activity

Gwendolyn Kulick pursues her Ph.D at Wuppertal University, supervised by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Wolf. Occasionally engages in conducting design workshops, e.g. at the Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus in Lahore or at the Sustainable Summer School, in freelance publication design projects and in writing about design and design education in South Asia.


In 2000 Gwendolyn Kulick graduated with her diploma from the University of the Arts in Berlin in the Department of Product and Process Design. After freelance design assignments, she followed an invitation from the School of Visual Arts and Design at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore / Pakistan in 2004 to teach and establish the Department of Visual Communication Design, which she also led until fall 2015. 

She was first inspired to combine design, craft and empowerment during an exchange semester at Konstfack in Stockholm in 1998, where class fellows engaged in a project of that kind. The idea stayed and since 2007 she engages in craft collaborations in Pakistan – partly with local organizations, partly self-initiated – which lead to the urge to explore the subject deeper in a doctoral research since 2011.