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Sinéad Burke

Designing the future


Whenever I meet someone, usually for the first time, I ask this question: “how do you describe yourself - personally and professionally?” I’ve witnessed some of the world’s most known people narrating their personalities and categorising themselves as a ‘work in progress’ or as a ‘generous friend’. Descriptors I couldn’t have predicted, I guess because we often value unworldly accomplishments over more human characteristics.

So, in thinking about what makes you human, how do you describe yourself - personally and professionally?

I ask so that I can learn about you. This space isn’t designed for monologues but for two way or multi-way conversations that will enrich and educate us all. But, if I’m being honest, I’m also asking so that I can delay time, and add more consonants to the word count… because I’m really comfortable asking this question, and waiting for a stranger’s response, but I really struggle to answer it. I find it difficult to describe myself and what it is that I do. I think it’s perhaps because I began my career as a teacher, a role that’s easily defined even though every teacher is different. But now… what’s my job? I think of my role as causing cultural and creative chaos: The person who asks questions and finds solutions to ensure that everyone is included, especially those who have historically been on the verges. But, who am I? Who is Sinéad? I’m still not sure and perhaps it’s rooted in the understanding that how someone perceives me, is based on their own experience, their own lens.

However, if you were talking to my friends and family - the people I love and admire most - I hope they’d describe me as a person who champions their ambitions and who curates the exact words that are needed to make a person feel better about themselves and the world. I hope they’d mention that I’m a person with a rigid moral compass, working to create change that is lasting and rooted in equity. I imagine they’d tell you that I tell awful, cheesy jokes, even though I’d ask them not to… and they might whisper that I’m not as resilient or as brazen as I perform, that the cost of being empathetic to others’ feelings, is a deep sensitivity towards your own. I hope that they’d say that they’re proud of me, not for my achievements or my ambitions but proud of my kindness. A kindness which they shaped and moulded.

I mention these traits because they are my tools and the characteristics I want to embed during my time at Juniper. I’m so honoured to be the Editor at Large of this new and transformative hub, where anything is possible. But, I want my leadership to be collaborative - to champion your vision as to how this place will change and grow, to celebrate and architect the ways in which you can participate and your experience can be illuminated. I want to design conversations with equity ensuring that our lens is intersectional and accessible - amplifying all voices in ways that can reach all people.

I vision my role as one that’s imbued with kindness and sensitivity because in this place, we’ll share parts of ourselves to create a space that is for us, and by us. We’ll share stories to create change and craft a trajectory that will guide generations to map out who they are, what they do and how they can change the world. We are creating a time capsule of our present and our past, whilst also designing the future.

These are lofty goals and when I sat to write this first editor’s letter, from my home in Ireland, I didn’t intend for it to become a vision statement or a declaration of purpose, but I think it helps for you to understand what I stand for - a symbolic stand, rather than a physical one. But, who are you and what matters to you?

JUNIPERunlimited is a community that uplifts everyone’s voices, and I’d like to start with you.

Sinéad Burke
Editor at large

Sinéad Burke is a teacher, writer and advocate. Sinéad works towards accelerating systemic change within the domains of diversity, education, inclusion, design and disability. She consults within the fashion and design industries to ensure that spaces and products are accessible to all.

Sinéad is a TED speaker, her talk ‘Why Design Should Include Everyone’ has amassed over one million views and resulted in her achieving some ‘firsts’: Sinéad is responsible for the introduction of the term for little person, ‘duine beag’, into the Irish language, she was the first little person to attend the Met Gala, and is the first little person to feature on the cover of Vogue. Sinéad has addressed the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference and the World Economic Forum too. Sinéad was presented with The Leadership Award at EcoAge’s Green Carpet Fashion Awards by Gucci CEO, Marco Bizzarri and by appointment of President Michael D. Higgins, Sinéad is a member of Ireland’s Council of State.


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