Social Innovation in Action Through Makerspaces
What are Makerspaces?
Before we can get into social innovation through Makerspaces we first have to understand what one even is and what is the full spectrum of Makerspaces. In a broad sense Makerspaces are community-based workshops where people of all backgrounds can have the same access to tools, techniques and other multi-leveled collaborators to design and make almost anything they wish. These collaborative work spaces can be found inside schools, libraries or separate public/private facilities for making, learning, exploring and sharing. They can also range from using high tech to no tech tools. As stated earlier, these spaces are open to people of all backgrounds whether you are a novice or an expert, a child or an entrepreneur, you are welcome. Often you will find a variety of equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines, but a Makerspace need not include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a Makerspace. Whether it be proliferating science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) skills or accelerating/incubating small businesses it is the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that is at the core of a Makerspace. This is what makes a Makerspace, a Makerspace.
How are Makerspaces interacting with social innovation?
Understanding what a Makerspace is then becomes a bit clearer how one can use Makerspaces as places to bring change, action, and social innovation. The creative energy and maker mindset that floods these spaces, along with the more democratized access to expensive tools, systems and experts we can see how this is impactful on the micro level of bringing your platform/app to fruition. On the macro level we can see why these qualities are leading to changing the state of how we manufacture and create. Looking at the changing state of American manufacturing it was argued that developments such as 3-D printing are enabling startup companies to capitalize on “a strategy that combines quick response, local skills, and a global marketplace to foster manufacturing in U.S. cities.”(The Atlantic) We have seen that this is not only true in U.S. cities, but as Makerspaces begin to spring up it is also true of other cities across the globe. This democratization of tools to create enterprises and physical products is changing how companies are formed.
There are multiple product examples that currently exist because of Makerspaces, a few notable products have been the Fitbit, SodaStream and the dongle for Square credit card processing and payment system. As we create there are endless possibilities, but we must be long-sighted enough to make sure that what we are creating is for good. The first Industrial Revolution, saw the good in jobs and a stimulated economy but paid little mind to the long-term environmental effects. Makerspaces and the democratization of making is a chance to reevaluate this and use our power for good. “It is a moment of transformation between an older and a newer system. These moments of transformation end up being very fragile. The older system is losing reliability, losing flexibility. But the newer system has yet to become as powerful and dominant as the old system once was. So you have a moment of fragility that becomes easily broken by people who haven’t thought through their actions or people who have thought it through and want to break things, to cause harm” states Jamais Cascio, a “futurist.”