Making a Maker City

Good will be co-chairing MakerCon. Buy your ticket today!

Good will be co-chairing MakerCon, May 12-13. Buy your ticket today!

This post is the second of a three-part series on Making a Maker City. It’s based on my experiences meeting with nascent Maker cities, my speeches on the topic, and most importantly my work with the Mayors Maker Challenge, especially in San Diego.

My goal is to convey what I’ve learned so as to equip others to collaborate and transform their cities. Next in this series I’ll write about yet another vector into stimulating development of a Maker ecosystem. It’s a tale of national groups with local presence who can help us advance the Maker City agenda.


Using the Mini Maker Faire program, we managed to jumpstart a nascent ecosystem in San Diego from the bottom-up. Leveraging the top-down program of the Mayors Maker Challenge we’re now working to take San Diego to the next level. This post describes our process, our progress to date, and explains how you too can advance your town towards being a Maker City.

Just as a reminder, we staged a Mini Maker Faire with the deliberate agenda to bring Maker institutions together. During the Faire they discovered each other, got familiar and comfortable with one another, and followed up after the event with a string of collaborations. Happily the momentum hasn’t waned and San Diego now have a basic Maker ecosystem.

Mayors Maker Challenge

Six months after our Faire, the White House staged a Maker Faire on June 18, 2014. Realizing how important Making is in the big picture to education, innovation, and employment they planned a few parallel initiatives. One of those was called the Mayors Maker Challenge (MMC). The MMC asked mayors from across the country to join the effort to foster Making by committing to take action.

Six weeks before the White House Maker Faire we in San Diego learned of the Mayors Maker Challenge. This top-down program seemed a natural compliment to our bottom-up community building. Realizing our nascent Maker ecosystem would benefit from support from the City we kicked into gear to promote the MMC.

Remember that we had already staged a Maker Faire out of which came many new institutional relationships we could leverage. And leverage we did! The Director of the San Diego library system told her boss, the Mayor, that city libraries do Making and she supported the MMC. The CTO of Qualcomm through his Government Affairs group told the Mayor’s office they were supportive of the program and curious to learn how Qualcomm could help. The Managing Director of the science museum weighed in that it was important to his mission. A wide variety of schools, businesses, Makerspaces, property developers, start-up incubators, and more weighed in.

Results? Nine of the 10 MMC challenges were accepted. The Mayor of the eighth largest city in the U.S. now has the goal to become a Maker City and he has a wide array of institutions in position to support him. Without a doubt, our ecosystem-building efforts helped to make this happen.

Mayors Maker Challenge

Eight months after accepting the challenge I can report we’re moving forward. The Mayor has appointed a liaison to work with the Maker community and he has already convened a Maker City Roundtable of leaders to meet regularly. Furthermore, two new Makerspaces have launched since accepting the MMC: Fab Lab was relaunched with the Mayor’s help and STEAM Maker Workshop opened its doors. Personally, my favorite development has been that come October the museums of Balboa Park (San Diego’s central park) will host a two-day Maker Faire as part of the park’s Centennial Celebration. This will be done with support from the Maker community and the endorsement of the mayor. In 2015, Making will take center stage in San Diego.

In summary, there exist programs we can all use to develop our Maker Cities from bottom-up and top-down. Maker Faire is a fabulous program to bring people and institutions out to celebrate Making and build an ecosystem. The Mayors Maker Challenge is the perfect compliment and can raise existing community efforts to new levels of legitimacy and impact. Both programs are available for you to use in your community.