Disclaimer, if a makerspace wants to be like an elite club and only have a limited amount of community support, funding, be in constant fear that if a few people leave that the space will close, that is fine. But, if you want to be more than a club grow into a community resource center, get funding and support from outside sources beyond your membership, try these tips.
Safety First, Safety Last, Safety All of the Time — can lead to innovations and community support
What would you do if your makerspace neighborhood was the location for mass shooting? In this era of constant gun violence, you may want to give away free memberships to area civil servants, the police, area firemen, medical personnel.
In the aftermath of gun fight at area bars where four people died, Forge Greensboro Makerspace granted membership to area police officers so they could work on their personal projects and provide extra security, that and video surveillance to avert theft or worse.
Greensboro Police Officer, Al Lewis shows off the ruggedized. custom LED patrol bike, that helps illuminate officers on night patrol and reduces possible accidents, he and Forge Greensboro made.
Later a group of electrical, design, and 3D printer makers joined to help another officer address a problem with the bike patrol lighting system. Not only did that help protect police on bikes but also strengthened their relationship with the community.
Want to Grow? Please Don’t Give Hairy Eyeballs to Visitors of Your Space!
When a stranger arrives to visit, do they get warmly greeted and offered a tour or at least an explanation as to the purpose and mission of the makerspace? Or are they given the hairy eyeball by members?
I love touring makerspaces, but when I visited one space that was in a large metropolitan area with only 50 members that started over 6 years ago, I quickly learned why they were so small. Their focus was only on the member projects and the members, not the community. Anyone that visited had to endure the disdainful look from almost everyone that made you feel you don’t belong here and get out. That feeling alienates potential contributors, sponsors, members and resources.
This is in a city of very large financial institutions and yet the president was so pleased that they got free donuts, he kept repeating as it they gotten a million dollar grant. I have learned that they have since shut down.
Good Work Gets Funded!
How do you win community grants and community support?
Filling out the forms is important but you also need to get to know the decision makers to win. If pursuing commercial foundations, you need to visit the managers and bring your most passionate supporters with you. A crowd gets attention; one person often gets ignored or perceived a nuisance. Include some customers of the store with you if you can. Grainger, Wal-mart, Lowes Hardware, Home Depot, and others support the maker movement but you have to ask and get connected.
Invite potential contributors to your events, 3d print or laser engrave them customized signs or awards for their personnel appreciation award functions.
Most importantly showcase your innovative projects, and your community activities that solve social challenges in your community like efforts to help homeless gain skills to get jobs.
Are You Paying It Forward?
As Adam Savage stated at Maker Faire Bay Area this past May, the purpose to making is not just to enrich ourselves but also to enrich society.
Open Works in Baltimore, Maryland, has launched a product-based business competition (EnterpRISE) that gave out $18,000 in cash investment and free memberships last year; an entrepreneurship program for mothers (Moms as Entrepreneurs) that will run twice this year and twice next; they’ve been offering free classes for seniors every other month; they hosted a farmer’s market last summer and a CSA pickup this summer; and they’ve been working with their local community center to offer free youth programming once per week. Open works also trained their staff in first aid and have a Naloxone training in the works in case, as they are confronted with the opioid crisis first-hand.
Open Works brings tools and technologies directly to your community! From schools and recreation centers to fairs, festivals and block parties, Open Works Mobile brings maker technology and tools directly to their community.
Are You Helping Fix Your Community’s Problems?
Are You Really Connected With Your Area?
In order to get market share, you need mindshare, your community needs to know you exist.
Do you know your mayor, your city council, your state representatives, your senators, your economic development recruiters and retention officers, your school superintendent, your area vocational educators, your area manufacturing executives, your civic organizations (Rotary, Lions, Civitans, Kiwannas, Jaycees)? Are you attending chamber of commerce meetings or hosting dinners? Are you uncovering projects that your members can fulfill?
Have you had proclamations of support from various government groups for MAKING? Once you get your leadership support more support will emerge from the rest of community.
How can they help you if they don’t know you? Are you inviting them to your events?
Not sure how or with whom to connect?
Do you have books of lists? Some business journals and chambers sell and sometimes if you visit and develop rapport give away lists.
Build it they will come? That may have worked in the movie the Field of Dreams but only because a radio station told the drivers where to go.
So are you on the radio? Are you on TV? Are you featured in the magazines? Are you producing your own blogs, your own videos, do you have a promotion plan?
Why buy an advertisement when you can be the news? If you do something that is newsworthy chances are you can get on the news. But you have to be a friendly pest as the media attention span is so stretched that good news often gets ignored or forgotten.
How Diverse Is Your Makerspace?
We connect with those who are the same, but we grow by connecting with those that are different.
What are the demographics of your members? Is everyone really welcome? What is your technical diversity? What range of skills do you have? To bust gender stereotype, have you offered sewing for me, welding for women, and other stereotype busting classes?
Have You Connected With Your Area Restaurants and Food Trucks?
Want to get connected with your community and get in touch with various cultures? Adopt a restaurant or a food truck.
Why do I love the King Queen Haitian #1 Cuisine Food Truck? The food is great, fall-off-the-bone jerk chicken, and a new pineapple bowl with rice, black beans, peppers, onions, steak, and shrimp with just enough spice to let you know it is there, but not enough to kill you.
But that is not why I love supporting the King Queen Haitian Cuisine. Because as great as the food is, the people are better!
Hilder Vilnor, sister DJ and their Dad are just wonderful people who have and continue to endure so much adversity just to have their chance to make a living in a country that is not destroyed by earthquakes and a failing government system that they made the leap to leave the familiar to strive to live the American dream.
They endure so much adversity, just for the chance of making their dreams come true. They travel around the state of North Carolina, and in 2016 won the NC Food Truck Festival. In March of this year when Greensboro got attacked by a tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes, including four schools, they were one of the first trucks to go give away free food — so they helped a community that rescued them. Now they have a huge following and people will wait for hours to get a bite of their food.
What Are You Doing to Support Your Area Youth?
Make Nashville, from their inception has focused on their community and wanted to be more than a club. This summer Make Nashville has numerous plans to stimulate making in their community including several maker camps.
Have You Helped Set Up a Community Garden?
People love food and love ways to grow their own, perhaps they need a growth garden.
After using their CNC to build a homemade growroom, the Make Nashville team had their own party during a Nashville celebration for master gardeners.
If you implement any these strategies, you will be on your way to making a true impact in your community! LET’s MAKER HAPPEN! The maker movement is too important to our society to be just a maker club!
If you would like Joel Leonard to visit your makerspace or get tips, contact [email protected] or join him on Facebook, @skilltv on Twitter. Joel has now taken his mission to grow the makermovement on the road and is touring the United States and conducting a series of Maker Happen Tours to learn and share effective strategies to grow the maker movement.