Uncovering space, equipment, tools, donations and funding is hard work, right? Acquiring those prerequisites for a Makerspace is much easier than building a maker culture.

How do you build a maker culture in a society that loves to dispose of items, people and relationships? Our current society encourages people to use their wits to verbally cut and bust others chops?

These are very tough questions and we would like your input and your best practices, but here are some tips:

Set your makerspace expectations.

First you need to establish the Maker Norms, the cultural standards and not just stated once or put on a plaque but repeated during every meeting.

To help create a maker culture,  some maker spaces are putting their values into their names and tag lines and make sure to explain their maker values at every chance they can. For example the mission of Decatur Makers is to be a welcoming, family-friendly community of inquisitive, motivated people who work together in a safe environment to discover, understand, design and create interesting things.  Build. Share. Explore.

Recently, Decatur Makers volunteers helped makers from the International Rescue Committee – Atlanta design and build their own aquaponics system. Aquaponics blends aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) with hydroponics (raising plants in water) in a symbiotic environment

 

Another is example in Salisbury, Md – M4 Reactor purposely put their cultural norms that they aspire to in their branding.

 

Reinforce Correct Actions and Behavior

To build a maker culture, we all need to focus on the positive and not just the negative to creating a fun and creative environment.    Please do not shame rule violators but strive to educate them.

Are you using game film and regularly strive catch people do things right? Since what we glorify is what we get, so instead of using security cameras for just catching theft and bad safety practices, why not each week award recognition and free pizzas to those who are conducting themselves in ways you would like others to emulate?

Football teams have proven hold on to ball instructions work better than don’t fumble.  Stay safe, as opposed to don’t break stuff.

Do you really know where all of your tools are? Are they stashed away? Are they labeled? To make a more efficient maker space.  Kansas City’s Hammerspace laser cut their own peg boards so that everyone knows where the tools are with a quick visual.

 

How to deal with Sheldon Cooper Syndrome? (Someone who uses their intellect and verbal barbs to lift themselves up by putting others down.)

So how do you deal with a good member 85% of the time but the other 15% poor behavior of constant criticizing and pointing out faults of others, becomes a nuisance and pulls down the morale of the space? Should you just terminate their membership to show  example? What about the 85% good that they offer? Should members be treated as disposable?

First need to take your Sheldon Coopers aside and ask them to use skills to lift others up for ideas to unify and grow the space. However, if your corrective measures do not work or Sheldon Cooper does not want to be coachable, you will need to terminate relationship and will need to make sure negativity does not grow in your spaces. Will need to set up team building exercises and constantly demonstrate correct activities.

Make together to stay together

Do you have a community makers table? Like a Bavarian beer hall, CHAMPS in Canton, Ohio, purposely set up a long table where over a dozen makers can work on projects or a community project together. Also hosting Maker Dinners and breaking bread together is a great unifier.

Do you regularly conduct background checks for your members?

What would you do if you discovered that one of child programming instructors is on a sex offenders list? What would happen to your spaces reputation and income levels if that became a public news scandal?

Since background services and programs vary around the country, I encourage you to reach out to your local HR Association and seek their input on ways to perform background checks and perhaps also how to conduct social media checks just to be safe. Also that is a great opportunity to partner with area employers to fill some of their hard to fill positions and open doors to our youth.

To channel their energy and enthusiasm to grow your space, young capable makers can help you connect to group’s old timers could not. Above Chandler Mayo, a Forge Greensboro maker demonstrates to a family how a 3d printer that he helped improve performance works.

What is your Makerspace’s community service project?

The Geek Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan has garnered major recognition in their community by refurbishing over 5000 computers and selling to families in need for only $25 for a desktop and only $50 for a laptop. This activity has helped them not only receive sponsors, and funding support but also galvanized the maker culture in their space because all involved in this wonderful initiative exhibit maker pride.

There is no silver bullet but a strong positive vision and team building for your maker culture are paramount for any space to cultivate the environment needed for sustainable constructive maker culture growth. What are your thoughts? Please add or share with [email protected]

Lets all work extra hard to lift, grow, build and make us a strong maker culture. It is easy to destroy and so hard to make. But so much easier if we work together!