How Makers Can Catalyze a Manufacturing Renaissance

Maker News
How Makers Can Catalyze a Manufacturing Renaissance

The article “5 Ways the Maker Movement can help catalyze a manufacturing renaissance” calls for leaders to “embrace the Maker Movement as a deeply American source of decentralized creativity for rebuilding America’s thinning manufacturing ecosystems.”

Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution and Peter Hirshberg, co-author with me of the Maker City guide, are co-authors of the article, which makes the case that the new administration might want to look to the Maker Movement as a way to think about re-vitalizing manufacturing in America. They could look at places such as the Columbus Idea Factory in Ohio.

Alex Bandar is Director of the Columbus Idea Factory, a makerspace and creative workspace in Columbus, Ohio that expanded through local funding.
Alex Bandar is Director of the Columbus Idea Factory, a makerspace and creative workspace in Columbus, Ohio that expanded through local funding.

The Brookings article also recognizes that there is something here that is more than just manufacturing.

“Long to short, the story here is that the Maker Movement isn’t just about reviving manufacturing in cities (though it is doing that). In addition, the movement is proving that anyone can be a maker and that genuine progress on the nation’s most pressing problems can be made from the bottom up by do-it-yourselfers, entrepreneurs, committed artisans, students, and civic leaders through what our colleague Bruce Katz calls “new localism.” That’s both empowering and a quintessentially American story, one that de Tocqueville would immediately recognize, and that Donald Trump might even like.

And so it’s time for the nation—and especially its local business leaders, mayors, hobbyists, organizers, universities, and community colleges—to embrace the do-it-yourself spirit of the makers and start hacking the new industrial revolution one town at a time.”

The authors call for “modest competitive grants to support” makers and makerspaces. They also think that there is a need to connect makers with manufacturers. This may or may not be something that the federal government chooses to do. Either way, local and state governments should “take matters into their own hands.”

Because the Maker Movement is local, self-organizing and widely distributed, it is taking hold in cities and rural areas throughout the country. Still, there is much that can be done to assist, sustain and grow participation in the Maker Movement. Adding financial support and focused leadership to this bottom-up movement will allow more of us to innovate and solve problems. It will create new opportunities that can benefit individuals, communities and the economy. It may help the U.S. remain competitive.

China is certainly moving ahead with both funding at the national and local levels for the Maker Movement in Shenzhen, Chengdu (below), and Bejing. Leaders in the Chinese government recognize the need for China’s citizens to become more innovative. Even there, the future is not about expanding factory jobs but rather building smarter factories and developing smarter citizens who will design products that can be made in China.

Maker Faire Chengdu took place in December 2016 at the site of a former factory.
Maker Faire Chengdu took place in December 2016 at the site of a former factory.


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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty