Making a Maker City — National Associations (Part 3 of 3)

Making a Maker City — National Associations (Part 3 of 3)

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!

Recognizing patterns can be useful. When building a Maker City ecosystem it’s helpful to know which institutions to target for partnering. Examples of recurring partners include libraries, science museums, colleges, fab labs, and high schools. Gaining their attention, educating them and getting them onboard takes time, persistence, and a lot of energy. Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of having to seek them out, they came to you? That’s the idea behind this post.

You could be planning your Maker Faire (see Part 1). You could be working to have your mayor accept the President’s Mayors Maker Challenge (see Part 2). You could be simply advancing the agenda of an already successful Maker City. What ever your stage of development adding more maker institutions to the mix is a common and continuing challenge.

We all need to grow the ecosystem but why must we start from ground zero so often? Can’t we go about this in a more efficient way? We can and national associations can be our partners in making this happen.

For a moment, let’s limit our focus to the example of libraries.

Libraries far and wide are facing a challenge. As books go digital, as patrons get their own Internet-connected computers, as DVDs fall prey to streaming video, libraries face a strategic challenge. How should libraries continue to deliver on their mission in these changing times? Each library is at a different stage of realizing and dealing with this challenge but they will all need to at some point. For libraries thankfully there is a national organization which represents them and is concerned with addressing the industry’s strategic challenges: the American Library Association (ALA).

American Library Association


The ALA represents almost 120,000 libraries across the United States. While individual libraries are concerned with their own local issues, the ALA is concerned with all libraries’ issues at the national level. The idea that making-resources and making-programs will be part of the solution to their strategic challenge makes them a natural ally. By working with the ALA we can advance our common agenda.

At SxSW recently I met with members of the ALA national leadership team. They volunteered to explore the idea of “tickling” local libraries nationwide to lean into ecosystem building and collaborate with local partners. While we still have to lock down details you can see how incredibly helpful this would be to our efforts locally to build Maker Cities. With coordinated action, rather than beating on library’s doors for attention we could instead be welcomed with open arms.

Making a Maker City

Libraries are just an example, albeit a very important example. Just as there’s a story of strategic alignment with libraries there can be similar stories with other institutions looking to the Maker Movement to transform themselves. Strategic challenges abound and making can be a solution to some.

How the world of national associations is sliced and diced is part of what needs to be figured out. Learning the challenges, getting access to and gaining traction with these groups are additional hurdles to overcome. However, by partnering with the right national groups our Maker City collaboration-building efforts could be magnified, our speed could be increased and our results could be more assured.

I’ll be following up with the ALA but there is much more to be done. If this theme interests you, if you have industry insight, if you have access to national associations then let me know below or via email. Perhaps together we can build a network of national associations helping to advance our Maker Cities.

Note: Travis will speak at Maker Faire Bay Area on May 15 at 12:00 on the Make:Live stage.

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Speaker. Maker. Writer. Traveler. Father. Husband.

MakerCon Co-Chair ( Maker City San Diego Roundtable Member San Diego Maker Faire Producer (

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