The Urban Manufacturing project has been going for just about a year now and I have taken part in two policy clinics. What are policy clinics? I hear you ask. Well basically, each of the transnational partners has the opportunity to organise a ‘clinic’ or to the uninitiated , ‘meeting’, in their city where they present a problem related to collaborative making which they are trying to solve. The issues are ostensibly policy challenges. Participants at the clinic are asked to brain storm ideas and present potential solutions to their hosts. A useful bi-product of the process is the opportunity it gives participants to reflect on their own particular city policy challenges and learn from the ideas generated.
This all sounds very interesting in abstract terms, but what does it mean in reality? The clinic held in Zagreb provides one example. Its particular policy challenge was around enterprise including start-ups and entrepreneurship. City policy makers were keen to find ways to improve their new entrepreneurship programme. Participants put forward various ideas on how to address the challenge. Birmingham’s suggestion was to include routes to entrepreneurship: using collaborative maker spaces to solve the city’s problems through challenge events, thus helping micro projects engaging with CMS more commercially minded. This could help them to become more entrepreneurial in their output, helping create viable businesses with growth potential.
Aside from the focus on the challenge, the policy clinics also provide participants with the opportunity to visit collaborative maker spaces (CMS) or where a visit wasn’t possible, have the chance to speak to project developers. From my perspective, the Croatian Makers’ League really stood out (http://croatianmakers.hr/en/croatian-makers-league/).
Brain child of a husband and wife team, financed through crowd funding, with a singular vision to inspire and foster a new generation of coders, the project has managed to engage with 85% of the schools across Croatia. Relatively cheap Micro bits were distributed to primary schools which enabled children to acquire basic digital competencies and then progress onto more complex robotics. The project then set up competitions close to the schools where teams of children compete to solve a series of tasks requiring the use of a robot. By introducing coding through fun activities at a young age and where children are required to work collaboratively in maker space environments, you not only encourage a generation of coding boffins, but also sew the seed of collaborative making at a young age.
Another inspiring example of a maker space was Radiona (https://radiona.org/) where people with a passion for electronics and its potential creative application come together to create new widgets, including work with museums to display art through new media. Radiona is community based and encourages participants of all ages, from all walks of life to participate in workshops and exhibitions. There is a minimal membership fee and the aim is to provide an open environment for everyone so technology is de mystified and lifelong learning encouraged. Their ‘can do’ approach has helped them overcome many obstacles such as a lack of funding for a 3D printer resulted in them making one for themselves. Another example their creative production was a miniature electronic synthesizer created in the form of a miniature grand piano. So innovative was its design, that it was showcased at the biennale in Venice.
What Zagreb has also really done well is to celebrate the uniqueness of its artisanal heritage on a website which showcases a whole range of crafts and where to purchase them. What they want to achieve is sustainability for both enterprises and collaborative maker spaces so that both their artistic past and technological future can move forward together hand in hand.