Case Study 1: The Remakery

The Remakery is a community-based makerspace focusing on a niche group. Its core value can be summarised as ’ to spark the environmentally-conscious lifestyle through making’ and to generate the conversation about (re)making. The organisation attracts both individuals and social enterprises that share common interests in reusing waste and reclaimed materials and an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Having a well-defined ethos and personable ways of keeping people engaged with the organisation are crucial to the success in relationship building. The organisation successfully empowers people to make through a number of activities, e.g. mentoring, training, peer-learning and idea-sharing. The well-designed services (e.g. providing free reclaimed materials) and the multipurpose space play an important role in supporting these activities. It also empowers people through making, since the organisation sees its services as ‘actionable options’ for people to make positive changes to their local community and the environment. The aim goes beyond making things as it focuses on making ‘people’  by helping them develop making skills and providing them with opportunities to build their careers in making. Many members and resident makers use this place as a platform to launch their social enterprises. By seeing ‘making’ as skills and a way of thinking of how to tackle environmental issues, this has helped foster creativity in local citizens.

Case Study 2: The She Shed Association

The She Shed Association is a not-for-profit organisation set up to support older women who are vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, often due to the loss of close friends and families. It provides a wide range of creative activities (e.g. pottery, painting, jewellery making and woodworking) to attract this sometimes hard-to-reach group to come together to share skills in a safe environment and establish new social networks. The organisation has successfully empowered many older women through the act of ‘making’ in many ways, by providing various types of support, such as informal training and peer-learning. The She Shed facilitates casual conversation among strangers (e.g. asking to pass some materials) and helps beneficiaries to develop new connections with their peers. It also gives them the opportunity to develop an ability to ‘make’ things, giving them a strong sense of achievement, which helps enhance their self-confidence. For example, they had to learn to stand by their decision, i.e. choice of colours or negotiate with other members of the group to achieve the solution they wanted, i.e. convincing the workshops organisers that they preferred jewellery to paint. When interviewed, several makers explained that the act of making is ‘what we want to do, but never had a chance to do’. This has helped users to re-frame their ways of thinking. Evidently, a good combination of a friendly atmosphere and dedicated services has helped to foster creativity for these makers.

Case Study 3: The Camden Town Shed

The Camden Town Shed is the first UK shed started by its users in 2011. The concept was based on the Men’s Shed Movement in Australia. The main targets are older men and women who are vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. The Shed is equipped for woodworking, sculpturing and hand-building in clay. The organisation has successfully empowered people to make through training and peer-learning. There is clear evidence that people have been empowered through (the act of) making. When interviewed, one maker reported that the act of making has helped him think creatively and plan things in advance (e.g. creating a precise drawing beforehand). Moreover, it encourages them to explore new knowledge. For example, one user studied principles of Islamic Art to create Islamic geometric patterns. Besides, it enables rather ‘shy’ individual to socialise with others. Makers enjoy the strong sense of belonging, as they reported that space has ‘good banter’ and ‘sense of comradery’. While most makers make things for fun, sometime they work on commissioned work that will benefit others. It can be seen that a combination of creative activities and a community of interest has helped foster individual creativity.

Case Study 4: The Building BloQs

 

The Building BloQs is a makerspace for professional makers, which can be broadly categorised into two groups: freelance professionals and small companies. It provides spaces and means for making (e.g. workbenches, machines, tools, materials and storage spaces) for paid members. The services could be grouped into three main departments: wood, metal and fashion & textiles. The company is all about empowering people through making since its goal is to support ‘people who want to make a living through making’. It offers makers a platform to create and launch their businesses. In terms of empowering people to make, the company enables makers to upskill and develop knowledge further through peer-learning since most members already have a good level of knowledge and skills in making. Having access to the ‘knowledge community’ (in other words, other makers, other businesses and other knowledge that they may not have) is the main motivation for most members to join this makerspace. Thus, the place was designed to maximise peer-learning and networking (e.g. providing open-plan workshops and displaying members’ work in social areas). Providing means for making and access to the ‘knowledge community’ is key to help professional makers develop their creativity further.

Case Study 5: The Goodlife Centre

The Goodlife Centre is an independently funded workshop designed to help ‘people who would like to make something’ by providing them with knowledge and skills in making. The company started with one training course (woodworking) at a community centre before expanding into other areas, e.g. upholstery, sewing, etc. It has successfully empowered people to make through formal training courses and other support, e.g. peer-learning. To a large extent, the centre is also successful in empowering people through making. Its training courses had helped many trainees develop creative confidence to the point that they considered a career change. According to trainees, the act of making can really foster creativity. One trainee observed that he has changed his way of thinking. His thinking process has become more structured, as he has to plan things in advance before starting making. The founder was trained in 3D design and previously worked as a designer for high-end brands. Subsequently, she has a good understanding of experience design and has effectively applied this knowledge to create a welcoming space with great attention to detail. The good atmospheric design and hands-on training have help beginners gain the confidence to explore ideas and develop their creativity further.

Case Study 6: Blackhorse Workshop

The Blackhorse Workshop is founded by creative practitioners with a mission of becoming ‘a socially pioneering world-class centre for making’. It currently focuses on woodwork and metalwork, but also offer other services, e.g. leatherwork. Although the organisation mainly targets professional makers, the workshop also supports hobbyists and families. For example, it offers ‘Kids Holiday Club’ and ‘Make Stuff Club’ for children aged 9 – 11 years old. It also provides women-only sessions. The organisation helps empower people to make through various training programmes and inductions courses. Moreover, it works with the local council to support youth groups and schools. The open-plan workshop helps facilitate idea sharing, networking, and peer-learning, which help people develop their creativity and making skills further. Social areas, e.g. café, are strategically utilised to engage local residents with this makerspace. It also organises events, where artists, designers, expert fabricators and craftsmen from various fields are invites to share their thoughts with the general public. Its location, which is approximately half an hour from Central London, puts it in a good position to support creative practitioners in London and surrounding areas. The organisation helps foster creativity through formal training and good use of spatial design to facilitate knowledge sharing.

Case Study 7: The Library of Things

The Library of Things works in partnership with Crystal Palace Transition Town & Upper Norwood Library Hub to help people get access to things they need. This is a place where people (mostly local residents) can borrow useful items (e.g. drills, gazebos and carpet cleaners) at affordable price and learn how to use them. Although the organisation does not provide a dedicated physical space for making, it still empower people to make by providing means of making (e.g. access to DIY tools) and training them making skills. The Library perceives its offers as ‘community services’, since it helps promote do-it-yourself attitudes. To help people adopt new habits, the organisation has organised a number of classes (e.g. DIY sewing classes) and facilitated peer-learning activities (e.g. skill sharing and volunteer training events). The empowerment through making is rather indirect due to its nature. Nevertheless, the ‘snowball’ effect was observed, as users tend to encourage their friends and families to get involved. In this way, positive changes have cascaded beyond immediate users. The organisation also sees itself as a pathway to other community services. By giving people access to means of making and helping people obtaining making skills, it helps foster creative citizens without actual making spaces.

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