• Policy agenda

How can governments support makerspaces?

In this blogpost we highlight policy recommendations that can inspire governments to take action in support of makerspaces globally.

Makerspaces impact education, job creation, economic development, open-source collaborations, supply chain resilience, mental health and peace-building. Moreover, makerspaces possess the potential to actively contribute to critical global initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as supporting the objectives of the European Circular Economy Plan and African Union Agenda 2063.

Key policy recommendations for government

We understand that the implementation of policies is usually long-term. However, we have gathered initial policy recommendations in a common policy agenda to inspire governments with new opportunities and ideas to support makerspaces.

Recommendation 1 – facilitate new opportunities for collaboration between makerspaces and stakeholders, such as; local and national governments, industry players, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international bodies, funding agencies, and community spaces. 

Recommendation 2 – leverage the potential of makerspaces by collaborating with them on national projects, focusing on building the capacities of youth and entrepreneurs and promoting locally made products. 

Recommendation 3 – create funding initiatives that makerspaces can use for their research and innovation projects. 

Recommendation 4 – endorse maker programs or courses to further bolster the sustainability of makerspaces. 

Recommendation 5 – integrate makerspaces into school curricula, particularly focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education. 

Recommendation 6 – extend official recognition to makerspaces, acknowledging their pivotal role in education, human resource development, and local industrialisation. 

You can read more about it here below:

What is the common policy agenda?

The common policy agenda is a vital tool for steering policy engagements for makerspaces. It is crafted through an exchange of existing concepts and initiatives, that considers their relevance in both European and African contexts. The insights incorporated are drawn from the perspectives of 69 African and European stakeholders that include  founders, educators, managers and community members across various makerspaces.  

The report was developed through comprehensive desktop research conducted on various policies, including SDGs, European Union (EU) policies, African Union (AU) policies, and environmental policy goals. Additionally, first-hand / lived experiences of makerspace stakeholders were collected such as case studies and stories.

Hub ecosystems and policy frameworks

There is a pressing need to establish policies to support makerspaces to thrive and empower communities. For one year, the Fab City Foundation and Africa Makerspace Network were privileged to engage with makers and stakeholders within the African and European ecosystems. The aim was to gain insights into the barriers and enablers that influence their work and to explore how governments at various levels can recognise and support makerspaces.

While we acknowledge that our research and reports may not encompass all aspects necessary to strengthen maker movements in Africa and Europe, we believe our efforts align with other research works and policy engagements. This alignment will contribute to establishing makerspaces as community-driven hubs for local production and citizen empowerment.

In 2022, we engaged 7 African and European national and regional hub associations. Our aim was to learn how Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs)/makerspaces organize themselves into supportive structures for growth, and most importantly, undertake policy advocacy actions relevant to the digital innovation hub ecosystems. The findings and insightful case studies from our engagements are presented in this report.

Building on this, in 2023, we conducted further discussions, this time with makerspaces in the same regions. These conversations unearthed insights into persistent challenges and policy recommendations that shape the maker movements in Africa and Europe. Our analysis resulted in the common policy agenda.

How can you use the common policy agenda?

Together with the Distributed Design Platform project, we co-designed a workshop using the common policy agenda. The workshop equipped makers, designers, project coordinators involved in maker communities with the skills to engage policymakers. Read about the workshop and our time in Barcelona in this blogpost.

During the Ghana Hubs Network general meeting themed ‘Connecting Innovation Hubs for Collective Growth’, policy recommendations were presented. Government representatives and stakeholders in attendance included the Director of Communication from the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), a GIZ representative, the Dean of Languages at Takoradi Technical University (TTU), representatives from the Ghana Association of Industry, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce, Ghana National Youth Employment Agency, and others.

The feedback from participants highlighted their strong interest, with some requesting the public version of the policy and seeking guidance on establishing makerspaces at their hubs. These ongoing conversations have the potential to catalyze further policy discussions with policymakers.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to share the policy recommendations to a virtual audience at the Transformation Literacy Conference organized by the Collective Leadership Institute (CLI), with a focus on advocacy and identifying transformative approaches to influence key societal areas and engage with leaders/governments.

Identifying ways to make global goals truly ‘glocal’ is crucial for their achievement, aligning well with the agenda of makerspaces and maker communities. During the workshop, we engaged with approximately 40 different organizations. This outreach provides us with the opportunity to connect with organizations interested in makerspace policies and the mAkE project.

Anyone can take action!

Engaging with policy makers can be apprehensive everywhere. However, we see the common policy agenda as a tool that facilitates collaborations with governments. Approaches that can support policy engagements may include:

  • Sharing impact stories of makerspaces
  • Identifying points of alignment with local policy agendas
  • Clearly defining specific requests (ASKs)
  • Raising awareness about makerspaces
  • Pitching to policymakers and governments
  • Disseminating the common policy agenda (full report)
  • Sharing social media posts discussing policy recommendations.

Reach out to us if you would like to collaborate, contribute or share your insights. 

The presentation on the policy recommendations for makerspaces is available here:

  • Policy agenda