5 Key Lessons Learned at the Makerspace Organizers Meeting

I WAS INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE TO ATTEND THE MAKERSPACE ORGANIZERS MEETING THAT WAS HELD ON AUGUST 24, 2016.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit in a room with 200+ makers from across the country to discuss the opportunities available for makerspaces and their community maker leaders. It’s been a week since the meeting and it still feels unreal to think that in just one meeting, I gained instant access to the brightest bunch in the maker community.

The day was filled with brain sharing, exchanging names and stories, and opened a sea of opportunities for collaboration. In short, it was a mentally stimulating event and I’m excited to connect with a room filled with enthusiastic and inspirational community leaders.The day was jam-packed with information but I took home 5 key lessons from the experience.


1. THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL MODEL

Over 200 makerspaces were represented, which means there were 200+ brains filled with their own ideas. During the breakout sessions, we were given the opportunity to create our own track of workshops to attend. After attending each session, I realized that there wasn’t a clear, out of the box, solution that catered to Buffalo Lab’s specific needs or wants.

EVERY MAKERSPACE HAD THEIR OWN UNIQUE GOALS CENTERED AROUND THEIR LOCATION, MISSION GOALS, AND TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC. AS MUCH AS I WANTED TO FIND A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SOLUTION, I REALIZED VERY QUICKLY THAT IT DIDN’T EXIST.

Instead, I sought out people who had a similar model to ours and picked their brains till there was nothing left. I also took notes and borrowed ideas from other spaces for what I wanted Buffalo Lab to aspire to be.

2. INCLUSIVITY IS FUCKING IMPORTANT

Kari Love was one of the awesome speakers at the event and she gave a presentation about her journey as a maker. She mentioned how NYC Resistor, a hackerspace in New York, played a key role in shaping her maker journey.She stressed the importance of inclusivity and how important a personal invite was to her as a maker.

FILLING YOUR SPACE WITH A MIXTURE OF SKILL SETS AND PERSONALITIES IS WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOUR MAKERSPACE FROM OTHERS AND IS CRUCIAL TO SHAPING YOUR MAKERSPACE’S CULTURE.

This lesson hit home for me because I wouldn’t have even thought of joining until a member invited me to an event which helped build my confidence to become involved.

 
 

3. WINS MATTER. CELEBRATE THEM, BIG OR SMALL

Building a makerspace is a labor of love mission that most people tack on top of their 9–5 job. Sometimes we get caught up in making sure things are not on fire that we forget to celebrate the accomplishments. Matt Stultz, from Ocean State Maker Mill, shared valuable tips for creating a sustainable makerspace. He stressed the importance of appreciation and recognition. We owe our existence and successes to our members. Maker leaders, please make it a point to celebrate every win you get, both big or small. The positive momentum is effective and impactful when recruiting new members, it helps to foster big ideas, and is the foundation for the next generation of leadership to make improvements. A simple gesture of appreciation can go a long way and a major key to more innovation.

TO OUR MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF BUFFALO LAB, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!
 
 

4. CONNECT THE DOTS: TECH X BASIC SKILLS

Makerspaces are not limited to people who are only tech-oriented makers, it’s a space for anyone who makes. Connect the dots and bridge the gaps between technology and basic skills. When I first joined Buffalo Lab, I had limited software and hardware knowledge. Even now, I’m still not the most “techie” person there, but I was able to forge a relationship between tech and my personal interests.

Everyone has their own personal reason as to why they joined their makerspace, mine was, I wanted to make shit. I love working with my hands and tech happened to sneak its’ way into my craft. Working on projects that I was invested in helped me embrace technology instead of fear it. This same philosophy could be applied to helping makerspaces attract new members to their organization.

ALWAYS MAKE IT A POINT TO SHOW OFF THE PROJECTS THAT COME OUT OF YOUR SPACE BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW HOW IT WILL RESONATE WITH OTHERS.

5. DOCUMENT YOUR SHIT

I’m definitely guilty of this, but I suck at documenting my projects. It’s a vicious cycle for me. I hate when I’m following other tutorials and I get frustrated that their documentation is difficult to understand. Then when I manage to complete the project, I forget to document the project for others who want to follow it. Starting now, I want to change that process and document everything because it’s worth the extra minutes and steps.

The maker community is small in comparison to other groups, so any type of knowledge that’s available is precious. As makers, we owe it to ourselves, to share the information we’ve collected to other makerspaces. After this meeting, I realized that I’m not as alone as I thought I was. There are 200 others who are dealing with the same struggles to some degree, imagine the possibilities we could make just by documenting our project and making it accessible to others?

I learned a lot at the White House and it demonstrated the true power of makerspaces and what getting a group of goal-oriented folks in a room can do.

The next steps are to collaborate, share, and connect, either in real life or virtually. In one meeting, I’ve made 200+ friends and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish before our next meeting.

Friends following our journey, please stay tuned for what’s next in the maker movement, because we roll deep!

My mom couldn’t find me. Thought this might help her.

My mom couldn’t find me. Thought this might help her.

Annette Wong