Making and Social Change May 8th, 2013 C4CC London

Here at Makers’ Guild we believe making has vast potential for social change, it’s part of the reason we do it, as well as just loving making stuff of course! Hence kicking off the 2013 series of events on aspects of making and social change.

First up, Fiddian Warman, founder of Makers Guild, welcomed the group and introduced the event and Brian Condon from the Centre for Creative Collaboration introduced the space.

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Our first speaker, Daniel Charny (@danino), told us about his history as an industrial designer and the curator of the V&A Power of Making show. The success of Power of Making resulted in a lot of reflecting about how to harness the public’s enthusiasm for making. His initiative, Fixperts, is a reaction to that. Fixperts is about getting people who are good at fixing and making to do things for someone who needs something done, and then make a short film about it. Fixperts projects are carried out entirely by volunteers, often experienced designers who want to get close to users in a way that industrial design often doesn’t allow. Daniel’s co-founder is James Carrigan of Sugru.
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Their aim is to get making acknowledged as a type of thinking and to encourage more people to engage with the practices of fixing and making, especially in education. Fixperts has worked with 7 universities around Europe. Tutors find a way to run projects in their environment and Fixperts help build the individual briefs. 102 students from Brunel’s industrial design course have just completed a Fixperts project set by their tutors. Some of the problems they tried to solve include insomnia and how to feed sheep!
Daniel finished by talking about the future for Fixperts. They have been invited to take part in a Maker Fair, and are looking for fixers and makers to take part in a type of “fixing cafe”. If you might be interested in taking part, you can contact Daniel and James at hello@fixperts.org

Our second – surprise – speaker was Jim from WeFarm (@we_farm). Jim is a web developer by day and maker at night and has worked with faberdashery, among others. We Farm is a project commissioned by Cafe Direct Producers Foundation, the charity side of Cafe Direct – who make fair trade tea and coffee. CDPF work with the farmers that they buy coffee from on social change projects.
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We Farm is a project that James has been involved with for some time. Coffee and tea farmers have lots of ideas and skills but often no way to share them. Only 10% of farmers in the coffee belt have access to the Internet so sharing stuff online doesn’t work. However, 90% of them have access to SMS, which is taking off as a way to do many things eg banking. The brief for We Farm was: a social network for farmers using SMS. The result is a system that allows a farmer, in e.g. Kenya, to text a questions such as: how do I make money from rearing rabbits? A volunteer student translates the question into Spanish and it gets sent out to the whole coffee belt community. A farmer in Latin America who rears rabbits responds with some advice, which gets translated and sent back to the questioner. We Farm has been successfully piloted in Peru, Kenya and Tanzania, with more than 5000 messages exchanged.

During the break there was lively chat with some people showing work they do like PJ Wolosaczonek bringing along his ‘Kornel’ corner clocks. We’d love it if more people brought stuff along to show. PJ also kindly videoed the talks and has put them on YouTube in three parts here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. They are also embedded at the bottom of this page.

Paul Harter from Printcraft (@printcrafting) was our third speaker. Paul runs glowinthedark.com a company for helping people realise their digital designs. He originally set up Printcraft.org as a fun family project with his kids. The idea is that kids create stuff in Minecraft (a lego-like online world for building and creating) and then turn it into 3d models on Printcraft. At the time Paul was part of a 3d printing consortium with Fiddian (a protpype Makers’ Guild initiative!) and they owned part-shares in a Makerbot.

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This enabled Paul and his kids to print some of the artefacts they were building within the game Minecraft. Minecraft is like virtual Lego: a game with no rules and where you set your own goals. Some people fight and destroy things. Others build complex buildings and machines. Kids tend to build fancy buildings and weird characters. Using Printcraft they can then have their models 3d printed. Paul runs two servers in Minecraft. Once the model is built kids can press the print button. Their model will then appear as a 3d model within a Printcraft page. They can then download an stl file and then open it within a 3d print program, eg. The open source ReplicatorG or Makerbot’s Makerware. At the moment no log in is required as Paul wants to keep it as simple as possible for kids to make and print their models.

After setting up Printcraft, Paul went to the 3D Print Show with his kids and the Makerbot and their stand got an amazing response from the general public. Next, he applied to Nesta’s Digital Makers competition which fitted with his agenda of encouraging young people to make things. Printcraft won and received enough money to sustain the business for 6 months to a year. Now Paul is trying to turn project into something bigger and – hopefully – more sustainable. He has partnerships with Makerbot (who have given him a better printer), and Shapeways and iMaterialise who help him do the printing.
Paul talked to us about what happens when your hobby project begins to outgrow itself. Paul is slightly ambivalent about where Printcraft goes next. Despite working with Nesta on measuring metrics like engagement, learning outcomes and income, he doesn’t see Printcraft as a startup. Instead it’s more of an extension of a making philosophy. The people he does it for are families: parent and child sharing technology and making together. He sees Printcraft as being an adjunct making activity to, e.g. making birthday cards or cakes.

Paul also talked about the importance of getting the excitement about making that we have as adults across to children. Sometimes the exciting social history of making gets lost in discussion of mass manufacture.  Paul thinks makers need to engage with educators more so they can understand what might be good things to give to children. he finished with a quote from Plutarch: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled!”

Our final speaker was Hannah Lewis from Remakery, who talked to us about the amazing and abitious Remakery project and the importance of seeing waste as a resource, rather than a problem. She told us that in London 6 million tonnes of waste is going to landfill each year. Skills and energy are also wasted as youth unemployment rises. Remakery is a reaction to this: a space for reuse and recycling of waste materials.
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Remakery is converting a space consisting of 40 derelict basement garages in Loughborough junction, between Brixton and Camberwell. The aim is to remake this abandoned space into a community resource, with workshop, co-working and events space. Hannah talked about how this type of project creates inward (personal) change as well as outward changes to a community, and how society is having to already get to grips with problems of scarcity and how Remakery can help with this.

Local people want to use the workshops to make and fix things, some people are curious and have joined as volunteers. Some people have been referred by hostels or mental health services. Since late July last year the Remakery team and local volunteers have been remaking the space as a community self build project. Funding has come from London Community Foundation, Wrap, and Lambeth Council. Remakery won Lambeth’s “Your Choice” project in which Lambeth residents voted on which building project should win £100K. This was an important catalyst to enabling building work to happen. Unfortunately it isn’t enough for the size of the space so they have received an additional 60K from the Tudor Trust and are seeking additional funding from other sources. Some building suppliers have also given in kind support, donating things like insulation materials (Rockwool).

Hannah told us about the collaborative process they undertook to design Remakery. They worked with Architecture for Humanity and Good for Nothing who designed the logo. Designers from Innocent smoothies helped with branding and prompted them to come up with the name.

Remakery (@remakery) is an example of a ‘bencom': a cooperative society run for the benefit of the whole community, not just the coop members. In pursuit of this Remakery are issuing shares, which members can buy for £1 each. At the moment this is limited to one share per person, as the aim is to generate community involvement, not raise cash. Hannah said that they may use shares to raise cash at a later date, but that it would always be limited to ‘one member one vote’ so that no one could take over Remakery by buying lots of shares. In future income will also come from monthly membership fees and there will be a range of rates depending on the level of use. They will also continue to apply for grant funding for social programs such as the Alchemy Incubator – an incubator for helping new business ideas to develop in the local community.

They plan to run “how to courses” and “build your own” courses introducing key skills. They are already reusing materials and holding educational events. They had a ceramic tile workshop recently as part of an away day for Lambeth Councillors! Brixton People’s kitchen used Remakery to build their bike powered mobile kitchen and they held a Secret Cinema screening which brought 70 new people into the space. Building work is ongoing and volunteers are in working on it every day from Monday to Saturday. Remakery is opening this autumn but there are plenty of ways to get involved NOW! You can contact Hannah at @remakery and people@remakery.org

Makers’ Guild is planning a series of upcoming events, including more hands on events. If you’d like to speak at a future event or suggest a theme, contact fiddian@makersguild.org. We’ll be announcing the next event very soon. It’s probably going to be themed on ‘NOT 3D Printing’!

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A slideshow of more pics from the evening are here.

And here are PJ’s videos (thank you again PJ):



2 thoughts on “Making and Social Change May 8th, 2013 C4CC London

  1. I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.

    • Thx for kind words Samuel. It’s a free theme called splendido, we customized the background image a little.

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