The President’s Nation of Makers Initiative— A Call to Serve

If you are passionate about the Maker Movement, now is a fantastic time to get involved!

Background

In August of 2011, I created a page about the Maker Movement on our family blog, “Raising Geeks”. I’d found myself constantly telling people about the Maker Movement, and I needed a place to send them when they wanted to learn more. It was mostly research — me sharing the awesome things happening in other places that I hoped we could bring to Central Florida. For some time I updated that post, but then I spent so much time making things, serving as the treasurer for our local hackerspace, producing Maker Faire Orlando, and forming The Maker Effect Foundation — I stopped updating it.

Over time, I’ve found myself serving in the Maker Movement in a very different way. Almost exactly 5 years after I first created that page, I found myself at the White House for a convening of makerspace organizers as part of the President’s Nation of Makers initiative.

Thanks to Carl Stevens for the awesome group photo! Can you find me? :)

After the meeting at the White House, we launched a strategic process proposed by Andrew Coy, the Senior Advisor for Making, from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (He’s the dapper guy in the front with the bowtie). This process is designed to identify and solve the challenges common to the full range of maker organizations.

Strategic Process overview graphic created by Ian Cole based on process overview shared by Andrew Coy.

Now, I LOVE a good strategic process — so I jumped in the deep end. One of the items being discussed as a possible outcome — a need previously identified in a number of settings — was the creation of a “meta org”, a sort of trade association for makerspaces. I joined the “Community of Practice” “tiger team” (roar!) that was researching organizations, “scouting” for parallels that could help us propose a future org structure.

9 categories that came from the Diagnose phase of the Strategic Planning Process

This led to LOTS of conference calls, and some late night reading on meta-org theory (ProTip: Don’t buy college textbooks on meta-org theory after midnight). Through this process we also discussed that the constituents for a future meta-org would not only be makerspaces (and similar maker groups), but would also include groups that organize maker events, and the corporations, organizations and institutions that participate in the Maker Movement.

My limitations as a graphic designer become very apparent when I need to select this many colors and somehow have them represent overlapping parts of a venn diagram :)

As all of this was progressing, I received a phone call from Andrew Coy asking if I would serve the Maker Movement by participating on a transition group for the Nation of Makers initiative. In parallel to the “tiger teams”, this eight person transition group would work together over the next two months to formalize the meta-org including the creation of a mission, vision, and values that incorporate feedback from the broader maker community. This was one of the main reasons I was excited about the strategic process since I love organizational theory, so I quickly agreed.

Transition Group

Bergen McMurray — Co-Founder and CEO of HiveBio Community Lab (Seattle, WA), info@hivebio.org

Chad Elish — President, HackPGH & Maker Faire Pittsburgh Producer, chad@hackpittsburgh.org

Dana Woodman — Founder and Executive Director, Chimera Art & Makerspace (Sebastapol, CA), dana@chimeraarts.org

Dorothy Jones-Davis — Co-founder of NationofMakers.org, co-producer of the DC Mini Maker Faire, and co-producer of National Maker Faire (DC)

Ian Cole — Co-Founder, The Maker Effect Foundation, Co-Founder, Maker Faire Orlando, Co-Founder MakerFX Makerspace @ DeltaMaker (Orlando, FL), ian.cole@themakereffect.org

Kari Love — Member of NYC Resistor, Former NASA contractor and current small business owner, raburabusensei@gmail.com

Kipp Bradford — Founder National Maker Faire, serves on the board of The Maker Education Initiative, Former Board member of AS220 (Providence, RI)

Stephanie Santoso — First Senior Advisor for Making in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (Andrew Coy’s predecessor), Fellow, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Reference the Transition Group FAQ document for more bio information on the transition group, as I’ve only listed their primary roles in the maker community but they do much more…

I’m SUPER excited and honored to be able to serve in this group, especially given the ability to work in an organizational strategy capacity. I have been extremely impressed by the transition group members as we slog through our late-night conference calls together. We’ve already made significant progress toward the goals, and we have proposed a draft vision and mission and structure of the new meta-org that will continue the President’s Nation of Makers Initiative.

Transition Group Proposal

Proposed Name: Nation of Makers*

Proposed Entity: 501(c)(3) meta-organization

Proposed Vision: “To build a society where everyone has access to the tools, technologies, experiences and knowledge to make anything; to create a thriving, connected, and inclusive community of practice where collaboration fosters a culture of abundance.”

Proposed Mission: “We support the full range of organizations that impact makers by encouraging connections, broadly sharing resources, facilitating funding opportunities, engaging in policy development, and advocating for the Maker Movement. We help maker organizations amplify the passion, innovation, creativity, and diversity of the maker community, and maximize both local and global impact.”

*The current entity nationofmakers.org has graciously agreed to transfer the name, domain name, and other digital assets to the yet-to-be-formed entity to fulfill the larger mission and vision outlined above.

We created a FAQ document about the transition process and team as well as the transition group’s “Rules of Engagement”.

The feedback period for the Mission & Vision is now closed. You are welcome to email the transition group your thoughts at NoMTransitionGroup@gmail.com.

My Thoughts

One of my favorite quotes is “Vision is the art of seeing what does not yet exist” — and I’d like to take a moment to share MY vision for the future meta-org. I’m not speaking on behalf of the transitioning group, but at the same time, I need to clarify that these are not my own thoughts in a vacuum as I’ve been collecting ideas from many, many people in the Maker Movement over the past few weeks.

First, I’m very excited to see the creation of leadership positions at both the national and state level.

A multi-level structure enables the service of a large number of talented people within the maker community at a level above an individual space, event or organization / institution. Leadership development is happening in maker organizations today, and we need a way for these individuals to make a contribution at a higher level to grow the Maker Movement. Later, these same individuals can be candidates for the national org’s staff positions, advisory councils, and board.

This structure allows everyone to be empowered at the level that best suits their strengths and desired contribution. I’ve talked to numerous makers that would be well-situated in state roles, where they can make a difference in their city, and in the cities in which they can drive to on a weekend. They can spend more time in face-to-face discussions, ensuring strong connections between the spaces, events, and organizations / institutions in their state.

Second, I am strongly encouraged by the amount of discussion related to inclusion and diversity — there is a call for the Maker Movement to serve those that do not already call themselves “makers” and to ensure that our maker communities reflect the diversity of the communities in which we live. Emily Knox from Makerspace Urbana was at the Nation of Makers convening of Makerspace Organizers, and she shares her thoughts on Diversity & Inclusion in the Maker Movement on a recent radio program.

https://soundcloud.com/21st-show/diversity-inclusion-in-workspaces

Third, I would like to see a strong focus on the long-term sustainability of the Maker Movement. We’ve done amazing things in our financially-challenged makerspaces, community-produced maker events, libraries, museums, etc. — but often at the cost of personal sacrifice of our founders, board members and instructors. The Maker Movement has not yet received the broad public and private support that it deserves, but I believe this can be approached and solved through the creation of the national organization, and then state organizations later. We’ve done so much as individual organizations, and we can do much more if we are all willing to tolerate just a bit more structure to bind us together so that we can approach those funding sources that would not be accessible to us individually.

What’s Next?

Given the dynamic nature of our community, I can’t predict how all this will take shape in the coming weeks and months, but one thing is clear — if you are passionate about the Maker Movement, now is a fantastic time to get more involved. Maker organizations in your community, your state, and your nation need your service — and if you are unsure how to get engaged, send me a note, I’ll do my best to connect you with someone near you :)

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