Supporting the Maker Ecosystem in the Midst of a Changing Landscape

Dorothy Jones-Davis
Jun 8 · 4 min read

Nation of Makers is a national nonprofit with a mission to “support America’s maker organizations through community building, resource sharing, and advocacy, within the maker movement and beyond.” One week before our annual convening of maker leaders, NOMCON, we received news that no one wanted to hear — that our friends and colleagues at Maker Media had laid off all staff and ceased operations. It’s not the news we expected to, or certainly wanted to hear, and this sudden loss, coupled with prior changes in our community landscape, made me pause to think more deeply about our mission.

What does it mean to support maker organizations?

So to those who ask the inevitable question — “Is it the end of the maker movement?”, my answer remains a resounding no. In fact, in some communities, we might just be getting started. We, like any ecosystem, continue to change and evolve. We may have setbacks, losses, and our populations may change, but the reality is that over the last 10 years, the number of makerspaces and maker organizations has grown exponentially. While these spaces were once only in well-resourced affluent communities, our latest count on the Atlas of Innovation has noted approximately 2000 maker and innovation spaces in the US and approximately 6000 makerspaces globally, and that doesn’t include many of the numerous makerspaces in schools and libraries (this information will be added to the Atlas in the coming months). Similarly, the number of maker events (including local, independently-produced licensed Maker Faires) has also exponentially increased, now boasting 100s of independently-produced Maker Faires and 100s of maker events in communities and schools around the world (as a note, Make founder and CEO, Dale Dougherty, has indicated that the organization intends to keep the licensing program alive so that the independent Faires can continue).

Ok, so we make things in lots of places and show them off — great.

But it goes well beyond just making THINGS. Makers make IMPACT. Makers change lives.

You can thank the thriving maker movement for the radical transformation of education, from sage on the stage teaching techniques to engaging project-based learning, teaching 21st century skills that will produce the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

You can thank the thriving and growing maker movement for advances in manufacturing technologies that allow for more nimble and economical manufacturing practices.

You can thank the maker movement for changing the way we think about workforce training and preparation — producing sites that allow for a wide breadth of skill acquisition, just in time, for both first time and returning students alike. In fact, this new approach to just in time training has garnered so much interest that the U.S. Small Business Administration has just funded a $1 million prize competition to help makerspaces train the workforce of tomorrow.

You can thank the maker movement for daring, out-the-box innovation in health, where makers are doing everything from coming up with ways to make low-cost crowdsourced prosthetics and open source innovations, to co-creating assistive technologies that bring a new sense of freedom and opportunity to individuals of all abilities.

I could go on and on. Makers, as a group, are not only growing, but we’ve been here since the beginning — all of us, from every region, culture, and background. The maker movement isn’t just one of us, it’s all of us. Indeed, the most innate thing we do as humans, is make, create, iterate, and do it all over again — to improve our lives, our communities, our societies, and our world. One of the greatest accomplishments of Maker Media may have been to remind us that we are, in fact, all makers — that inside all of us, we have the capacity to make a future world that we can all be proud of. And I believe collectively, we’ll continue to have our greatest impact.

So is it the end?

After all, in a world where there are so many problems to solve, makers gonna make solutions.

#WeAretheNationofMakers

A Nation of Makers

The stories and experiences of Makers across the U.S.

Dorothy Jones-Davis

Written by

Connector, maker, Ph.D. neuroscientist, wife, & mom. Executive Director, @nationofmakers Opinions my own.

A Nation of Makers

The stories and experiences of Makers across the U.S.