Impact Potential and Recommendations

Drawing on the empirical findings of the overall MAKE-IT project, we have identified key factors of how the Maker Movement can impact stakeholder groups of the quadruple helix in the future. Based on these impact potentials, we provide recommendations for each stakeholder group (policy makers, research, industry, civil society). The recommendations presented in the following are divided in three thematic foci:

  1. Recommendations how to anticipate potential impacts of the Maker Movement
  2. Recommendations how to shape potential impacts of the Maker Movement
  3. Recommendations how to help the Maker Movement towards sustainability

Policy Makers

Public sector functions impacted by the Maker Movement include specific social, economic and environmental policies and strategies, setting legal and regulatory frameworks for making and makers, and administering these. The Maker Movement challenges legacy value chains, business models, IPR arrangements and regulations, and can by-pass or undermine incumbent actors, all of which require public sector consideration and response. Making is a potential tool for restructuring the public sector: The organisational culture of the public sector itself is starting to ape the maker culture by becoming more innovative and flexible in its approach to problem solving as well as in its decision- and policymaking. This underpins the culture of more openness, transparency, co-creation, citizen-driven services and open government data that is increasingly becoming open source, and in some cases already directly supporting makers. Creating better regulations around data security, sensitivity and privacy, especially of individuals, is essential. New business models which can prioritise the specific characteristics, needs and goals of the different groups within the maker ecosystem, need to be encouraged by policy makers. This includes supporting local visionaries and champions, including social entrepreneurs, and it might be important to focus on keeping as many assets as possible in the local community, rather than allowing them to leak away, especially if they flow to better endowed areas, segments or markets.

Recommendations how to anticipate potential impacts of the Maker Movement

  • There is a need to anticipate different types of policy approach for different needs, contexts, scales and actors, for example the duality and interrelationships between policy addressing structures on the one hand and agency on the other, with cities at the structure-agency ‘sweet spot’.
  • Policies are needed that do not dictate the processes of making, but instead open up for process innovations. Policy should positively open up for ideas from the Maker Movement and think about potential “clashes” with established social practices and how to overcome those.
  • There are two types of policy frameworks: an enabling or permissive environment, and a more active and interventionist environment. Policy could encourage public institutions (schools, libraries, museums…) to cooperate with the maker movement.

Recommendations how to shape the Maker Movement

  • It is important to establish an enabling or permissive environment which lets people get on with it, whilst not turning a blind eye to unethical, exploitative or even criminal behaviour.
  • There is a need to build maker actor and knowledge sharing networks, including with other groups and communities, and to ensure that the more excluded and dis-connected groups are incorporated and supported. Policy could support this by linking the maker movement with other established networks and communities.
  • Local visionaries and champions, including social entrepreneurs, need to be supported, and it might be important to focus on keeping as many assets as possible in the local community, rather than allowing them to leak away, especially if they flow to better endowed areas, segments or markets. Policy could foster cooperations betwenn the maker movement and local actors.
  • There is a fundamental cultural shift taking place that reveals a burgeoning desire amongst many people to move on from a purely consumerist society and to start again ‘getting their hands dirty’ with making, repairing, fixing, fiddling, manipulating and playing with objects and things. Policy could build on this desire and point to the maker movement that is very much in line with this perspective; makers could be suggested as actors who support that shift.

Recommendations how to help the Maker Movement towards sustainability

  • It is important to establish a proactively interventionist policy portfolio where warranted, for example funding, setting up support structures and networks, the public sector getting actively involved as partners, directly addressing the lack of suitable people and knowledge, etc.
  • Policy focus should be on the availability, affordability, usability and quality of maker technology infrastructures, products and services, as well as appropriate skills training at all levels. Policy could monitor the development of the maker movement and identify its use for policy aims and shortcomings in providing the named services.

Smart Industries and Economy

Many economic actors are themselves becoming acquainted with advanced digital fabrication technologies that allow for small-scale, bespoke production of customizable and made-to-order products. Whether the commercial firms developing their business practices in this direction will also connect to smaller maker initiatives is one of the important open questions. In principle, both sides stand to benefit from such collaboration: larger firms could gain creative impetus and develop a locally-grounded connection to highly interested prosumers; maker initiatives could gain access to knowledge and other resources to help their social innovations to scale-up. However, there are many challenges – in terms of shared governance, collaborative behaviour and multiple-value creation – to be overcome if this potential synergy is to be achieved.

Recommendations for economic actors to anticipate impacts of the Maker Movement

  • Industry actors should develop an appropriate strategy of how to cooperate with the maker movement with respect to open source. Open source is at the heart of the maker movement, but makes cooperation with for-profit organisations hard. But there are successful business models built on open source that could be used as references and starting points.

Recommendations for economic actors to shape the Maker Movement

  • Boost participation and raise engagement with a wide range of makers by making use of and providing resources to existing maker spaces.
  • Understand makers’ strong drive for self-determination and help them to develop their competences, autonomy and psychological relatedness on their own terms.

Recommendations for economic actors how to help the Maker Movement towards Sustainability

  • Makers are short of resources such as rooms and cash. They are better equipped with ideas and labour time. Helping and cooperation with the maker movement could build on this resources approach.
  • Businesses can proactively engage in nurturing a shared value approach and local cluster embeddedness.

Research, Facilitation and Consultation

The Maker Movement functions highly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary and offers new opportunities for research, facilitation and consultancy to engage with makers and maker initiatives across disciplines and theory and practice. As interactions between the knowledge sector and the Maker Movement increase, the network between maker initiatives, educational institutions and consultancy is likely to become even denser than it is already. In academia, new topics stemming from the Maker Movement come to the fore ranging across disciplines like material science, pedagogy of making, legal studies, etc., thus leading to new research agendas in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. By disseminating their work and publishing, the research, facilitation and consultation groups contribute to raising awareness about the beneficial aspects of making. They can take on a crucial role in supporting the continued development and achieving sustainability of the Maker Movement if studies provide the scientific ground for the beneficial effects of making. As a result, researchers might have a special role to play in the negotiation process with funding agencies as their studies provide the argumentative basis for convincing funders to support maker initiatives. Consequently, researchers, facilitators and consultancies might work closely together with funding bodies and policy levels with regards to support and governance of the Maker Movement. There are a number of preconditions that research, facilitation and consultation groups need to take into account in order to harness potential benefits from the Maker Movement.

Recommendations how to anticipate potential impacts of the Maker Movement

  • Educational institutions need to be aware of a new pedagogical approach that is supported through making.
  • The maker movement supports new forms of research, such as citizen science, trial-and-error approaches and applied research. Established research entities could liaise with the maker movement for a two-sided exchange that brings new forms of research to academia and experiences in established methods to the maker movement.

Recommendations how to shape potential impacts of the Maker Movement

  • If researchers become makers and makers become researchers, the influence goes in both directions. This would allow for close collaborations and fruitful exchange.
  • Making is often done in a trial and error way and thus it might benefit from a more systematic approach that is inherent to science. Maker spaces could become research centres for applied trial-and-error-methods.

Recommendations how to help the Maker Movement towards sustainability

  • Education and research play an important role for the Maker Movement to become a driving force for inclusion and gender equity. This role could be used by actively inviting the maker movement to become partner in research processes, building on the “applied” and “experimental” nature of research conducted in the maker movement.
  • Although there are many examples of maker initiatives to tackle environmental issues, the overall environmental impact has not yet been empirically analysed.
  • To achieve true democratisation of access, social sciences und humanities have to play a crucial role in the transformation process of empowerment in the realms of technological design and creation.

Civil Society

The Maker Movement holds significant impact potential for civil society, both for particular communities of practice as well as ‘the ordinary citizen’. Civil society associations and citizens can harness the opportunities of making for their own purposes and both might have to adapt to significant changes in society brought about by the Maker Movement. Civil society institutions and individual citizens may both become producers of goods without necessarily having market aspirations. Institutions may want to do so to enhance their services to their clients (e.g. when working with long-term unemployed, people with learning disabilities, in public learning and knowledge institutions such as museums and libraries, etc.) or to produce goods for their own use rather than procuring them externally.

Recommendations how to anticipate potential impacts of the Maker Movement

  • Civil society institutions could enter partnerships with maker initiatives and actors from other sectors to benefit from the growing Maker Movement and their skills, resources and impact. The maker movement has very strong motivations to improve living conditions and favours open source and sustainability strategies – all these could support and empower civil society activities e.g. for inclusion or environmental protection.
  • The organisational culture in civil society institutions needs to be sufficiently open and dynamic to accommodate maker initiatives within their organisations.

Recommendations how to shape the Maker Movement

  • Civil society actors can support an awareness of the commons and other value-driven strands of the Maker Movement to further the common good and their own interests.
  • Civil society actors can host conferences and gatherings to foster socially useful applications of the Maker Movement.

Recommendations how to help the Maker Movement towards sustainability

  • Civil society institutions can foster social inclusion both by including making approaches in their own work and by helping the Maker Movement to become more inclusive.
  • Environmental interest groups can lobby for the regulated use of environmentally friendly materials and partner up with the Maker Movement to strengthen ecological product design in the corporate sector.
  • By strengthening commons-based peer-to-peer production, civil society actors can contribute to economic sustainability and empowerment of disadvantaged actors.

See also our blog post on the SIC – Social Innovation Community website.