Re-Imagining Makerspace North

Summary of survey results “Imagining Possible Futures” (Sep-Dec 2020)

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Introduction

A public survey was undertaken between the months of September through December 2020 to collectively re-imagine a place where people can discover and fulfill their creative potential through access to programs, tools, projects and learning. The survey was publicized and accessible through the Makerspace North (MSN) website, a limited e-mail notification communicated to MSN’s newsletter subscribers and social media accounts such as Twitter.

As of January 11, 2020 sixty (60) responses have been received.

The survey was simple in purpose and design. In essence, the survey attempted to determine a profile of the respondents’ disposition to “making” and “creating” and further, re-imagine what future organizational “offerings” would best align with their stated personal desires and dispositions. The summary below provides survey highlights and some interpretations of the results.

Highlights

Question 1 — Familiarity with Makerspace North

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Results

Over 85% of the respondents indicated being familiar (3) to very familiar (5) with Makerspace North.

Interpretation

As the vast majority of respondents indicated a significant degree of familiarity it is reasonable to assume that these individuals have either engaged with some level of programming (i.e., events) at Makerspace North, are current or former tenants and/or simply well-informed of the organization’s activities, history or other information about it through media and/or reputation/word-of-mouth.

Question 2 — How would you describe your disposition to making, building and/or creating?

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Results

As noted, respondents were encouraged to select as many statements as applicable. Most respondents chose two or more of the listed statements.

Over 72% of the respondents selected the following two statements as descriptive of their “maker” disposition:

  • “I am open to learn and develop entirely new skills”
  • “I am naturally curious and motivated to learn from others”

followed by the next statement selected by nearly 64% of the respondents:

  • “I derive personal satisfaction when I create or build something for myself and/or others”

The statements with the least number of selections were:

  • “I am proficient in certain creative techniques/tools and would enjoy mentoring/teaching others” (43%)
  • “I have some skills but would like to accelerate my learning in a supportive environment” (43%)

Interpretation

One insight from these results is that respondents appear to not necessarily possess advanced technical skills but instead indicate a willingness to learn new skills and new tools from their present baseline knowledge. This result might suggest that individuals with no previous knowledge or experience with tools are willing to acquire skills that would enable them to build, make and create.

Question 3 — What is holding you back from exploring your creative self? (click on any that apply)

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Results

Significantly ahead of the other statements, almost two-thirds of respondents selected “Time” as the principal barrier holding them back from exploring their creative selves.

Not surprisingly, the second most cited reason were concerns over the “COVID19 pandemic” (45%) and the third most cited being “Inaccessibility of tools, materials and/or spaces” (42%). Coming in forth “Budget” was noted by almost 30% of the respondents.

At the other end of the spectrum, the least noted reasons were “Distance” (15%), “Staying in my comfort zone” (19%) and “Being in a supportive environment where others are willing to help and guide me” (21%).

Interpretation

Not surprisingly, time limitations were noted as the most significant barrier to exploring one’s creative self. This would suggest that individuals who would be inclined to pursue the development of creative skills and learning of tools would likely to do so at the expense of other activities and responsibilities in their lives. As a result, new offerings would have to take these barriers into account. One potential approach is to offer easily accessible and online support resources for self-directed learning and “making-from-home”.

Question 4 — What could Makerspace North offer that aligns with your own aspirations?

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Results

This question addresses the supply side of what could constitute a potential offering of programs, services or other supports that align with the personal aspirations of respondents.

Interestingly, of the 6 specifically listed “offerings” 5 of these were selected over 50% of the time. In other words, respondents tended to desire a range of offerings rather than favour only one or two at the exclusion of others.

The number one “offering” selected by over three-quarters (79%) of the respondents was “a place to get introduced to new tools (digital and analog) by someone proficient in the tool(s)”.

The next two selected offerings were:

  • a place for you to learn a new or advance an existing skill associated with tools (67%)
  • a place for you to network and connect with others who share similar interests (63%)

The other two activities noted by 50% or more of the respondents were:

  • a place to participate in a creative project where you contribute knowledge, ideas, etc (56%)
  • a place for you to develop a side-hustle (52%)

Interpretation

The impression from the responses to this question is that people have an interest to learn entirely new skills through the introduction of “new” tools by other experienced individuals who have achieved a level of proficiency. In other words, while self-directed learning (via online educational resources) is always an option, respondents favour human engagement to familiarize themselves with new tools/technologies especially at the front-end of the learning curves. This early stage “hand-holding” seems critical.

Question 5 — Looking at the “big picture” … imagine a future version of Makerspace North that could play an important role in our region’s post-pandemic recovery and flourishing. What do you think we could do?

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Results

Of the 7 listed re-imagined versions of a future Makerspace North, 6 of those were picked over 70% of the time. In fact, there was little difference between the top selection and the sixth ranked one. In order of rank, the top 6 selections were:

  • “engage with vulnerable and under-served communities” (77.6%)
  • “provide resources to entrepreneurial creatives for launching an idea (e.g., offer project spaces, access to tools, etc)” (77.6%)
  • “serve as a learning space for skills development whether for personal benefit or workforce adjustment” (76%)
  • “support production of locally made goods” (72%)
  • “partner with other local organizations (not-for-profits, businesses, etc) for new program offerings” (72%) and;
  • “connecting citizens to civic projects/initiatives for community good” (71%)

Interpretation

The results from this question seems to reinforce the notion that a re-imagined Makerspace North is place that can meet the aspirations of a wide diversity of people. This poses a number of challenges. On the one hand, if the re-imagined space is designed to cater to a narrow set of service and program offerings it will exclude broader community engagement and opportunities for social impact. At the other end, there is a risk of “trying to be all things to all people” and spreading scarce resources (time, funds, effort, etc) over too many program offerings.

Highlighted Comments

Below are verbatim comments from various survey respondents:

“This is great and truly needed in the city. We don’t focus enough on this type of learning and exploring our creative side and need to encourage youth to pursue passions.”

“I am excited about having (paid) access to modern tools, but also excited about MSN leveraging their connection to traditional craftspeople who can share their insights about textile arts, beading, wirework, lampwork glass, soap-making, etc, etc. I think there’s so much room for innovation when we bring the old and new into the same space.”

“I find your programs to be too expensive. In all the great cities where Makerspaces have thrived it is because they were set-up as non-profit centers.”

“What are you specifically doing to pull in folks at a relative young age to introduce them to the amazing world of real life “DIY projects”? Also, do you have any offerings aimed at older adults? Finally, what are you doing to bridge access for your beneficiaries during the current Covid reality?”

“I love Makerspace — would love to know if you are going ahead with an Education room for teachers to eventually bring their students to.”

Written by

Aletheia Guild

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