Makerspace Funding: Sustaining The Maker Minute-Men and Women
Funding is a problem for many maker spaces, but there are new opportunities for funding. The maker community made substantial contributions during the COVID pandemic. Many provided vital local design and manufacturing of critical items such as masks, face-shields, oxygen concentrators and other items in short supply. These were disseminated to local first responders, health workers, and disaster relief organizations. This is the foundation for a much broader relationship.
Funding Source One
The first and easiest option for a us as makers is to reach out to the local health departments, police, fire, and emergency response groups and offer our facilities to serve as a host venues for meetings and training events. Such organizations typically have funds planned for event venues, but the makerspace is not necessarily an obvious choice for organizers. At the same time, makerspaces are often uniquely and ideally suited for these events because of the facilities and supplies that are typically stocked in our facilities. Things as simple as available extension cords and duct tape can be surprisingly vital.
Funding Source Two
In addition to marketing the venue as a space for meetings, makerspaces can market the "maker" aspect of the facility to organizations and agencies, not just to individuals from the community. Likewise, the very real and valuable abilities of the members of the makerspace can be offered for those members willing to support outside requests. This coupling of a facility with talent, even hobbyist talent, creates a true micro-manufacturing resource for a community and local agencies. Makerspaces and their community members can and should market themselves to local agencies as well as community members. Offer an open-house to local government and disaster response organizations to make them aware of the facilities and people available.
Funding Source Three
Makerspaces facilities typically have supplies and resources on hand that make them ideally suited to become part of the community disaster response infrastructure. Makerspaces typically stock vital items such as N95 masks, gloves, duct tape, extension cords, heat sources and even food in addition to the shelter aspect of the facility. These supplies are vital for disaster response organizations for either training events or actual disaster response operations. This makes it much more reasonable as a facility for training and disaster response because pre-positioned supplies have multiple reasons to be present and are used and refreshed regularly, not simply pre-positioned "in case" they are ever needed. Agreements to simply maintain stocks of certain supplies can be mutually valuable.
As makers we can be passionate about what we do and sharing that with others. The creation, innovation and self-enabling process is something to be rightfully proud of. With a little bit of cooperation, maker groups and facilities can get the recognition they deserve for their facilities, skills and abilities, no matter how great or small. By obtaining free training in Incident Command Structure we become recognized community assets in both the planning for incidents and the actual incident response. When the next need arises, we as makers can be acknowledged more readily, have access to the spaces where we can make a difference, and be able to provide crucial micro-manufacturing and design that makes a critical difference.
Creating Maker Minute-Men and Women
For planning purposes, maker groups can be thought of as pre-positioned manufacturing capability that can deliver a vast array of potentially vital products when there is urgent need. This is one of the core messages to communicate to the organizations that can most benefit from urgent delivery of products. By properly communicating this role, makers can become a part of resilience, not just emergency response activities.