“The Maker Effect is the sum of the personal growth, professional success, community development, and continuous innovation that results when makers learn, educate, share, and create together. ” The Maker Effect
The Maker Effect Foundation,a Florida nonprofit headed up by some veteran Florida makers and community leaders, in collaboration with the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College, has undertaken a research study “to understand the personality characteristics, motivations, and behavioral skills used by makers when working alone and in teams. We hope to answer questions such as: “What are the common behavioral and personality characteristics of makers?”, “Why do maker communities work?”, “Why should I hire makers?”, etc..”
These are all good questions, because there’s a lot going on here, both within and without the maker community.
“Today’s makers,” say Maker Effect organizers, ” are providing the knowledge, skills, and tools to anyone willing to take ownership of their own future – democratizing innovation in the way that the invention of the printing press, the rise of personal computing, and the proliferation of the internet did in previous innovation cycles.”
The phrase “democratizing innovation” is an important one. As with 21st century blended learning that began democratizing education through online content and virtual classrooms a couple of decades ago, the Maker movement provides a wealth of opportunity in every sense of the word. The “Maker-Entrepreneur” is the empowered everyman and everywoman who can become an instant small business person on the strength of his or her own elbow grease and ingenuity. It’s the new Personal Industrial Age, 3D printed in the garage.
But there’s another “Maker Effect”, a sort of shadow presence that hangs around the periphery of the maker community. As with the advent of MOOCs and virtual schools that made every space potentially classroom space, and conceivably freed us of the “experts” who previously controlled knowledge, come new “experts” trying to capitalize on our new found Maker freedom, as they did with open education. Becoming your own expert can be threatening to some people, especially those whose livelihoods are dependent on some form of expertise that others can now access or develop for themselves.
These new “experts” trail in the wake of the grassroots maker movement, selling their wares and their services to people who originally distinguished themselves through their ability to fill their own needs.
- Makerspaces literally started in people’s garages and empty building spaces. But now there’s TechShop franchises providing a makerspace in a box for the well heeled.
- The Instructables were freely sharing how-tos for years. But you can also pay for glossy how-tos with a Make Magazine subscription.
- Early makers scrounged parts in junkyards and scavenged dumpsters. Although many still do, today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of suppliers for every possible tool, part and electronic and mechanical need.
- Makers have always been able to sell things through Ebay and Etsy and Kickstarter. But now there’s a fleet of experts promising to make every Maker a Maker Entrepeneur and a successful start-up.
These aren’t bad things, of course. TechShop does cool stuff with DARPA. MAKE Magazine has a great community and provides terrific and very instructive hangouts and contests. It’s nice to be able to shop at Adafruit. And it’s helpful to have entrepreneurial support if you want it.
But here’s the thing: Not every maker wants or needs to be an entrepreneur.
Many, if not most, makers simply want to – make stuff. They’re hobbyists and tinkerers, artists and explorers. They want to build a widget, fix a motor, sculpt or paint, make a video, create a game, craft a costume, command a robot uprising. Many makers already have jobs. They’re engineers and fry cooks and writers and taxi drivers and parents and store managers and cashiers and mechanics and programmers and designers and students and any number of other things.
The exercise of making something provides intellectual enrichment, personal fulfillment and creative entertainment and relaxation. Making things in a safe, accessible and collaborative environment like a makerspace provides community development and capacity building, empowering ordinary citizens to be self-reliant, capable individuals who can take control of their own lives. Sometimes that means selling their own products. Oftentimes that just means being able to fix their own car or paint their own walls or play with their drone.
The real Maker Effect should make experts of us all, in a million different fields, empowering us to collaboratively improve our communities and to care for each other through the exercise of our shared skills and knowledge, as entrepreneurs, and as capable individuals.
Sometimes, Making is just the end in itself, and that’s a perfectly fine Effect.