When starting a new project, especially on our own, we should always ask ourselves if it’s worth the work and which are our expectations about it.
As an exercise I’ll try to summarize the goals I want to achieve with this project, and the motivations behind them. Others might share some of those; some probably don’t as they are strictly related to our local (italian) business and industrial environment.
A place for sharing, tinkering and learning
Since I was a university student I always dreamt about finding a physical space where enthusiastic people could meet and share their ideas, build something and learn something.
During the last twenty years, I actually founded a student group, and then two startups for this reason! While the student group and startups were quite successful and still exist today, all these organizations lacked a true culture for experimentation and sharing. In my opinion, that happened for several reasons: scarce resources for students, little innovation attitude for businesses.
When I first heard about FabLabs I thought my dream could finally come true. It’s now possible to create a physical space where people share and learn and build things. And it can become a business too!
A sustainable business
I think that one of the most interesting things about the maker movement, and about FabLabs in particular, is the fact that one can really build a business out of tinkering, learning and sharing.
This is a major depart from my previous experiences. From one side it won’t be necessary to seek approval from the University, no begging for funds or space. From the other, and I think this applies to many startups, any activity not strictly related to the business won’t be seen as wasted man hours, but an opportunity to expand the business with new products and services.
A FabLab should be the place where new products come to life, it should profit from tinkering, and invest those profits to be sustainable and expand the tools available.
An innovation catalyst
In my opinion tinkering is the only way to learn or invent something. By having the tools and innovators in a single place, innovation happens naturally. People bring in new ideas and build them together, something good must happen and it probably happen.
A community service
In Italy, and the whole Europe, unemployment rates for young people are skyrocketing. My local community, around Pisa, Italy, was primarily built on artisanal workshops mostly building furniture, leather goods and Vespa’s.
Nowadays most of the artisanal shops are closed, leather good production is being outsourced to other countries, and the company behind Vespa is not doing very well either.
I think the maker movement has lot to give for the employment of young people. But most of them lack the necessary knowledge to transform what were their parent’s skills into something that could be sold in the global market.
Our FabLab could become a learning space and a signal of hope for those people. The community should use it for free as much as possible.
Many stories around the world tell that this is all achievable. How to achieve it is the subject of this blog.