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A Nation of Makers

A Nation of Makers

Time and knowledge are two of the most valuable currencies we have to offer one another. I’ve spent a large amount of my time teaching others how to share and creatively apply their knowledge. New ideas are created through this process which are not just valuable to the recipient, but to the rest of society. Sharing knowledge allows humanity to move forward. One of my favorite metaphors for this comes from Bernard of Chartres where he observes that we have seen what we are able because we stand on the shoulders of giants. This is another way of saying that we are able to discover new ideas because we have been made aware of other’s previous discoveries.

Our gained knowledge has lasting impact. This knowledge enables us to reclaim discarded or dysfunctional items for new purposes, solve hyper-local problems ourselves, inspire our youth toward socially-responsible action, and achieve goals much bigger than any single one of us can solve individually. This knowledge democratizes manufacturing and craftsmanship. It educates us on ways which are gentle on our environment and good for local economy. And it will be important for our children to assert their ownership over the world around them instead of expecting profit-motivated companies to put our best interests first. Ensuring that we share our ideas and knowledge will enable our kids to do that.

“Giving more Americans the opportunity to make, invent and create is critical to our future. Making can inspire more young people to excel in STEM education, promote entrepreneurship in manufacturing, and empower more people to solve problems in their communities.”

– Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Creating opportunities for sharing knowledge in an open and friendly environment has been an important goal for me in many of my volunteer projects. I started with South Florida Hack and Tell which offered a format for short project demonstrations culminating in a friendly Q&A session. The Miami and Palm Beach Mini Maker Faires were large-scale celebrations of creation which allows visitors to literally poke and prod while satisfing their piqued interest. The creation of South Florida’s first non-profit makerspace, The Hacklab North Boynton, was founded and purposed as a permanent facility to exercise creativity and innovation. Each of these projects has built upon the previous work and increased the yield and impact of the knowledge and time investments offered by those involved.

While these endeavors have all been personally pursued, there are many others in South Florida who are doing the same. Events which emphasize idea distribution such as Pecha Kucha, TEDx, and Code for America all have a presence in South Florida. Other businesses are finding ways to include permanent space for creative exchange into their business model like Young Makers Lab, 01, Moonlighter Miami, Ecotech Visions, and Miami Industrial Arts. Schools such as Poinciana Elementary in Boynton Beach, The Greene School in Boca Raton, Pine Crest School in Forth Lauderdale, and Miami-Dade College are including hands-on, application-based learning to reinforce their normal core curriculum. Not to mention communal organizations which catalyze relationships between businesses and creative individuals such as Palm Beach Tech and Refresh Miami. These local efforts are part of what many are calling the Maker Movement, a not-particularly-new spin on the old “Do It Yourself” mantra which encourages us to Learn by Doing. And at the middle of these efforts are other individuals like me, who are investing their own knowledge and time, who are the reason for pushing the imaginations of so many people further and making their community better. (I encourage you to learn more about these efforts and get involved!)

Maker Faires and community workshops where people congregate to share knowledge and time can be a worthwhile investment, however these are roads which are not often traveled. These are new ways of doing business, of attracting attention, and of promoting social change for the better. Quite often, much of this has never been done before and the infrastructure to support these individuals does not exist yet. As the Movement continues to grow, this infrastructure is eventually created to support even bigger change. And that brings us to the next chapter of our Maker Movement.

Earlier this year, hundreds of organizations from across the United States who run businesses which exist to spread knowledge convened on the White House in Washington, D.C. to discuss how they were impacting their local community. That conversation has continue through several meetings, lengthy discussions, and thoughtful discourse since and culminated in an important announcement which we made on November 15th: the formalization of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping makers called The Nation of Makers. The non-profit will support maker organizations through advocacy, the sharing of resources and the building of community within the maker movement and beyond. Whether you acknowledge the Maker Movement or not, this organization is will be instrumental in improving our local impact in South Florida and across the broader United States.

Nation of Makers will support the full range of organizations that impact makers by encouraging connections, broadly sharing resources, facilitating funding opportunities, engaging in policy development, and advocating for the Maker Movement. The organization will help maker organizations amplify the passion, innovation, creativity, and diversity of the maker community, and maximize both its local and global impact.

– The Nation of Makers Launch Press Release

We have attracted some fantastic thought leaders who also happen to be makers to our Board. Among them include Harley K. Dubois, co-founder of Burning Man, Pamela L. Jennings, Professor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Winston-Salem State University, Adam Savage, head of Tested.com, and Stephanie Santoso, former White House Senior Advisor for Making. I’m proud to be part such an excellent development and I encourage everyone to learn more and get involved. Here is Adam Savage with a short announcement of the non-profit.

I am enthusiastic about the years to come and am thankful for being able to support such an exciting and impactful movement. The Nation of Makers has gathered over 300 formal letters of support from organizations, universities, governments, and communities. Sign up for the newsletter and learn more about the Nation of Makers at http://www.nationofmakers.org.

Creating Serendipity in your Community

Creating Serendipity in your Community

I’m looking forward to the meeting dubbed “Group of Groups” happening later tonight. A large number of high-profile tech community members have been gathered to sit down and decide how to improve our community and its cohesiveness. It’s enthusiastic to see these individuals taking the time to get involved, but I’m concerned about the lasting impact that this meeting will produce. Primarily because of each person’s interpretation of “improving our community”. It has been suggested that meeting once per quarter will be enough to keep our channels of communication open, but I don’t believe that it will be enough.

Part of our community’s problem is how far everyone is stretched apart from each other. I’ve written before about how valuable serendipity can be to success[1] and it applies similarly with community. As an attempt toward improving this, I propose creating more opportunities to have one-on-one interactions. If you’re having trouble thinking of reasons to get together, lunches are a perfect excuse. I think if each person can commit to having lunch once per month with someone else in the community, two things will happen: (1) we will generate more serendipity and (2) more starkly expose our “disconnected-ness” as a community. Both of these are hugely beneficial in our communities growth, but only if we’re truly all-in on building this community.

I’ve started an open thread on the South Florida Tech Leaders Google Group for lunch invitations. I hope you’ll consider my offer.

South Florida Tech Leaders open lunch invitation

 

Mike Greenberg is a software developer from South Florida. Occasionally, his finger-peckings are attention-worthy. The rest of the time, he’s just intentionally distracting you from something he doesn’t want you to see.

You can even follow @mikegreenberg on Twitter.

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[1]On Manufacturing your own Serendipity

 

What will our community look like to you?

What will our community look like to you?

Most of Southeast Florida has felt significant momentum in the entrepreneurial and technology sectors of the community. Increased attention from the press, ad hoc meeting places and events are occurring more frequently, and people are coming out of the woodwork to participate and be involved. In fact, many in the Palm Beach area are interested in cultivating our corner of the state into something more of a community. Last month, I was party to a large group who were passionate to be represented and have their opinions on community improvement heard. It’s all very motivating and makes me feel like this year is going to see significant milestones for what we want to accomplish. Unfortunately, I have not seen anyone come to the table with the idea of a product.

Details that focus on employment ratio, improving job creation, raising median salaries, better cooperation between universities and local business are important and require attention. But, there should be a vision; a ten-thousand foot view that can anchor the individual efforts of the larger community. What sort of amenities and features do you desire around the area that you work in? How about around your home? How much exposure and participation do you want your business to have with the rest of the community? What types of businesses do you value in your community? 

These are the sort of questions that’s been kicking around our office the past few months. By understanding the characteristics which are most important, we can answer the more difficult questions. What physical locale is most ideal to incubate the type of community I want? How can we engage existing businesses and infrastructure in this locale to help complement our community?

As an exploratory effort, we built a spreadsheet to capture these details. You don’t need to be quite so pedantic, but you should have a good vision of what your community will be like ten years from now. Care to share one requirement you have for your community in the comments below?

We’ll be asking this question and sharing our plans for a new Makerspace at an upcoming community growth meetup. If you have ideas to share or want to find out what we’re working on, please join us on January 31st for the lowdown!

Appearance in the Miami Herald

Appearance in the Miami Herald

I’ve been working on teaching folks how to play with Arduinos, an open-source hardware prototyping platform. Deborah Acosta from the Miami Herald caught wind and asked if she could ask me a few questions about the swelling maker movement in South Florida. She got back to me last week and told me the video was live! My 15-seconds of fame can be found at the end of this video, “Trendspotting: The Maker Movement“.

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Stories from the web: How do I improve OUR community?

Stories from the web: How do I improve OUR community?

Note: I’m cross-posting this from the South Florida Tech Leadership group. We’re a group of leaders in South Florida who are passionate about improving the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region. If you’re interested in joining in on the conversation, just drop in or introduce yourself on twitter

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a bunch of inspiring blog posts with different angles on building your local community. I wanted to share summaries and links with you. In particular, the one below about giving back through workshops spoke particularly to me as I prepare the next version of an Arduino workshop. I plan on following up on that one as it focuses a lot on personal benefits and glosses over the community-building side (which are significant).

Has anyone else read any interesting blog posts, articles or experiences about community-building?