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Making space for innovation

Updated: May 10

I just finished 2-month deep dive into the modern Creative Economy in order to develop this 2-year creative economic development pilot project. Triggered in the early 1990s by the emerging digital age, the Creative Economy is now in a fascinating and vital transition period.

Analysis of the first ~30 years years is now revealing who has benefited the most (urban, more privileged) and who has benefitted the least (rural, less privileged). Even Richard Florida agrees.

The UK and Australia were early adopters back then, and are now leading the way in figuring out how to start to include people and areas have been left behind. Interested to learn more? These two UK documents (link 1, link 2) are a good place to start. And one from Australia.

The US is also a leader in this area, although they use slightly different terminology. Check out this fantastic webinar about equitable rural economies, and this incredibly Federal Reserve 'close the gaps' calculator that estimates the cost of economic exclusion using the metric of foregone GDP.

Given all that I've been learning lately about the barriers to full participation, and also my own (albeit mild) experiences of boys-club-culture as a furniture maker, it's remarkable that I didn't put two and two together and start to wonder about who's been let in and left out of makerspaces.

I started researching makerspaces the other day in order to write a rural economic diversification grant proposal on behalf of the Alberni's new makerspace. I was amazed to find out that the makerspace movement is also in a fascinating and vital transition period. In hindsight of course this makes sense, because makerspaces are key engines of innovation, and therefore key engines of the Creative Economy.

Interestingly, the University of British Columbia seems to be at the forefront of conversations about inclusive makerspaces, and is organizing an Inclusive Makerspace Conference for late May 2023.

Another leading voice in this conversation is Maggie Melo, Director of the Equity in the Making Lab at the University of North Carolina. The other day she posted the following image on Twitter (scroll down to bottom of this post). I love how this sign succinctly captures the reality that many makerspaces aren't open to diverse populations.

Getting back to the Alberni Valley Makerspace, I am heartened by this non-profit's determination to create an inclusive environment where women, Indigenous youth and other equity-deserving creative people can more easily bring their ideas and talents to the Creative and Innovation Economies.

For now I am going to stop thinking about makerspaces and get back to Creative Coast's focus on building Digital Creation Hubs staffed with exceptional digital coaches (like our free one in Qualicum Beach, and Comox's newly launched low-cost one), because this seems to be the first layer of barrier-removal for left-behind creatives....

But a gal can dream about an integrated, inclusive, makerspace innovation hubs all over this West Coast artist super region, like Portugal's incredible web of FabLabs. Can't she?


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