As I sat down to put together the outline for this post, I was reminded of my 4 year old nephew. I had promised him a Makerbot for Christmas this year; something I would not have even imagined possible when I was 4 years old! We certainly have come a long way in a short amount of time. This thought put me in the right mindset to compose the following.
It is time.
The maker movement is a discourse that goes beyond making objects, DIYism, hacking and 3D printing. Maker movement is about making change and making things happen; it is about doing and it applies to all levels of organizational design. This is indeed a great time for Canada to make; to make great products; to make great organizations; to make great education; to make great policies; to make great places; to make great change.
Since the early 2000s we have been observing a revived energy and interest in DIYism and ‘making’ rather than ‘buying’. Supported by Dale Dougherty’s Make magazine and the launch of the Maker Faire in 2006, the maker movement has sparked a massive change in manufacturing, hardware, software and digital product development.
With changes in behaviour and mindset, undoubtedly we see changes to process, democratization of resources (crowdfunding), and access to tools of prototyping which in turn have had vast influences on multiple industries globally. We even witnessed this peaking in China’s hyper-manufacturing context at the Beijing Design Week this past year; putting the emphasis on return of the craft: Craft 2.0.
Not surprisingly, across Canada, we have been playing a huge part in the maker movement with almost all our major cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver taking part. We have been supporting and organizing Maker and Mini Maker Faires across the country in order to invite all ages to embrace the evolution of making. Efforts in educating children and remaking the way they learn and play has been evident across Canada; a force being driven by educators and advocates for change in education (more here). We have individuals, collectives and businesses already leading us in the direction of a new north where we are playing and creating on a more even playing field than ever before; a global economy upon which anyone has access to the ways of making, anytime, anywhere.
As Heather Payne (Founder of Ladies Learning Code) puts it: “…[the maker movement] is all about the realization that we don’t have to take things as they are”
As our culture of consumption evolves and is matched by advancements in technology, we begin to experience a shift in perspectives. A shift that sees resilience in place of sustainability and one where communities and individuals are not just reacting to change, they are harnessing and driving it. It is a great time for us to make, the Canadian way.
Why Canada now?
The following are a set of necessary conditions which we believe prepare the contemporary Canadian market to host and nourish the changes in the industry, including the maker movement.
1. The Talent
Canada is home to some of the greatest design and business schools in North America. With talented graduates entering the workforce every year, the Canadian market has access to a relatively untapped pool of human resources ready to make the change. However, we are facing an outflux of thinkers and doers from Canada pursuing career opportunities abroad. Many are finding themselves drawn to The Valley or the Bay Area. Additionally, Canadian entrepreneurs often seek further support and funds outside of Canada.
In order to overcome these challenges, we need to pause and reassess tactics within the local markets, provide the right incentives, and redefine Canada’s contributions to the global economy. Is Canada’s role to plug in the human resources elsewhere? Is Canada’s role to contribute talent like it does natural resources?
2. Public Awareness
The ever growing audience at various Maker Faires across Canada illustrates increased mass awareness amongst the public. The forecasted 500% growth in consumer and household 3D printers market backs up this hypothesis. Although most manufacturers are US based, there seems to be a curved demand for products, and platforms allowing independent ‘making’ and education in Canadian families. This, coupled with the appeal of accessible and customizable products, is contributing to the mainstream awareness. Media and publications are also significant players in this movement.
Now the question is: can ‘making’ in Canada go beyond awareness to a cultural change?
Open access to prototyping tools such as 3D printing has allowed a steeper R&D curve and the ability to get to a minimum viable product much quicker than before. However, in addition to these tools, start-ups and small business often require the financial means to support their rapid growth.
Public and private investments for early stage and round 2 start-ups have typically been the main streams to capital. Canadian organizations, incubators, and accelerators are often the governing bodies in allocation of funds. Crowdsourcing platforms are also entering, growing, and being adopted by the Canadian major markets.
Having worked with Canadian start-ups in various stages of product development, I have learned that they often have access to sufficient capital to kick start their business, once they have a solid model. Yet, as businesses move on to later phases of development and iterations the streams begin to run dry. The major road block appears to be that our investment models are not designed to support agile making. This, in turn, results in companies being forced to seek funding elsewhere. Once businesses leave, so do their contributions to the Canadian economy.
Are we at a point to reevaluate allocation of funds by industry? how can we diversify sources of capital? How does the federal government provide the right incentives? These are only some of the questions we are asking ourselves as we think of Canada carrying the torch and leading the maker movement.
4. Organizational Readiness
Mapping successful (efficient) and impactful (effective) organizations from enterprise to start-ups, we see that Canada has been the home to some of the most influential organizations; organizations that are set as models for output, operations, and culture (e.g. Shopify, Bombardier, Loblaws, etc.).
With maker movement leading a revolution in product development and more and more progressive organizations operating digitally, businesses need to evaluate and reinvent their infrastructures at a constant pace. Conventional operating systems do not cut it anymore. I do wonder if this is one aspect of Target’s lack of success in Canada. The questions we ask ourselves are: which Canadian companies are leading and carving the path? what can others learn from them? are our organizations ready? are they ready for change?
We have been assessing these conditions carefully, yet this list is not comprehensive by any means. We would love to hear from you if you think we have missed any major points.