UPDATE: in the grand tradition of many ambitious projects across the Internet, we’ve been delayed by a few months. We look forward to launching in late 2017.
Do you ever find yourself in some random city wondering, where are all the crazy creative people? We’re attempting to answer that question for everyone, everywhere in the world — by collaboratively building a giant open database of Fab Labs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, impact hubs, incubators, artist collectives, co-working networks, Maker Faires, and other community workshops.
Welcome to the Global Atlas of Innovation Spaces — we’re officially launching next month. (By popular request, here’s a sneak preview of an ugly, inaccurate, difficult-to-navigate, and painful-t0-load alpha version. Please note that the final map will be completely different, and the database will contain lots more information about each space.)
First of all, we’re grateful to the German government (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development — BMZ) for sponsoring this project, and GIZ, the German Development Agency, for facilitating its implementation. Thanks to the Fab Foundation for supporting this database, and to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for sponsoring our early mapping efforts. This project is led by Anna Waldman-Brown and Chinmayi SK of the Ananse Group, and we’re pleased to announce that our core team includes representatives from most of the major networks of innovation spaces: Open Movement, Hackerspaces.org, the Fab Lab network, Maker Media and Makerspace.com, TheMakerMap, Wikifactory, and Global Innovation Gathering. We also have collaborators at the World Bank Group, USAID, and of course GIZ. (We’ll announce the full working group on our website soon.) Thank you also to our amazing mapping partners at Makery, Superhero Spaces, Instructables, Hacedores, and Bongo Hive who did much of the ground work.
Through discussions with several different networks of community spaces, we identified the need for a more dynamic and collaborative platform — to keep an up-to-date database of all like-minded spaces, and encouraging more networking and linkages. Our database will host the full global list of innovation spaces, and we’re building an API in conjunction with Rob Baker’s Maker.json so all data can be easily shared across other sites. Our next step will be to create an open-access, Wikipedia-style collaborative platform to keep everything up-to-date through crowdsourced submissions.
We have three primary criteria for including a given innovation space on our map:
- A space that promotes creativity and nurtures new ideas (i.e., “innovation”)
- A community of people eager to collaborate with others: the space must be either open to the public or available for outside partnerships
- A space that utilises old and/or new technology, including hardware, software, metal-working, handicrafts, re-purposed trash, social frameworks, farming, etc.
To provide more effective filters for the Atlas, we’re working on a set of datafields and a tagging system to help spaces find collaborators along common themes.
We look forward to launching our beta platform in February, and hope to collaborate with you soon!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How is this platform different from all other platforms for innovation spaces?
A: We’ve done a few mapping efforts on our own in emerging markets, but we’re much more interested in building a robust API and information interchange than creating a whole new map of innovation spaces. Other teams are doing a wonderful job on mapping, and we don’t want to duplicate efforts. (In fact, we’ve got a running list of 50+ different lists of innovation spaces.) To paraphrase Jonathan Robinson from Open.co, think of how different airlines have come up with a unified standard for sharing their information across flight-finding websites like Kayak; we’re developing similar standards for various platforms of innovation spaces.
Of course we’re also building our own wiki-database and user interface, so anyone can come see all the spaces mapped in some region across various platforms. This part does directly overlap with what a bunch of our partners and prospective partners are doing… but hopefully we can work together and collaborate rather than compete. (We all believe in open source, right?) We would’ve actually preferred to use someone else’s database architecture, but unfortunately the Atlas will likely contain over 10,000 spaces and none of the other platforms were quite ready for that volume.
Please note that we don’t actually care about pageviews on our own site, or “owning” any of the data — we just want to build a really good information exchange platform by the end of October. Everyone will be welcome to use our API and host the Atlas (or some subsection) on your own website — as long as you credit Ananse and all our mapping partners who provided the data.
Q: If you succeed in building a really awesome platform, can we port our collection of spaces to your database?
A: Of course! Everything we’re doing is totally open source, and we’d be delighted to host your spaces.
Q: Can we keep our own database and just share information about our spaces?
A: Of course! If you don’t already have an API, hopefully we’ll raise some more funds in the next few months to build one with/for you.
Q: What’s your long-term plan? Will you monetise the platform?
A: We are invested in this project for the long-term; it will remain open source and not-for-profit. We’re talking with several organisations about long-term funding and partnerships, and would welcome any suggestions.
Q: How open is everything?
A: Our code will fall under the MIT License. The database structure and any copyright-able data (that doesn’t belong to various partners) will be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License, as well as the Open Data Commons Attribution License where appropriate. All listed spaces will be provided with a clear way in which to delete and/or modify any of their information, so anyone can readily opt-out of the database.
Q: I have an idea for the Atlas, and/or I’d like to get involved…
A: Sweet! Please get in touch with Chinmayi and Anna at email@example.com — we look forward to hearing your ideas.