Measuring the Social Impact of Maker Initiatives. Frameworks and Guidelines for Scaling the Assessment on Digital Platforms

Massimo Menichinelli, Alessandra Gerson Saltiel Schmidt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


The democratization of technology, education, content and community building brought by Fab Labs and other Maker laboratories increases the possibilities for designers to acquire more technological and practical skills, for makers to evolve their design attitude and capabilities, and for amateurs to acquire both technological and design skills. In this way, Open Distributed Making and Design initiatives create collaborative collective actions: distributed among several actors, several approaches, several locations and laboratories. The Maker Movement is often based on community-based initiatives that can be found on three levels: 1) a global community local events like Maker Faires and laboratories like Fab Labs with a complex social structure; 2) local communities that form in and around local laboratories such as Fab Labs; 3) the communities that form around the development of projects, especially the ones that are shared with open source digital tools openly as Open Design. Furthermore, the ability of this phenomenon of bridging the local and digital dimensions constitute a reason for identifying such movement as a clear example of digital social innovation: people, projects and organizations that use digital technology to tackle social and environmental challenges with a leading focus on social or environmental impact over financial return and a dedication to openness, collaboration and citizen empowerment. What is the social impact of Maker initiatives? How can we assess their value in terms of collaborative action and social innovation? Understanding their impact would help them in their awareness, communication and management towards sharing societies. We evaluated an existing dataset of 69 Social Impact Assessment (SIA) frameworks in order to understand how they can be applied and to which kind of initiatives. After this evaluation, we elaborated directions for future work towards compiling such framework into a composite index that the common elements of such frameworks in order to provide a simplified and standardized measurement tool with guidelines for its development into a digital platform accessible to Maker initiatives, for self-assessment. Furthermore, we propose directions for future research, especially for the evaluation of such index and platform with an action research approach and the involvement of all types of stakeholders: civic society, research, business and policymaking. This approach would enable Maker initiatives (but also researchers, businesses and policymakers) to understand what they could have in societal change and economy and therefore improve the way they are organized, develop projects, do research, interact with stakeholders and demonstrate their value. This would, ultimately, help Maker initiatives in better define who they are as both individual makers and as communities of makers and labs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSharing Society. The Impact of Collaborative Collective Actions in the Transformation of Contemporary Societies.
EditorsBenjamín Tejerina, Cristina Miranda de Almeida, Perugorr Ignacia
Place of PublicationLeioa
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication

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