Making meets the web: the idea behind Makerhood

At this Wednesday’s Green Drinks, organised by Transition Town Brixton, Duncan Law and I got into a long conversation about community trading schemes. It was fascinating to find that we shared so many values and metaphors. It also made me realise that a longer post on the goals behind Makerhood is well overdue (if you’ve spent any time with us you’re likely to be very familiar with this!).

Karen wrote earlier about how the project came together last year. Many lovely, passionate and talented friends have since come on board to help. We are a diverse bunch – what unites us, I think, is the belief that buying things made locally can go a long way towards solving some of the biggest economic and social problems we face today.

We also share a paradoxical discovery: that the “new”, intangible, global medium of the web can help support “old” local cultures that deal in physical relationships and tangible things. Hyperlocal sites have demonstrated this time and time again (see a great map by OpenlyLocal here). Brixton’s very own Urban 75 – probably the oldest local web community in Britain – is a great example. If this works for our social habits, then why not also for our shopping habits?

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The metaphor we often use when thinking about it is one of Traditional Village: a community where people rely on each other for their livelihoods. Where acquiring things is a meaningful social experience, not a purely economic transaction. Where our skills contribute to the community, and we derive a sense of identity and satisfaction from this. Where objects have a past and a future (as in, you know how they were made, and what happened to them once they were sold) – where stories of things are part of a broader web of local relationships. This is very different from how we often buy and sell today.

At Makerhood we are building a website to help people in Brixton, Herne Hill, Camberwell and Stockwell to buy things made in these areas. When designing it, we’ve been thinking of a Village Market – the ones you used to have on the main square. Local makers will have their own Stalls where people can shop, chat, and share stories. This is work in progress, so any ideas for features are very welcome!

We would love it if, once launched in a couple of months, the site brought benefits to people who live in our communities:

  • For customers, a fun and meaningful experience whereby they get unique local things
  • For makers, an easy way to sell online locally without having to set up a shop while benefiting from a greater pool of customers
  • For new entrepreneurs, a way to try out a new skill or set up a new business in a low risk environment.
  • For everyone, a great way to meet people locally, and to enjoy making things – one of the most fun and creative activities there are!

If this takes off, there could be great benefits:

  • economic, as our communities become mored40_101202_003resilient in the face of global recession
  • environmental, because no long-haul delivery is involved – we are hoping most will be by foot, bike or environmentally-friendly transport like Brixton’s forthcoming low carbon delivery scheme
  • digital inclusion, as those currently not doing e-commerce could benefit from local support networks to help them get online.  This could be particularly relevant for older people, many of whom have traditional crafts skills.

If the idea proves to work in South London it could be taken up elsewhere. In the long term it could help change our consumption habits all together.  This may seem a long way away, but if you have a plan, it might just happen 🙂

In working towards these goals, it’s been wonderful to be part of a long-standing community movement in Brixton. We are learning a lot from projects such as Remade in Brixton, the TTB Food and Growing Group, London Creative Labs, The Brixton Pound, and Spacemakers, among many others. It is also fantastic to see new initiatives springing up in South London, like the SW Crafts Club and the Crafty Fox market, doing great work promoting skill-sharing and handmade goods.

It is going to be a busy few months for us as we are starting to build and test the website. Next week we’ll talk about volunteering opportunities if you’d like to help. Meanwhile, keep in touch! We’re always happy to get feedback, suggestions and questions.

Images by Emily Wilkinson and Lostwithoutwords – thank you!


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