America's Tomorrow: Equity Is the Superior Growth Model< Back to All Newsletters
December 7, 2017
Making, Scaling, and Inclusion: Bringing an Equitable Innovation Economy to Scale
Chris Schildt, PolicyLink, and Tanu Kumar, Pratt Center
Donalyn Stephenson first entered a FabLab in 2005, looking for affordable activities for her four young children. Located in the basement of a mixed-income housing complex in the South End of Boston, the lab — a workplace full of sophisticated computer equipment built for design and production — was free, but not well utilized by local residents. What made the difference for Stephenson was a young PhD student at MIT named Amon Milner, a mentor at the lab who kept inviting Stephenson and her family back to the space, and helped them feel comfortable amid all the technology. "There is a difference between inclusion and access," said Stephenson, and at FabLab, "we felt included."
Stephenson and her family started using the lab to design youth-oriented programs so that more young people could use the space to develop new skills and gain experience creating things. Two of her children are now pursuing degrees and careers in engineering, design, and making. And today, Stephenson is President and CEO of FABLabs for America, Inc., helping to bring FabLabs to low-income communities and communities of color across the country.
Her story captures a broader shift that has the potential to redefine the role of makers, manufacturers, and innovators in cities. Shedding its image as a dirty or dying industry, urban manufacturing is emerging as an innovative strategy to revitalize urban economies and advance equitable and inclusive economic growth in the 21st century.
Read the full story at Urban Manufacturing Alliance.