How many of you would love to inspire your teams to be more innovative in their thinking? How many of you would love to be able to hire people that come in already thinking innovatively? So would I and for the past number of years we have worked to inspire the next generation of thinkers here at Infinity. We have devoted time and resources to training programs on leadership and personal growth and I will say for the most part it has worked. People are asked to challenge the status quo and when they speak up with ideas we do our best to execute on them. But at the end of the day many of us are still left wanting an outlet or needing more help to get into the innovative mindset. Most innovative people don’t turn off their thinking when they leave work, they go home and tinker, paint, play music, craft or create. But for many they don’t have the resources needed to really take on an idea or maybe the full skillset to do it. Or access to a space where trying something new is “OK”. I also think that there is an entire generation of kids out there that are looking to be inspired to do something great. How do we help them do it?
So for the past six to nine months I have been working with a group of business and public sector individuals on the idea of bringing a makerspace to Macon GA. For those of you, like me before I started into this adventure, that aren’t familiar with what a makerspace is please check out Wikipedia or Inspired to Educate for more details. But in a nut shell this is a space that provides members access to space and tools that they might not otherwise have access to. Things that might be found in a makerspace would be 3D printers, laser engravers, digital development workstations, power tools and in some spaces things like silk screening stations, photography centers, and even sewing machines. Yes that is correct is like shop and art class for adults and kids alike. It also provides a space to collaborate with people of like interests and/or skills to learn and grow. The space becomes what the members make it. The tools and resources aren’t locked behind doors of an institute that might restrict access or use (Please don’t get me wrong I think that is needed for those institutes). The space welcomes all that are interested and committed to the movement.
In traveling around the state with people like Brent Lanford, Deputy Director of the Middle Georgia Region Commission; Michael Rosario, Principal Software Engineer at MERC; and Nadia Osman, College Hill Alliance and others we have seen and learned about a wide range of makerspaces both in Georgia and around the country. What they all have in common is a desire to inspire people to create. What they also have in common is a group of individuals that believe that at a base level that empowering people to work on their ideas makes a better community. I will argue it also makes better employees because people that are stretching to think this way outside of work will come to work and think about our organizations with the same eye. Not to mention as a we move into the world where “you live where you want to live, work where you want to work and the two are required to be connected”, we better be thinking about how to attract and retain people in our communities because if they all move to a “better place” it will not bode well for us here. This is why groups and spaces like the 7 Hills Makerspace in Rome, The Club House in Augusta and Four Athens in Athens have all been created. All focused on building a better community one person or idea at a time.
At the end of all of this research and effort we found some interesting things about Macon-Bibb. First we already have a growing community of technologists and artisans. Many of them have already started to connect through groups and clubs like 567 Cherry, College Hill, the Arts Alliance and Google Developers Group and others. What they all have said is they want access to space, resources and training or as we would call them the resources needed to allow the spark of innovative thinking to burn. Whether that be a child learning to work with robots or an adult learning about digital photography, the sparks are in every community. What isn’t there is the space and resources to allow them to grow. So with the help of Bill Price from the GTA, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission and Greg Richardson from 7 Hills Makerspace we have secured seed funding to try and support the efforts to address those needs.
And SparkMacon is formed. With the slogan “Create Here” we are undertaking putting this space in Downtown Macon with the goal of providing those resources needed to see inspired people think differently and innovate. We hope to have the space launched in the coming months and expand it as we gather further input into what is needed in it. So if you are interested in this kind of space, what it can do for individuals, organizations and the community please look us up a www.sparkmacon.com and Facebook and tell us what you think because as I said the community will decide what we make of this. I am blessed with a group of team members at Infinity Network Solutions, a business partner and a family that understands why I am so passionate about this effort. They have allowed and continue to allow me to put time and energy into this which I am thankful for. I am also thankful for the group of inspired individuals that have helped this cause along whether it be behind the scenes or on the front line.
If you aren’t local to Macon please look around your area for a space to connect with if you are interested. In Warner Robins please keep an eye on CrowdSource Innovations of Middle GA because Jay Fletcher is working down there on a space also. And as always please feel free to connect with me here with any of you thoughts and ideas because you never know where the next spark will come from.