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Gauteng Maker Movement Case Study

A study for the Open African Innovation Research Partnership (Open AIR) by LINK Centre Visiting Fellow Dr Chris Armstrong and Dr Erika Kraemer-Mbula of the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI)

This study, which commmenced in 2016, falls under the Open AIR Partnership’s Informal Sector Innovation Research Theme, which is grounded in the awareness that the majority of business enterprises on the African continent are informal.

For Open AIR, the emergence of the "maker" movement in Africa potentially represents a contribution to, and manifestation of, the power of informal-sector innovation on the continent. According to Open AIR: "The skills and knowledge for [African urban, informal] businesses are often acquired through apprenticeships, through imitation, and even through the expanding use of online sources. These are also some of the principles behind the global maker movement and this sharing of knowledge in creative settings can be conducive to innovation. Moreover, as its name suggests, the Open AIR partnership has a strong interest not only in innovation but also in modes of innovation oriented towards openness and open collaboration among groups of innovators. These too are principles often associated with the maker movement."

Accordingly, this case study seeks to generate understanding of the innovation and collaboration dynamics in Gauteng maker collectives. It also seeks to determine the degree to which Gauteng maker collectives are  successfully engaged in outreach and skills development with grassroots, informal South African innovators and craftspeople – a focus informed by the initial supposition, based on anecdotal evidence, that Gauteng maker collectives may be developing somewhat in isolation from the work of grassroots innovators and craftspeople, i.e., that there might be a prevailing middle-class, suburban, male demographic that would make broad outreach difficult. This supposition hasnot borne out by the findings, as the researchers have found significant connections between several of the Gauteng maker collectives and grassroots, informal innovators and craftspeople. Also of interest, given the newness of the movement, is the degree to which Gauteng maker collectives are networking, and how they are networking, with other collectives in Gauteng, natiionally across South Africa, and internationally.

For more information on this study, contact Dr Chris Armstrong on