Skills for life

Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000


As the world enters an era in which technology know-how is essential for today's young people, how do we ensure that everyone in Greater Manchester, particularly those with the fewest opportunities, will take part in our shared digital future? Enter Make Stuff: free, pop-up, digital making workshop days, delivered by MadLab to the hearts of communities across Greater Manchester – setting new local records for event attendance and diversity in the process. Make Stuff introduces the next generation, and their parents, to the newest technologies – VR, 3D printing, the Internet of Things – which will go on to shape their lives.

According to NESTA (which consulted MadLab for its Young Digital Makers report in 2015) 82% of young people are interested in digital making but less than half have the opportunity to do so. Make Stuff takes the newest technology directly into communities that have (predominantly) not experienced digital tech and making previously. With a team of dedicated volunteers, we developed unique hands-on experiences, including: 3D printing, customisable wearable tech, Arduino traffic lights, PiTop programming training, and coding with hammers. Young people, their carers, parents - and grandparents - participate in tech for the first time (such as Arduino circuits, or a VR experience) and develop new skills which they can then use at school, in work, or simply for fun.

Between July 2016 and May 2017, Make Stuff engaged 10,000 people across all Greater Manchester boroughs, attracted large audiences and setting day-attendance records at several venues. Our evaluation has told us that Make Stuff attracts over 50% female demographic and a high proportion (over 40%) of BAME participants (traditionally much harder to engage in STEM activity).

We believe this is due to the coupling of digital making, community engagement and creativity that Make Stuff utilises. Parents come to Make Stuff specifically to learn new tech skills, to support their children. Families are looking for a fun day out where they can socially interact with their children and where they will learn something new in a relaxed environment. 80% of children said that they surveyed had not did not think that anything they learned at school helped them at Make Stuff. This illustrates how theoretical school learning ‘out of context’ means children often do not realise applications to what they learn, and activities at Make Stuff enable them to make the intangible tangible.

We target the most deprived areas (for example in Bolton we went to Breightmet rather than the town centre), and diverse audiences , developing a testbed in which to explore new ways to experience digital tech. Audiences understand and create (rather than just use) technology, to create a confident basis from which further learning can grow. Make Stuff provides meaningful experiences and opportunities for personal development of volunteers.

We celebrate home-grown tech talent, not confined to Manchester city centre, and we build networks of partners to provide quality content. By being directly in the communities ‘on the ground’ Make Stuff is uniquely Mancunian and allows gathering of first-hand information about what is happening in GM. Winner of the 2017 Big Chip Award for 'Best Tech for Good Project' and also operating in public schools in Karachi and Peshawar, Pakistan, Make Stuff has great scope to grow and become a national/ international initiative.

We’ve had much interest from schools, community groups, and arts organisations - both nationally and internationally (including Iraq). Our next step to scale up Make Stuff is to recruit and train local volunteers who would take ownership of Make Stuff giving it longevity and sustainability and a life beyond MadLab.

Manchester Digital Laboratory CIC

Moment of Pride

Make Stuff is a true community project in every sense of the word. Led and developed by an incredible team of volunteers, it's had a transformative effect on 1000s across Greater Manchester. The Big Chip Awards praised it for 'exemplary engagement across the north.' We can't wait to see what's next.

Location: Greater Manchester, United Kingdom