COVID-19 disrupted businesses and supply chains, globally. Everything was on pause. Yet, in the midst of a global pandemic, how did a community of makers successfully activate an economy halted by a virus and mobilize a relief initiative that was able to raise over RM140,000 to produce over 20,000 units of face shields, in a matter of days?
Me.reka, Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace, Biji-biji Initiative, and its network of partners were able to engage communal resources to maximize collective impact in aiding our brave frontliners in Malaysia. So how did a group of social enterprises do it?
The ideology behind the initiative was simple – global issues require localized solutions. But taking a fashionable statement and executing its premise to ensure it delivers as much impact as the meaning behind it is where the real answer lies.
A decentralized model of production to leverage capacity and maximize impact created
A decentralized and digitized production platform is what took the collective’s global thought and translated it into a localized context. Over the years of pioneering social innovation in Malaysia, Me.reka and Biji-biji Initiative amassed a network of makers, innovators, suppliers, and logistics providers.
We realized that our individual efforts, while still working towards a positive change, would be unparalleled if meshed into a whole community of suppliers, producers, and logistics where each partner is able to leverage from each other’s capacity and resources to ensure the greatest collective impact. And thus a decentralized model of production, capacity building, and impact creation was initiated.
It was no longer about what we each could do by ourselves, but rather how we could communicate effectively with others to ensure the desired impact was reached at greater efficiency.
The catalyst came in March of 2020, when what started with a call for production partners to help build face shields for our brave frontliners, quickly became a digital platform that connected entire communities towards offering relief.
Our open-source methodology allowed for designs, knowledge, resources, and expertise between groups to be shared. Within days, this initiative onboarded over 30 partners wanting to contribute in their own means. Producers and makers lacking supplies from different states were connected with a network of supply chains, frontliners in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were able to make requests and have them filled by various partners. The decentralized platform allowed everybody to tackle the same issue, communally and locally. Global issue, local solutions.
“In just our first phase, the Covid-19 digital platform delivered 24,670 face shields to 75 frontline organizations. As a result of increasing demand and necessity at the frontlines, the team also developed methodologies for producing spacers (Aerochambers) and patient isolation boxes (Intubation Boxes), delivering 1,505 and 58 units respectively.”
Individualism and the notion of “I win, you lose” can no longer be supported.
In line with gearing up for the future of work, and moving forward with the platform, we believe that the most useful utilization of this time is through reflection. Reflection of our past methods, of our current stance, and our future progression. It has become clear that individualism and the notion of “I win, you lose” will no longer be supported. Trauma has a way of uniting us, and this pandemic, one that we face as a family, community, country, and as a world, has brought us together. Our initiative serves as empirical evidence that digital collaborative efforts will drive future impact and empower a sharing economy.
The collective firmly believes in reimagining the future of making. Implying that digitally-empowered communities with localized access to tools, technologies, and talents will allow for paradigm-shifting impact and innovation to materialize. The future of work will compel people to work together, leveraging off each other’s resources and building upon a communal capacity. Me.reka and Biji-biji Initiative foresee more collaborative working efforts between various players across industries, with a greater need for assets and resource sharing.
This is the future of the maker movement. In moments of crises, it is not the singular forces monopolizing our markets that will come to the aid. Rather, it is the power and effort of the community, working in tandem and complimenting each other’s efforts that will bring true collective impact.
Mereka, the future of business and innovation.
Aligned with the idea of moving forward together, the collective understands that they cannot do this alone. Our aim is to maximize global capacity and to do so, it needs to scale. The collective has been liaising with organizations across the region including Vietnam Fablab and Guam Makerspace to help expand the decentralized effort. The collective has also been featured as a part of the Obama Foundation Leadership Network as a scalable solution with the potential as a crisis relief initiative and being able to mobilize and engage a community of under-utilized resources.
Biji-biji Initiative and Me.reka, building on the impact of the Covid-19 Platform, are now in the midst of launching the beta version of their multi stakeholder platform, Mereka (Mereka.io) by March 2021.
In the wake of our digitalization strategy and the current pandemic, Mereka will allow individuals and communities to access the machines, resources, and spaces, with the talents and expertise and the designs and content towards mobilizing rapid solutions and fostering collaborative and innovative approaches.
Click here to learn more about Mereka, to join as a partner or funder to further develop this platform into a regional solution.