Transforming Community Spaces to A Regional Network

by
Supriya Sivabalan
,
April 30, 2021

If there was a “How-to” guide when it comes to navigating life, you would have to look for the latest version of it every day. The skills and knowledge of the world is ever-changing. Can anyone keep up? 

Communities often lack adequate resources or tools to expand their creativity.  Subsequently, they struggle to adapt to real world challenges and fall behind in cultivating 21st-century skills which include both technical and soft skills in this age of information. For instance, technology literacy, media literacy, flexibility and leadership - just to name a few. Community spaces, which can be found in most public locations, are where community members or locals gather to have daily meetings, raise concerns, conduct daily activities, and gain social support (Jagannath, 2020). As in the name, it is a space allocated for the community to utilize in a cooperative fashion, thus cultivating sustainable relationships among members. Given this sense of unity, these community spaces act as a powerful tool to upskill the community with shared information, knowledge and discussion. 

Now, picture this: You have a lightbulb moment. An idea - an ingenious one at that. But, perhaps you lack the skills, the tools, the accessibility of it all. Where do you go? Who do you talk to? Kamau Gachigi recognized this lack of accessibility within his community and went on to be the founding executive director of Gearbox - Kenya’s first open makerspace for rapid prototyping. In his Ted Talk, Gachigi highlights the people of the makerspace and their successes. From a young girl in her 20s with no engineering background who is now piloting her project to create a vending machine that supplies female sanitary products to semi-skilled artisans and top-tier customers who work with big manufacturers, Gachigi’s talk goes to show that providing a space equipped with knowledge and resources is a huge stepping stone for a community to thrive and continue growing. Spaces like these provide a realistic platform that can actually transform a mere thought or idea into an impactful project that contributes to community development. Now, your lightbulb moment can be brought to life through collaboration in community spaces. 


However, the utilization of such spaces can be limited to the extent of available resources and opportunities. How can we address the lack of access to tools and resources to progress forward?

This can be tackled by taking an initiative to upgrade these community spaces into an environment that facilitates education, development, innovation and whatever the community determines the space to be.  In order to perform this upgrade, skilful and passionate individuals who own the necessary resources must come forth to make this a reality. Me.reka Makerspace with the help of Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM) and SME Corp Malaysia did just that and made magic happen at Let Balai Raya Taman Rasa Sayang located in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. Balai Raya Taman Rasa Sayang, now known as Ruang Reka @ Komuniti is a community space where the locals gather to solve their daily problems or to conduct any group activities. With a shared vision and common goal, the community space has now transformed into a space fully equipped with a network of regional tools, resources, opportunities and expertise! For the upcoming days, weeks and months on end, communities are now given the opportunity to innovate and express their creativity.

Introducing Ruang Reka!

The Ruang Reka (directly translated: Ruang = Space; Reka = Make/Create) makerspace was conceived upon the collaboration with Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM), SME Corp Malaysia, Biji-biji Initiative and Me.reka. Ruang Reka aims  to provide opportunities for skilled and unskilled youths to create prototypes to be diffused into the community through hands-on, experiential learning, sense of ownership and citizenship. Additionally, Ruang Reka hopes to create Science, Technology, Innovation and Engineering (STIE) awareness through bootcamps, brainstorming sessions, mentorship and motivation made of the quadruple helix framework - ie. university-industry-government-public-environment interactions within a knowledge economy. The  Ruang Reka makerspace is complete with STIE-based products to further enhance community development such as 3D printing, Virtual Reality (VR), Robotics & Electronics Set.


A Space Made For Makers To Create And Innovate

Ruang Reka is a makerspace built to connect changemakers within communities while  giving  creators access to a network of regional tools, resources, opportunities, and expertise. By bridging the gap between changemakers, community members and important resources, this helps foster a culture of innovation and education, especially within the underprivileged communities. The space is equipped with products in the High Impact Programme (HIP 6) ecosystem to address issues in the community.  In line with that, the 4-week NGO@Makerthon Programme, hosted in collaboration with Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia, SME Corp Malaysia, Biji-biji Initiative and Me.reka, which aimed to empower local NGOs with a digital and entrepreneurial mindset. The programme focused on upskilling NGOs that existingly work with PPR communities  to find solutions and tackled challenges by utilising STIE skills from the HIP6 solutions.


"I like the program very much as I can bring out the idea and make the product a reality. [The] community [is] able to see it and get feedback to improve. It is really interesting and [of] a big help to me personally as well", mentions participant Norelan, 64.

In Ruang Reka, makers or communities are encouraged to create their own meaningful solutions and innovations, subsequently building a network to support one another. Additionally, the space includes a directory that enables people to find Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the People’s Housing Project (PPR) Communities. 


At The End of The Day...

All in all, the Ruang Reka space aims to act as a platform for organisations and communities to  enable them to craft innovative solutions that will alleviate community-centric challenges with digital technologies and 21st century skills. The challenges our communities face will always evolve, be it the need for resources, education, knowledge, manpower, cooperation, leadership or finances - there is always something new that will keep a community on edge. Thus, spaces like Ruang Reka facilitate a solid environment to efficiently tackle the unforeseeable future. As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.  But don’t fret - because this time, you already have the lemonade stand. Ruang Reka will be developed to two other locations throughout Malaysia -  be sure to watch our space for what comes next. Perhaps you could visit and explore a Ruang Reka near you!


REFERENCES

Gachigi, K. (2017, August). Success Stories from Kenya’s first makerspace  [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/kamau_gachigi_success_stories_from_kenya_s_first_makerspace

Jagannath, T. (2020, July 2). The Importance of Public Spaces - Interviews and Articles on Art & Public Spaces. Medium. https://link.medium.com/InItBkO6kfb 

Supriya Sivabalan

Supriya is an actuarial science student and a budding content writer at heart, sowing the seeds of copious alluring and magnetic narratives to tell memorable stories.