Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Community makerspaces build up a culture of resilience with citizen science and innovation accelerated by access to open source technology.



Climate change adaptation depends on the resilience of our peoples and ecosystems to cope with the transition and subsequent restabilization of our ecosystems (Allen, 2009, ix).  Adaptation processes with built-in flexibility are best positioned to handle such volatile circumstances (NASA, 2015; ADF, 2010).

Figure 1: Different types of ecosystem responses to changing external conditions (from Scheffer and Carpenter, 2003; copyright Elsevier 2003, reprinted with permission)

While global climate change is well understood, downscaling climate models is hindered by a lack of reliable high spatial resolution data and complex scale-dependent phenomena (Cooney, 2012). Open source hardware has increased the capacity to collect data locally and share it globally for monitoring, predicting and evaluating local climate change (Silvertown, 2009).

open-source air quality stations from ManyLabs

Climate change affects everyone, but not everyone equally. Underserved urban areas in the developing world face the highest threats (UNHabitat, 2014). Many of these areas have little effect on climate change, yet they face significant challenges with limited adaptive capacity (Schipper, 2007). Vulnerability is defined by geographic, social, political and monetary factors (Miranda et al., 2011), however, proposed ‘solutions’ rarely address these issues. On the contrary, adaptation is often an inflexible and technocratic process (Schipper, 2007).

Maplecroft Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2013, (red showing highest vulnerability)

A growing body of work illustrates that participatory, community-based approaches that put adaptation into a broader context are significantly more effective than traditional approaches, particularly in developing countries (CARE, 2012). Meanwhile, the idea to democratize technology is gaining popularity and has opened new avenues for innovation including open source hardware and software and 'makerspaces'.

We believe that access to makerspaces, physical hubs for experimentation, invention and innovation, can strengthen the community participatory process, with access to open source technology to accelerate the prototype and showcase of local solutions. We see this as a resource to empower local innovation and spread ideas on the ground and the web.

What actions do you propose?

Metabolic Foundation has set up a pilot program to develop a community makerspace in the inner-city area of Kingston, Jamaica in collaboration with Di Institute for Social Leadership, a local grassroots organization in Allman Town.

This pilot is being developed into an open creative makerspace for Allman Town, a nearby underserved area, with relevant programming and participatory process development. The goal is to strengthen innovative capacity by facilitating access to space, tools, knowledge and support. The space functions as a library and creation space for children and adults with a balance of access to resources for independent projects, workshops, expositions and discussions for communities. Our focus for the next year involves building a broader community of support and collaboration, along with local interest and awareness, and the execution of an initial project to collect and disseminate environmental data.

Partnerships for low-cost innovation

The approach is one of communication, education, participation and awareness, where solutions and understanding happen simultaneously from the bottom-up. Partnerships with local and international universities and organizations allow a collaborative combination of research capacity and open source hardware development for inclusive innovation.

Current Activities

Current activities are focused on community development and include:

  1. Bi-weekly support group -- the area experiences high levels of violence and many people need a safe space to talk about issues being faced in the community, an extremely important element in community development.
  2. Weekly Arduino workshops -- the first of a set of online-based educational courses which provide inner-city youth with new and employable skills. In these workshops, university students and community residents participate together to develop projects that interest and excite them.
  3. Weekly tinkering workshops for kids -- children in Allman Town have shown a strong interest in our activities, leading to the organization of a weekly workshop especially for kids. A lot of the activities fit in with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs, integrating advanced concepts into simple and fun projects. Many of the kids attend underperforming schools and enjoy the opportunity to learn through hands-on activities. Engaging kids is also a great way to develop an innovative spirit early on, and to introduce themes like renewable energy, material repurposing and recycling in a simple way. The openness and natural curiosity of the kids also brings to the space new ideas, information about the community, and a reputation for creativity and openness.
  4. Weekly repair days -- open times when people can bring broken items they would like to fix, learn how to use the internet to find solutions and instructions, and develop projects of their own in the same way. These activities allow low threshold experimenting with making and fixing, that build familiarity with electronics and mechanics.
  5. Bi-weekly ISL building days -- during these weekend sessions community members come together to design and build systems to improve Di ISL using techniques that fulfill common needs. Completed examples include pallet furniture, blackboard paint, bike racks, vertical gardens, and coming up we will begin work on an experimental rooftop garden. The goal of these sessions is for people to experiment with design and building with freely accessible material in a way that can be replicated at home and shown to the community.
  6. Monthly stage shows -- where community members can come and display their talents with a focus on art and music. It is also a socializing event with the message of love: the concert is titled ‘heart a love’ and artists are encouraged to bring peaceful messages and to build up love.
  7. Library and studio -- the space operates daily as a library, safe space and creative space where people of all ages come and hang out, do art, practice musical skills and read books. During the week, several children whose parents work in the neighborhood, stay at the space. It is generally seen and maintained as a safe space, with a lot of trust among community members.
  8. Guest speakers and workshops -- visitors from all over the world frequently come and enjoy the opportunity to share their story, art or skills in the space. This is a valuable opportunity to expand the mindset of participants to expose them to issues, realities and possibilities beyond their borders.


While we already offer a variety of activities related to community building, these are organized with close to no funds and out of a single room space. In the coming year we would like to expand into a second space in the same plaza, to use as a workshop with tools for welding, woodwork, electronics, mechanics, computer programming, and 3D printers, to facilitate prototyping activities and independent projects. The current space will continue to function as a library, lecture hall, meeting room, painting studio, music studio and safe space for kids and adults.

In the Future

In the coming year we plan to expand our existing activities to build up creative capacity with more specific applications in the context of environmental justice and self-reliance.

Environmental Monitoring

One of the key next steps is the development of an environmental monitoring program. This is currently being planned in collaboration with students from the University of the West Indies and residents of Allman Town. The first step in this program is a process of community mapping and community consultation to build an awareness and a better understanding of which environmental issues are most pressing to the community, and which require monitoring.

This workshop will be based on open source designs including those offered by Many Labs and Public Labs, and systems will utilize Arduino boards at their core. We expect air quality to be an area of particular concern, as there is a high prevalence of trash burning, fire pits, and vehicle emissions, and the community is periodically affected by large fires at the city dump. Concern over air quality is also justified by local health data that shows high rates of respiratory disease in the area (SDC, 2012). Beyond air quality, weather data, water quality data, and coastal water quality data are also expected to be of interest.

Collecting data can also function as a participatory method for initiating conversations that can lead to innovation, such as designing and prototyping clean stoves, or improving waste management programs with recycling and composting. Additionally, key factors and indicators of the local effects of climate change such as ocean pH and temperature, NOx, CO2, PM10, and PM2.5, relate strongly to environmental justice issues and can be added to the goals set by community members. The collected data frames the discussion surrounding climate change and the local ecosystem, and highlights the importance of understanding the changes as they impact people’s lives through complex system dynamics.

Hurricane damage is one of the biggest natural risks in Jamaica, and community weather stations that measure wind speed, temperature, sunlight, air pressure and humidity can allow residents to take these parameters into account when designing and placing resources in relation to hurricane season. Following hurricane events, we plan to organize additional community mapping sessions to map and assess damages and resilience, and use these to try to think about adaptive options. These mapping sessions will coincide with a Geographic Information System (GIS) course, which has both immediate application and professional value as a course that can be sourced from MOOCs and used to certify students for future mapping and transparency programs.

Water quality measurement will likely be another focus of the project, as Jamaica experiences yearly droughts when water is often cut off in low-income areas. Mitigating actions such as rainwater collection, well drilling, and greywater treatment would all benefit from water quality measurement. Although a lot of water quality monitoring tests are lab-based, some indicators can be measured using test strips and portable probes. We plan to do more rigorous tests through university partnerships and using a portable kit for community wide monitoring schemes. In the future, we hope to incorporate a small biology and chemistry lab functionality into the makerspace.

Design Thinking Workshops and Makerspace

To properly scope issues, we plan to organize periodical design thinking challenges, where resources are pooled to brainstorm and discuss possible courses of action. The first of these workshops will happen this July and will be focused on water. In this workshop we will use’s Design Kit to guide a group of students, Allman Town residents and other enthusiasts to define a water issue that needs to be tackled and to develop prototypes (at most 3) to address it. This will be the first example of utilizing design thinking in the community, and it aims to spark creativity and empowerment through the open process, rather than focusing on immediate resolution. The workshop is intended to self-fund, with non-resident and non-student participants paying a fee to join. This will also function to test the idea that these different groups can benefit mutually from the collaboration, and can do so in an economically sustainable way.

The prototyping portion of the workshop can also make use of a new and powerful tool that we have at our disposal, a 3D printer. It is extremely useful for prototyping and adapting existing technologies, however its use has generally been reserved for wealthier people. Our team have constructed several 3D printers both from kits and from scratch, and have experience in their use in bringing design possibilities to life. We would like to build or purchase two more to make them accessible in the community for prototyping and designing purposes, and to keep their use available to wealthier members of society in exchange for financial contributions, as Jamaica currently lacks any type of open makerspace facility. Once this is in place, we plan to host 3D design and printing workshops. We would also like to equip the makerspace with the capacity to recycle plastic into filament, as this would support an example of a highly sustainable material flow and demonstrate the astonishing potential we have with open source hardware design.

With the opening of the workshop space, we plan to host ‘bike hacking’ sessions, where participants can upgrade one of the most accessible transport options into pick-up bikes, workshop bikes, electric bikes, tricycles, unicycles and more.


All of the activities carried out and data produced will be recorded, and analyzed at the end of the year to produce a variety of reports. The most rigorous of these will be a report documenting the results of mapping exercises, hurricane season damages, and environmental data. The reports will be shared foremost with the community, to discuss and evaluate ongoing and future project possibilities with residents and to inform future designs and prototypes to appropriately address issues to suit local interests and contexts. During this period we will also discuss future programming and activities for the upcoming year. The experiences, failures and successes of these activities will then be shared with the broader open source community to facilitate feedback, improvements and adaptation of designs for tropical urban areas.

We imagine that these courses, workshops, and open facilitation will lead to the development of a wide variety of useful and replicable projects that can contribute to greater adaptation capacity, including composting, biodigestion, urban farming, greywater treatment, clean stoves, energy-smart homes, 3D-printed hurricane-resistant wind turbines, and many more.

Who will take these actions?

The actions proposed in this application will be undertaken by Metabolic Foundation, Di Institute for Social Leadership and residents of Allman Town.

Allman Town community participation is at the heart of project. We encourage participation and ownership of young adults and kids, and target female participation. Active community participation throughout the process ensures that projects are developed to fit existing needs and context.

Di Institute for Social leadership (ISL) is a grassroots interdisciplinary social lab project of the collective called SO((U))L, which creates vibrant spaces for communal practice, experimentation in the arts, and resources for artists, activists, writers, and visionaries. Di ISL’s programming covers thematic areas such as culture, spirituality, creativity, social justice, self-reliance, and pan-Africanism. The pilot project activities are hosted by and co-developed with Di ISL.

Metabolic Foundation is a not-for-profit cleantech action agency, co-developing the pilot. The foundation researches and develops programming, community processes, educational activities, and open source hardware.

Students from various universities (TU Delft, Princeton, University of the West Indies) participate through internships and thesis research projects. An interdisciplinary group of students are asked to co-develop research projects with community members. Students are important partners with new ideas, valuable skills and access to state of the art literature.

The open source community refers to formal and informal contributors to a large and growing online database of new, experimental, and proven concepts that can be freely used, adapt and improved (e.g. Instructables, Make: Media, Appropedia) as well as open online courses. These resources facilitate low cost capacity building and adaptation in informal settings. We are building direct relations with WeVolver, Fab Lab BCN and Practica to support designs with research and feedback.

Where will these actions be taken?

We are currently working on the pilot project in the community of Allman Town in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable areas to the effects of climate change (CCCI, 2014; Peterson et al., 2002). Kingston is a coastal city which is facing severe social and environmental issues. Unemployment and gang violence among young people are two of the biggest social problems facing these areas. Basic services are lacking, and water and air pollution, droughts, and hurricane related damage occur seasonally (PreventionWeb, 2015; SDC, 2011; Sweeney et al., 2007). Allman Town is an underserved community at the heart of Kingston where, along with Di Institute for Social Leadership, we have had a great reception and interest in our pilot activities.

In the next few years we hope that projects can spill over into neighboring communities around Kingston, Jamaica and the Caribbean. In the long term, we hope to develop partnerships with grassroots organizations around the world in order to support the establishment of a global network of community makerspaces. The majority of the world is already living in urban areas and they are growing rapidly, thus urban development is at the core of sustainable environmental management and resource use (Satterthwaite et al., 2014, 541). The expansion of informal housing and labor will be one of the main areas of growth to urban areas in the coming decades (UN-HABITAT, 2014). This is why the project focuses on facilitating innovation in informal urban areas for climate change adaptation.

What are other key benefits?

The development climate change adaptation capacity through a community based approach links to a variety of other development issues including:

  • Household upgrading results in improved access to basic services
  • Community empowerment by developing localized projects  
  • Better understanding of city resource flows and environmental issues faced by the community
  • Employment opportunities for young people, through new skills.
  • Data can contribute to environmental justice and regularization advocacy (ACHR, 2012)
  • Promotion of science, technology, engineering, art and math education
  • Empower gender equality by actively involving women
  • Improved relationships between academia and communities
  • Development of open source hardware that is readily applicable to tropical areas (salty air, hurricane conditions, exposure to sunlight, prolonged high temperatures and humidity, etc.)

What are the proposal’s costs?

The expected costs for the pilot project in Kingston, Jamaica are about 60,000 USD per year:

  • 3,400 USD -- Rent (2 rooms)
  • 48,000 USD -- Payroll (4 persons)
  • 2,000 USD -- Tools (screwdrivers, bits, sockets, ratchets, handsaw, hacksaw, pliers, vise grips, wrenches, wire strippers, wire cutters, rasp, chisels, plane, mallet, jigsaw, circular saw, drill, drill press, drill bits, power sander, staple gun, exhaust fan, 3D printers, vise, files, bench grinder, water probe kit, tool boxes, mig welder
  • 1,100 USD -- Materials (stationary, art supplies, plastic barrels, pallets, tubing, electronic components, wiring, screws, nails, fasteners, plastic filament, solder, tapes, adhesives, zip ties, sandpaper, rags, rope, string)
  • 100 USD -- Homemade furniture (tables, chairs, desk, work bench, shelving, storage boxes)
  • 1,000 USD -- 10 Environmental monitoring stations (Arduino boards, dust sensors, gas sensors, light sensors, EC probes, temperature sensors, LEDs, resistors, solder boards, weatherproof enclosures, fasteners, solar panels, batteries)
  • 1,000 USD -- 2 Laptop computers
  • 600 USD -- Internet
  • 700 USD -- Electricity
  • 100 USD -- Water
  • 2,000 USD -- 20 MOOC certification fees
  • TOTAL: 60,000 USD

The majority of the costs are related to staff salaries. With 10,000 USD, we would be able to cover the majority of the project’s non-labor costs, including rent, utilities, tools, and project materials. We are planning to cover the cost of labor through a combination of fundraisers, paid workshops, prototyping services, sponsorship, grants, and the sale of crafts and snacks.

Time line

We currently rent a single room space and organize a range of activities on a regular basis, including Arduino workshops, kids tinkering activities, fix-it sessions, social discussions, and music events. Over the next year we plan to develop a variety of other activities and refine our existing programming. Below are some of the main activities and milestones that are planned:

  • July 2015 -- Design thinking on water workshop
  • August 2015 -- 3D printing and 3D design course
  • August 2015 (starting) -- Rooftop urban garden workshops (rainwater collection, rooftop, raised-bed, and vertical gardens, composting)
  • September - November 2015 -- Urban mining and resource mapping (with TU Delft students)
  • September - December 2015 -- Environmental monitoring stations (Ocean: pH, temperature; Air quality: PM10, PM2.5, CO, NOx; Weather stations: wind speed, temperature, air pressure, humidity, rainfall; Water quality: electrical conductivity, temperature)
  • October 2015 -- Open source GIS course
  • October - December 2015 -- Mapping of hurricane damage
  • November 2015 -- Urban farming course
  • January 2016 -- Rental of workshop space (purchase power and hand tools, acquire welding equipment, acquire additional 3D printers)
  • January 2016 (starting) -- Bike hacking sessions
  • February 2016 -- Report on design for hurricanes
  • March 2016 -- Report on environmental monitoring
  • April 2016 -- Household upgrading workshops
  • April - June 2016 -- Participatory program design with reports

Related proposals