ABOUT THE MADE BY PROJECT
Made By is a first-of-its-kind initiative to deeply understand the lives of makers, artisans, and micro-manufacturers in the city of Memphis and Shelby County and to assess their economic impact. The end result of the project is an economic development plan that fosters a vibrant, thriving, and inclusive community of makers, artisans, and micro-manufacturers across the region. We refer to these individuals as “makers” and define them as individuals using skill or craft to create a physical good at small scale to sell.
We sought to understand makers across a variety of factors: age, aspirations, gender, time spent making, education, time in business, craft type, and neighborhood. We also focused on populations typically under-represented by efforts in this space: minorities and older makers. The population of Shelby County is 42% white and 54% African American, as such we would expect sizable participation in maker businesses by African Americans. We also know from our research that many retirement age Americans are starting maker businesses as second careers or possess master-level skills they can teach others. These factors drove our interest in understanding the older maker demographic.
The city of Memphis struggles with a 26% poverty rate. Supporting entrepreneurship as it relates to poverty reduction is a specific passion of both Little Bird Innovation and the Made By project’s implementation partner, EPIcenter. We envision the Made By project as one way of fostering place-based businesses that contribute economically and culturally to our neighborhoods.
OUR PROCESS & APPROACH
Little Bird Innovation uses a human-centered, collaborative and co-creative process on all projects. This approach applies not just to our research, but also to our work in translating learnings from research into actionable strategies, solutions and plans.
In seeking to understand large, complex issues we build a body of knowledge and understanding through learning from the experiences and stories of real people living and working within the context of the group for whom we are designing solutions. In the case of Made By, this group is makers. We invested more than 270 man hours learning from makers through in-depth qualitative interviews, paired with a large scale, quantitatively-oriented survey. We used this hybrid-approach to marry stories with statistics to strengthen the case for supporting economic development driven by makers and micro-manufacturers. This intensive approach lends to being an investment in Memphis' creative community and its' potential.
Makers and stakeholders working in adjacent industries collaborated on all key activities and will continue to do so as we develop possible solutions for unmet needs and the barriers that makers face. This is the meaning of human-centered, collaborative design work—involving makers and stakeholders at every step of the way to ensure that what is created truly meets their needs.