Social Innovation, Democracy and Makerspaces

21 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017

See all articles by Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith

Science Policy Research Unit

Date Written: June 14, 2017


Social innovation requires a transformation in innovation practices. These transformations should be democratic. At least that is the hypothesis in this paper. Makerspaces are studied as potential sites for democratising innovation activity. Makerspaces are community-based workshops where people access the tools, skills and collaborators to design and make almost anything they wish. Makerspaces are also networked spaces for reflection and debate over design and making in society. But they are many other things too, including a place for personal recreation, entrepreneurship, and education - features of increasing interest to institutions. Makerspaces are pulled and pushed in different directions. An open innovation agenda seeks to insert makerspace creativity into global manufacturing circuits under business as usual. Others see in makerspaces an inchoate infrastructure for a commons-based, sustainable and redistributed manufacturing economy. Activists anticipate new relations in material culture and political economy. Makerspaces are thus socially innovative and not socially innovative at the same time: a site of struggle over issues of profound social significance, and hence an example of innovation democracy in action.

Keywords: Social Innovation; Democracy; Makerspaces; Digital Fabrication; Commons; Critical Theory; Technology

Suggested Citation

Smith, Adrian, Social Innovation, Democracy and Makerspaces (June 14, 2017). SWPS 2017-10, Available at SSRN: or

Adrian Smith (Contact Author)

Science Policy Research Unit ( email )

Brighton, BN1 9SL
United Kingdom

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