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Makerspaces for Children in Refugee Camps

We aim to create cross-generational hands-on learning spaces, combing education with making essential items for life within refugee camps.

Photo of Susan L

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Across the Middle-East Syrian youth are ‘losing hope in the future’. In camps in Turkey basic needs are provided for but youth are growing up isolated from life outside. Children in Turkish camps do attend education centres, but are taught a pre-war Syrian syllabus, which does little to address the unique challenges both youth and adults face following the severe disruption in their lives, limited immediate employment opportunities, and the unpredictable conditions of a post conflict Syria.

Explain your innovation.

Field Ready will establish ‘maker-spaces’ equipped with traditional workshop and digital manufacturing equipment within camps, to augment the existing education for children and youth, and teach new skills to adults in camps. These spaces will provide access to digital manufacturing, which is affordable and widely available, but which use of offers real-world, internationally transferable skills for the economy of tomorrow. It will be a place where the community can learn together, and develop the agency to make things that they need in their daily lives. One off items can be made, by and for, the most vulnerable groups in the camp (sanitary items, prosthetic aids, etc.). Things can be made that will make life more comfortable for the whole family (insulation, household items, etc.). Older participants can venture into income generating activities for markets within and beyond camps. The spaces will have onsite technical expertise (from the local population, trained by Field Ready) to train and assist the users, but will also be linked into Field Ready’s global network of engineers and makers experienced in designing and making things for humanitarian situations.

Who benefits?

We would primarily target youth of secondary school age, with additional outreach to older members of the camps. We are exploring partnerships with 3 camps in Southern Turkey. We believe each centre could support 1,400 individuals over a year. Our intervention would target both boys and girls, however Field Ready would bring its team of international female engineers to provide training in the camps to encourage female participation; 'making' and digital manufacturing is, by its nature, in a form of STEM which is accessible to people of all physical strengths and abilities, and we wish to leverage this to encourage girls to get into tech. The individuals involved will gain practical skills, and the agency, to find solutions to their own problems. The wider community will gain from what they do. Success will be measured by participation, use of items which are developed and made, and increased inclusion of ‘maker’ skills in the learning environment.

How is your innovation unique?

Field Ready brings a unique approach, where other organisations may work with elements of digital manufacturing, they are often tied to a specific technology or product. Field Ready’s core function is problem solving, basing the innovation around the need. We have a global network of makers with a wealth of experience working in humanitarian and development situations. We know how to use a makerspace to solve real humanitarian needs and have experience doing so, including training and making things within camp conditions. Through our connections with one of the very limited number of international agencies to have worked inside camps in Turkey, we are in a unique position to bring this experience to the vulnerable populations living in isolated camps. We also have the potential to link with our skilled Syrian engineer partners both in Gaziantep and Northern Syria, for both current additional support and long term integration into a ‘maker’ network in the area.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Though we have had initial conversations with the authority running camps and the Ministry overseeing the education provision, further research is needed into the current Temporary Education Centre (GEMs) syllabus and to what extent we could support existing technical training modules, beyond an ‘after-school’ club model. Depending on how closely we engage with the existing education system, we may also need to engage partners with experience working with traumatised youth. We would also need to explore further how the cross-generational model would work and the extent to which members may create items which would generate an income, including linking to external markets, given the status and location of the camps.

Tell us more about you.

Field Ready is a global NGO registered in the US. Our team is a global mix of experienced designers, engineers and humanitarians. We work with partners on the ground in each location. We are funded by the Australian Government to provide emergency response support across the Pacific region. We also support partners responding to the Syrian crisis in Turkey with training and procurement of equipment, and provide remote engineering support to Northern Syria.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Our primary response area for this program is refugee camps in Southern Turkey, which have been established in response to refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. This work has been inspired by our work in Nepal, which though well established, has taken ideas from our remote work with Syria. In addition we have exploratory projects in Kenya, South Sudan, and Iraq, with partners also interested in similar ideas.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

We will largely be led by the authority managing the camps, but believe there is scope to start in one camp, and scale to 3 within 6 months in Southern Turkey. We are currently working remotely with communities in Syria and informal settlements in Jordan. The programs within the space would change to reflect education systems, partners and needs in the area, however, due to the nature of the technology and Field Ready’s networked approach, scope for collaboration is high.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for less than one year.

In-country Networks

We have longstanding links with the maker/innovation hub community in Istanbul. We have partnerships with Turkish registered Syrian NGOs based in the Southern Turkish humanitarian hub, Gaziantep, whom we have provided with digital manufacturing and innovation process training, support to procure ‘makerspace’ equipment, and ongoing remote design and development expertise.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Field Ready has trained people and made things in IDP camps and centres in Nepal, Haiti and Syria. There is no limit to the sectors that are relevant, we’ve made things from search & rescue to medical equipment, pipe-fittings to model houses, insulation to toys in soap! We know how to use a makerspace to support communities and local entrepreneurs, to allow people living through the aftermath of a crisis to access tools and expertise at the cutting edge of manufacturing today.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Global organisation registered in USA; local registration being pursued in other locations.


Attachments (1)

User experience map - makerspaces.pdf

A user experience map about our idea


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Susan L I was curious if your team is working on any medical products/devices in the sexual and reproductive health space? If so might be worth checking out our current Challenge:

Photo of Susan L

Hi Ashley,

Thank you for the heads-up.


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