Thank you for the questions. I was the leader of the founding team for Fab Lab Tulsa (http://www.fablabtulsa.com/), in Tulsa, OK USA. That was a 3 year effort planning, community building and raising money. Unfortunately, I've not had the opportunity yet to launch another lab but there are a number of lessons we've learned since 2008 that have universal appeal. 1) Raise friends before funds. This simple lesson is about the importance of building a community around the lab from the start. A Fab Lab isn't something that you do for a community, its something a community builds for itself. The technology in a lab is great but the socialization within the lab is the key. Starting a lab in a slum community would require understanding that community, its needs and its character before opening the doors. Developing local partnerships would also be included in this. 2) A full Fab Lab is like a giant swiss army knife. A slum community may start with something more like a single blade knife in order to build skills and trust, at least initially. In real terms, this lab would probably start with a laser cutter then mature to a Shopbot CNC router, depending on the community's needs. 3) Helping the community learn how to use the lab would be absolutely essential, so a targeted set of project "kits" tailored for the needs of the community would be the first step. These kits would scaffold skills, both technical and personal, while at the same time building a community of users. Kits would also help with planning budgets and materials early in the lab's lifecycle. 4) Identify and value your lab's "super users". These are often the early adopters who learn the technology and processes first. These individuals become the lab's "local ambassadors" that are essential for building trust and training others.
Really, we're talking about identifying the "minimum viable product" i.e. what's the simplest that can be done that will provide the most value. Working this way simplifies the start-up, when there are already so many unknowns and complications that could come with a slum community.
As for partners, there's likely no shortage. First of all, I was actually encouraged to enter this by FieldReady.org, a connection I made at the recent FAB11 international Fab Lab conference in Boston this past August. We've already discussed locales where they have operations, and so understand the situation on the ground. They have the humanitarian experience and the Fab Lab would bring the "maker" experience. Second, there are a number of Fab Labs already operating in urban and rural areas. A map can be seen here: http://www.fabfoundation.org/fab-labs/. It would not be difficult to make contact with an existing (nearby?) Fab Lab using my existing connections through the Fab Foundation, MIT, and the general Fab Lab network.
When I imagine starting a lab in a slum community, it all seems difficult (but doable) but the most daunting task is building the community. Early on I would anticipate external non-local expertise to be heavily involved in order to kick start the effort, but once those resources are called elsewhere the challenge shifts to the ongoing operation. Who locks up at night? Who orders materials and how are they restocked? This is where local partnerships with established organizations become essential. Community building is about nurturing. I have 3 young children, and the scariest part was leaving the hospital with my first-born daughter. She was birthed by professionals but then she was left to amateurs, namely me and my wife, for the nurturing and growing.
A new Fab Lab is the same. It requires energy, sleepless nights, friends, family, and a little bit of luck. It starts slowly with small simple projects (we call them "key chain" projects) before eventually picking up steam, when users start designing, sharing, teaching, learning and making almost anything.
That's probably more than you wanted to hear! I appreciate the questions, and I'm happy to share more.
P.S. I would also add that Fab Lab Tulsa recently launched a state-of-the-art mobile Fab Lab, the concept of which we're exploring with Field Ready for applications in refugee scenarios. With a little luck we'll get the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross involved too! Tulsa, OK is in tornado alley so we're exploring the possibility of deploying our mobile lab into an area in Spring 2016 which has been struck by a tornado in order to examine the impact a mobile Fab Lab might have in that situation. Stay tuned!