Making Things that Make Sense, anywhere, is the core of what the Tolocar project actually does.

Make Things that Make Sense. Anywhere.[edit | edit source]

The phrasing was first introduced in the Critical Making project. Just like the Tolocar project, critical making aims for impact, is characterized by open collaboration, connects local and global contexts, addresses social dimensions and ethical concerns, while critically reflecting on established norms, and infusing joy and purpose into the act of making. Diversity and inclusion are prerequisites for ensuring that solutions make sense to as many people as possible and leave no one behind.[1]

The first step in making things that make sense is to ask local stakeholders what they need. The Tolocar project focuses on local and communally situated making, ensuring that the solutions created are deeply rooted in the communities we serve. Our stakeholders in Ukraine include various actors, from civil society organizations to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), educational institutions and public administrations.

Contact between local communities and the Tolocar project is usually established by mobile makerspace operators, who introduce themselves, the capabilities of their respective Tolocar, and the project as a whole with a Meet&Greet. This introduction is then accompanied by a quick, low-key demo workshop, where a small trinkets like keychains are 3D printed. Another point of connection to local communities is through the vibrant network of makers in Ukraine. Although Ukrainian maker communities are not all formally organized, they have long been connected through various events and interest-based groups, many of them facilitated by MakerHub.

Once we have established what the local needs are, we set out to find solutions. This is either done through consultations within the Tolocar project teams, with Ukrainian makers and organizations, or through outreach to various global maker networks, such as Tolocar project partner GIG, Fab Foundation, the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH), Maker Faires, and make:magazine. In connecting communities in Ukraine and internationally, it is always important to consider differences in culture and circumstance and to develop customized activities based on local stakeholder needs and ideas. These activities encompass needs-based projects such as renovations and repair, the development, adaptation or replication of machines, and capacity development workshops.

Throughout the implementation of our activities, we prioritize safety above all else. We have established safety protocols and provide training to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of our team and the communities we serve, creating a secure environment for collaboration and innovation. To foster transparency and knowledge sharing, we document all of our work in open source repositories, such as Appropedia and GitHub, and share updates through the Tolocar website, social media, and publications like this Playbook. Across all of our communication mediums, the utmost care is being taken to protect personal data.

The Tolocar Approach[edit | edit source]

The Tolocar project is situated at the intersection of emergency relief and development cooperation, combining local and global activities, and requires an approach in which values matter as much as methodology. Mobile makerspaces and globally distributed collaboration only make sense when embraced by people coming together for a short period of time. The ephemeral and co-creative nature of Tolocar project activities blurs the line between users and producers, and necessitates a strong connection between the Tolocar team and stakeholders on the ground, enabling bi-directional learning. We want to understand their problems and the solutions they may already have – and they want to understand how digital technologies can amplify what they do.

Key Strategies[edit | edit source]

Enabling Local Communities through Collaborative Partnerships[edit | edit source]

The Tolocar project thrives on partnerships with local maker communities, educational institutions, and innovation hubs, creating a robust ecosystem of shared knowledge and expertise. We equip communities with the necessary tools, skills, and resources to address their own needs, fostering self-reliance and community-driven solutions – sometimes in dedicated, newly established makerspaces or repair workshops, sometimes supporting existing maker-spaces, and sometimes with no dedicated makerspace beyond the Tolocars.

Skill Development and Capacity Building[edit | edit source]

We conduct training sessions and workshops to enhance technological literacy and digital production skills, creating employment prospects and enabling individuals in emerging fields. Collaborations with schools and youth centers have been particularly impactful, equipping the younger generation with future-oriented skills through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) education. The virtual Maker Academy extends our impact beyond in-person workshops which require physical access to a mobile makerspace.

Innovation and Resilient Rebuilding[edit | edit source]

Mobile makerspaces have become catalysts for innovation, propelling Ukraine's rebuilding efforts. Despite or maybe because of the ongoing war, we have witnessed impressive manifestations of a culture of creative problem-solving, driven by the determination of local communities to overcome challenges.

Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration[edit | edit source]

Our team both in Ukraine and abroad, especially project partner GIG, facilitate extensive knowledge exchange among stakeholders, also connecting Ukrainian communities with the global maker community. This interconnected network of innovators has fostered collaboration and opened up new opportunities for learning and growth.

The 7 Stages of a Need-based Project[edit | edit source]

The Tolocar project offers many resources/interventions such as machine replication and capacity development workshops, however, this section will focus on needs-based projects. These projects are realized by our oporators in collaboration with local communities in Ukraine.While the Tolocar project also encompasses machine replication and capacity development workshops, in this description, we focus on the needs-based projects which the operators realize together with local communities in Ukraine. HIWW, the project's main partner when it comes to implementing needs- based solutions , has been studying the phenomenon of open production for more than ten years. Operating within the Laboratory of Production Engineering at Helmut Schmidt University they have also implemented various projects within this research area.

The Tolocar project drew upon this experience and adapted the 6-stage Innovation Process developed by elrha and HIF in their Humanitarian Innovation Guide [2] to describe our approach in a concise manner. For more methods and tools, we highly recommend the Humanitarian Innovation Guide, which uses a lot of tools from other toolkits that we also use in our work, such as Nesta’s DIY Toolkit and Strategyzer.

Visualization of the 7 Stages of a Tolocar Activity
Visualization of the 7 Stages of a Tolocar Activity

This stage emphasizes the crucial first step of building strong relationships. We connect with local partner communities through personal and professional networks, incoming partnership requests, or by searching databases such as the Platform for the Reconstruction in Ukraine and the internet. Establishing mutual trust is a significant focus at this stage.

Example: The organization Eko Misto in Chernihiv contacted the Tolocar Team with the idea to create an innovation hub for the local community.


Here we work to recognize specific problems, opportunities and needs by gathering and accessing relevant knowledge, diagnosing root causes and framing the challenge appropriately. We support local stakeholders by leveraging our expertise in design thinking and approaching the problem from an outsider's perspective, encouraging them to think differently. As the Tolocar project progresses, we increasingly encounter issues related to digital fabrication, makerspace development, and distributed production.

Example: A Tolocar team visited Chernihiv, and operators met with representatives of the local community: Eko Misto, the Polytech, and the IT Cluster. The former cinema “Peremoha” was identified as a location, and the required renovations were identified.


In this stage, we actively search for existing solutions within the local context, the global maker community, and relevant sectors or industries. We explore specific product designs, intervention planning, and makerspace development projects.

Example: Architects from the Ostriv Platform community designed potential solutions to turn three rooms in the building into a makerspace, community space, and event space.


Sometimes, we adapt solutions from elsewhere, which may require significant rethinking of certain elements, to fit the local context. This stage involves identifying the necessary changes to adapt an existing solution to a new context. We carefully consider the specific requirements and make modifications accordingly.

Example: Beyond the designs by Ostriv, other open-source designs for furniture were adapted to fit the needs of the community, and additional (donated) machines were set up in the makerspace, including a plastics sheet press.


This stage involves inventing specific products, hardware and technology to solve problems or address opportunities. Our approach differs from the process described in the Humanitarian Innovation Guide in terms of user involvement. We work with users and primary beneficiaries from the beginning, instead of only engaging them at this stage. Collaborating closely, we co-create solutions and develop prototypes.

Example: As part of the makerspace activities, several tests are being run to find solutions for recycled building materials, using, for example, the plastics sheet press.


At this stage, we pilot and test potential solutions in complex real-world environments to assess their effectiveness and implementation. This stage encompasses three workstreams: implementing the innovation, generating learning and evidence, and providing support and logistics.

Example: Peremoha Lab is running as a community and innovation space with a fully functional makerspace. The Tolocar team is supporting the local community in documenting the status quo and finding more partners for scaling.


This stage involves scaling the impact of the innovation to address the magnitude of the social problem it aims to solve. We focus on building the necessary complexity for sustainability and distilling this complexity to ensure replicability or adaptability - in addition, scaling requires good documentation.

Example: To transform Peremoha Lab into a fully functional community and innovation space, significant renovations are required. For instance, the community aims to incorporate the basement, which served as a shelter for over 300 people in the spring of 2022, into the community space. While these necessary activities currently fall outside the scope of the Tolocar project, a clear roadmap for scaling is in place.

The Connect, Recognize and Pilot phases require the physical presence of a team of Tolocar operators to ensure realistic partner expectations, mutual trust, and sustainability of our interventions, while the Search, Adapt and Invent phases can be done with or by domain experts anywhere in the world.

Throughout the process, we dedicate time to reflect on the value of our collaboration with our partners at each stage.

Our guiding questions are:

Can this project / intervention be executed by an existing business or another entity?

Does our team possess specific expertise, technical capacity, mobility, or any other qualities that make Tolocar uniquely suited to address this challenge? If the answer is yes, we proceed. If not, we explore other options and ensure we do not take paid work away from local businesses.

What is the scaling and growth potential of each project / intervention?

When Tolocar leaves – do we leave behind just an object / solution, or a community of people motivated and educated to continue the work? Our goal is to deliver efficient solutions that maximize the use of our tools and minimize reliance on off-the-shelf components - not to showcase our capabilities as makers, but to enable others to create what they need themselves.

Getting Project Management Right[edit | edit source]

In a distributed project, tooling for project management is crucial, including considerations for efficiency. The Tolocar team uses a comprehensive tool to streamline work and foster efficient communication across four countries. This helps the team track everything and ensures smooth coordination, so the team can effectively serve communities.

The first key aspect is the use of a purpose-built (or better yet: “purpose-grown”) relational database. This database covers various aspects of the Tolocar project, including a content management system for solutions and social media management; customer relationship management; procurement; financial administration; asset management; and of course project and task management. Each part of the database serves a unique purpose, allowing team members to access and update relevant information easily. Having all data interlinked and in one database allows us to navigate the project in different ways depending on the questions asked, stories willing to be told and circumstances that constantly change.

Through this data-driven approach, we have developed new and adapted existing taxonomies that allow us to manage the ambitious and complex task of mobile and distributed making. Consolidating all the data allows us to prioritise interventions and come up with solutions that not only align with the goal of “making anything anywhere” but are truly about making things that make sense.

Another vital aspect is the implementation of status fields for longer-term projects, as well as one-off events and interventions. This helps the team track progress and maintain a clear understanding of their current states. These status fields are broken down into several steps which can be viewed as a kanban board, providing a structured approach to project management.

Lastly, the team emphasizes a well-defined “Definition of Done” for each project or intervention. This set of criteria ensures that all necessary administrative tasks are completed after the project's execution, facilitating proper documentation and reporting.

Data Entry Form[edit | edit source]

Our template for creating new projects in the database includes the following fields:

Visualization of the Tolocar project's Data Entry Form

Project Name (Parent Project, if applicable)

Short Description


  • KPIs met
  • Project Lead
  • Tolocar(s) + Operators


  • Start Date
  • End Date
  • Hosting Organization(s)
  • Partner Organization(s)
  • Potential Partner Organization(s)
  • Target Group


  • Tools uses
  • Material / Supplies used
  • Purchases

Type of project

  • Complexity
  • Solutions
  • Needs


  • Number of people impacted
  • Documentation (external links)
  • Notes
  • Public Photos

Final Report done? Where applicable, the fields are connected to various interlinked databases, such as purchases, reporting, as well as the To Do Lists of individual team members, and repositories of solutions.

Where applicable, the fields are connected to various interlinked databases, such as purchases, reporting, as well as the To Do Lists of individual team members, and repositories of solutions.

FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Authors Victoria Wenzelmann
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 28 pages link here
Aliases Tolocar Playbook/Why Tolocar/Make Things that Make Sense. Anywhere
Impact page views
Created November 10, 2023 by Paola Moreno
Modified January 19, 2024 by StandardWikitext bot
  1. Critical Making Project. (2023). Critical Making: Powering Inclusion and Openness. Critical Making: Powering Inclusion and Openness.
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