Beyond crisis situations, distributed manufacturing offers broader benefits, including positive environmental impacts, economic advantages, and contributions to community resilience. As the Tolocar project progresses, its success in Ukraine could potentially serve as a model for other regions and contribute  to the global movement towards sustainable and decentralized production systems. Critical Making - putting critical thinking into making - is at the core of the change we would like to see in the global maker movement, so it can unfold its full potential for tackling the multiple crises humanity faces in the Anthropocene.  

Exploring New Horizons with Tolocars in Ukraine and Beyond[edit | edit source]

Producing this Playbook provided us with a chance to reflect on the past, present and future of the Tolocar project - in Ukraine and beyond.

For over a year, we have been operating in a country at war, with unforeseen, seemingly random attacks not only on military targets but also on civilians and public infrastructure. Daily air raid alarms via smartphone apps serve as a reminder to the team in Germany of the harsh reality their colleagues face in Ukraine: constant threats of war.

With our interventions, we are contributing to the rebuilding of Ukraine, helping to rebuild not only its architecture but also its social fabric. Our vehicles, machines and teams bring inspiration, knowledge and connections, and thereby contribute to the development of a participatory innovation ecosystem for the socio-economic recovery of Ukraine. The Tolocar project serves as an example of the concept of Critical Making.

In the future, we aim to explore new and exciting fields of application for mobile makerspaces in Ukraine, such as supporting specialized labs for prosthetics, bio applications, and recycling, which could bring cutting-edge technology to underserved people and industries. In the next phases of our project, we plan to raise even more awareness about the vast potential of digital fabrication, distributed design, and open-source hardware in various sectors, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups. By showcasing the benefits of these technologies, the project aspires to drive innovation and progress in the industrial landscape of Ukraine.

MAKERS INNOVATION AWARD

Makers are essential actors in the Ukrainian innovation ecosystem and can thus make great contributions to the socio-economic recovery of the country. The next step of the Tolocar project therefore is the Makers Innovation Award: a program that not only funds but also mentors makers who drive social innovation and community cohesion. By fostering collaboration and ideation among makers and civil society organizations, the program aims to catalyze impactful projects. At the center is an incubation program that aligns technological innovation with societal well-being, emphasizing the importance of localized production, knowledge sharing, and decentralized solutions.

Just as Tolocar envisions Super Labs as creative and innovation hubs, the Makers Innovation Award aspires to create an environment where makers can collaboratively address pressing issues and forge connections, ultimately contributing to a future of borderless unity through the supply chains of innovative ideas. Partnering with betterplace lab and Future Challenges will enable the Tolocar project to begin implementing this program in 2024.

We also envision advancing decentralized physical infrastructure by facilitating large-scale open-source machine tool workshops. The aspiration is that providing access to these workshops will enable individuals and businesses to harness the power of these tools to transform their ideas into reality. To further professionalize its offerings, the project aims to explore additional services beyond mobile solutions. This includes exploring concepts like Manufacturing-as-a-Service, Hardware Co-working, and Incubation programs in designated Super Labs or Micro factories. Such ideas would nurture talent and innovation, ensuring sustainable growth in the maker community.

Digital infrastructure plays a crucial role in enabling decentralized processes, from collaborative product development and knowledge sharing to local production. The aim is to enable even more local communities, fostering self-reliance and supporting economic development. We also want to strengthen the connections between Ukrainian makers and makers from the rest of the world by leveraging digital infrastructure. The idea is to tap into a vast network of knowledge and expertise, potentially benefiting from advancements made worldwide, and set up and test ad-hoc distributed production networks via digital infrastructure. By exploring such possibilities, the project aims to enhance efficiency and coordination, leading to a more robust and interconnected maker ecosystem.

The long-term dream is of course to create a Tolocar that can reproduce a Tolocar. While an exciting idea to some, it is essential to recognize that this is still in the realm of aspirations, and considerable research and development would be required.

The Potential of Mobile Makerspaces for Scaling Distributed Manufacturing and Global Collaboration[edit | edit source]

The Tolocar project demonstrates that mobile makerspaces are powerful and versatile tools to serve various socio-economic development purposes on the ground. By integrating local actors and making use of local resources, they ensure that any potential solutions are tailored to the specific needs of each community. They also enable individuals by equipping them with open-source machines, knowledge, and a community of supporters, so that they are in the driver’s seat on their journey  to greater self-reliance and sustainable growth.

The focus of any mobile makerspace depends on its context. It may be used for education and training, nurturing the next generation of innovators and problem solvers, as a hub for innovation, prototyping, and providing solutions to local challenges, or as a support vehicle for production activities, such as repair, re/upcycling, and small-scale manufacturing, promoting circular economy principles and reducing waste. Community building is the purpose that all mobile makerspaces serve, with joint workshops fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange, and strengthening social cohesion.

Embracing the concept of open-source hardware could allow machine tools and equipment to be adapted to different types of vehicles around the globe with reasonable investments, potentially increasing accessibility and scalability. As such, we would like to contribute to the establishment of a global network of mobile makerspaces which collaborate, share best practices, provide valuable solutions, and troubleshoot challenges collectively.

SUPER LAB

Tolocar's vision includes the crucial role of Fab Labs and Fab Cities, in which “Super Labs” are established: large Fab Labs that serve as hubs for creativity, innovation, and community empowerment. One goal of the Tolocar project in 2024 is the creation of such a Super Lab in Ivano-Frankivsk where people can collaborate, share ideas, and designs openly, and then locally implement them. Fab Labs and Fab Cities are part of a movement that seeks to put production tools and knowledge in the hands of people, promoting decentralized production possibilities. This way, communities can act autonomously and sustainably, without relying on complex global supply chains.

MetaLab’s CO-HATY project already embodies these values in the present. It shows that remarkable change is possible through compassion, collaboration, and an open exchange of ideas. With projects like CO-HATY and Tolocar on the rise, a future may be within reach where the world is characterized by supply chains of ideas, and a sense of community and unity that transcends borders.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Tolocar team members and volunteers in Chernihiv / Ukraine.
Tolocar team members and volunteers in Chernihiv / Ukraine.

Beyond crisis situations, distributed manufacturing offers broader benefits, including positive environmental impacts, economic advantages, and contributions to community resilience. As the Tolocar project progresses, its success in Ukraine could potentially serve as a model for other regions and contribute  to the global movement towards sustainable and decentralized production systems. Critical Making - putting critical thinking into making - is at the core of the change we would like to see in the global maker movement, so it can unfold its full potential for tackling the multiple crises humanity faces in the Anthropocene.  

The Tolocar project remains committed to Ukraine, to enabling communities and driving innovation through collaborative partnerships, mobile infrastructure, and global connections. As a team, we dream of the day when our monthly All Together meeting will bring us all together physically - be that in Kyiv, Hamburg or somewhere completely different!

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Authors Victoria Wenzelmann
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
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Created December 14, 2023 by Victoria Wenzelmann
Modified January 19, 2024 by Emilio Velis
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