SO-FAB: Getting Digital & Dusty for Social Benefit

Catapult Design has been on location in Yogyakarta with INOTEK and The Apex Consulting Group (working with guidance from GATD & the World Bank) for 3 of the last 6 months to help facilitate a pilot program in catalyzing ‘green innovation’ & growth in the local renewable energy market to improve clean energy access for communities in the region.

Upon first hearing that the Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program would be based in Yogyakarta Region we started fishing around for local prototyping options. We were super surprised and excited to discover that not only does Yogyakarta have a FabLab, but it has the only one in all of South East Asia (see a global list of current and planned FabLab’s here). Be it luck or design magnetism at play this posed an excellent opportunity for us to share the design love, enjoy some creative symbiosis, and to whip up some well-crafted prototypes.

HONFabLab in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

HONFabLab in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The HONFabLab (grown from a partnership between the House Of Natural Fiber and the Waag Society) has been offering fabrication magic to Yogyakarta for almost a year (they turn 1 on July 29) and is calibrating it’s tools and its approach to best excite, inspire, and equip creative citizens to freely weave it. The team is super helpful and has a good dose of humor in their toolkit (which throughout my travels I’m repeatedly reminded of as being an essential design ingredient, especially in HCD).

Humor on the Toolboard

Humor…and essential part of a designers toolkit

On our first working visit we were able to take a simple sketch of ‘Product X’, mock it up, design it, and turn it into a detailed working flat-packable prototype in two days. We totally benefited from the contributions that the multiple minds, hands, and methods that HONFablab had flowing through it. Sharing isn’t just ‘caring’ in a FabLab, it is at the heart of their philosophy of creative collaboration and open learning. To be able to access digital tech/fabrication and ‘Fab-Culture’ in Yogyakarta on this pilot has been very helpful, has made speedy co-creation possible, and has brought a level of quality to the prototyping that suits our budget, timelines and testing/output requirements.

Quick Prototyping Process for 'Product X' at the HONFabLab
Sanding down the edges after the ShopBot has milled out the profiles

Noel sanding down the edges after the ShopBot has milled out the profiles

There is a healthy global movement of using creative labs/communities and improved access to high tech tools to bolster capacity in addressing social issues, with different models and specialties coming into play (Fab Labs, UNICEF Innovation Labs, IHUB, J-PAL are all good examples and there is even potential application in communities like TechShop and Shapeways  for  smaller groups of socially motivated creatives). I see a well-equipped future ahead, the world abundant with the creative capacity and tools to realise social solutions…which will be timely…as we will probably need them.

We hope to continue our design and prototyping work at HONFabLab throughout next few months, to further develop, test and illustrate the concepts for the Indonesia Demand Driven Green Innovation Subprogram..so watch this space!

Andy finishing an assembling the parts.

Andy finishing and assembling the parts.