Three Civic Innovation Spaces to Watch

| MSNY Staff

Zach Smith and Bre Pettis with the Cupcake CNC machine, one of many open-source inventions created at NYC Resistor. Source:

Increasingly, innovation in New York – and around the world – is being dispersed among what Pete Engiardo has called “living, breathing communities.” Keep an eye out for the next big ideas to come from these community spaces:

1) Maker Space: About 200 of these shared working spaces have already cropped up around the country, including in longtime maker hotbeds such as Brooklyn. Artisans, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs are enabled not only to make new things but also to think and interact in new ways. In the spirit of making here at Microsoft, last year we opened our own maker space, The Garage, at our worldwide headquarters. The Garage provides the space, tools, and freedom for Microsoft hardware hackers to innovate. Outside our walls, we’re excited about the potential of longtime maker spaces such as NYU’s ITP, as well as newer ones such as the NYC Economic Development Corporation-supported Staten Island MakerSpace and the Columbia University Maker Space.

2) Hackathon: In a single moment of creativity, collaboration, and wide-ranging perspective, a solution can be born. The hackathon has risen out of this belief and is quickly becoming more than an activity or a competition; it represents a 21st century approach to problem-solving that is increasingly embraced by government, the private sector, non-profits, and society at large. Moreover, these conveners are realizing the potential impact of tying hackathons together with broad “North Stars” – guiding principles and audacious goals – for enhanced impact.

3) Classroom: While the present of civic innovation can be found at hackathons and in maker spaces, its future is being shaped in classrooms. It is essential that we equip the entirety of a diverse student body – both male and female – with the resources and supportive environment necessary for them to develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. From littleBits to GoldieBlox to the Xbox Kinect, we can’t wait to help a new generation of ideas hatch.

While each of these spaces is unique, they all have in common a spirit of collaboration among diverse individuals and across seemingly disparate sectors of society that increasingly represent a microcosm of the cities in which they are located. With the help of innovation safe harbors, ideas for a better future can be generated by every one of us. Combined with the technological tools necessary, we can empower every student and every adult with the ability to reach their full potential at hackathons, in maker spaces, in classrooms, and beyond.

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