Behind most great ideas that successfully cross the bridge into reality is a great plan. A case in point is an idea or vision that emerged from the Global Awareness Local Action (GALA) board retreat in 2016 when the board asked, “How can we build upon our strengths and ten years of sustainable community building to address NH’s most pressing challenges while also fulfilling our mission to enrich local lives and livelihoods.
This conversation prompted a closer look at the growing “maker movement,” which resembles the hands-on education and community building that GALA has been organizing for the last decade, and appeared to be a solution to the board’s question. Market research shows that makerspaces could address the most pressing challenges NH is currently facing such as workforce development, job creation, and career pathway support. And, just as importantly, that they provide a place where lives and livelihoods are enriched through having friendly social connections and communication that is absolutely essential for personal well-being and healthy, safe, and vital communities.
The inquiry ultimately birthed the idea of creating Carroll County’s first Makerspace, a place where people come together to develop and share their gifts and skills in ways that build a culture of innovation, collaboration, and agency. The makerspace project will address four primary goals that build upon the organization’s ten-year track record of sustainable community building: support regional economic development, prepare people to thrive in a changing economy, build social capital and sense of community, and generate sustainable local solutions.
With that, GALA set about applying for grants that were subsequently awarded and along with an ambitious grassroots fundraising campaign, raised enough money to purchase outright the building at 23 Bay St, Wolfeboro. Without delay, a public master planning process commenced with public visioning nights, hard hat tours, and focus groups to better understand the ways this multi-use facility could serve real community needs.
In order to move the project forward, GALA then needed support with translating all of these community ideas into a business plan to determine and prioritize next steps. With this goal in mind, GALA reached out to the nonprofit, Empower Success Corps (ESC), to help assess the viability of the makerspace and map out goals and objectives for the project. ESC provides access to experienced, volunteer-consultants who help nonprofits build capacity and create impact in their communities all at an affordable fixed rate. ESC put together a team to conduct a feasibility study and develop a strategic business plan. The team, comprised of experts in finance, marketing, and business planning, compiled market research of other makerspaces across New England, as well as demographic trends, workforce and labor market stats, and interviews with key stakeholders such as Lakes Region Technology Center, Wentworth Economic Development Council, Lakes Region Community College to name just a few.
The recently completed Strategic Business Plan explains the need GALA is addressing with a makerspace, why GALA is best suited to undertake this challenge, the primary goals, how GALA will achieve those goals, and detailed financial projections showing what funds are needed to pull off this project and make it financially sustainable. It provides a roadmap to help navigate the growth, success, and sustainability of establishing the makerspace and its programs, services, and operations, for the period 2019 through 2023.
GALA’s Executive Director, Josh Arnold says, “Without this level of strategic planning, and in particular, the guidance from ESC, it would have been significantly more difficult and time-consuming to balance all the moving parts as successfully as we are now. We use the plan as our compass, relying on it to map out all the steps and resources we need not only for the makerspace building renovations but also for operations during this major undertaking.”
In a nutshell, the full project timeline outlined in the Strategic Plan, including renovations and corresponding organizational benchmarks, is as follows:
2019: Complete schematic design for renovation Phases 1 & 2, complete design development and construction documents for Phase 1, develop capital campaign strategy, and cultivate volunteer leadership on the board and committees.
2020: Bid and procure contractor, begin Phase 1 renovations, hire part-time staff to support fundraising, launch capital campaign silent phase, develop new website and marketing materials, and rollout pre-membership program.
2021: Accumulate tools and equipment, complete Phase 1 renovations, complete capital campaign silent phase and launch public phase, begin initial programming, and ramp up membership outreach.
2022: Conclude capital campaign, ramp up programs and services, including workforce training, build maker shops, and begin Phase 2 design development.
Understanding that a plan without action is only a dream, and one without resources a delusion, GALA is now actively recruiting volunteers to expand the capacity of its board, committees, and operations so that the evolving progress of the makerspace is set up to succeed and thrive. These teams of GALA volunteers get to have fun and give back as they put their skills and time towards the makerspace renovations, planning events and programs, supporting office administration and marketing projects, or for the organizationally minded, collaboratively sharing their experience to build a solid foundation of governance, board development, and volunteer coordination.
Volunteers interested in being part of the “let’s make a makerspace” team can reach out to the GALA office at 603-569-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.