Maker Spaces in Egypt

Empowering Technological Innovation Through

Maker Spaces in Egypt

Bilal Ghalib

July 2011

Maker Spaces in the MENA Region

Empowering Technological Innovation through

maker spaces in the MENA Region


In attempting to assist the development of a stable economy and democratic society the focus should be on developing the next generation of technological innovators and entrepreneurship. Millions of youth fueled the 2011 Arab Spring, which rose from the grassroots level and shook the world, and this same population can continue to enact change for a more stable economy.

To tackle this challenge, we recruit technologically savvy young ambassadors from Egypt and integrate them into the global maker space movement. Maker spaces exist globally as physical cooperatives of democratically organized inventors. As community supported workshops they are an ideal way to encourage innovation, collaboration and the entrepreneurial attitude. Exposing the Egyptian ambassadors to this global movement allows them to adapt it into their own cultural framework. This is essential to the program’s success as change must come from within the Egyptians themselves. The future of Egypt lies undetermined; this program will expose passionate Egyptians to ideas that can help them form an empowered and aware country, an asset to themselves and the entire world.

Statement of Need:

To galvanize the entrepreneurial spirit we must empower individuals, and provide them access to tools, services, and like-minded individuals. In the United States and Europe we see this happening in facilities called maker spaces -- action oriented community workshops filled with diverse skill sets, tools, and a community of supportive makers. The purpose of this document is gauge interest by USAID in fostering similar spaces in the MENA region, beginning with a pilot in Cairo, to increase entrepreneurial activity, knowledge sharing, and educational quality.

In this short proposal, I hope to shed some light on the maker concept and investigate the opportunity to bolster the grassroots efforts to start maker spaces throughout the MENA region, beginning with the Egyptian Maker Community Connection Project (EMCCP) pilot program in Egypt. The EMCCP project proposes to:

Project Design:


Detailed Summary

The Survey:

This survey will be conducted in Arabic and English and will include video taped interviews with interested parties in Egypt including the areas of Alexandria and Cairo. I propose a three week survey starting in October 3 2011. I have chosen this date to coincide with the Maker Faire Africa ( as it will be held in Cairo and will be ideal for developing my local maker network. I will investigate the possibilities of both community supported Maker Spaces as well as commercial spaces and university supported spaces. The data and media collected will be broadcast over social media, through partnerships with maker media outlets and will also be collected into a website and publication.

The Summit:

The support structures for Maker Spaces are currently under development in the United States. A leading 501c3 organization on that front is the Milwaukee based organization The Space Federation.  They offer consulting services for budding Maker Spaces and are currently developing a community derived booklet of best practices to help those interested in starting a space.  The Space Federation also provides a networking framework for interested parties to continue to collaborate on developing and growing their spaces.

In Januray 2012 The School Factory[1] will be hosting a maker space summit in Milwaukee. This event will bring together leading figures in the community to discuss their successes and failures when it comes to building and sustaining a maker space. After accepting applicants and picking 6 candidates from the pool it is proposed to fly the party from Egypt to attend the maker space conference in Milwaukee.

The Maker Exchange Week:

Each ambassador shall be assigned to a maker space in the United States for a week. Their tasks are to study the dynamic of the space, network with the members, and continually blog / tweet about their experiences. They will be reunited for one last day to exchange what they have experienced and discuss the potential for collaboration and development upon returning to Egypt.





Flight for surveyor

Average flight to cairo


Flight for crew member


Accommodations for crew

Hotels for 3 weeks



Taxi, bus fare


Film and production

Camera, tripod, microphone rental



Film editing and publishing


Analysis and data generation

Analysis of survey, chart generation, mapping







Publicity and promotions:


Website to take applicants, present findings and to serve as a hub for the project


Commissioned writing

Blogger and twitter writer paid to take gathered materials from researchers and ambassedors and update relevent feeds


Promotional Materials

Flyers, business cards, banners





Maker Space Summit

Flights for six people

Average round trip flight for six people from Cairo



Hotels for 6 people for a weekend







Maker Exchange Program

Flights for six people

Local flights for 6 people between Milwalkee and their maker exchange location



Lodging for 6 people for a week








Aggregate total:




Maker Spaces

The maker space concept is simple and as such it can take many forms. Give people tools, space and community and you get a flourishing of new ideas, creation and action based learning. These are empowering spaces within which individuals use the space, tools the community to build things they are passionate about.  Makerbot -- a 3D printer from the New York hacker space[2], and always results in learning and personal growth. These spaces in the United States often are membership driven, yet are also open to the public. Maker spaces will have regular classes that range from programming, cross-stitching and backyard welding taught by people who enjoy sharing.

These spaces serve as local repositories of science, technology, engineering, math, and arts. They engage their local communities in relentless passion-based teaching and practical workshop events. Maker spaces exist as an embodiment of the human exploratory and entrepreneurial spirit and enshrine curiosity and learning as core values. Above all, maker spaces and the maker movement empower their participants in new ways. Makers are already breaking down the barriers between traditional entrepreneurship, manufacturing, education, technological innovation, and community service.

Important to a maker space is the documentation and sharing of projects and open source practices. Many spaces have weekly “show and tells” to facilitate this amongst their community, and often post online in a blog or through twitter[3] to share with the global maker space community. Today, cross maker space collaboration is really taking off as can be seen in the Space program of the Hacker Scene which is a call to develop satellite communication systems collaboratively developed in response to the end of the NASA Space Shuttle Program.

Over the last few years global maker spaces have grown exponentially, going from about 50 in 2009 to nearly 1000 in 2011[4]. This trend is continuing to the betterment of the people and their societies through engaging people with technology and community and yet is nearly absent from the MENA region.

Figure 1 - Taken from


Bilal Ghalib – A robotics engineer with experience founding Maker Spaces by helping start the Maker Space in Ann Arbor,  MI called All Hand Active. In 2009 Bilal conducted a video review of more than 50 spaces through the Two Hands Project gaining a broader perspective of the diversity of spaces and their methodologies. A fluent Arabic speaker he has cultural ties to the region and has travelled extensively in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

The School Factory – provides financial and organizational support to open communities in shared physical spaces who use innovative methods and technology in hands-on education. 


By exposing a group of Egyptians on the methodologies of developing and sustaining a community-supported workshop we are expanding a very powerful global idea. The project I have suggested not only supports individuals but individuals who support other individuals. This approach leverages a low cost one-to-many approach has the ability to affect thousands judging from the massive growth in the number the global hacker spaces. Sadly this growth is not happening in the MENA region and the time is ripe. I plan to facilitate the discourse of the grass-roots Middle Eastern maker space, to prove it can be done by bringing those best suited to developing this idea into exposure with those who have already started a maker space. This will unite the individual makers in Egypt with a global community of collaborators and spur them to create their own spaces of empowerment.

The people of MENA have demonstrated that they have the ideas, skills, and tools to build a political future they want to see. Introducing the maker space idea will contribute to the flourishing of self-sustaining environments that encourages creation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

July 2011
Bilal Ghalib

478 227 2253

[1] The School Factory is a The School Factory is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2002.  The School factory helps to create environments and experiences that support the growth of value-creating communities

[2] Hacker spaces are a synonym for maker spaces that many spaces use and is a good way to discover more information online.

[3] For a twitter list of 111 spaces check:!/HSNOTTS/hacker-maker-spaces 

[4] For a large list of spaces you may check this site: