Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is a community-based project to empower grassroots makers in resource-poor environments to: gather resources and tools; learn by doing and from others; produce more and better items; trade to generate steady income; and amplify their reputation as makers. Project co-leads are DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. Photographs © Julien Lanoo.


AMP has three components that function together as “spacecraft”: makerspace kiosk (modular construction system that is mobile and expandable, featuring prefabricated light-gauge steel semi-octet trusses that can be assembled, disassembled and reassembled as needed); maker toolkits (customizable per a given community’s requirements, to support what makers want to make); and mobile app (for Android, that amplifies makers’ capacity for making and trading through information-sharing).

“Makerspace” refers to any open community lab or workshop where people can access tools and equipment for (digital) design and fabrication; typically they are capital-intensive and housed in buildings that are fixed in place. Similar to other “crafts”, e.g. hovercraft, watercraft, aircraft and spacefaring vehicles, AMP spacecraft is an alternative architecture “for making” that affords maneuverability. Small-scale, incremental and low-cost, spacecraft operate as a set of tools and equipment to “craft space” in different ways, enabling makers with limited means to navigate and terraform their environment.



 

A first prototype AMP spacecraft is installed at Agbogbloshie scrapyard in Accra, Ghana. Similar to spaces found worldwide, this 20-acre site: (a) hosts informal sector scrap and recycling activities across a range of scrap types, from aeronautical, automotive, waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste or e-scrap), domestic and household waste to glass, metal, and plastics; and (b) concentrates urban complexity—a contested site in central Accra’s rising real estate market, under global scrutiny for pollution and environmental damage from scrapyard activities.

  

Urban development in developing world contexts often leads to displacement of vulnerable communities, with little consideration given toward their economic survival. In response, the AMP project seeks to seed a more inclusive form of urban innovation by pursuing three objectives:
 

  1. Demonstrate “stellate design” in action—a five-fold participatory design process developed by project co-leads to: define an action-oriented (SET) of Social, Ecological and Technological frames of reference (ANAM sustainability model, Chife Foundation, 2010); explore environment to collect new data by sensing and scanning spaces; map data captures to reveal patterns and possibilities; codesign parametric design concepts with stakeholders; and prototype with stakeholders to test through making.

  2. Build and test a “STEAM-powered” engine for “interclass innovation”—partnering with universities, student groups, social enterprises, community-based organizations and government agencies to link members of the informal sector scrap dealer community with student and young professionals in STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to co-create technology through hands-on maker workshops.

  3. Promote interdisciplinary approaches to public interest design—encouraging an experimental discourse and practice of public interest design that operates integratively across the design disciplines, in the context of urban Africa and beyond.