Gaziantep is one of the biggest refugee-hosting provinces in Türkiye. Of Türkiye’s over 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection (SuTPs), Gaziantep is home to over 440,000 of them and hence making up to over 21% of the total provincial population. In this context, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened a fabrication lab – a space offering computer-controlled tools and digital skills training – in Gaziantep. Housed by Gaziantep university, the space is unique in that it is designed to empower youths in Gaziantep by providing education, community, workforce, and business programming that teaches innovation, design-thinking, problem-solving, and change-making, together with open and equitable access to 21st Century digital fabrication tools, equipment, and technology. Hence providing an avenue for young people to learn, invent, create, and make friends.
Many FabLab users would describe themselves as Makers. They participate in the ‘Maker Movement’ which extends the ‘do it yourself’ culture into creating new objects and re-purposing existing ones. Spaces for Makers vary in how they are run and the types of equipment they have. Some are more commercialized, aiming to help entrepreneurs make prototypes they can commercialize, others are a venue for hobbyist Makers to hang out. Techshops used to be the most advanced in terms of tech offered and were based on a membership model. They closed down in 2017 leaving the future of community-based digital fabrication in the hands of FabLabs and Makerspaces. The story of FabLab isn’t just about playing and learning. It is about the power of digital fabrication for innovation, entrepreneurship, learning for community impact, and solving global challenges.
On the 1st of February 2021, Fab-lab Gaziantep opened as Resilience Innovation Facility in Gaziantep. The Resilience Innovation Facility, implemented in cooperation with the University of Gaziantep and IOM Türkiye, provides a place to prototype, create, mentor, and invent a place for learning and innovation. The facility will protect and preserve space for the most vulnerable young people with varying educational levels to access courses, equipment, and mentoring opportunities. The facility in the University of Gaziantep will operate an open-door policy to offer digital, technology, and entrepreneurial skills training to university students and refugees or potential migrants who have had limited access to higher education and training opportunities. The facility will also serve as an information point about IOM services and assistance. Young people accessing IOM services will be offered the opportunity to undertake courses and activities in the space on a regular basis. University students will also use and access the space, many of whom are migrants and refugees. Target youth groups are Syrian refugees and Turkish host community members living in Gaziantep.
Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) offers a new way of engaging youth in meaningful training and access to job opportunities in the digital space and circular economy, also attractive both due to the flexible and creative format of the project and ways in which it will support skill development and network building. Despite the challenges young people face upon entering RIF with varying skills and capacities, this approach, while still in a pilot phase, may be more successful for several reasons:
- The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) focuses on cutting edge yet easily accessible digital technologies, and youth have higher levels of engagement with and interest in digital technologies compared to other demographic groups.
- The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) supports creativity in a flexible and adaptable manner, which is key for a group that has fluctuating interests, capacities, and needs.
- The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) allows youth to lead and more actively participate in the development and implementation of projects and generate tangible outputs and outcomes.
- The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) offers a safe space to youth; both stimulating learning opportunities and providing a supportive environment in which youth can build trust, share ideas and seek information and services in a space that ensures tolerance, gender equality, the realization of all rights and meaningful participation in social and economic life.
- Finally, The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) represents a new and unique program methodology that is built on community-driven, accessible, open, democratic approaches that promote participation and empowerment while paving the way for sustainable, durable solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in both a public health crisis and a humanitarian crisis, affecting the lives, health, and livelihoods of people around the world. With the impact on socio-economic conditions, vulnerable people, already affected by displacement and conflict, are at greater risk in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the disruption of daily routines and social isolation, the outbreak affects mental health and psychosocial well-being causing fear and anxiety among people about their own health and the health of their loved ones. The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused tremendous psychological problems in different subpopulations. Online mental health services have been constructed across different areas and, at current, constitute the predominant assistance measure. The Resilience Innovation Facility ( Fab-lab Gaziantep ) provides a unique opportunity to support youth to create an innovation platform for these services.