by Josh Arnold, Executive Director, GALA and Carol Holyoake
Behind most great ideas that successfully cross the bridge into reality is a great plan. A case in point was an idea 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 rural lives and foster fulfilling livelihoods?”
The “Maker Movement” Idea
This conversation prompted a closer look at the growing “maker movement,” which resembles the hands-on education and community building that GALA had been organizing for the last decade. Market research shows that makerspaces across the country are playing a meaningful role in workforce development, job creation, and career pathway support. And, just as importantly, the research shows that makerspaces can provide a place where lives are enriched through having friendly social connections that are essential for personal well-being and healthy, safe, and vital communities.
The inquiry birthed the idea of creating Carroll County’s first independent 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 would address four primary goals: 1) support regional economic development, 2) prepare people to thrive in a changing economy, 3) build social capital and sense of community, and 4) generate sustainable local solutions.
Idea into Reality
GALA set about applying and receiving grants, and along with an ambitious grassroots fundraising campaign, raised enough money to purchase outright the building at 23 Bay St, Wolfeboro, NH. Without delay, a public master planning process commenced with public visioning nights, hard hat tours of the building, and focus groups to better understand the ways this multi-use facility could serve real community needs.
But we Need a Plan
GALA needed support translating these community ideas into a business plan to determine and prioritize next steps. 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 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. ESC also conducted interviews with key stakeholders such as Lakes Region Technology Center, Wentworth Economic Development Council, and Lakes Region Community College to name just a few.
GALA and ESC Partner to Create a Strategic Business Plan
GALA’s strategic business plan explains market and community needs, 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 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.”
A full copy of GALA’s Strategic Business Plan 2019-2023, along with blog updates on the status of the GALA Community Makerspace, can be found online at galacommunity.org. 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.