Introduction: How to Align Your Fab Lab / Makerspace With the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

About: Management consultant in ICT for Sustainable Development Goals; specialist in gaming/simulation, digital making, e-learning.

This instructable helps staff and volunteers of fab labs / makerspaces / innovation centers to align their organizations with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With some changes it could be applied to any community organization.

  • The instructable is a spin-off of the Workshop: Fab Labs and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); FAB14 – 14th Annual International Fab Lab Conference Toulouse, France, 16-22 July 2018.
  • Authors: Pieter van der Hijden (The Netherlands & Suriname) plus global team: Enrico Bassi (Italy), Vaneza Caycho Ñuflo (Peru), Neville Govender (South Africa), Arundhati Jadhav (India), Yogesh Kulkarni (India), Noksy Letsoalo (South Africa), Jean-Baptiste Natali (New Zealand), Wendy Neale (New Zealand).

Where to find?

Fab labs?

    • Fab labs and makerspaces are places with computers, software, tools, digital fabricating machines and all kinds of materials where the general public, youngsters, students, hobbyists, inventors and technopreneurs can make (almost) anything. You find them all over the world. The Fab Lab (FABrication LABoratory) concept was developed by Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Fab Foundation supports the global fab community, a.k.a. the Fab Lab Network.


    • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in fact a social economic agenda for all countries for 2016-2030. See also the United Nations website on Sustainable Development Goals; versions in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish; further countries have dedicated websites on SDGs in other languages.

    Why does it make sense to align your fab labs activities with of SDGs?

    • To clarify to yourself, to your peer labs and to the outside world your "SDG-profile" and thus the interest, expertise and potential social impact of your lab;
    • To focus your activities on making a useful contribution to achieving some SDGs;
    • To reveal hitherto unknown options for cooperation and exchange between fab labs by having an insight in the "SDG-profiles" of all fab labs;
    • To expose to the world the potential of the fab lab network, its coverage of topics and its presence on the ground in almost every country.

    Why a workshop?

    • A fab lab manager could prepare her fab labs SDG Profile on her own. However, that would be a missed opportunity to bring staff and volunteers together to talk and share, not about their daily affairs but about their ultimate social impact. In a single session of 2-4 hours you can involve staff and volunteers in the process. You give them information and you receive valuable inputs from their daily operations. Together you forge the profile that best fits your lab.

    Step 1: Prepare Your Workshop

    Purpose of the workshop

    The purpose of the workshop is to help fab labs / makerspaces / innovation centers to align their organizations with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With some changes it could be applied to any community organization.

    Intended participants

    The intended participants of the workshop are staff, volunteers, management and board members of a fab lab / makerspace.


    • Origin of participants - The participants come from the same fab lab and work on a shared vsion on their fab lab and the SDGs . If they come from different labs, let them focus on what their labs have in common. Encourage them to re-run the workshop later in their own fab lab.
    • Number of participants - The optimal number is a small group of 5-7 participants. If there are more (up to 35), work with subgroups of up to seven members. Give each subgroup its own co-facilitator. Let the subgroups work in parallel with now and then a short moment of exchanging / merging results and observations.
    • Focus - The focus of the workshop is "outbound", i.e. the impact of the fab lab on the general public, the fab lab visitors and eventual clients. Bycatch of the discussion could be an "inbound" review of the SDGs leading to conclusions and possible actions for the fab lab's inside world, a.o. internal gender equality, internal waste handling.
    • Length of time - Preparation time for new facilitators: 2 hours, set-up time 15 minutes, run-time 4 hours. A condensed session of 2 hours is possible, but not recommended. See the table.


    You need one facilitator and in case you work with subgroups (max. 7 participants each) a co-facilitator for each of the subgroups.


    Accomodation, tools and supplies

    Accomodation - A quiet room, table and chairs. In case you work with subgroups: additional table plus chairs for each of the subgroups, the whole in cabaret setting.

    Tools - Laptop with internet plus projector; Loaded on laptop: Presentation: Fab Labs and Sustainable Development Goals; download from

    Ready on each subgroup table:

      • SDG card deck printed on business cards (85*55 mm),; options:
        • print on plain A4 paper and cut the "cards"manually (recommended)
        • print on business cards (clumsy and expensive)
      • Overview of SDGs and underlying targets (1+17 pages, each participant should have easy access); Options:


      Ready on each subgroup table:

      • SDG Plan Board form (2 A4 preferably pasted together along the long side); download from
      • Adhesive tape, Markers, Pencils
      • Post-it stickers
      • Attendance list
      • Evaluation forms (empty sheet of paper, A5 or A6)
      • Optional: for each participant empty name badge / stickers

      Step 2: Run Your Workshop

      Note: the Presentation: Fab Labs and Sustainable Development Goals contains slides for each step of the workshop. They describe the substeps from participant's perspective; see

      The workshops consists of six workshop steps:

      1. Welcome and personal introduction

        The goal of this step is to welcome the participants and explain what we are going to do.
        Subgroups - If the number of participants is greater than 7, subgroups will be created.

      2. Explore the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

        The goal of this step is to get acquainted with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and to mobilize the already existing knowledge and experience in this area.
        Subgroups - Whether there are subgroups or not, this step is a plenary activity.

      3. Determine the SDG Profile for your fab lab

        The aim of this step is to determine which 2-4 SDGs best suit the external orientation of the fab lab. We call this the SDG Profile of the fab lab.
        Subgroups - If there are subgroups, the groups work separately from each other on the same substeps. The last substep, however, takes place in plenary. The subgroups then present their results and merge them into one SDG Profile.

      4. Plan a better match with your SDG Profile

        The purpose of this step is to check (for the SDGs from the SDG Profile) what the official underlying "targets" are and determine how the fab lab could fit in with its activities.
        Subgroups - If there are subgroups, the facilitator can distribute the SDGs from the SDG Profile across the different subgroups. The subgroups can then work separately from each other. During the last substep, the subgroups plenarily present their findings and merge them into one consistent set of adjustments to the Fab Lab's activity program.

      5. Identify new opportunities for the Fab Lab Network

        The purpose of this step is to indicate what added value the fab lab can have for the Fab Lab Network (based on its SDG Profile); and vice-versa.
        Subgroups - Whether there are subgroups or not, this step can be plenary.

      6. Evaluation and follow-up

        The goal of this step is to make arrangements for the follow-up and evaluation of the meeting.
        Subgroups - Whether there are subgroups or not, this step can be plenary.

      For full details, please refer to the Fab Lab Manager Manual:

      Step 3: Consolidate Your Results

      Submit your fab lab's SDG Profile to

      The fab lab manager can add the SDG Profile to the overview of all fab labs on For the time being, this will be done via a separate form and later, if the relevant software has been adapted, directly into
      The Working Group "Fab Labs and Sustainable Development Goals" receives the completed forms and records the data in a temporary database. You can find the empty form on and you can complete and submit it online.

      Search for matches on

      When most of the fab labs have created and published their SDG Profile, you can filter the list of fab labs for the presence or absence of certain SDGs in the fab lab SDG Profiles. In this way it is possible to identify the fab labs with exactly the same SDG Profile as yours (your sister fab labs!).

      Contact your peers and cooperate!

      It can be very rewarding to make contact and get to know more about fab labs that have the same SDG Profile as your own fab lab. There is a lot of usable information, knowledge and experience to exchange. New relationships offer opportunities for all kinds of cooperation, including common presentation to the outside world and common projects.