3D printing and digital skills as solutions in the Arctic
Diverting waste-plastic to produce 3D printer-filament and enable local innovation reducing barriers facing under-served populations.
Pitch us on your solution
Indigenous communities often face the most significant barriers to participation in the digital economy and access to the digital and employment-related skills necessary to do so. Enabling Indigenous communities with access to relevant digital literacy and hands-on entrepreneurship opportunities supports people in determining their place in the digital-world.
We propose developing a pilot project out of our Makerspace in Iqaluit, Nunavut (Canada) where we will change a barrier (lack of any form of recycling) into an opportunity. We will develop a plastic recycling venture and related curriculum/learning resources following the Precious Plastic model to divert plastic waste from the landfill to be recycled for use in our 3D printing program and overall fabrication education efforts.
Our solution will positively change people’s lives by diverting waste and developing locally delivered curriculum that focuses on 3D printing and related digital skills in a framework of entrepreneurship.
Film your elevator pitch
What is the problem you are solving?
The communities our organization serves are the most remote in Canada. They face barriers to the development of digital skills, and as a result, opportunities for entrepreneurship and participation in the digital economy.
At the same time our home-base community, Iqaluit, Nunavut, has no local recycling capacity. All plastic waste goes to the dump where it is usually unintentionally burned when the dump catches fire.
Iqaluit has a population of 8,000 people but it is the capital city and often the innovation hub for 24 other isolated, Indigenous communities spread across Canada’s largest geographic area, Nunavut.
Nunavut residents have the highest school drop out and unemployment levels in Canada and face the biggest barriers to digital skills education.
Our solution proposes to:
Increase opportunities and support for under-served people by developing relevant curriculum and training modules to build skills;
Enhance access to digital skills and entrepreneurship opportunities;
Reduce waste, increase local capacity and connect to the digital skills economy;
Divert plastic waste from the dump;
Provide training on setting up a precious plastic recycling station out of an arctic shipping container;
Re-purpose plastic into 3D printer filament for use in our existing 3D printing program;
Sustain our 3D printing program.
Who are you serving?
Our organization serves remote, Indigenous communities across Canada but we focus most especially on Nunavut communities. Communities in Nunavut are predominantly Inuit (Indigenous population) at above 85% of residents. At the same time Nunavut communities are among the most affected by poverty, low educational attainment and isolation from the digital economy.
We work with communities to co-develop and deliver relevant technology education programming to enable the population to develop, apply and prosper from digital skills training, mentorship and employment.
Currently we are working to establish Makerspaces (digital skills education centres) in all 25 Nunavut communities. Our incubator site is located in Iqaluit - the capital city. We propose to base our proposed pilot project in Iqaluit where it can serve as a launch-pad for establishing similar programming and capacity in other Nunavut (as well as wider Indigenous) communities.
This solution serves the needs of the population by collaborating on design of curriculum and programming to ensure appropriateness, relevancy and community stakeholdership.
This solution reduces barriers to education, training and opportunity in digital skills and entrepreneurship. It builds local capacity by using our existing infrastructure, the community's existing resources (waste plastic) and provides training for sustainability and innovation.
What is your solution?
Our existing community infrastructure (Iqaluit Makerspace) is comprised of a physical site for hands-on and digital skill building programming. We have a fabrication education program that is underway that includes training on 3D modeling and 3D printing for projects that focus on community solution-seeking. Right now this includes activities such as replacement part fabrication, model building and general 3D printing. This is in addition to a wide range of other technology focused education and skills practice.
We offer training to local residents for free. We engage with communities to co-develop relevant curriculum.
Our Iqaluit Makerspace also functions as the incubator site for piloting the development of new programs that can be expanded and adapted for use in other communities.
We use open-source, free technologies that have low-dependency on broadband internet connectivity (because this is extremely limited in Nunavut). Programs we use include Blender, open-source 3D printing applications, graphicsgale and others . We have a small but expanding assortment of 3D printers, CNC machines, and other digital tools.
In the proposed pilot we will purchase a Precious Plastic starter kit for repurposing plastic waste, a shipping container and other equipment to divert plastic from the local landfill and produce 3D printer filament locally.
At the same time we will develop a parallel curriculum and learning resources to ensure uptake, sustainability and scalability to other local businesses and communities. Part of this process will be to disassemble the starter kit and develop training materials to produce a fully locally sourced/built plastic repurposing system for replicability at other community sites and in other remote Nunavut communities.
This pilot will promote local resident upskilling and training in the areas of recycling, digitally oriented production and manufacturing, 3D modelling, 3D printing and the locally-based knowledge to make the process sustainable.
As the program expands we will be able to sustain and further expand our digital fabrication capacity by developing and undertaking larger, more innovative 3D printing initiatives focused on local challenges like housing, storage, replacement part production, and entrepreneurship through the development of locally-relevant and/or globally focused production.
In addition to digital skills education and training, this project also addresses the local challenge of waste reduction and diverts waste for innovation, skill-building and economic development.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Iqaluit, NU, Canada
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our project doesn’t look away from challenges facing remote and Indigenous communities. We acknowledge well-known community needs - lack of digital access/skills in Indigenous communities.
Our proposed infrastructure and resources promote inclusion, participation and foster enablement over dependency.
We focus on including people who are traditionally excluded/under-served but whose resourcefulness and ingenuity have allowed them to thrive under the harshest environmental conditions on earth. Technological innovation and development of the digital-world overlooks the reality that many populations are left out and face substantial barriers. Canadians in remote communities still wait just for working cell service and Internet that functions enough to allow online-learning.
Meanwhile, the realities of a changing climate reach them first, bringing challenges they could better adapt to if enabled with access to digital skills and tools they could use to address them.
Our approach begins with local challenges (excess plastic waste, low digital skill development) and flips them into solutions and opportunities.
What already exists in Arctic communities is constant in-shipping of resources and products manufactured elsewhere for other purposes that end up in the dump.
Lets flip this dynamic by building 21st-Century digital-skillsets, taking waste-plastic and repurposing it for practical applications and reverse the flow of innovation,enabling Nunavut residents to participate in cutting-edge digital production and 3D-printing to solve local problems.
Pairing this project with our work opening permanent internet-connected digital-learning spaces in Nunavut communities - starting with our space in Iqaluit - results in barrier-free access-points to learning resources and capacities developed through this project.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our project is rooted in a theory-of-change beginning with learning-based activities leading to concrete outcomes/outputs.
Activities (workshops, train-the-trainer events, online/offline-courses, access to hardware/software, socially-engaged approach, grounding in local culture/priorities) lead to:
Short-term outcomes. Participants:
Access materials through local sites specializing in digital-skills;
Build/create products, applications, and/or other projects;
Have increased confidence interacting with/using technology/coding;
Have improved skills in coding/computational-thinking;
Local trainers increase leadership skills/share knowledge in their communities.
Mid-term outcomes - Participants:
Learn technical concepts/vocabulary in Indigenous languages;
Form part of professional-networks/create connections across the territory;
Have access to permanent infrastructure/dedicated support for learning;
Have access to mentorship/internship opportunities;
Build on their capacity/apply their skills in technology.
Pathways to continuing education/digital-skill development are reinforced;
Reduction of digital divide impacting remote, Indigenous peoples;
Increased agency and ownership in the use of technology as a tool for innovation;
Increase in quality of life outcomes through inclusion in the digital economy.
Participation - Participants are active/critical users of technology;
Creativity - Participants become innovators with and creators of technology
Evidence that supports our theory of change includes our track record:
We reach 20+ remote communities each year to deliver technology-focused training;
We are engaged in opening digital skills learning spaces in all 25 Nunavut communities - we have opened 3 spaces in the last year;
We have reached over 3000 participants this year;
80% of participants report increased confidence and interest in pursuing technology-focused learning/careers;
Participants in our programs have become our most valuable employees/released their own digital products/applications.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Currently our organization serves populations similar to the ones to be served with this pilot with initiatives in digital skills, technology learning and support for careers in technology.
At this time we serve approximately 8000 participants each year.
We train approximately 3000 teachers to incorporate digital skills and computational thinking in their instruction each year.
In one year we expect to serve:
Over 12,000 participants/year;
Over 5000 teachers/year;
Over 4000 participants/year at our Makerspaces as they open.
In 5 years we expect to annually serve:
25 communities with permanent digital learning spaces;
20,000 overall program participants;
10 recycled plastic 3D printing sites;
An expanding reach of people connected to the project initiative.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our goals are bold, innovative and address a serious need.
But our model isn’t meant to impact millions of lives.
Our philosophy/advocacy work addresses the notion that relatively small groups of people from remote Indigenous communities who have been left behind or even harmed by global development are just as important as the many millions who live in urban locations.
We want an inclusive digital-economy where everyone has the chance to participate in and propose solutions - so we must reach those communities and invite them to participate.
We must acknowledge the cost of reaching and enabling remote communities to participate is higher than in larger centres. Infrastructure is more costly in remote communities. Services are more expensive. Traveling in and out is challenging and more expensive than flying to almost anywhere on the planet.
Our goal in the next year is to support 5 more communities in establishing permanent infrastructure for digital skills learning, innovation and entrepreneurship. Our work developing curriculum, resources and delivering training supports the sustainability of these spaces.
In 5 years our goal is to open at least 20 more Makerspaces in Nunavut (+ others in communities outside Nunavut).
Piloting a program for digital fabrication and locally produced 3D printer filament in one of our spaces now allows us to reproduce the model in the new spaces we open.
As we gain experience/expertise scaling the model to new communities, we will be able to support the replication of the model in remote communities around the world.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The main barrier that we face in accomplishing our overall goals is to develop a recognition from stakeholders, potential supporters and funders that remote populations can no longer be excluded and that providing them the same level of opportunity and support as any other community is a necessity. In parallel to this barrier is advocating an understanding that the costs of providing equivalent opportunity is massively higher and fewer people are reached - but the goal is no less worthwhile.
Our projects require community collaboration and engagement. In the next year a barrier we face is finding local people to work with us as employees to engage with their communities and undertake the work of determining local priorities and designing the spaces to meet their needs.
In the next 5 years we face a dual barrier:
Investigating market opportunities on a community-by-community basis and engaging in that work;
Finding sustainable funding through partners that understand the need remote communities face while we work toward developing sustainability at the community level to develop independence.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
On an ongoing basis we seek funding and conduct advocacy work to highlight the needs, opportunities and benefits of supporting remote Indigenous communities. We put our money where our mouth is by co-designing programming, delivering it through a sustainable model in Canada’s most remote Arctic communities and tracking the results of that work.
In the next year we are leveraging our collaborative win of the $10 Million Smart Cities Canada award to engage in community consultation and co-design to open permanent digital skills learning spaces to build up community capacity and enable people with more opportunities. This investment allows us to attract and retain local residents as employees to ensure sustainable and community appropriate development. At the same time we are working to address barriers by looking for funding opportunities like the Digital Workforce Challenge to build our Makerspace capacity by piloting innovative initiatives that enhance the sustainability of our spaces through locally relevant programming such as what we propose here.
Over the next 5 years we will continue to leverage our $10 Million award to engage with communities and provide the start-up capital to open Makerspaces in 20 more Nunavut communities.
At the same time we are building a network of funding partners including the Canadian Government, Corporations and private foundations to collaborate with us and commit long-term investment to our projects.
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your current activities in those markets.
Elements of our solution may be being implemented in other primary markets such as the precious plastic systems based in shipping containers. However, we are not aware of anyone implementing the overarching solution that we have presented:
- Piloting a new plastic recycling to 3D printer filament production system;
- Tied to digital skills and entrepreneurship curriculum and program delivery;
- Promoting the sustainability of programming and outputs at our community Makerspaces;
- Resulting in community capacity building.
Select an option below:
How many people work on your solution team?
- 30-full time staff;
- 5 part-time staff;
- 15 contractors available;
- 15 dedicated volunteers.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
3 years working toward elements of our solution (Makerspaces)
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our team has 7+ years’ experience collaborating with Indigenous communities developing digital/online education projects and spaces. We have extensive, demonstrated success taking projects from concept to delivery.
Over 35 staff with specialized skills in:
Digital-focused fabrication (3D modeling/printing);
Education (curriculum development, resource creation, instruction);
Finance (accounting etc.).
In addition to designing and delivering digital skills and technological learning programs in remote communities, our organizational model focuses on capacity building by continued support for our program participants. We work to educate, provide mentorship and internship opportunities, hire and/or facilitate career networking and advocate for our participants.
A significant element contributing to our success and what makes us uniquely positioned to deliver this solution is that our employees live in the remote communities we collaborate with. We are on the ground in our communities advocating for, securing funding and doing the hands-on work to build relevant infrastructure to sustain our programs and solutions.
As a result we have had success opening community infrastructure to support the sustainability of our programming and the outcomes/outputs of our community Makerspaces.
Projects of similar scale:
Design, delivery of technology learning programming in 40+ Indigenous communities;
Opening/supporting community Makerspaces - Iqaluit, Lindsay, Pangnirtung;
Uqalimaarluk: Mobile app helping Inuit children learn to read/experience texts in their own language, reflecting their culture - Nunavut.
Singuistics: Innovative online language learning tool/music game. Co-developed with Inuit communities and Inuit artists - Nunavut.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We partner with a number of relevant organizations:
Nunavut Association of Municipalities: To collaborate on community development and capacity building;
Kattinganiq Makerspace Network: To advocate and promote the development of community Makerspaces across Nunavut;
Federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada: To deliver digital skills and tech-focused learning opportunities in remote Indigenous communities;
Digital Skills 4 Youth: To coordinate internship and employment opportunities for youth in digital skills focused careers;
Computers For Success Nunavut: To provide computers to under-served populations along with relevant training and development opportunities.
Embrace Life Council: To ensure all of our programs have a wellness focus so that participants are supported holistically as they develop both confidence and digital skills.
What is your business model?
Our not-for-profit business model is centred on supporting under-served communities to develop 21st Century skills to apply in a social enterprise model.
Our model works toward this by focusing on the following:
Mandate: Incorporating STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) into learning applications promoting digital literacy/growth with rural/remote communities.
We serve populations in remote Indigenous communities through programming and infrastructure to achieve impact by using open-source, freely replicable and scalable methods to enable people to build on their local strengths.
Our model starts and ends with community-level sustainability of growth by focusing on a cycle of key objectives.
Education: Community co-developed digital-literacy programs for traditionally excluded learners;
Resources: Community-led design and development of digital resources enabling access to benefits of technology/knowledge economy;
Mentorship: Supporting learning journeys through meaningful, relevant locally-based mentorship and internship opportunities;
Employment: Designing, delivering and collaborating on programs for meaningful work experiences/related digital skills leading to employment;
Production: Providing production space/support so people can take technology-focused ideas from planning to product;
Advocacy: Creation, promotion of supports empowering people to access digital technology/the digital economy.
We follow a process of seeking sustainable core funding that allows us to support communities in working toward local-level sustainability. This proposed pilot project is a tangible example of our impact model to build 21st Century skill development linked to sustainable local opportunities and fostering entrepreneurship.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Our organization has existed and successfully expanded sustainably for over 7 years. Our model has been focused on building partnerships with funders and collaborators. Our success in program development and delivery has enabled us to secure larger and more sustainable funding agreements and grants from Federal and local governments and other not-for-profits. This includes being tasked to deliver relevant government programs like the ones referenced earlier in our proposal.
Our success following this model has allowed us to extend our reach and become eligible for more substantial funding. An example of this was our being the major proponent in a project to build learning spaces recently awarded $10 Million (Smart Cities Canada).
Our sustainable growth has allowed us to build the capacity to invest our funding in sourcing and applying for grants like the Digital Workforce Challenge that allow us to build our network by adding sustainability to our spaces that supports skills development, innovation and capacity building.
As we do this work and expand our reach, we are working toward a model of long-term sustainability through multiple approaches:
Developing relationships and long-term funding arrangements with corporations and private foundations;
Establishing our own charity to intake and access more funding;
Building our network so that each of our spaces and organizational units are financially self-sustaining by leveraging local opportunities (such as renting space in our facilities, delivering services, etc.);
Adopting a social enterprise model to monetize and create meaningful employment through the capacity of our Makerspaces in remote communities.
Why are you applying to the Digital Workforce Challenge?
Being selected for this funding would directly help is expand our capacity to support under-served communities in developing relevant and applicable digital skills focused on local challenges and opportunities.
This funding would allow us to pilot the project, refine the process and then scale it for use in other communities.
Additionally this support would allow us to take advantage of the mentoring and work systems support provided with the funding to even further prepare our participants for meaningful digital-focused careers. Our organization would also find media opportunities to amplify our voice extremely valuable.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to partner with:
- Northern shipping companies (for transportation support and access to refurbishable shipping containers);
- 3D Printing technology companies (for capacity and training resource development);
- Local community governments (to coordinate addressing community needs);
- Precious Plastic (for support in applying their model and specializing it for our project).