Collaboratory consists of a global network, events, labs and for a few years, a local game innovation makerspace at Lindholmen in Gothenburg Sweden. In recent years many think tanks, incubators and co-working spaces have been in the making in Sweden, and I met many filmmakers, game designers and other artists who were in need of meeting spaces. I wanted to take it a step further and focus on doing not just thinking, providing lab and make areas, mixing ages and disciplines, building a diverse designer collective and be accessible to people outside of the societal security systems. Many individuals, especially entrepreneurs, are excluded from the security and social support systems in our society, non-mainstream culture is not valued, the educational system is outdated, many game- and filmmakers are working in unhealthy conditions, artists are expected to work unpaid, and open innovation and collaboration between different organisations is highly problematic. The Collaboratory-model is a way to discuss and solve those issues, to dare to test new ideas and to fail, to stop categorising people and to empower by open DIY, maker, diverse, empathic and inclusive design mindsets. And play and have fun, while weaving awesome storyworlds in thought provoking ways.
When starting the space I used open design methods where the users are included early in the development through open design meetings and my playcentric framework, welcoming anyone to take part. Collaboratory was founded with no funds at all, with no support from the city, region, science parks or like. Labs similar to this are usually closed structures with very limited availability, funded and run by universities or tax-funded culture houses and like, and co-working spaces are too expensive for many individuals or smaller companies. Collaboratory Gothenburg provided an accessible, open lab and workplace where user fees were low and with non-monetary capital as option, to not exclude people. This meant we needed to find other ways to pay the rent and other costs. A model like this depends on state funds, partnerships or sponsors to be able to be open for all. It also depends on social capital, networks and a motivated community. A few people got very engaged and we basically started building the space with our own hands, in collaboration with the film studio we were located in. We got old computers and furniture from a few companies and schools nearby who were throwing it away, and we shared our own machines and other materials in the space.
Users of Collaboratory got access to a big transdisciplinary and crossgenerational network of awesome people, support with their business, research and studies, job and internship opportunities, 500 square meters of exhibition and working space, including workshops for fine and heavy productions and prototyping, like 3D printer, soldering stations, wood workshop, knitting machines, transformable hangout areas that could be adapted to various events, exhibitions and workshops, screenings and playtesting, game jams and more. It was up to users to get engaged in activities and they could host their own events. People had the freedom to create almost anything in there, it was a safe environment for experimentation within a supporting community.
In addition we quickly noticed that as an effect of Collaboratory’s open design we actually helped solving Gothenburg’s two biggest issues; unemployment and segregation. Collaboratory provided the community with many paid jobs, brought game and maker culture to thousands of people and organisations during our events, talks and guided tours, supported indies, start-ups, refugees, unemployed and people on sick-leave, and contributed to new career titles like makerspace facilitator and digital scenographer. I cancelled the rent contract mid 2015, due to lack of funding mainly, and the Science Park across the street opposing us and then taking over the space. Our rent was low compared to the newer buildings in the area, and for 3 years the city/region turned down our funding applications, while giving the science park 30 million to set up just one of the parts we already built. As Gothenburg lacks a collaborative mindset and has a very small game industry, I saw no point in continuing the work there as it would be more useful to share the many lessons learned in other settings with better innovation climate. I left Gothenburg and as of autumn 2017 the local community, after continuing to push the city to open up similar spaces, still has not gained any support from the city or region. However the communities are growing bigger and they will make change happen so the future looks exciting.
Check the local site for details of how Collaboratory Gothenburg worked and what activities we curated www.collaboratory.se