Maker Cities + National Day of Civic Hacking!

What happens when makers take their ingenuity to the public square? Makers across the country are coming together with tools, skills, and time to collaborate toward building a better city for the future – a maker city!

For the second year in a row, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) is partnering with the National Day of Civic Hacking to help citizens make the future of their communities, states, and nation.

Join citizens from around the country—online and in-person—to ideate, play, and prototype the future of your city.

During the National Day of Civic Hacking, IFTF’s game can help you participate in 3 different ways:

  1. Add an idea. If you have a great idea about how civic hacking can make your city a better place, add your idea to the game, and share it on Facebook or Twitter to get feedback and collaboration from others.

  1. Bring the game to your event. If you’re hosting a hackathon, freespace, or block party, enter your collected ideas into the game; have a discussion about the power of civic hacking to improve your city, and share the results in the game!

  2. Reflect on NDCH. Finally, after National Day of Civic Hacking, share your thoughts and learnings on the platform: what new ideas emerged from your gathering? Use the opportunity to express your thoughts on networking the data sets to create something larger. Share your thoughts on what National Day of Civic Hacking might look like if it were held in 2024?

Maker Cities at Burning Man Global Leadership Conference

On Sunday, April 6th, Alex and Rebecca spoke at Burning Man’s Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco in front of a crowd of 30 attendees.  During the session, the team gave a presentation exploring the converging forces that are empowering the makers to create and improve the cities in which they live.  After the presentation, attendees took an hour to draw out how their own cities can be improved through empowering makers through a fun visioning exercise.

The presentation focused on bringing makers into the design process of cities through building platforms, coordination tools, and as a format for play.  In terms of platforms, makers are building vital infrastructure for their cities already– is a home-hacked arduino project designed to measure sewage levels in New York City and alert residents not to flush to prevent overflow into public waterways; Air Quality Egg is a Kickstarter-backed project to install air quality sensors around the world, with dozens in New York City alone.

Meanwhile, coordination tools like GoodGym enable citizens to make better use of their time- by leveraging their own skills to provide assistance to the elderly as they take runs.  In Maker Cities, every action and interaction is an opportunity to generate new value and build new relationships.

Finally, Alex and Rebecca spoke on how Maker Cities are full of opportunities to leverage play as a way to get things done.  In Detroit, Jerry Paffendorf’s Inch by Inch project first enabled anybody to buy tiny plots of land throughout the city; later, the software was built up to enable blight mapping and other valuable social tools.

Participants break out into prototyping groups. 

After the presentation, the 30 or so attendees moved into little groups to prototype their own Maker Cities, and then came together to present their work to the group.  We’ve since archived their ideas in the Maker Cities platform; check out their top ideas below!

  1. The Freed Up concept explores how volunteers can leverage underutilized spaces to create value for their community

  2. Xperience points out the value in hackerspaces that intentionally bridge groups that usually work in isolation (like hardware hackers and biotech)

  3. Neighborhood Bike Racks finds an opportunity for makers to engineer new hybrid public-private spaces for bike storage at the street level.

  4. One Road looks at alternative models for city design using a single road.

  5. Figment takes Burning Man-style art and brings it into youth-appropriate, radically accessible spaces and events to encourage playfulness and creativity.

  6. Vacant Buildings points out that the best use of vacant buildings is to open them up to artists and communities to illustrate to potential renters that the spaces are valuable.

  7. Automated Personal Public Transportation finds new opportunities for makers to design last-mile vehicle solutions.

Each participant also drafted a sketch of their idea- you can view their sketches by clicking on the links above.

Future Events: Maker Cities will be at the Foundry on April 16th from 5PM – 9PM to discuss and celebrate urban innovation and the Maker Movement in cooperation with Global Lives Project.  The event will feature a panel and happy hour; attendance is free with advance RSVP HERE.


Urban Acupuncturists: Mexico City Maker Field Report #1

From March 19-20, IFTF’s Technology Horizons program traveled to Mexico City to explore its emerging maker culture, community, and movement. It was an awe-inspiring journey, and was only the first of three immersions that IFTF will be hosting over the next few months (next up Shenzhen, China). The two days were jam-packed with hands-on experiences and stimulating conversations that we will post to this site in an upcoming series.

Future Maker Job Titles
To begin, we’ll share some future maker job titles that we brainstormed with our team in a session held at the end of our journey. Many of these were fanciful, or intentionally provocative, but they capture some of the sensibilities of transformation that we were seeing in our exuberant travels.

  • Rainwater technician
  • Urban acupuncturist (thanks to ENOVA México for teaching us about Urban Acupuncture!)
  • Community resource procurer
  • Re-use engineer
  • Urban conquistadora
  • Hack community manager
  • Wearables composer
  • Maker liaison officer
  • Corporate disorganizer
  • Activist architect
  • Compost whisperer
  • Eco-hacker
  • Space explorer
  • Brain enhancer
  • Urban gardener
  • Learning coach
  • Technical access coordinator
  • Community association augmenter
  • Wearables fashion designer
  • Resilience manager
  • Maker barrista/bartender
  • Challenge maker

Trip Experiences

Here is a partial list of the amazing people we met and places we experienced
At CENTRO, a design school, we saw first-hand a powerful vision that leaders from academia and policy have for the future of makers in Mexico. Our panel of visionaries included representatives from CENTRO, Laboratorio para la Ciudad, the city’s office of innovation, and the President’s office of innovation.

Huerto Roma Verde’s recycling bike team collects recyclables from people around the neighborhood HUB DF introduced us to the world of social entrepreneurship, with presentations from some of the people and projects that are blossoming out of this co-working community.

As if on command, rain started pouring down just in time for our session on water issues and projects that are harnessing and capturing the power of rain with Casa del Agua and Isla Urbana.

At Huerto Roma Verde, a group of organizations focused on developing and implementing urban permaculture and community development projects in Mexico City, we were given a tour of the garden, bread baking oven, bicycle system, water catchment system, and future crafts area.

Our experience was topped off with a “Meet the Makers” breakfast with 14 makers from throughout Mexico City, who shared their projects and visions for the future of the city.
- See more HERE:

#Megacities: How can makers improve rapidly growing cities?

Imagine if 25% more people moved to your city in the coming decade.  Suddenly, your public transit system is a bit flooded, your roads are crowded, and your housing market has way too much demand relative to supply.  This is the reality of many of the world’s largest cities- Bangkok, Beijing, Lagos, Shenzhen, and Jakarta all grew more than 25% from 2000 to 2010 alone, expanding vertically and horizontally to make room for new inhabitants.

As a maker in a rapidly growing megacity, how could you help build and design systems to improve life from the ground up?  What are some innovative strategies for making better use of space, or some wondrous solutions?  For example, the highline park in New York City repurposed an old elevated freight rail line and turned it into a 1.45 mile long walking trail; the lowline park in New York is a similar proposed project, for the world’s first underground park.

The world’s fastest growing cities need #makers to help improve quality of life!

Making a rapidly growing city liveable, human-feeling, and a desirable place to live is a real challenge.  Favorite places will become busier.  While this presents a real challenge, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to rethink how your city works, to make proposals for big changes and fascinating new projects.  Help us envision the role of makers in the world’s megacities, in this week’s #megacities challenge.

Play the game and take a crack at answering:

  • How can makers make more effective use of public spaces in megacities?
  • What cool apps or city services can makers create to help people navigate life in megacities?
  • How can makers share their values in new ways to create more livable megacities?

How can #makers create more livable #megacities? #makercities

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Maker Learning is about Discovering

Imagine your city is a classroom in 2025. What will that look like?

  • Like Lenore Edman, we will learn by doing–over and over.
  • Like Preetha Ram, we will seek to make learning more meaningful by making it engaging and social.
  • Like Marc Roth, we will create new learning experiences that can create new opportunities for all.
  • Like Nikhil Goyal, we will know that learning can happen with a little initiative and just a few minutes.

How will your city be a classroom in 2025? What technologies, communities, and resources could come together to create a meaningful learning experience? What can you do to make this future happen? How can learners make a Maker City–a city where citizens have a voice and act on their ideas?

Login to and share your idea for learning in a Maker City! Be sure to write “maker learning” in the description so others can search for your idea.

Maker Learning: Imagine Your City as a Classroom in 2025

Learning is moving beyond classrooms into makerspaces, interactive museums, community labs, and–with smartphones–increasingly in the hands of students. Learners of all types and ages are connecting with these resources to direct their own paths and teach others. How will we learn in the future?

Your challenge: Imagine your city as a classroom in 2025. What would you learn? Who would you teach? Where would you create new spaces for learning? How would you connect with others around you to create learning experiences?

In 2025, cities will be classrooms without walls. How will you make this future? Play the #makercities game!

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Now through March 14, we invite you to join the Maker Cities community and submit your ideas in the game.

  • Be sure to include the words “maker learning” somewhere in your idea so other players can find it and support your idea.
  • Don’t forget to explore other ideas and provide feedback. Once an idea gets enough support in the refine stage, it moves on the final make stage, in which all players are invited to create prototypes–from hand-drawn diagrams to interface mockups!

How to win

On March 14, we’ll choose a winner and top 5 ideas. We’ll announce winners on this blog and on Institute for the Future’s Facebook page and Twitter (@iftf).

Start today! Sign up at and make the future of your city!

Need inspiration?

Check out these resources on the future of learning from Institute for the Future:

IFTF Future of Learning

About the game

Maker Cities is a massively multiplayer game that empowers you, the players, to imagine and make the future of your city. In the game, you submit your ideas about how the maker movement might impact society at large in the near future: how we learn, govern, eat and live.


Top 3 Ideas from the Past 2 Weeks

Maker Cities, our massively multiplayer game for prototyping the future of cities, has wrapped up our first major challenge.  We have more scheduled and just around the corner, but in the meanwhile, players have been hard at work creatively ideating without constraints.  Here are some of our favorite ideas from the past couple weeks.

  1. INTERACTIVE ADVERTIZING: What if your city could customize its public place ads (like bus stops or billboards) just for you?  As a paid service, you could access new information and take classes on the go.  All public ad spaces could become impromptu classrooms, or at the very least, you could get tailored ads related to your personal needs.

  2. COLLABORATIVE CORRIDOR: The poorest regions of South Africa are often those where work is farthest away; women wake up at 4 AM and return home after dark, often spending up to $5 of their $10 daily earning just on transport.  Introducing WiFi hotspots into these communities would enable them to create their own networks, and generate new business and community improvement opportunities using their 94% cell phone penetration rate.  ’Smart cities’ are a widely addressed topic in the developed world.  But as much of Africa, India, and other places leapfrogged straight from no phones to cell phones (skipping landlines), could there be a ‘leapfrogging’ potential for jumping from little civic infrastructure to a ‘smart city’ as well?

  3. OPT-IN OPT-OUT MICROVOTING: What if you could vote only the issues that mattered to you?  What if the weight of your vote changed depending on the issues you cared about, and the use of smart technology made it possible to track your interests in ways never before possible?

Which idea do you like best?  What challenges might keep these futures from coming true?  Click on the link to your favorite to provide your feedback in Maker Cities!

Stay tuned for the winners!

Winners of Maker Cities: SynchroniCity: The 5 Top Ideas!

Well, the first Maker Cities challenge is officially over.  It’s time to recap the top ideas and imagine a world in which they all happen.

  1. COLLECTIVE MOODS: Player Alina combines the power of sensors, personal tech, and social networks to imagine a SynchroniCity in which neighborhoods can react to the collective ‘mood’ of everybody who lives there by spontaneously organizing parties or games.
  2. ROAD TRAINS:: Player tedks imagines a future in between now and a world where all cars are self-driving.  In this intermediary phase, people can link their cars together to create convoys or trains, all ‘driven’ by a single driver at the very front!
  3. MICRO-DELIVERIES: Why have delivery trucks?  All people can be couriers of goods by simply matching their daily task maps with where goods need to go.  If you are planning on driving by the destination of a package, earn a little extra money by dropping it off yourself.
  4. FUTURE OF BILLBOARDS: Hackers and programmers aren’t the only ones who can interface with their city as a platform.  Sensor networks make it possible to quantify the positive impact of neighborhood art, by measuring the emotions of people in the city.  Artists can step up to the plate and repurpose billboards into powerful statements of creativity!
  5. SIDEWALK COMMUNITIES: Krash63 points out how a SynchroniCity could use immersive experiences, pop-up events and more that would make walking down the street an exciting and powerful experience, making walking a more appealing option than driving.

What would a city look like in which movement has purpose?  In which walking down the sidewalk can be an exotic and enriching experience, or where biking to work can earn you money?  What would the world look like if private transportation and public transportation merged- where you drive to the highway, but then join a high-speed automated convoy?

Many ideas submitted to SynchroniCity deal with new ways to interact with your community, with a focus on quantifiable mood as a means for justifying public works.   On the city scale, this means being able to deploy treatments that almost resemble medicine to entire neighborhoods- is everyone on your block feeling down?  Time for a block party.  After all, humans are social animals.

What did you learn from reading through the SynchroniCity ideas?

Our favorite ideas from the final days of SynchroniCity challenge!


Maker Cities, our massively multiplayer game for prototyping the future of cities, has been live for two weeks!  The game’s first challenge, called SynchroniCity, wrapped up on January 31st and asked players what they would make if they could program or build anything directly on top of a Smart City.  This challenge is important because smart cities, and new forms of city infrastructure, will have a huge impact on how citizens today will be able to actively make the lives of others better tomorrow.

Every few days we’ve put out a post highlighting our top ideas from the past few days.  Well, the challenge is over, and before we announce the winners, it’s time for our top 5 ideas from the final 3 days!  Click the link next to your favorite idea to support it in Maker Cities!

Using sensors to help citizens create city-wide happiness, reduce waste, and more.  How would you remake your city? #makercities

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Our top 5 from the final days of the SynchroniCity challenge:

  1. LAUGH FUTURE: How do you make cities happier places to live?  Why not incentivize citizens to make each-other happier, use sensors to monitor laughter, and use micro-payments to support whomever initiated the joke?  The true notion of the ‘Synchronicity’ is that it offers new opportunities for powerful social interactions.  So if you can get paid to make others laugh, everyone becomes a professional comedian and your city becomes a more joyous place.

  2. SELF-HEALING SENSOR GRIDS: A city-wide sensor network will require constant updates- essentially, it will need its own healthcare system.  The citizens of tomorrow’s smart cities will need to step up and be the ones responsible for maintenance.

  3. FUTURE OF BILLBOARDS: Hackers and programmers aren’t the only ones who can interface with their city as a platform.  Sensor networks make it possible to quantify the positive impact of neighborhood art, by measuring the emotions of people in the city.  Artists can step up to the plate and repurpose billboards into powerful statements of creativity!

  4. MEDIUM-SCALE MANUFACTURING: 3D printing, even when it’s cost effective to have in everybody’s house, may never have its greatest impact on the residential scale.  Local manufacturing, just on the outskirts of the city, with factories the size of several houses, might make best use of 3D printing to produce high quality goods at industrial scale.

  5. INDEPENDENT FOOD MAKERS UNITE: Food waste can be most rampant in the food services industry.  Catering, restaurants, and more regularly throw out tons of food.  By networking food services companies together, waste can be prevented at all scales.  Extra food from an event can be brought where it’s needed, instead of getting thrown out.

Which idea do you like best?  What challenges might keep these futures from coming true?  Click on the link to your favorite to provide your feedback in Maker Cities.

Stay tuned for the winners!

Our Favorite ideas from over the weekend on Maker Cities!


Maker Cities, our massively multiplayer game for prototyping the future of cities, has been live for almost a week!  The game’s first challenge, called SynchroniCity, asks players what they would make if they could program or build anything directly on top of a Smart City.  This challenge is important because smart cities, and new forms of city infrastructure, will have a huge impact on how citizens today will be able to actively make the lives of others better tomorrow.  The game is off to a great start.   With just a couple days left (the challenge ends tomorrow night!), here is a short list of our favorite recent ideas.  Click the link next to your favorite idea to support it in Maker Cities!

Tools to empower the elderly, new public transit, or making cities GREEN.How would you remake your city?

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Our top 5 from this weekend:

  1. HOLDING ON TO OUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET: THE MINDS OF THE ELDERLY: Player Jaqueline proposes networking retirement and elderly homes together to create a web of music venues, so that musicians can travel across the city and make hourly stops at different venues.  The same network could even be used for musicians traveling across the country.  A ratings and review system could even be used to alert seniors if the musician is likely to fit their interests!

  2. RESPONSIVE CITY SERVICES: A city-wide sensor network has some wonderful baseline capabilities, like the ability to reduce and simplify complaint systems if infrastructure acts up, says player edmlabs.  Just as importantly, open city sensors could be used to offer citizens the opportunity to find ways to reduce energy consumption across the city grid.

  3. FIRST AID ARMLET: Wearable tech, combined with smart emergency response networks, could revolutionize how emergency care is provided.  This is particularly promising for senior citizens, according to Sebastian.  If a senior citizen should fall and break a bone, their sensor will automatically request aid and provide the aid providers with all relevant data- before the aid providers even arrive on scene!

  4. TRANSPORTATION – SOLVEDJackamofinane, a (very proud) resident of Phoenix, presents a compelling user journey about what it would be like to travel via autonomous vehicles, culminating with an appeal that it would make highways obsolete, enabling them to become giant greenways.

  5. FOOD-FORAGING FOREST AND THE GARDEN DEFENDERS: How do you manage shared public resources, and avoid a crisis of the commons?  Seattle’s Beacon Hill Food Forest, created in 2012, enables growing tons of food in an urban setting.  Player Lieukiss proposes creating a social network for managing polite policing of the space, weeding, and other donated time and effort, in order to create a respectful community capable of making sure the public appropriately manages itself.

Which idea do you like best?  What challenges might keep these futures from coming true?  Click on your favorite to provide your feedback in Maker Cities.


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