Combining Technology and Community
Many academic institutions understand the need to combine between academic and community service in a variety of ways in order to be able to turn collaborations into an effective for both parties.
The College of Management Academic Studies School of Design and Innovation puts this principle into practice in an innovative and fascinating way. Four years ago, in the heart of the Jesse Cohen Neighborhood in Holon, the school established the unique FabLab laboratory. This laboratory, the first of its kind in Israel, is part of an international network laboratories established at MIT. It is a collaborative venture by the School of Design and Innovation and the Israeli center for Digital Art of the Holon Municipality.
Professor Carmela Jacobi Volk, former Dean of the School of Design and head of the Masters program in Design and Innovative Entrepreneurship, established the program in Israel. She tells about the idea to build the laboratory and how it was born out of a need to combine between two central agendas. “When I took on the position, there were two main issues that I wanted to integrate into the program and into practice. The first was a social agenda. It was important to me to change the program and the academics in order to integrate various courses and activities that would benefit the community and improve the lives of more disadvantaged populations. The second objective was to strengthen the connection with the world of technology. It stemmed from the perception that technological fluency and access to the most advanced technological tools are essential parts of every design student’s repertoire.”[summary]
Professor Jacobi Volk says that during the first year she held the position in 2009, she went with a group of students for educational training in Barcelona where she was exposed to the FabLab concept for the first time. “I saw a model that connects the field of technology with social projects and I decided to bring it to Israel.”
When she returned to Israel, Professor Jacobi Volk arranged meetings between representatives of the FabLab and the CEO of the Holon Municipality who excitedly adopted the idea, and later established the first laboratory in the city. Today, there are additional FabLabs operating in Haifa, Jerusalem and Sakhnin.
Increasing awareness of smart consumerism
Revital Nadiv, current director of FabLab, fashion designer and lecturer at the School of Design and Innovation , explains that the laboratory includes advanced tools for digital creation used by a variety of courses and projects in the School of Design, and that the facility is also open to the community as a whole and to businesses, with students and alumni serving as instructors.
“We built an exposure program for all kinds of communities according to age, level of knowledge and budget. Our objective is to expand the current community of users of these digital tools and increase awareness of smart consumerism as well as social and community responsibility,” said Nadiv.
In accordance with the principles of smart consumerism, the knowledge gained through the FabLab is intended for sharing. Students can use knowledge collected in other FabLabs around the world and use projects that were used for learning and work. The collaborative community perception can be seen in another aspect as well – as part of the laboratory’s concept and the social values that guide the School of Design, which was established in the center of the Jesse Cohen Neighborhood in Holon in order to make the facility accessible to that population on a daily basis.
“The projects done in the FabLab prove that technology empowers people that it can be used in all kinds of ways. In terms of our students, the activities in the laboratory make what they learn clearerand practical,” emphasized Prof. Jacobi Volk, “The experience they gained in the FabLab affects everyone around them, influencing the communities that are affected by it and who use it, the students who gain both personally and professionally, and the influence in Israel’s fabrication culture. It promotes the culture of “doing” above the culture of consuming.”