What to consider when you're making space at the intersection of learning and community.
At Assemble (the organization), we assemble (get together) to assemble (make things). People need a place to do that. It could be virtual or in-person, but it needs to be a place where everyone feels safe, respected, and seen. Assembling requires getting intentional about how space is used, how it’s identified, and how welcoming it is; not just at your physical location, but anytime and anywhere you run a program.
When you get it right, you create a space where everyone can be themselves, often in ways they can’t at home or in school—a place where they can be seen in the ways that they want to be seen. Think of yourself as a co-designer of your place, along with everyone who will use it. This part of the playbook provides a rundown of what it takes to make a place for assembling.
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Please Note: Place or Space?
*Space is the place. - Sun Ra*
Words mean things. When we were coming up with our full name (Assemble, a community space for arts + technology), we talked a lot about whether to call ourselves a “place” or a “space.” We picked space. Here’s why: Assemble is dynamic, and constantly changing, and the word “space” gives us room to grow and change and become something new. Space is open and undefined, it’s blank slate on which we’re creating Assemble every day. When people come together in a space, it becomes a place.
Long story short: Your space will only come alive and become a place through the relationships and interactions between the people you’re assembling with. And there’s a whole section about that! Be sure to check out People to read up on people and relationships.
Growing where you're planted
When it comes to creating a place, context is everything! Your work will only work if it makes sense in your context: your neighborhood and your community. Think of your context as a big interconnected root system and your place as a single plant sprouting up from those roots. Every place is different, because every place reflects where it is, physically and culturally. There’s creativity all around (you just have to look for it), and your place is an opportunity to lift up and highlight that creativity.
As you design your place, take care to make a space where the people in your community can see themselves and feel welcome. Doing that requires that your space is collaborative, dynamic, and flexible. That means you can’t plan on having everything figured out, or getting it all perfect.
Some ideas to get you started
Try This: But wait, what if I don't have a place of my own?
Sharing is caring! If you're already working at a place with facilities, pitch them on hosting a single Assemble-inspired session once a week or once a month. If you're in a school, see if you can borrow the art room, shop room, or even an old unused space. If you're truly on your own, pack up your tools and materials in a rolling field kit and strike up a partnership with a neighborhood youth program, place of worship, or library. Is there a collaboration in your future?
If you're anything like us, your place is going to be one big room. But that doesn't mean you're limited to just one space. Rooms, like people, can contain multitudes. We've carved lots of different spaces out of our one place. The rooms don’t have to have 4 walls either. You can even think of these spaces as zones that flow into each other and overlap. Here are a few of the spaces that have stood the test of time for us: