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DIY magazine launches covering global innovation

Launched late last month, Makeshift magazine started when founding editor Steve Daniels traveled to Kenya while studying grassroots innovation. He arrived in the country with designs for farming tools he had made for a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), and he left with the desire to report on innovation and invention in unlikely places around the world.

From that desire came Makeshift, a unique magazine that Daniels calls “a globalization of the DIY movement” and “an untapped opportunity.” Each themed issue features briefings on current events and projects, dispatches about inventors and places and pieces on industries and geographies. The quarterly is structured around five main topics: engineering and design, entrepreneurship and trade, artistic expression, spaces of creativity, and community, all of which are covered from global and grassroots perspectives.

Specifically, the concept for the magazine came to Daniels when he looked into how the farming tools he designed could be manufactured locally. During his research, he came across Kenya’s engineering culture, in which people were creating products from scrap materials and distributing them around the country. He said he wanted to share “this type of rough everyday innovation” through the media.

Makeshift’s editorial team is small, but spaced out around the globe in New York, Mexico City, Singapore and Madrid. And while working together across countries makes the work a little trickier than at most magazines, Makeshift’s global presence is what allows the staff to truly cover innovation from an international perspective. “It’s been a challenge to work across geographies and time zones, but it’s worth it because we each bring an important perspective to the team,” Daniels said in an email interview.

While Makeshift’s business model revolves around a cautious start involving a campaign that allowed readers to preorder subscriptions, Daniels said he hopes to someday expand into retail and partner with global collectives and fair-trade groups. But for now, the staff is focusing on the magazine’s online and print editions, the latter of which is essential to its sustainability.

“Anyone who has seen the print version instantly understands why this content, which is so physical in nature, needs to be in print,” Daniels said. “Plus if we want any presence in the developing world, we have to be offline,” he added.

But while the magazine is offered in print, its online component has also been well-developed. Reaching out in both online and print media will include more multimedia content, as well as themed booklets and how-to guides that can be downloaded and distributed to innovators anywhere free of charge. Social media will also play a part in the development of the magazine, allowing the staff to share exciting news and projects occurring in innovation, and helping to engage readers in discussions about the issues brought up in Makeshift’s high-quality reporting.

“We have a lot of different directions we want to explore,” Daniels said. “We’re digging up stories of street-level ingenuity around the world to show that creativity and invention happen everywhere and that though it might look different where resources are scarce, it is something to be celebrated.”

While the magazine’s inaugural issue focused on “re-culture: reuse, repair and recycle at the grassroots,” the next issue will be all about mobility.

–Julia Russell

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