Spring 2018 – 497-121: A Return to the Handmade to Create Jobs Stimulate Local Economies

Meeting Day/Time
Thursdays from 1:50 to 4:30 pm
Robert Pontarelli (Undergraduate Education -- Architecture & Urban Planning) (bob@cbarts.com)
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome
Business Innovation

Trends in increased automation and robotization are likely to displace and replace humans in any number of industries much sooner than we may be prepared for. As such, large populations will suddenly find themselves outside of the workforce both temporarily and in some cases, permanently. Such profound and pervasive transformation represents a threat to the greater economy and the lives of people still employed.

One possible option for persons suddenly without employment or income is to develop new skills through training programs. One avenue may be to consider pursuing passions and skills in a craft that represents a lost art or skill and as such, may provide a “boutique” value that may offer a viable and sustainable level of income.

Through further research and investigation, this IPRO team will develop an Encyclopedia of the Hand-Made to be used as a resource for communities in Chicago and elsewhere that have experienced severe job losses due to automation or industry trends.  Consider this an urban example of the Foxfire series of books that catalogued and documented the lost methods of 17-1800’s homestead life in Appalachia. See https://www.foxfire.org/shop/category/books/. In this context, it is certainly feasible to consider a “re-cottaging” of a former cottage industry where, for example, in villages around Northern Italy small businesses once operated from basements and garages to supply products and accessories for Gucci, Chanel, Hugo Boss, etc.

This IPRO project builds on social enterprise theory in support of a return, not only to a “re-shoring” and or re-localization of production and manufacturing but to provide strategies for a continuous employment buffer that mitigates employment shortfalls caused by massive change.

The IPRO team will thoroughly research what exactly can be made by hand, e.g., leather shoes or other apparel. The team could undertake research on shoe construction from its  inception to the modern day. Economies of production and scale will also be examined as well as sourcing, resourcing of materials and so on – all contributing to a database that connects people to the right sources that can facilitate a modest handmade start-up operation.  Neighborhood scale facilities and residential design adaptation can be considered as part of the process.

It would be great if those interested in joining this team take the time to read “Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live” by serial entrepreneur and academician Michael Glauser, PhD.

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