Starting from the belief that making something yourself was an instinct and a basic human need, the trio of Ratu Fitri, Riyan Kaizir, and Dicky Firmanzah founded SUBstitute Makerspace, the first makerspace in Surabaya.

Article written by Nadia Maya Ardiani

"Making things is our roots, as a human," explained Ratu, Founder and Director of the SUBstitute, when asked about the importance of stimulating the spirit of the maker/DIY movement in Surabaya. “It's our life skill. For example, in an uncertain situation like now, we have to be able to outsmart our needs, find new uses for what we already have. If we can't buy it, then we can make it ourselves,” she continued. According to Ratu, equipping ourselves with the ability to make something ourselves, aka do-it-yourself (DIY), was not only beneficial for environmental sustainability, but also could help us to maintain the sustainability of our own lives.

Initiated in 2019, the SUBstitute was a response to observations of the DIY movement in Surabaya. Ratu felt that the DIY players were still very fragmented, mostly moving individually. From her point of view, this could be the effect of the condition of Surabaya which was an industrial city, to be precise a trading city, so that the environment created was more of a direct 'buyer-seller'. And even for buying matters, low prices were the main consideration. Meanwhile, handmade craft products often had a price that was not cheaper than the manufactured product.

"If we want people to love local products, that means we have to introduce how to create the product itself," she said.

This was where the SUBstitute came into play, through workshops that taught the process of making a product. That way, the public could find out how much value and effort it took to create an object, so they could appreciate it more.

The SUBstitute team did not deny that it took a lot of money to attend a crafting workshop. They observed that the average person who could afford to pay for its knowledge and products was the upper-middle classes. The demand to fulfill primary needs made this DIY issue seen as a tertiary matter, especially for the middle-lower classes.

The SUBstitute mission from the start was to share access, to provide facilities whose benefits could be gained by all groups. As a makerspace or shared work space, users could explore materials with equipment that could be accessed easily and affordably, and collaborate with anyone. But as it turned out, showing inclusiveness was not enough just by declaring that activities in the SUBstitute were 'open to the public'. "We personally approach them (communities) one by one, especially friends from marginalized communities," Ratu added. The SUBstitute team must first really convince friends from marginalized communities that SUBstitute was a safe space for work and activity, where all users had the same access rights, regardless of their identity.

It was proven, among others, through regular activities such as workshops where for example there were five participants, one of whom would be facilitated by the SUBstitute alias free of charge. These participants were the beneficiaries, for example from the middle to lower economic class or marginalized communities.

This inclusiveness was also carried by the SUBstitute in the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Fest which was successfully held in February 2020 at Surabaya Town Square. MWith the Crafting Sustainability theme, this festival was one of the SUBstitute programs supported by the British Council through the DICE (Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies) initiative. At the event, SUBstitute gave a free booth for craftsmen from among the beneficiaries. However, SUBstitute provided one condition. "We don't want them to come and just give away flyers," said Ratu, "we want them to be able to get more benefits from that". As a result, at DIY Fest 2020, for example, friends from the disabled community offered food and shoe washing services at their booth. That way, the benefits that were felt can continue even after the event ends.

The festival, which was held for two days, had a variety of agendas, starting from a craft bazaar, a series of workshops, talk shows, competitions, exhibitions, community gatherings, to music stages. Through this event, the SUBstitute wanted to spark collaboration between creative industry players and stakeholders to support the formation of a sustainable creative economy ecosystem in Surabaya. In addition, they also wanted to foster a spirit of learning through experience and the courage to experiment without fear of failure. This was the same spirit that applied to their makerspace itself: to be a safe space for its users. Where anyone was free to test their ideas, made mistakes, and tried to rebuild.

Ratu also talked about the ups and downs of running a social enterprise in Indonesia, especially Surabaya. One of them was people often suspect. "In the eyes of the beneficiaries, we are often seen as questionable, hahaha," said this veiled woman. The SUBstitute offer for easy access and facilities was considered suspicious, because this type of business model had not been widely found in Surabaya. That was why some people tend to think it was a scam. But of course that didn't make them give up.

With all these efforts, had the SUBstitute team felt it was successful enough to establish an inclusive, collective DIY space? "From the participant point of view, it might have been, but we still want to find ways to make our program more useful for users. We want to increase inclusiveness in terms of programs," said Ratu. Considering the age of the SUBstitute which was only one year old, it seemed that there would be more things that could be done together in the future.