31 December 2020 - Rachana Khatri

By: Bahar Kumar

A BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Nepal Communitere! It’s hard to believe that we started back in 2015 as a humanitarian organization following the great April earthquake. With our hub slowly being established in August of that year, we formally registered as a Nepali not-for-profit distributing company on Dec 31st, 2015. And here we are 5 years later, transformed and continuing to evolve to meet the changing needs of our communities. Here’s a look at our journey and all the amazing volunteers, hub users, partners, and dedicated team who helped us get where we are today!

Nepal Communitere was the brainchild of Mr. Sam Bloch who helped start the first Communitere in Haiti, later in the Philippines and then to Nepal. I recently reconnected with Sam and he said that Nepal seemed like the right place to bring a hub like Communitere. The mindset and hunger to think of innovative solutions was already here. We just needed a way to harness and leverage it. 

The ultimate vision for Nepal Communitere is to use the post-disaster rebuilding period as a catalyst to redesign and recreate our communities through innovative solutions. To build back better…

I remember when I first stepped inside Nepal Communitere back in early 2016. There was a buzz and pulse about the place, despite it being pretty empty.  Dilip Dai who is one of our founding team members was working closely with visionary volunteers to construct our resource center. Just like in Haiti and the Philippines, the Nepal team utilized 16 donated shipping containers from the UN Logistics Cluster, where loads of relief supplies and materials came into Nepal, to build our makerspace, training hall and co-working spaces. So back then, when things were just in the early stages, I knew this was a special space and was bitten and sucked into all that lay ahead. 

Dilip Dai working closely with one of our international volunteers to set up the first co-working space from this shipping container that is still here in our garden today!
The Nepali and international team who seeded this idea of using cargotecture to construct Nepal Communitere’s Resource Center.

From Makerspace to Fab Lab

We launched our community Makerspace through funding from Burners Without Borders and UNDP Nepal during our 2016 Maker Faire. It was a workshop that was used by so many different groups. We had Karma Coffee use it to train women from Khokana village on making home furnishings. There was a group that used it to deploy pedicabs and many of our startups such as Ecoorb and our E-Rickshaw team used the Makerspace to develop and prototype new products. In January 2021 we are now converting our Makerspace and Training Lab into the first fully equipped Fab Lab Nepal. Our Makerspace is going to be upgraded with new digital fabrication equipment – from 3D printers to CNC cutters, digital embroidery and more. With this first community-based Fab Lab, Nepali students, migrants, entrepreneurs, engineers and literally anyone can now learn the skills to rapidly design and prototype new products for the Nepali market. This is a major gap that we’re excited to be able to fill for Nepal.  

The newly set up Resource Center splashed with love from artists at Kaalo101 is going to house the first Fab Lab Nepal.

From Co-Working to Business Incubation

We started as a co-working space providing office space to groups whose offices were damaged after the 2015 earthquake. New groups popped in and others moved out and it became a dynamic space that has supported over 50 individuals, organizations, startups and initiatives over the past 5 years. However, some of our co-workers started feeling stuck and though the space was essential, they required business support services. They wanted help in I-Cube Business Incubation Program that provides not only co-working space to startups, but a setting up and launching their new and innovative business ideas. So in 2017 we launched our 10 month program with monthly masterclasses and weekly business coaching sessions. We are currently running 3 cohorts of our I-Cube Program and looking to take it outside of Kathmandu Valley. We’ve helped Nepali entrepreneurs register their businesses and raised over 30 lakhs in seed funding from Nepali investors and lenders to help them build their ideas into successful startups.

Nepali entrepreneurs showcasing and selling their products at our 2018 Maker Faire.

From Maker Faires to Virtual Design Sprints

In 2016 and 2018 we hosted the very first Humanitarian Maker Faires bringing makers and innovators from across the global south to connect around innovative solutions. Both Maker Faires brought together over 1500 participants at each event and was held right here in our hub. We were planning to have yet another Maker Faire in 2020 with the launch of our new Fab Lab, but yes due to COVID-19 we’ve had to rethink how we bring communities together to think about innovation. This challenge created the opportunity for us to launch virtual design sprints through new collaborations with groups like Cue Studio. We’ve been able to train entrepreneurs in design-thinking to prototype new solutions to address some of their business challenges. The response was amazing and better than we would have ever imagined with participants logging on from the fields of Langtang and the peaks of Mardi Himal. 

Pavitra Gautam of Karkhana giving a talk about Designing The Future at our Kathmandu Mini Maker Faire in 2018 – attended by over 1,500 participants across Nepal and the globe.

Here’s to the Next 5 Years!

Our history and track record only brings greater curiosity for what lies ahead. With unpredictable times and changing community needs we remain open yet always optimistic that we can continue to design and co-create innovative solutions.

Join the Nepal Communitere community and be a part of our journey to transform Nepal for the next 5 years!