2.4 million people impacted by the protracted crisis in Iraq require livelihood support. Many of these are young people, displaced by conflict or recently returned and trying to re-build livelihoods. Iraq faces a critical time in its turbulent recent history. Different areas of the country face a myriad of humanitarian, reconstruction and stabilization challenges, with youth unemployment and a lack of economic opportunities recently prompting major demonstrations in Baghdad and other cities. At the same time, the lack of up to date knowledge in education institutions is contributing to an ever expanding gap between graduates and market needs, creating an opportunity to propel on-the-ground initiatives that can have a lasting impact for the country.
There is a growing network of innovation hubs in Iraq bringing together like-minded people interested in innovation and start-up culture. Makerspaces provide the tools and space to allow the physical realization of ideas, prototyping and small-scale production, they offer a unique opportunity to supplement and strengthen a variety of approaches to aid. In Iraq, these centers bring together young people from different backgrounds, focusing on the displaced and recently returned as a means to foster peacebuilding. They provide an environment where the focus on gaining practical skills through training and workshops, exploring new technologies and using these to provide services to the community, allows people who do not usually meet to find common ground.
This program is working to improve the stability and economic prospects of youth in Iraq through the support of the makerspace ecosystem. The result will be a network of makerspaces within innovation hubs providing youth with the opportunity to gain practical digital fabrication skills. This will in turn boost their future employability, opportunities to engage in entrepreneurship and prospects for peace.