School Factory

School Factory closed down in 2017 and Nation of Makers now hosts their resources. We will also add these to a larger resource library that is currently in development.

Here is some of the information School Factory most often shared with collaborative spaces looking to get started or grow:

More information is included below about School Factory’s history, why they closed, and how to get in touch with the people who were involved.

School Factory History

School Factory was created with the dream that we would all one day be part of many learning communities: our jobs, our families, our community activities, and many other realms of experience, would all provide us with a deeply fulfilling experience that kept us constantly learning and helped us be our happiest, healthiest selves.

Bucketworks: An Early Model

School Factory founded and operated their own collaborative space in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 2002-2015. Bucketworks combined makerspace with co-working and collaborative space to enable independent workers and community initiatives to scale and grow. It was envisioned as a “health club for the brain,” a place where technical and creative thinking could unite and people from across disciplines and walks of life could build a community together. It was an early model for what the future of education might look like, in a world where we are given the space and the resources to unleash our potential instead of having it squashed by outdated and one-size-fits-all teaching methodologies.

When Bucketworks started, it was a new idea and a new model for transforming education.  Over its 13 year history in 4 different Milwaukee locations, Bucketworks spawned dozens of new businesses and hosted regular arts performances, community workshops, technology hack-a-thons, and professional meetups. Companies like Manpower International, GE Healthcare, and Harley Davidson used Bucketworks to develop new strategies, new products, and new organizational cultures based on collaboration and transparency, while local community organizations like Newaukee and Spreenkler were formed and incubated within its program. Its models for integrated learning methods and community engagement inspired other collaborative spaces and educational innovators throughout the United States and abroad.

Enabling Other Hands-on Learning Communities

The organization’s leaders were thrilled when the concept of collaborative space caught on and more places like Bucketworks started popping up at an increasing rate. As a result, in 2008 School Factory started providing fiscal sponsorship, support, and mentorship to countless other spaces around the country.

By mid-2015, School Factory had transferred ownership of their most recent Bucketworks location to a member and shifted to supporting other groups full time. In 2002, they saw the greatest need for new learning models. Within a few years, they saw many other groups and individuals working to develop new models and refine existing ones, and they felt the greatest need was to support and enable the work of those groups for its greatest chance of success.

School Factory also wanted to push forward the conversation around why integrated, hands-on learning is important. As part of this focus on integration, they specifically sought to support programs and organizations that emphasized a combination of STEM/STEAM, creativity, and self/social learning.

They also emphasized why hands-on learning needs to integrate the values of inclusion (building open communities that make everyone feel welcome and at home), wellness (exploring how we can promote wellness of all kinds: personal, social, and organizational) and full person development (supporting individuals across their lifespan to connect with all aspects of their experience).

School Factory provided the following services to other groups from 2008 to 2017:

  • Fiscal sponsorship to over 75 collaborative spaces and hands-on learning communities
  • Guidance, mentorship, and consulting to community-based makerspaces and other collaborative spaces
  • Structured group facilitation experiences and collaborative culture consulting to organizations with shared values
  • The “Space Federation”, a group of collaborative space leaders who met to share ideas and best practices together for creating values-based spaces
  • Creation of resources like the Make A Space Kit (see above)

Deciding to Close

When School Factory first started providing services to other hands-on learning communities in 2008, there weren’t many other organizations serving that market. Over time they saw the “maker movement” develop, collaborative spaces become far more common, project based learning begin to gain traction in school systems, and more organizations launch to support small non-profits in general and hands-on learning communities in particular.

While School Factory had a part to play in all these trends, they took the time in 2016-2017 to take a step back and assess how they fit into a new reality. They ultimately concluded that other organizations existed that were able to support their network in many of the ways that they did, and that the ecosystem would be better supported by centralizing resources in fewer organizations.

School Factory’s primary services were handed off to other organizations as follows:

  • Fiscal sponsorship: School Factory identified multiple providers that operate nationwide and could support smaller hands-on learning groups, particularly Social Good Fund and Inquiring Systems Inc.
  • Consulting services: School Factory determined that groups could just as easily be served by working with the individual consultants who worked through School Factory (see contact info below), as well as other providers.
  • Resource development & community collaboration: These are the pieces of School Factory’s mission that they felt Nation of Makers was pursuing, so they graciously passed along many of their resources and shared their ideas for future development with us.

Consultant Contact Info

At the time of its closure in 2017, School Factory was run by two people who are both now available as independent consultants:

James Carlson
James asks big questions about the future of learning and develops new ideas for transforming it. He can speak to over 15 years of experience working with innovative hands-on learning communities around the globe.

  • Founder of School Factory & Bucketworks (2002-2017)
  • (414) 215-0215 or +33 7 88 81 92 87 (France)

Diana Luepke
Diana’s expertise focuses on the practical implementation of creating healthy and sustainable communities, including fiscal sponsorship, organizational structures, finance, communication practices, and organizational effectiveness.

  • Multiple School Factory roles including Operations Manager & Executive Director (2013-2017)
  • Contact through