Dreamspace is a community innovation center in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Founded in our 11th Capability Program in 2018, it develops local skills and innovation through project-based learning, with the key goal of meeting socio-economic and environmental challenges in the community.
Kishoth, a passionate independent researcher, is the social entrepreneur leading this learning center. He was curious about BOOKBRIDGE since joining the newly founded center as a volunteer. Eventually, the original community hero left, and Kishoth gradually replaced him. To the question, “why BOOKBRIDGE?” he answers: “Because it creates social impact. I connected my passion and who I am with BOOKBRIDGE’s mission – as they state, ‘Do what you really are.’ ”
At Dreamspace, education comes in the form of project-based learning in a range of labs – from electronics to business and art (a bio lab is on the way) – all in the spirit of community innovation and social enterprise. The goal is to develop skills that can be put to use in advancing local development and solving local problems.
Kishoth says that the biggest challenge for Sri Lankan makers is a socio-cultural one: “We have a system where parents guide us, though we’re grown up, and they don’t care about who we are. Many Makers give up their dream because the parents want them to do something else." He also mentions the lack of innovative thinking, which motivated Dreamspace to come up with the concept of community innovation. “Whatever local challenges we face, we solve them by ourselves, not by depending on the government or imported solutions.”
Shanjeevan is developing an underwater glider to improve water monitoring.
Social activist Shanjeevan is responsible for Maker management. He joined Dreamspace because of its mission to empower creative minds and solve local problems. “I was impressed,” he says. “Maker education is a powerful key. If I have any doubt, they can connect me with international experts so I can clear my doubts. They are letting me live my life, they’re not forcing me to study; I’m studying whatever I want, and that’s why I’m impressed.”
Shanjeevan is working on impactful community projects: he is developing an underwater glider, since there is no water monitoring system in place, which will send data on the water's condition (current, pH balance, temperature) to the local government. There is also a team dedicated to plastic shredding, which they re-make into useful things like furniture or filaments for 3D printing. And given the current context, Shanjeevan’s team has also printed and distributed masks to government officers to battle COVID-19. “I have learned much from Dreamspace,” he says. “If there’s a problem in my community, now I can work and find a solution.”
Ahallya, a passionate photographer, joined Dreamspace last August. Through their Workshops she has been able to improve her technical camera knowledge and further her artistic journey. “I’m working in community building via my photography, and through storytelling I wanted to explore emotions, so I joined the initiative ‘Image of Emotions’. I also work as a freelancer.”
Kishoth applies a protocol named “Definition of done” – a project and challenge evaluation system of 6 phases for all Makers and Trainees – which is how the Dreamspace team can validate, support and understand the needs of Makers. Feedback from Makers and Trainees is gathered through storyboards. “We ask how they feel before coming in and how they feel after the training; how they feel about who they are now and how they can contribute to the community.”
For Kishoth, Maker education is the most important contribution he has made through Dreamspace. “As giveback to the community, we volunteer a lot. We ask the Trainees and Makers who want to give back to train new groups of people to become creative thinkers.” Shanjeevan now has the ability to create immediate solutions to the problems he faces in his community. Ahallya, who is a UNICEF youth delegate, shares: “I create short films, I could enhance my knowledge about photography, and now I’m helping Dreamspace with workshops to empower my peer group. I’m able to explore not only my inner feelings, but also the emotions of normal people in society, so I can work with them.”
In 2019, Kishoth and Dreamspace Academy won science foundation Falling Walls' award for the best science engagement of the year.
In his personal life, Kishoth says networking is very important and BOOKBRIDGE aided him with that. “I have a huge impact network in BOOKBRIDGE, so I feel an interdependent connection between me and BOOKBRIDGE.” He adds: “I gained experience and emotional connections through my CAP team, how they supported me through my struggles in running Dreamspace, always checking in with me… BOOKBRIDGE made me shine, and exposed me to the world. It allowed me to express myself and brought me onto the world stage.”
Shanjeevan says Dreamspace changed his life. “Last year I didn’t know how to operate a Word document. Now, I am learning how to program in Python.” Ahallya too has been able to develop her skills and to engage with the activities that matter to her.
Looking at the future, Kishoth wants not only to train Makers, but for them to contribute to community innovation and sustainability. “We envision that most of our makers need to be self-sufficient entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact.” He wants to see Makers supporting and contributing to the development of the economy of Sri Lanka. “Everyone should be self-sufficient makers. Dreamspace is the foundation, and BOOKBRIDGE is our strength.”
Thank you Kishoth, Shanjeevan and Ahallya for sharing your experiences and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!