[Translation (French-English) : EPALE France]
While Third Places are in fashion and we seek to have them play multiple roles in the city, they are by nature singular, adapted to their specific environment, and only exist and develop insofar as they provide answers to essentially local problems. Wanting to increase their number does not always make much sense. However, this singularity, this essential plasticity, does not prevent us from seeking principles of functioning that go beyond specific contexts, and which tend towards a form of universality. Thus, seeking to understand their challenges and their contributions allows us to build and to test hypotheses in terms of inclusion, citizenship and solidarity. The Fab Lab Konk Ar Lab run by Concarneau Cornouaille Agglomération (CCA), located in a policy priority area of the city (Kérandon), seeks to mobilise a wide variety of audiences around multiple projects. Olivier Audet, in charge of development, defines it as: “A place to make and learn together, a shared workshop to test ideas, design and build. It is first and foremost a place open to all, for projects that are useful to everyone.” This digital manufacturing workshop and collaborative work space is run by different actors (residents, associations, companies, resource persons...) and the association that supports it already has a large number of members. Benefiting from funding from Fondation de France in view of its inclusiveness objectives, this experience is based on numerous findings arising from interaction with the target audience and from the difficulties with mobilising the target audience in relation to services or schemes that are too tightly focused on their difficulties, or that are too demanding. The analysis carried out identifies a set of factors. Some are essential to take into account, in particular the sense of disconnection that people can feel between their daily concerns and the proposals that may be put to them. Moreover, these people can sometimes look for a form of withdrawal that does not facilitate cooperative approaches requiring personal involvement (talking about oneself is not always easy). Moreover, lack of confidence in their own skills also appears, both as a cause for withdrawal and as a lever for mobilisation.
It is precisely here that working together with others (who have no other connection apart from the planned project), in a way that allows them to design, to learn, to try things out, becomes an experience that is by definition mobilising. Above all, it durably changes the relationship with action and with the future. Moreover, a group of young people from the Garantie jeunes scheme, living in different towns of the CCA and supported by the Pays de Cornouaille Local Mission (as part of an experiment), got involved in very sophisticated technical achievements. A good sign: they wanted to finish the project even outside the scheme. What do we learn collectively from these experiences? First, issues of inclusion always involve the connection to oneself, to the environment, and to the future. It is therefore important to build engineering groups that involve these three parameters, though in a less direct and less constrained manner, allowing the actors and the opportunities the possibility to come about naturally. As this target audience is particularly distanced from codes of access to employment, we can observe multiple effects: contribution to the development of social bonds in environments where withdrawal and loneliness can increase integration difficulties; development of new technical and social skills “by doing” (learning digital skills and how to use tools and machines, collaborating in the construction of projects). These skills are developed because they are needed for the project and not because it is part of a programme. This allows everyone to contribute to the projects in a facilitative and supportive environment.
Indirect levers of mobilisation
On this point, a certain number of parameters are clearly identified: not too many predetermined constraints; develop the interest through action; manufacturing is at the heart of the process. There is a need to create a “surprise effect” , as Hélène Guiziou, councillor at the Pays de Cornouaille Local Mission, explains, “If there is an initial distrust, testing things is an challenge in term of mobilization.” It is possible to leave at any moment, so making a commitment becomes natural but not obligatory. The community and non-permanent dimension is central. What makes sense is the collective action oriented towards a common goal. A goal that, once achieved, will generate a sense of pride means that the right atmosphere is also essential: friendliness, pleasure, perseverance in shared efforts. This also alters the relationship with learning and training (informal learning in project construction: they learn because the need to build requires an understanding of certain subjects). There is no timeline to learning imposed by an expert. It is the manufacturing process that demands the necessary know-how and the learning happens in line with the situation. This makes it possible to integrate a certain number of soft skills, to remobilise oneself, to acquire skills incidentally and opportunistically without the training aspect being either imposed, predetermined or academic. This also allows participants to discover and commit to the position of actor and contributor: helping them to regain control over their time, commitments, life, and to facilitate the clarification of their priorities and choices. Everyone can come and bring their own resources. There is no necessary status, age or hierarchy. There is a dialogue that can be established on the basis of the objective, of the expected result... More broadly, in these cooperative experiences we see what they can achieve in terms of social inclusion, at a time when disinvestment, disaffiliation and non-recourse to the law are on the increase. They evolve the view of oneself, of others and of the future, and help to regain confidence in their capacity to act, to discover others as resources, and to discover oneself as a resource and contributor. And this can also help them to see the future in a more optimistic way. More broadly, and interviews conducted with young people confirm this, it can identify other career opportunities, open up other professions, discover other environments, and imagine other possibilities for development. Hélène Guiziou continues: “What they experienced at the FabLab has given them confidence, and trust in others. It inserted them into a dynamic that they weren’t really expecting, not knowing if they would find something of interest, if they would be able to deal with the constraints.” It also took them out of their immediate surroundings and opened them up to other environments, actors, resources and integration solutions available through the activation of new networks, by contact with other environments, and by developing a curiosity for other possibilities.
In short, participation in Fab Lab projects allows people to direct their efforts towards a specific project that is clearly delimited in time, which allows them to produce visible objects of which they can be proud: this is a step towards rebuilding their confidence in their power to act. We can then speak of an enabling situation or an enabling environment (Falzon, 2005) in relation to the work of Sen (Sen, 2000) who integrates it into his capability theory. The Fab Lab is still young, and offers multiple projects that open up perspectives that are worth facilitating and analysing because they suggest a different way to construct supportive learning situations where everyone can contribute and find a place in the service of the common good.
 Konk Ar Lab, Fab Lab in Concarneau
André CHAUVET is a training consultant in the fields of professional development consulting and career accommodation. He is also EPALE France's thematic coordinator for the theme of professional transitions.