Manchester Digital Laboratory, referred to more colloquially as MadLab, is an innovation organisation located in an unassuming building within the heart of the Northern Quarter. Operating at the intersection of the arts, culture, and technology sectors, MadLab’s work is underscored by a deep commitment to the community. They attempt to reconcile disparities of inequality in skills development through workshops, training sessions and projects which actively aim to make technology more accessible. As a space for thinkers, tinkerers, makers, and creators alike, MadLab is made of many parts. It is a hub of activity, a co-working space, and a place where the exchange of ideas is not only encouraged, but the true heart of its operation.
As an international student, my time at MadLab was as much about developing organisational knowledge on an operational level as it was about fostering an understanding of the nuances of the larger Manchester community. In my role as the Marketing and Events Assistant, I was afforded the fortunate opportunity to help in the delivery of a number of eclectically programmed activities. From 3D Printing workshops to community group meetups for short story writing, web development and jewelry making, my role highlighted the importance of building and maintaining relationships with local organisations, individuals and community groups. I learned to leverage these relationships, both in person and online, as tools for promotion, collaboration, and support. At MadLab’s, the delivery of work is a collective endeavour, and it is vital to work within these networks to ensure that the delivery of activities is done as efficiently and effectively as possible.
With the guidance of an amazing and dedicated group of individuals, each motivated by the organisations missions as well as their personal and professional passions for all things creative and technology oriented, I was given the freedom to grow in my role. The team gave me the ability to ask questions, to optimise my learning according to my interests, and to be creative. I was showed the practicalities of day-to-day operations in a medium sized organisation, while also assisting with the creation of content for MadLab’s website, newsletters, and social media channels. I learned how to develop clarity in tone, language, and voice as tools for communication and engagement, helping to bridge the gap between the community and the offerings of the organisation.
I feel lucky to have played a role in facilitating, what MadLad would say, is a fulfilment of their foundational aim, to “help people to make things better, together”. I was able to hone my communication and interpersonal skills by engaging with audiences through different mediums in order to bring people together for the purpose of education, creativity and personal and professional development. It is work that I am proud to have been a part of and the insights I gained not only made evident the number of individuals who are widely impacted by their work, but also highlighted the importance of MadLab’s work as a primer for community growth.
Alyssa Dowler is a Master’s student in the Arts Management, Policy and Practice programme at the University of Manchester.