Makers Unite: generating socially inclusive, sustainable impact

News overview

Makers Unite creates opportunities for newcomers to the Netherlands through partnership with local makers and sustainable textile production. Through its talent development programme, the agency helps newcomers with a creative background to make a start in the sector in the Netherlands. They become part of a community and, where possible, are linked to companies for which they can start producing. Makers Unite designs and produces sustainable clothing and merchandise for brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Filling Pieces.

Reducing inequality

Makers Unite, co-founded by Thami Schweichler, launched in 2016 with a King’s Day campaign called ReVest Life. Together, students and creative newcomers made patriotic ribbons out of life jackets. On King’s Day, they handed out the ribbons and talked about the inclusive and welcoming society they symbolise.

After the successful campaign, Thami realised the power of the maker process. Bringing students and new makers together had led to trust and an exchange of opinions, with creativity proving key to collaborative dialogue. The partnership also provided newcomers with new connections, part-time jobs and homes. Thami saw an opportunity to set up a business.

Working on the future

Makers Unite combines creative talent with a focus on circularity to realise quality products from design to delivery, deploying newcomers’ skills in order to do so. The agency produces clothing and merchandise for companies and offers various programmes for newcomers.

The main goals are to encourage newcomers to be independent and provide them with an attractive career plan. Participants gain ownership and are allowed to contribute ideas about the company’s direction. Their increased self-confidence leads to more active participation in the community and therefore to a more inclusive society.

Social and sustainable impact

The guidance and experience that programme participants receive makes them better prepared for careers. This increases their self-confidence and independence. Over five years, Makers Unite has supported almost 200 people. About two-thirds have successfully gone on to paid employment or voluntary work. The agency’s partnership with large companies has increased awareness of the benefits newcomers can bring.

Makers Unite uses only sustainable and, as far as possible, recycled materials. A good example are the 6,000 life jackets found on Greek beaches that the agency has used to make new products. By showing how things can be done, Makers Unite serves as an inspiration to the companies it works with.

Boosting the benefits

“Without DOEN, Makers Unite would not exist,” Schweichler says. Since 2017, the agency has received three grants to further develop its social enterprise. The aim is to boost commercial turnover more and more so the social impact will grow. DOEN continues to support Makers Unite’s efforts: in the summer of 2020, DOEN Participaties provided a convertible loan to allow the company to scale up and further increase its impact.

You will soon read the complete impact case about Makers Unite, which was made in collaboration with Avance Impact, in the DOEN annual report.