Humanitarian Fab Lab Initiative

Fab labs for humanitarian & development settings

The Humanitarian Fab Lab Initiative aims at providing resources and guidance to deploy impactful fab labs in humanitarian and development settings. We are working hard to share more of the Humantiarian Fab Lab Initiative's developments. In the meantime, if you want to learn more or if you consider joining the initiative, please send us an email:

Fab lab for refugees and host community in Ioannina, Greece, by Terre des hommes. This first proof of concept of the Humanitarian Fab Lab model has officially launched 1st May 2017. You can also explore the fab lab users visits dashboard from May 2017 to March 2018.

About the initiative

Fab Labs

Fab Labs originated in 2002 from an outreach program of the the MIT Center for bits and atoms (CBA). Since then, the number of fab labs has been doubling every 18 month and more than 1000 fab labs have been created. Fab labs are organised as a global network supported by the Fab Foundation.

All fab labs provide a similar set of computer controlled machine tools, like 3d printers, laser cutters, cnc mills, vinyl cutters, etc. The selection of machines can vary from lab to lab depending on the specific focus and budget of the fab lab.

But it is the fab lab’s tools, mission and supporting community that combine to create enabling spaces propitious to innovation, learning and sharing, and as such they have been deployed in various contexts including education and academia, public and private sectors, neighbourhoods, etc.

In a fab lab one can design and fabricate solutions using the tools and knowledge available in the community locally and globally, from simple objects to the hardware and electronics to make complex or smart devices. Also, research on “fab labs making fab labs” is advancing fast, pointing at lower cost and increased sustainability.

Fab Lab in humanitarian and development settings

In 2015 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) initiated an exploration into the potential of digital fabrication technologies and new “enabling spaces” like Fab Labs for humanitarian action.The educational and open source nature of fab labs, and their focus on exponential technologies and fabrication processes, provide a wide range of disruptive opportunities for the humanitarian sector, from the rapid fabrication of spare parts and new devices for field use (in medical, mechanical and other disciplines) during emergency situations or in isolated environments, to the informal education and vocational training support that protracted situations require for affected communities.

That exploration went further in 2016 within the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL) partnership exploring how fab labs can be used specifically to empower affected communities. GHL partners, like Terre des hommes, UPS Foundation, Fab Foundation and others, teamed up to deploy a proof of concept Fab Lab in a humanitarian context addressing the complex situation of refugees in Greece, that opened in May 2017. The use cases of the fab lab in this context, are related to protection, education, livelihood.

Further proof of concepts are already in various phases of planning and development, including in Gaza, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, Kenya, etc.

The Humanitarian Fab Lab Initiative

In April 2018 the project spins-off to be hosted by Terre des hommes (Tdh) as an open initiative. The Humanitarian Fab Lab Initiative is working as an active partnership to further the development of the humanitarian fab lab into an actionable and evidence based, model to deploy appropriate and sustainable fab labs in humanitarian and development programs.

The initiative is open and welcomes partners interested in the development and use of the human fab lab model, including humanitarian and development actors, research and academia, private sector, volunteers and other global support networks.

To develop and test this model, the Humanitarian Fab Lab Initiative is supporting a series of proof of concept deployments from which learnings are extracted and consolidated into the Humanitarian Fab Lab model. In parallel the initiative will also develop a web platform to share the model as an open resource accessible to anyone interested in using or further developing it (note that this web site is the early pretotype of the web platform envisioned).