What is a Build-It?

A Build-It is an activity designed to help experienced designers guide potential innovators through a design process and help familiarize new innovators with tools.  It is essentially a hands-on activity that teaches some particular set of maker skills with basic hand tools available in a developing country context, which can take anywhere from 2-6 hours. The ultimate goal of a Build-It is to bridge the comfort gap people may have with making, focusing more on the skills developed rather than the object created.

All Builds-Its by nature are a work-in-progress. There are always ways that a design can be improved or a new way that a skill can be taught to a group to foster a better experience for all that are involved. Before leading a larger group, take the time to run through the design on your own, to ensure that you are comfortable enough with each step to teach it effectively and safely.

When do you use a Build-It?

Build-Its have been used at the beginning of IDDSs, Innovation Center workshops, hands-on community workshops, and in university development classes. Regardless of the context, the ultimate goal is still the same. Build-Its are regularly led by multiple instructors at once, including a lead instructor directing each step of the activity, and a variety of hands-on instructors that can directly work with participants having trouble with certain steps.

Before leading a Build-It, instructors have all materials and tools prepared, as well as appropriate workspace laid out for each participant. Participants are best able to learn and practice their new skills when they have everything they need for a hands-on, active experience.

What IDIN Build-Its are available to use?

There are a variety of Build-Its available from the IDIN designed to teach all sorts of skills. Each of the documents in the library include all of the information needed to lead a Build-It, including information on the different techniques that are being learned throughout the project.

When considering a Build-It, take in mind the community that you will be working with, what challenges they face in daily life, and what skills have the widest application towards their lifestyles. For example, at IDDS D'Kar there was a particular way that San community members started their fires so they featured a San Firestarting Build-It.

All Build-Its can be downloaded from the IDIN resource library.



Skills it Teaches

Estimated Time

Wooden Spoon

Sawing; chiseling; gouging; carving


3-4 hours

Bicycle Hacksaw

Cutting metal; drilling; welding; hacksawing


5 hours

Handheld Foam Cutter

Wire working; using slip joint pliers; making a simple circuit


3 hours

Charcoal Press

Woodworking; metalworking 3 hours

Maize Sheller

Metalworking 2 hours

Living Machine


LED Smart Light

Electronics; wire-working 3 hours

Sheet Metal Bucket

Metalworking 2 hours

Detachable Arrowhead

Metalworking 1 hour

Battery Operated Wood Block Phone Charger

Woodworking; basic electronics circuits  


What other Build-Its-like modules and databases are out there?

If you are looking for a particular Build-It that we do not have, do not panic. There are several options that can be leveraged before abandoning the project. First, there are several other databases that can be scoured for designs that can be adapted to a Build-It lesson. Including:

All of these databases are dedicated to a DIY spirit, meaning people should be able to complete all of these without anything beyond basic hand-tools. Alternatively, it may be useful to consider using a different design that teaches the skills you want, but building a different project. Starting with a simple Google search could lead to some useful resources outside of IDIN. For example, if you are looking for an activity that teaches basic water pumping skills you could type into Google or YouTube for “activities that teach water pumping skills.”

Lastly, if you still do not find what you are looking for you can reach out to fellow network members and former organizers by making a request post on the IDIN Hylo page or IDDS All Facebook page.

How do I share my Build-It with IDIN?

If you want to share your Build-It with IDIN, please take a video of someone doing the Build-It or fill out the Build-It Instructor Guide template and send to for posting and sharing with the network. 

Who do I contact for more information?

For other questions and ideas, please email the IDDS Program Manager, Sher Vogel.