Short Summary

Otelos are an international network of open technology labs that bring creative people together in rural areas and forge a culture of innovation with them. Unlike many makerspaces and Fab Labs, Otelos make it a priority to welcome ordinary people of all ages and a variety of social spheres, not just hackers and other tech-savvy individuals. At Otelos, participants delve into a variety of arts and crafts, electronics, 3D printing projects and alternative educational approaches. They are places where people play and dance together, produce free media, design new forms of work and pursue countless other passions.

Website address: otelo.or.at

Location: Began in Vöcklabruck & Gmunden, Austria, but now has locations throughout Austria and Germany (see listing here)

Co-founders: Hannelore Hollinetz & Martin Hollinetz

Logo. source


The idea for Otelos began in 2009 when Martin Hollinetz, then Director of Regional Management in the Upper Austrian districts of Vöcklabruck and Gmunden, contemplated the regional development strategies of the EU and the Austrian state and federal governments with dismay.

He viewed the existing strategies as rigidly centralized processes dominated by establishment “experts” and hostile to the idea of civic participation. There were neither infrastructures nor organizational models to support a culture of creativity and innovation. Martin and colleagues wanted to develop a culture in which openness, sharing and cooperation could drive new forms of participatory regional development.

The first Otelos began in 2010 in cooperation with the municipalities of Vöcklabruck and Gmunden, Austria. The municipalities provided the physical spaces and budgets for at least three years (a commitment that many municipalities have since extended indefinitely). This funding gave the Otelos sufficient independence.

Martin Hollinetz: "In a few years, the term “Otelo” could be defined like this in the dictionary: ōtelō, adjective: Welcoming; being part of a diverse, open community; invited to join in actively; keen to experiment; free, touched, inspired and alive; having found one’s place."

Martin Hollinetz source


Otelos are locally chartered associations governed by their members. In 2012, when two new Otelos were started, organizers decided to create a network of local Otelos. Each bases its activities on an Otelo Charter, which outlines the fundamental perspective of Otelos and their cultural ethic of innovation. The network meets twice a year and participates in activities involving various Otelos, such as festivals.

In each community, organizers tried to identify at least five people willing to host and network with other people. This model of volunteer organizing has proved quite successful. This group keeps an eye on new trends and initiates experimental projects.

Soon Otelos began hosting "Denk-Bar" sessions—open meetings at bars/pubs not dominated by experts imparting knowledge, but by interested amateurs who share a passion for a topic of common interest. (DenkBar is a play on words: “denkbar” means “imaginable” in German.) Otelos also developed a “node model,” which enables groups to use space in the Otelos long-term, free of charge, and without any pressure to achieve results. The only requirement is that the groups share their knowledge and experiences and provide opportunities for others to participate. The nodes let a creative economy project evolve and do in-depth experiments with public funding support. The resulting projects have been quite diverse.


Otelos have attracted electronics DIYers who build Tesla coils for making music, light painters, and people developing energy-saving projects for their cities, innovative educational models, and new types of consumer-producer partnerships for sourcing food.

All of the ideas and projects developed in the Otelos are made available under a Creative Commons license or through workshops or various forms of documentation.

Friends & Partners


Many Otelos have funding from municipalities in Germany and Austria. [⸮ Unable to find more info on this, at least in English]

See Also

  • Verbund Offener Werkstätten (English: Federation of Open Workshops), which offers space, tools and counseling for creative and customized production