[hackerspaces] Should Hackerspaces Have Employees?

Nick Farr (hackerspaces.org) nick at hackerspaces.org
Tue Oct 6 17:40:58 CEST 2009

If it's a necessity, what's the need?

If you have a large ongoing operation, say a bar or kitchen that
brings in a substantial amount of revenue and requires more time to
manage than you could expect of a volunteer, then you should hire a
manager to handle that function.

As a rule of thumb, the operation should have revenue at least five
times what the salary for the manager would be, and the manager should
be able to increase the revenues of the operation to the point where
their salary is covered.

There's also the matter of running a hackerspace like a business.  If
you're starting a for-profit hackerspace, one that runs as a coffee
shop, parts store, etc...then you would want to have paid staff as any
other similar business would.

The other problem with employees is supervision.  Who is their
supervisor?  Who tells them what they should be working on?  Does
every member have a right to task the employee, does the employee get
a vote along with members, etc.?  If you hire an employee, these
questions (and other similar ones) should absolutely be answered well
in advance.

However, as far as a regular, non-profit hackerspace goes, if it's a
non-essential function that wouldn't get done unless someone is paid
to do it, then it's probably something that's worth pursuing.  If it's
an essential function, such as the role of a treasurer, etc...then if
you can't find someone to do it, you should find someone competent
outside the organization to handle it.  It might also be nice to
incentivize that person as well as the members to find a way to
fulfill the role internally on a volunteer basis.

Keep us posted on how it goes!  Let us know why your business minded
friends think employees are essential!  I suspect there's something
I'm missing here...

Nick Farr / http://nickfarr.org
Washington, DC, 20013-1208 | +1 (707) 676-FARR | Fax: +1 (866)
536-2616 | 8B13F204

On Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 04:47, tetsu yatsu <tetsuharu at gmail.com> wrote:
> I know the immediate response would be 'No', but some of my more
> business-savvy friends act like it's a necessity.
> A hackerspace will obviously want to purchase the services of some
> professionals: lawyers, accountants, etc.  Nonprofit Organizations are
> legally allowed to have employees and compensate them for valuable work
> performed for the benefit of the organization.  Maybe a PR specialist, an
> in-house accountant or lawyer if you have some adventurous projects. Maybe
> some of you are spending most of your time managing and organizing the
> business activities of the space, and it would be beneficial to have them on
> payroll to guarantee the work continues to get done.
> I don't ask this question like, 'can we pay ourselves for being cool
> hackers', but honest employment.
> Has any other hackerspace come across it? Tried it? Failed with it? Have
> opinions on it?
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