[hackerspaces] What form of organization does your hackerspace use?

Eric Gerlach eric+hackerspaces-discuss at gerlach.ca
Mon Oct 19 16:31:55 CEST 2009

On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 11:36:54AM +0200, Koen Martens wrote:
> Especially when bootstrapping, a board can bring the agility needed to
> get things off the ground. Especially in the first weeks/months a lot of
> decisions need to be made, while at the same time the membership is
> still getting used to each other and the whole idea. Having to discuss
> all these decisions with the membership at large (apart from the fact
> that we currently have no actual membership defined as we are still in
> the process of forming the legal entity) will slow down the process of
> setting up the space a lot. 
> Of course, we, as a board, are listening closely to what the potential
> membership wants, and actively seek the opinion of everyone involved in
> the space. In any volunteer-driven organization you will see different
> levels of commitment. In my experience, those that become part of the
> board have a high level of commitment, and don't mind pulling in a few
> extra hours for the greater good.

Hear, hear.  These two paragraphs describe our experience at KwartzLab
pretty much perfectly.  We're still in the bootstrapping phase ourselves
(just opened our doors this month), and this has been the model we've
been following.

There's been so much to do, consulting the membership on everything
would have been insane.  There were some things that the board just had
to act on quickly.  I'm glad we did it the way we did.

> My ideal organisational form would be the membership, but as you quite
> clearly explain in your latest installment, there are all kinds of 
> practicalities that influence how that ideal is finally manifesting
> itself in reality. I'm pragmatic enough to let go of the ideal just
> enough to make things work in practice, while at the same time holding
> on to the core value of the ideal: participation, a feeling of belonging
> and ownership shared by all participants.

I think where we'll end up is a board model with heavy membership
consultation.  So about halfway between board and membership, I guess.
That's just my feeling, though.  Hard to tell.

> A final word about the level of commitment the board might show. This might
> lead to a new anti-pattern: some members may fall into a consumer-like attitude.
> Expect the board to do the heavy lifting, and merely consume what the spaces
> makes available. The board members, by nature, will have a tendency to
> pick up work that is left undone, because they have a strong drive to
> 'make it work'. That might lead to overworked board members, an apathic
> membership, and failure of the space. That's a doom scenario, and
> normally there will be someone to pull on the emergency break before
> this happens. But still, something to be aware of I think.

Another organization I was involved in a few years ago suffered from
this problem.  Now, hackerspaces are more involved by their nature than
the club to which I am referring, but I think the warning is a fair one.



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