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

Seth Hardy shardy at aculei.net
Mon Oct 19 18:35:54 CEST 2009

one thing to consider that, as someone who was on the board of a 
hackerspace, i found frustrating:

it's all well and good to say "the board has no special powers, we 
should be a one tier membership system." however, in certain cases (such 
as when the hackerspace has incorporated and taken on legal 
responsibilities under the corporation name), the board has additional 
legal and financial responsibilities over the rest of the members. these 
responsibilities include ways they are legally obligated to act, as well 
as the liabilities if something goes wrong.

the creative direction of the space should be advanced by the members, 
but (for example) if someone's name is on the lease, they probably 
should have additional authority or "special powers" (but only as much 
as is necessary!) to enforce their additional responsibility and 
minimize their additional liability.

if you want to avoid thinking of it as "special status," keep the 
management and legal obligations separate from creative direction. the 
latter can still be run by the members and coexist with the possibility 
of "this smaller group of people can kick you out if you light shit on 
fire inside." if people act reasonably, the board will never have to act 
with this kind of authority.

On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 06:17:56PM +0200, Koen Martens wrote:
> On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 05:48:48PM +0200, quemener.yves at free.fr wrote:
> > > 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.
> > 
> > I have been pondering this a bit, if the hackerspace in Grenoble ever kicks off, what about the structure ? I think most problems comes from the perceived hierarchy between board members, regular paying members and occasional members. I wonder if a system would work where you would consider the "board" (namely the management of the space, the legalities, the inventory, etc...) as a project like all the others, where people are welcome to contribute or not. 
> > 
> > I tend to value more the group of people and the set of projects and consider them independent of the physical space itself. If a space fails for any reason, the projects can survive through transplantation somewhere else. 
> > 
> > Maybe this opinion comes from the fact that we don't have a permanent space yet here and that we are all somehow trapped inside a medium-sized city. But I wonder... There is this kind of hierarchical feeling that the managers of the physical space are the bosses of the group, I wonder if it is unavoidable. Sure they can veto some projects happening in their facilities (no amateur pyrotechnics here !) but there is no reason to give them any power to anything not related to the physical space management.
> > 
> > What do you think about this approach ?
> I see the whole board-thing as a necesarry evil, but want to avoid giving the board
> members any special status whatsoever. It is exactly this hierarchical thing that may
> lead to what I described earlier, where the board will have more and more work and
> the membership becomes an apathic bunch. In my eyes, board members are just participants
> who get to do some of the more boring stuff.
> There's some questions about accountability that i'm sidestepping here though, who is
> responsible if you all decided you _will_ have a pyrotechnics workshop in your space
> and people get hurt?? You can have members sign a waiver, but what about neighbours? If
> it comes to that, they will probably look at the board and sue the board, not the members..
> Anyway, all this discussion about boards and organisation forms etc might lead you to
> think that it is all about that. In fact, it is not. Once set up and organised, the board
> is basically only responsible for collecting membership dues and collecting the rent. And
> that's it. The rest is the fun part: projects, social events, etc..!
> Gr,
> Koen
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seth hardy: shardy at aculei.net * 647.890.1452 * www.aculei.net/~shardy
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	"God is not on the side of the heavy battalion,
		but on the side of the best shot."  -- Voltaire
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