[hackerspaces] Hackerspace as a co-op?

Will Bradley will at heatsynclabs.org
Wed Nov 23 05:31:58 CET 2011

In my experience with member self-governance, there are lots of
talkers who disappear when it comes time to do something. Also, voter
turnout frequently stinks. So a few dedicated people are frequently
needed either way. Finally, having a small number of "go to people" is
useful when dealing with other entities.

The hackerspace ethos prizes action over talk (see: the bikeshed
problem) so limiting talk and empowering passionate people with the
ability to do stuff can be more valuable than giving every single
(armchair quarterback) a say. I.e. a meritocracy or do-ocracy instead
of a democracy.

We didn't get a single significant donor until we got 501c3 so I
highly recommend talking with Space Federation or filing for your
status. Many larger companies will not help you unless they get a tax

On Nov 22, 2011, at 9:21 PM, Far McKon <farmckon at gmail.com> wrote:

> Right,
> There is a big difference between something that is functionally owned
> by it's members (aka, coop by action) and a legal cooperative.
> cooperative by action:
> Many hackerspaces act as a cooperative, such that all members are
> owners of the organization, and have voting rights. (As opposed to a
> few board members run the nonprofit, and members have little or no
> say).
> One of the downfalls of cooperative style management is having people
> take ownership.  Some hackerspaces have members that would rather do
> the 'buy a gym membership' model than 'we are a cooperative
> mini-democracy' model.   For the people that fall into the first case,
> trying to run things in the second case can burn them our, or
> frustrate them. And vice-versa.
> cooperative by law:
> It gets to be a state by state thing at some point. Some states have
> easier reporting for taxes for cooperatives, others for state
> nonprofits, others for the new 'For Benefit' types of entities. Your
> Mileage May Vary, I Am Not A Lawyer. If you are a cooperative, check
> how the state taxes 'profits' from the entity. Cooperatives,
> for-benifits, or technically for-profit (but just to be filed) may
> cause a tax burden on members since end of year cash on hand can be
> counted as 'income' in some states.
> Most spaces I don't see a need to be a federal 501(c)3. very few
> spaces get donations where tax deductions play into it.
> Yoy may want to check out Space Federation if you just want to start
> hacking on things. They are a national org for hacker/maker/art spaces
> that can/will act as a 501(c)3 sponsor. e, they accept donations,
> verify you are using them in a way that matches nonprofit standards,
> etc.
> In short:
> I think cooperative in action can make a great hackerspace, or can
> burn people out. Cooperative by law is a state by state situation.
> Just another 0$.02, Hack on,
> - Far McKon
> http://www.FarMcKon.net "Creatively Maladjusted"
> On Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM, Will Bradley <will at heatsynclabs.org> wrote:
>> I understand what a co-op hackerspace might look like, but I don't think
>> it's a contentious question... for example HeatSync isn't a "co-op" per se
>> but it is a 501c3 nonprofit whose members get to vote in the board of
>> directors and also participate in self-governance via proposals and votes at
>> regular meetings. But there is still a board, an organizational bank
>> account, we're a registered nonprofit corporation with the state.
>> I suppose a co-op would include more strict language in its bylaws
>> indicating that paying members are all given an equal vote and are the
>> highest authority in the organization (as opposed to a board-based org.)
>> But colloquially, I'm pretty sure that some form of member self governance
>> is a very common feature of hackerspaces.
>> On Nov 22, 2011 5:34 PM, "Rubin Abdi" <rubin at starset.net> wrote:
>>> Rhys Rhaven wrote, On 2011-11-22 15:11:
>>>> What do you mean by co-op?
>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-op
>>> --
>>> Rubin
>>> rubin at starset.net
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