[hackerspaces] How to create a steady-state makerspace/hackerspace business model

Al Billings albill at openbuddha.com
Tue Jun 4 19:59:50 CEST 2013

This is +1 as far as I'm concerned, after being involved in an all volunteer space for three years at a core level. 

Al Billings

On Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM, Gui Cavalcanti wrote:

> > What do you do when your volunteers burn out and the machines are not all working right because it 
> > is no one's job to maintain them? Wait for new members who want to grease and align machines? 
> +1.
> My definition of a 'sustainable' space isn't simply a financial definition, it's one that takes into account legality, energy and long-term safety. Is your space to-code, do you have insurance, and do you operate entirely above-the-board in your community? If not, then I don't think you're sustainable in the long-run. Do the people who run your space (either the individuals, or the collective volunteers) have the ability to take the time off from the space they need to not burn out? Does everything remain in good working order if they take that time? If not, then the life of the space is directly linked to the attention span and patience of the people who run it. In terms of safety, are your members trained to use the tools in the space? Is there a mechanism to ensure that safe training, that will sustain itself in the long run? If not, you run a much greater risk of getting someone hurt, and that will probably close you down.
> To be fair, the Asylum doesn't meet the 'energy' criteria of sustainability yet - we're about to hire 2 more people, to bring our staff to 5, to try and get to that point. We believe that once we get there, it'll be an intense job, but one that can be handled in 40 hours a week.
> > Is it really worth it to be 'so big' if it requires paid staff and no > longer is free-to-access? wouldn't it be better to have multiple smaller > spaces? My question in response to this is, is your space able to provide a safe, legal, sustainable environment while being small? Some groups have certainly accomplished some of those (such as NOVA Labs). For us, in order to provide professional manufacturing environments given our expenses, we chose to go large. Those professional environments would be much harder to provide in a sustainable fashion, if we were small.
> There's a bigger point that you make, which is the importance of being free-to-access. To me, this question is directly linked to 'what do you expect to be provided for free?' If your answer is 'access to professional manufacturing equipment', I think the answer is 'absolutely not' - high end tools cost a prodigious amount of money to keep going, in terms of maintenance, consumables, tooling, and training. If your answer is 'access to a space with wifi, tables, chairs, and other people', I think it's much more likely that that could be provided for close-to-free. 
> -- Gui Cavalcanti, President Artisan's Asylum, Inc. http://www.artisansasylum.com Cell: (857) 389-7669 

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