[hackerspaces] question about workshop strategy

William Macfarlane wmacfarl at gmail.com
Fri Oct 11 20:15:38 CEST 2013

What's the point of your workshops?  Are you trying to get folks to come to
your space?  Do you just want to teach folks cool stuff?  Are you raising
money?  All of these are valid, but they warrant different organizing
models.  Help your members make some money through teaching?

I think it's a super-huge mistake to try to make money off of everything
you do, so I recommend a combination of different models for different
kinds of classes/events/workshops.

At Parts and Crafts we run free/by donation workshops where anyone is
allowed to come by and we put out a donation tin.  Usually this covers more
than materials costs, but less than you would want to pay a teacher.  We
consider this primarily outreach and publicity -- we're interested in
teaching people cool stuff as an inherent good in its own right, and we're
also interested in growing our community.  I think that having an event be
free dramatically increases the chance that a total stranger will decide to
show up for it.  This is particularly true of us, though, since we have a
storefront space on a pretty heavily trafficked street, so we get people
walking by who pop in out of curiosity.

We also run workshops to make some money, both for ourselves, and for our
instructors.  According to whether the primary purpose of the workshop is
to raise money for Parts and Crafts or for the instructor, sometimes we pay
the instructor an hourly rate and collect the rest of the money for the
organization, and sometimes we split it 70%-30%, with the lion's share
going to the instructor.

Why do we do this?

Some folks just want to teach a class, and support Parts and Crafts, but we
think it's nice to pay those folks even a little bit, though sometimes they
refuse and/or give it back.  But some folks are actually trying to make a
living doing non-standard hacking, teaching, tinkering stuff, and I think
that it's part of the collective hackerspace mission statement to support
people in this desire.  And we think that it's really valuable to us, as an
institution to build this community and stay attached to it.  If you have
really awesome workshop leaders, it's really worth your while to help your
workshop leaders make a living teaching workshops, if that's what they want
to do, since then you get to keep having them run awesome workshops in your

There are lots of different reasons you might run workshops.  They're all
good!  Pick your pricing and money schedule to go with the thing that
you're trying to do!

On Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM, Ben Brown <ben at generik.ca> wrote:

> Comments inline.
> On 10/11/2013 11:53 AM, Florencia Edwards wrote:
>> Hi all, I wanted to ask you how do you do it with the workshops.
>> 1. How do you divide the winnings between the makerspace and the teacher
>> by percentage?
> We encourage members who charge fees for workshops to donate part of their
> profit from a workshop, but we don't require it. That said, we'd likely
> require sometime from an outside group who's using our space for their paid
> event.
>> 2. Are all the teachers members? Is it a requirement?
> No. We've had teachers from both inside and outside our membership. Public
> events get approved on by the board, so long as they're on line, it can be
> anyone.
>> 3. Are workshops for members only?
> It's not a requirement. We've had both public and members-only workshops,
> it's up to whoever puts it on.
>> 4. If teachers are not members and workshops are not members only, how do
>> the people that go to the workshop relate to the makerspace. How can they
>> make community if they only go for some classes.
> (answering #5 as well) We encourage the teacher to introduce outside
> participants to the space and describe what we do, as well as inviting them
> to our Tuesday Open Night, which has happened every week since day one. Our
> workshops tend to be maker-centric, which also helps in keeping participant
> interest in the space, though that's not always the case.
> We find awareness to be a powerful tool - even if participants themselves
> don't have much interest in a hackerspace, they know who we are and will
> ultimately spread the word.
> Ben
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