|I’ve had a very long relationship to the Nottingham Hackspace. It has been in parts the greatest, the most stressful, the most heart warming and sometimes most frustrating organisations I’ve been involved with. On the 13th February 2010 I decided to setup a meetup.com page, to find the others, those with the same desire and interest in setting up a hackspace in Nottingham.
Hackspace and the maker movement have dominated much that has happened in my life over the last 10 years. In 2014 I became self-employed and started selling CO2 laser cutters, I continue to run a company providing support and servicing on this equipment. Through my relationship to Nottingham Hackspace I’ve been lucky enough to develop a wide network of contacts from the hackerspace and maker world, as part of the UK Hackspace Foundation, EMF Camp, as a Maker Faire producer and as part of the crew in at the flagship Maker Faire in the Bay Area and New York. I continue to have an obsession with shared workspaces and the maker movement through my blog and podcast, bricolage.run
Much has changed since those early days on meetup.com in 2010. The founders would have hardly believed that we’d have an organisation with a membership nearing 700, and an alumni of many hundreds more having been involved with Nottinghack over the decade. They’d have been floored by a monthly turnover of about £5k and would have been impressed by one of the best collections of democratised tooling and workspaces anywhere on the planet.
I wish to stand as a trustee again. I know at times I’ve had a difficult even controversial relationship to the space. Maybe I’ve not always been as involved as much as I feel I should have been. But I feel it is the time for me to return. I want to honour the spirit of the idea we had 10 years ago...
“...to create a place where people could come together, pool their resources and knowledge, find space to create and have access to better tools than they could afford alone.”
Organisations that thrive, grow. When they grow they get growing pains. Processes and group beliefs and behaviours that work for 100 people don’t always work for 1000 people. Today, I see a space on the brink. A space sometimes confused as to what its for and what the idea is. A community that is ready to understand itself better and ask itself some questions, to ready itself for the next 10 years of successful operation. I see the many passionate members for whom the hackspace means so much ready to give freely of their time for the idea.
It’s a regret of mine, that sometimes my previous terms as trustee ended in drama, partly of my own making partly as a result of the stresses of an ill defined role and a growing group. I’ve certainly been guilty of cynicism, been overly critical at time and occasionally allowed my passions for the space to spill out into my interactions with members. Whilst I intend to remain human, I would like to think I’ve grown. As well as the experience I can bring I intend to also bring a new calmness and maturity to my time as trustee. A listening ear and a seeing eye, though I’ll never shy away from addressing injustice and a compromise of the ideals that I believe bring this community together.
For me, the key issues are not recruiting more and more members. I want to move away from member numbers as a success indicator and as the only imagined route to finance stability. Our space is awesome, with nearly 700 paying members, outreach and engagement is higher than ever. If we aim to make a better space for our 700 members, a space that 700 could not do without, then word of mouth alone will spread the idea we are sharing and we’ll have people eager to join our community. I propose that we measure success on the stories our members bring us about the positive engagements and outcomes the space has helped them to achieve. That trustees measure success on good interactions between members, through empowerment that allows members to organise small communities within our larger group and in enabling more people to engage with the space through robust systems and processes, diminishing the emotional labour and stresses experienced by the most engaged members of our community.
I would like to start a conversation around what membership means, what it means to be engaged with the space. To reduce the friction of debate and bikeshedding in our meetings and for us to spend no more time fretting that some members are choosing not to engage with the politics and strategy of the space. Recognising that each member has a different relationship to the space and celebrating it.
When I see the space today I see people of all ages and backgrounds, truly local people and those from around the city, working together in service of an idea, an idea that is bigger than themselves. The idea that we can can come together as a community to create a social workspace with few gatekeepers, where we can all find respect, banish loneliness and create spaces to make stuff. I am proud to be a part of that.