Definition and status of Hackspaces

Open discussion of how the HSF defines a Hackspace, and it’s associated status (e.g. Active, Starting)

Latest definition on github:

Summary of Telegram discussion on status:

  • Starting/Forming - has some kind of presence/activity
  • Active - has incorporated (may have premises)
  • Defunct - no premises, has stopped meeting, online presence appears out-of-date/static
  • Suspended - Was Active, but has lost space and temporarily stopped meeting

See also:


I was pondering if we should be requiring a space to be incorporated to qualify, but thinking about it, it’s more important that we have a requirement for an open statement of how the organisation operates which is what was driving me towards the idea of requiring encorporation.


Telegram logs leading up to this (text in square brackets mine on the first line, some irrelevant messages removed).

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:26]
Companies house will possibly get you a list [of Hackspace trustees]

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:27]
if they are actual companies… yup

James Mastros, [08.11.16 12:27]
That’s a point, if they are incorporated.

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:27]
Wonder how many aren’t incorporated and why people don’t do that.

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:27]
no need to until need to put name behind something like rent etc

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:27]
we were unincorp for 3 years (or more…)

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:28]
I was pondering if that should be a requirement to count as a space or not

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:28]
Not sure if it matters though

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:28]
hmm, well if they dont have (semi)formal writeups about how the “space” is managed… how can we tell if they fit the definition?

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:29]
you wouldnt have been able to tell of swindon really

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:29]
Indeed, that’s kind of what I was thinking.

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:29]
… decide if we find any :wink:

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:29]
It’s partially because that way the space is “owned” by the company, and thus their actual space is too, along with money and resources. Stops people taking over spaces or running them as a dictatorship.

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:30]
I know our local other space isn’t incorporated and as such doesn’t have any details on their management or how it’s run

Fligg, [08.11.16 12:30]
Will start with companies house but that’s usually better for names. I can add a column if we think that info is relevant. Just asking to speak to the trustees (maybe point out I’m from Leeds Hackspace) seems the easy way to go :slight_smile:

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:30]
[In reply to Ian_Norton]
is also possible they dunno how its run :wink:

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:30]
If a space is an actual physical space and doesn’t have some form of legal entity running it then they have serious problems AFAIC

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:31]
[In reply to Jonty Wareing]
aye… cos then they have the “using someone’s garage” possible issue

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:31]

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:31]
[In reply to Jonty Wareing]
Hence thinking maybe it should be a consideration for qualifying.

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:31]
It is worth thinking about indeed.

Fligg, [08.11.16 12:31]
Well, I know of at least a couple of groups that meet in someone else’s premises for one night a week, is that a problem?

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:32]
That would be a “hackspace that is forming”

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:32]
/me agrees…

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:32]
[In reply to Fligg]
Nope, but the question is if they qualify for being a hackspace rather than in the process of forming.

James Mastros, [08.11.16 12:32]
I’d put them in associated orginizations as larval hackspaces, or suchlike.

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:33]
I think it’s really worth separating out spaces that are forming just so we know who to focus on helping.

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:33]
good point :wink:

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:33]
[In reply to Jonty Wareing]
Good plan

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:33]
cos thats kinda the point :wink:

Damian Axford, [08.11.16 12:33]
perhaps that’s the definition of forming vs formed - has incorporated and has perm premises

James Mastros, [08.11.16 12:34]
Er, I’d put those that don’t have a formal orginization in associated orginizations, on the basis that if nobody owns or manages then we can’t say that they are self-owned and self-managed.

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:34]
Hmm, does the UK Hackspace Foundation count as a Hackspace… #recursionftw

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:34]
… not yet? :wink:

James Mastros, [08.11.16 12:34]
I don’t think having premises is a neccessary condition.

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:34]
@axford Then things get fuzzy if a space loses it’s premesis for a while, which has happened.

Jonty Wareing, [08.11.16 12:34]
I agree with @theorbtwo

Jess Robinson, [08.11.16 12:34]
a formal structure however…

James Mastros, [08.11.16 12:34]
It’s certianly preferable to have premises, but not required.

Damian Axford, [08.11.16 12:34]

Damian Axford, [08.11.16 12:34]
they’d just revert to forming

Ian_Norton, [08.11.16 12:35]
Also do you put a time limit on it or can it go on being a Hackspace-in-potentia forever?

Jess Robinson

aye… cos then they have the “using someone’s garage” possible i…

Depends on the garage. If it’s set up as a 24h access space with everything else fitting the criteria other than someone is effectively bank rolling their physical location (and if they’re rich enough to do that then who are we to complain).

I would probably gently suggest they formalise the arrangement but it doesn’t necessarily make them not a hackspace.

Perhaps worth remembering that the definition of a Hackspace is with reference to being a HSF member and receiving tangible benefits. We’ve also not said that the different statuses of a space have any impact on their membership, so getting too hung up on specifics probably won’t make much diff.

Hmm, yes and no. Some of the purpose of the group is to promote and support new spaces, as such we should be making recommendations regarding this sort of thing.

Shared premises is fine as has been mentioned already but only if there’s some kind of formalised agreement, which in term implies a legal entity exist in order to be able to sign that, which then implies some level of incorporation.

Ergo best practice should be that the group be incorporated both to protect their own member interests from dictatorship from a “kindly landlord” donating a shared space.

I’m coming around more to the idea that incorporation should be a requirement.


I’m going to add a comment @kaymagpie made in telegram as I think it’s important:

“I don’t think a space would want to ban someone being a potential member just because they are the landlord the space uses. So a proper legal rental agreement, making a clear separation should be sufficient?”

Inline with the idea that we should document both the thing and the reason behind the thing, this is a pretty compelling reason.

If you don’t have any kind of legal entity, how can you sign anything on behalf of an organisation and thus protect your organisation from someone offering you a shared space and then becoming a dictator? If said kindly landlord then chooses to ignore your rules, Code of Conduct or any other guidance or rules that your organisation may have, you have no recourse without potentially finding yourselves without any kind of space to work from.


  • has ten or more members

Why 10 and not 5 or 15?

  • HAs a primary object of providing a shared workspace to its members

I like that it does not specifically state that it needs to be either one fixed place nor does it have to be physical. A virtual server could be considered a space.

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5 is more like a group of friends, or 3 directors and 2 members. It’s very, very cosy.

Not 15, because once you reach 10 you have sufficient number of strangers to show that you’re starting to grow into a larger membership base.

Why 10? It works.

In my eyes there are also at least 3 main definitions of ‘Makerspace / Hack(er)space’:

  1. A Community run workshop/workspace, this definition most aligns with Hack(er)spaces, it’s a place that tends to hold equipment, machinary, basically like your Hackspace that you run now, only the name is interchangeable between Makerspace and Hack(er)space. These are also typically not-for-profits/non profits, mainly their motivation is to help people learn and create and make things and develop the community around it.

  2. An educational focused work area, this may be in a library, a school or a University, it’s typically locked down to subscription or members in the latter, and aimed at a younger audience when the former. These more often take on the Makerspace name

  3. Commercial, these are your FabLabs, and similar. These are your places where you pay to get stuff done, where they provide a service and have employees to help you to do your work. They may cross over into being partly community run, but ultimately they tend to be for profit and hold no real ownership to the community, but may foster one informally.

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I can see those mapping basically to governance and ownership:

  1. is for and by the members
  2. Educational, public or not for profit org
  3. Commercial

That might possibly be a clearer distinction given the recent discussions about “What’s a hackspace” have tended to levitate towards governance and ownership.

Thinking of orgs that focus on something else but have a “makerspace” as part of the work they do, say… local Cancer charity offering a workshop for people affected by Cancer would fit into 2 as a not-for-profit org. Their primary focus isn’t on hosting the “makerspace” but it’s something they did because they could see the potential benefits

Hence suggesting that not-for-profit might fit both 1 and 2.

(paraphrased from telegram discussion)


This might be getting a bit deep by maybe we can answer the why/mituvation?

2 is to be used as an education tool.
3 it is a business to make money.

But 1)? is there a why?
I think I highlighted this before:

Do others feel that we need a bit more than ‘because we can’?

Do I have to mention the seven co-operative principles? Hackerspaces are essentially cooperatives. I think they should at least operate with those principles in mind.

Ultimately, I think a “Hackspace” in the UK is just a member-owned workshop. No more thinking involved than that.

I think spaces are absolutely allowed have a more overtly political goal, as @amunizp seems to be suggesting, but that should not be a requirement of joining.

By this, I think I mean: “I enjoy making pointless things on a lathe in my spare time” should be an equally valid reason as “I’d like to seize the means of production” from our point of view.

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Yes, yes you do. Thank you, I had never seen or heard of this before, it’s useful.

Not seen those seven principles before either… so, a minimal definition that builds on those could be:

Hackspace = co-operative workspace

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That’s actually really useful, thanks @russ

I’d say point 2 fails the non-binary gender test but otherwise it’s good :wink:

Interesting point made by Ryan White on UK Hackspaces mailing list:

Big fan of our 24 hour access at rLab in Reading. I think it’s one of the few defining aspects of a hackspace being ‘open for business’ as opposed to ‘in the making’ or ‘not a hackspace (yet)’, but maybe that’s just me.

Should that be on the list as a SHOULD?


The should would be unfair I think. Not every space will be able to comply

Which is why it’s a SHOULD and not a MUST.