Definition and status of Hackspaces

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.

I’ve been fiddling with this as I have a sick child and this is quite key to our ability to onboard other organisations.

I have made a couple of changes from the document as it stands in the Foundation repo - THESE ARE NOT WRITTEN IN STONE, feel free to argue with me - I started fiddling with it then realised I should be documenting my thoughts and running them past the rest you.

  1. I’ve added more potential names for a hackspace into the introductory paragraph
  2. I’ve changed workspace to workshop - does a big empty room in any way fill the requirements for being a hackspace? And how does that really differ from a community hall?
  3. I’ve changed the number of members required on the board to 3, as we had discussions on Telegram about the inherent instability of an evenly numbered board.

Changes I’d like to make:

  1. STEAM requirement - I’m not sure this is actually relevant, the space itself needed do any proper educational work to be considered a hackspace
  2. Reprase the line which states that any space regardless of its name may be considered a hackspace if it fulfils the definiation of a hackspace - it doesn’t scan properly at the moment
  3. Add a line about how sharing your shed with people doesn’t make a hackspace and one about spaces that are for the community but are not directly run by it to make that really clear.


A hackspace (also known as Hackerspace, Makerspace, arts and crafts club for the digital world, Maker Lab, Hack Lab etc) is a member run and community operated workshop, where people with similar interests can meet, socialize and collaborate. See hackerspace on Wikipedia.

Foundation Definition

  • The UK Hackspace Foundation considers an organisation a Hackspace, and thus eligible to join as a Member Space, if it:
    • is member owned and operated,
    • is an unincorporated or incorporated association,
      • If incorporated, then it must be not-for-profit / non-profit
    • is based in the UK,
    • has a primary object of providing a shared workshop to its members,
    • has a bank account,
    • has ten or more members,
    • has a democratically elected board of at least 3 members,
    • conducts its business by allowing each member over 16 one vote,
    • fosters a tolerent and inclusive community (see Code of Conduct),
    • encourages engagement with, and opening to, the public,
    • describes itself, or its activities, as a Hackspace (not necessary in the name or title of the group/business),
    • is supportive of ‘STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)
  • Conformance to these criteria is judged by the Foundation’s board

Examples of organisations that would not meet this criteria include spaces that are:

  • solely used as a rentable, accessible workshop with paid access
  • mainly a private club, group or clique (with the exception of membership being a gateway to regular access)

I think in general I quite like these, but there are some bits I think could do with a. Bit more clarity in the wording. I’d change the wording under “foundation definition” to be “considers an orginization to be a UK Hackspace”, and thus not make it say that all hackspaces must be in the uk.

(OK, the plural may have been ill-considered, as I can’t find anytuing else that needs to change.)

I saw the statement of 'is supportive of STEM/STEAM as relevant because it can help people to give context to the definition of what is a Hackspace, It does not have to be education related, it is category related.

I feel it is a clarification which we take for granted and ‘supportive’ likely requires clarification on ‘is supportive of the teaching/education of’ and it’s something which is sufficient of a clarification and definition which is required for the purposes of being classed as certain entities and entitlement to grants, so it was an attempt at a forward-thinking move that if Hackspaces whom were members and met the definition also proclaimed they were so then they would find life easier in the long run when explaining themselves to third parties.

Basically, it helps people/hackspaces to identify with it, and explain what hackspaces are to others.

I present as an example the definitions of membership to the IEEE org

I think this is pretty good but probably still needs a bit more poking - I’m inclined to agree with the STEAM criticism as I think it immediately puts people in a certain mindset, however I DO think saying something along those lines is completely worthwhile.

I’ll have a bash at some ideas when I have a few minutes tomorrow.

I think the criteria that we use to accept hackspaces into membership should be separate from our general definition of hackspaces (which should be a bit more marketing-like).

I would like to propose “that democratically elected board of a least 3 members” includes the stipulation of regular elections as this keeps the people running a Hackspace representative of its active members.

At the meeting there seemed to be the feeling that the current requirements/definition was good but could do with some fleshing out as to how this works in practice, there needs to be a balance between accepting and helping new spaces, who may not meet the requirements, and maintaining clarity about what we think a Hackspace should be/do.

I think the consensus was that in the initial phase the HSF board would decide case by case as to whether to accept a new space

I would like to suggest that we have minimum requirements for a space being elligible to join which is pretty much in line with the definition presented at the meeting but that we also start to expand on the definition to include best practices. So in my proposal above it might be that we accept Hackspaces who have 3 elected directors but we then suggest/help them move towards regular elections.

IMHO a continued non-acceptance of Reading shows a level of arrogance and hypocrisy. Their membership had a recent opportunity to change the structure and the consensus was to retain the existing one.

How can you justify excluding an organization for doing what their members asked because it doesn’t fit your cookie cutter outlook of the way you think it should be? Pressuring people (orgs) to conform is not really in the maker ethos, is it?

I’m sorry but we have no idea what you’re talking about. We haven’t got ANY official members yet and Reading Hackspace (rLab) is listed on the front page of the website. In what sense are we “not accepting Reading”?

The agenda for the recent meeting reaffirms that it will be treated as a 2nd class org, unless that was changed in the meeting? Minutes don’t seem to be available yet

Hey there,

Unfortunately it appears that there’s been some misinterpretation.

Please remember that what you read on the website can be intended in a different way to which you’re reading it. No-one is perfect at the english language, even what we say could accidentally come across as aggressive or offensive.

Also remember that there’s been many ways in which people could get involved and this is all done voluntarily, please mind the tone and wording used in your text, we’re all here with good intentions and assume good faith.

There’s nothing reaffirmed, and while the minutes get sorted out, I can assure you that as an attendee of the meeting, it was seen that the ‘definition of hackspace’ that is published currently is not actually, fully, intended as a ‘definition’ of what it means to be a hackspace, more so it is closer to, and will be altered to be more like a ‘requirements for membership’.

This was only one factor amongst many that would become ‘requirements for membership’ and I am only glossing over this at a ‘high level’ and by that I mean I am not putting forward all of the facts, or this as fact, because I am human and my memory is faulty.

Everything is iterative. That’s partly why it’s on github as you’ve no doubt also seen.

Now, I appreciate you’re excited and keen to find out what’s going on, many people are also excited, and so are we. Understand that it’s slow moving because we all have other responsibilities and everything will be updated in due course.

I’m not making apologies for anyone or anything, this has been in progress for a while, and was even kickstarted into action after being silent for longer.

Thank you

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Likewise. I was merely trying to draw attention that comments on changes appear to be trying to make it more exclusive rather than more inclusive. Everyone doesn’t fit into neat pigeonholes, we need to be versatile.

Can you explain in what way you think your space doesn’t fit in our current member definition? Maybe we can discuss it, and explain the thinking behind the structure we’ve come up with.

Currently the hackspace is a ‘loose rabble’ with no actual leaders and there is non-profit company that deals with admin/money/safety, etc. on a good faith basis.

Personally I am in favour of a more formalised structure and protected rights, however the consensus so far has been to keep the status quo and it has continued to work for the last 7 years.

So, first of all, that definition is purely for joining the Foundation as a full member - we’re working on allowing groups to join both as associate members (if they don’t fully comply with the definition and have no wish to - such as university 'spaces), and potentially as spaces working towards complying with the definition. We understand (and this was specifically discussed) that not all organisations can comply depending on their size, etc.

Taking a look at your Company’s House records, you have seven directors, so some of this won’t be applicable. But this is basically an explanation of why we’ve included the member lead and member run parts of the organisation, as well as the democratically controlled parts.

The community ownership requirement is, we feel, central to protecting hackspaces long-term, and this is in part due to issues in similar community spaces such as social centres where a “Benevolent Dictator For Life” or even a cabal have used either lax or totally non-existent structures to commandeer a project and take it far away from what the members envisioned. This has meant things like asset stripping an organisation, or turning it entirely against the reason the organisation started (such as politically based groups and spaces). This, sadly, tends to sour members who have put a not-insignificant amount of work into the project from ever engaging in a similar project again. And that’s before we look at how that would affect the community at large looking at the members and other similar groups.

Having a single director or a tightly knit group also means that the director/s can, for example, kick out members they don’t like at will, be almost entirely shielded against claims of impropriety towards the group, and could at least in theory (unless the company charter has something similar to an asset lock - which your group has) divest a space of all its tools.

Again, both of these have been witnessed in other communities at other points in time. While they may not feel necessary in your case, we’re very much about promoting best-practice for both the community and individual hackspaces.

Another major issue we were concerned with is university and company spaces with a private remit.

Such spaces are not primarily community focused, and are not community lead - which, I think you’ll agree, is at the heart of what your hackspace wants, and what we want. They are tightly controlled spaces, with a very specific direction and strong vertical control via a parent organisation. That means there’s no freedom for members to change the direction of the space (let’s say, add a craft area to a space in the electronics engineering ‘hackspace’ set up by a university), and even projects can be forced down particular routes, and decisions can be made that would actively harm a community of makers. For example, one university maker room requires a member of staff to be in the room if you’re using a drill press - yep, adults require supervision to use the most basic of tools.

There is also concern that groups such as the Russell Group, or companies with stakes in technology could easily form ‘hackspaces’ without these rules in place that could then hijack this organisation with a fair amount of ease, and use it to their benefit rather than that of the maker community. Some of this is, to some extent, already happening with universities setting up makerspaces and hackspaces within the confines of their departments, with, at best, a cursory interest in the wider community. Never mind if companies such as Hobbycraft decided to jump on the bandwagon and create ‘makerspaces’ which restricted customers to products bought in store etc. Both of these are frequently viewed as being quite far from what we as a community aims to promote and create with our spaces.

So, the real question is, does this actually make a difference to how your hackspace would run? Our hackspace (Manchester) has election terms for two years, with no term limits in place. So if the membership are happy with who has been in charge, they can keep the same board members indefinitely (or at least until they run far enough away that we can’t reasonably conscript them :laughing: ). So, in reality, with your members liking the seven directors you have in place, apart from a vote yearly or so, and the ability to maybe terf out a director at an Emergency General Meeting, nothing would likely change apart from words on a piece of paper.

Does this change the feeling and ethos of the space? Maybe. But we’ve found that with a stronger structure in place, it’s actually allowed members to feel like they know where the lines are for the space. It’s also allowed members to truly understand that they have both ownership and control. Even strongly activist groups such as Radical Routes and the Anarchist Federation have far more restrictive entry requirements due to some of the above concerns, with Radical Routes being somewhat similar in the level of services and benifits to members to what we might aim for (reduced rate buisness services, mutual aid, startup advice, mediation, etc). So, with one of those being an anarchist group, I’m struggling to see how these restrictions on membership to the foundation will really remove any freedoms from a hackspace that wants to be community focused and community lead.

While many of us like to think in software freedom terms, a hackspace isn’t like software in many respects. If someone changes ownership of a project, or restricts it like Oracle did with many open source projects, it’s far harder to fork a physical space with all the physical tools, infrastructure, and space. One bad actor, one corrupting influence that happens to be impossible for members to remove, can be all it takes to kill a space entirely, and make it next-to-impossible to create a new one in any reasonable timespan. As such, we feel that the definition of a hackspace, for membership purposes, is not only in the best interest of the Foundation, but also for future member organisations.


Yes that is all very well, but it is not the structure that the membership has asked for. You have some values and by forcing them on people, or withholding a benefit, you are breaking your own principle. In denying their very right to make their own choice do you not see how that is massively hypocritical?

@Norro Literally nobody wants to exclude Reading, please stop assuming this is some kind of snub. We’ve just not figured out how to change the rules to fit Reading in without allowing in half the non-hackspacey world.

Fundamentally we need to set down guidelines for what a hackspace is in order for the organisation to be able to function when new groups join as legal members. The point of the HSF is to promote the hackspace movement in the UK, so we have to define what a hackspace is in order to achieve those goals - the current written statement has changed shape a number of times to fit more spaces into it while ensuring we don’t open up loopholes for commercial/non-spaces.

As @badspyro asked, can you outline which parts of the current statement don’t work for Reading, and ideally make suggestions as to how they can be tweaked to make it work? We can then see how that affects things.

I noted in another thread that membership of the HSF is at the discretion of the directors, so in the near future it might just be easier to vote on adding Reading regardless of the current statement while we attempt to make it work.


We have been flat out told by 4 different people that we would be classed as a 2nd tier if we didn’t comply so I don’t think it is fair to say that I am making assumptions. However it is good to hear your reassurance and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and drop it.

Technically it is 2 orgs, neither one fulfills all the criteria alone or both together…
Org1 does not have a bank account, a board at all, minimal voting
Org2 is not member owned, has no members, board was selected after an advisory vote from the other org
Combined: non-elected board, people have a say but no actual protected right

IMHO the structure is not ideal, it would be difficult to include without making the definition too wide. It would likely be easier to allow it as an exception as long as that option is kept open. I think really just a reassuring statement that it is open to other ways of doing this by discretion and that it isn’t going to be bound by idealism and rules lawyering would be good.

@Norro That sounds …complicated! Out of curiosity are there plans to change it at some point?

Would a statement like this work?

“While these are the statements that define the majority of hackspaces in the UK, full membership of the foundation is at the discretion of the elected foundation directors so that we can accommodate spaces with slight variances in their models”