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 ). 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.