Typical member involvement at a hackspace

So I’ve been trying to get a feel for what the “typical” hackspace is and I’m getting the impression that hackspaces tend to vary wildly from one another.

I’m a firm believe that you do what works for you, so this is not all that surprising. In other words, there’s no point in a hackspace bending over backwards to meet a strict definition of “hackspace” if that would actually hinder it.

Something core to the definition, however, is that a hackspace is “member run” (see Definitions).

It occurs to me that, in some areas, even being member-run might be difficult to achieve.

So, my question is, at your hackspace, how much are the members involved in the actual day-to-day operations of the space?

And how much are they involved in the long term operations?

5-15 members, typically. You’d have to qualify what is ‘day to day’ and what are ‘long term operations’ if you want specific numbers.

That’s a tough one since I’m assuming operations also vary wildly from space to space… but I’ll give it a shot:

Examples of day-to-day ops:

  • Opening the space
  • Keeping the space clean
  • Keeping the space usable:
    • Equipment upkeep
    • Stocking vending machines

Examples of long-term ops:

  • Defining a growth plan
  • Ensuring the org is on track with its growth plan
  • Building a volunteer community / volunteer pool
  • Paying bills
  • Keeping core infrastructure up (internet, electricity, water)
  • Membership management
  • Finances

So, first of all, most hackspaces elect a committee whose job it is to keep the space going. That means:

Membership management
Paying bills
Keeping core infrastructure up (internet, electricity, water)

Is all dealt with by that group in most cases.

Then, a core group of members usually evolves around the board/committee to deal with a lot of other stuff. This can include:
Equipment upkeep
Stocking vending machines
Building a volunteer community / volunteer pool
Opening the space (although some hackspaces are 24/7 spaces with RFID keys for all members)

As for cleaning the space - that’s up to the membership. You make a mess, you clean it. And maybe clean a bit more just to be nice to your fellow members.

You want a new shiny tool? You crowd fund/ pledge drive for the tool between the membership.

Growth tends to be fairly organic, and revolves around us advertising a bit, being on facebook and social media, and a tonne of word of mouth. A hackspace is not fight club! Tell everyone about it! So growth tends to be everyone’s job.

The idea is that the committee does as little as possible in their official role, and that the membership take on as much as possible. This creates shared ownership, minimises people leaving the space in a mess, and allows the space to grow as the membership want it to. This means that if the membership want a sewing space, they can change the hackspace to facilitate that. If they decide they want healthier food, that can happen too.

What we’re trying to facilitate is long-term, independant spaces. We know burnout from a core group of members can be a problem. We also know that if a group is owned and run by a small number of people, it can easily become a clique that can be hard for new members to join. many of us also think that if a bigger org, like a university or government body, has a significant stake in how a space is run, it immediately changes the dynamic and intrinsic freedoms of being in a hackspace. Thus the independant bit.

Does that help?


Yes, thank you, that does help. It’s pretty much in line with the model I had in mind.

And, from conversations I’ve had at EMF and SHA2017, I’ve heard of a few hackspaces applying this model successfully.

At the risk of boring people (or going off-topic in my own topic), does anyone have experience with other models?

I ask because I might be moving back to Canada soon, and I’d like to start a hackspace when I get there. My concern is that I’ll be in a pretty small university town and I’m worried the membership volume will be low and turn-over will be high… making the member-run model difficult to implement.

So the important part of the member run model is the community aspect,
which you should be able to keep even with student turnover - most
successful student societies, at least in the UK, thrive because they are a
good community. Get that right and the rest should follow.


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At Leeds Hackspace, this is every member’s responsibility. There may be small groups of people whom take it upon themselves to ensure some aspects are running because they take an interest in it, else it’s everyone’s job and it’s done by 1-5 people. There’s no regular attendance because there’s no ‘employees’ in the classic sense, so there’s no ‘bob is opening the hackspace every day’ and no ‘the janitor tim keeps the space clean’.

Ultimate responsibility falls to the directors of the Hackspace because it’s a registered business, however any member chips in.

We don’t have vending machines at Leeds Hackspace, we did for a while, but found it was more trouble than it was worth. The tuck shop tends to be refilled by anyone that wants to do it, this has been circled around 1 to 4 of the same people, 2 of those being directors, and directors are also classed as members.

We’re not that organised.

This happens organically and as a byproduct of events happening. No-one is actively doing it.

Directors / elected committee (who are by proxy directors, just not registered at company’s house)

Members whom have come forward as qualified/certified to do this, 1-5 again.

Directors, again, and some elected committee.

The elected committee is about 1 to 4 people, and there are 2 directors at Leeds Hackspace.

The other tasks are either filled with some overlap of the same people, or whoever decides to get involved from the membership base.

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@stanto, thanks for your detailed input.