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“Founding a Hackerspace”

I found a report about hackerspaces that was written by three students for a college project.  In my opinion it’s almost a must read for anyone who is interested in starting a hacker or maker space.

Two of the authors wrote it for scholarly reasons and the third because he wanted to start a for-profit hackerspace. It’s not dated but it looks like from the bibliography that it was written during or after November 2010. The sixty nine page PDF has three parts:

  • Its main section describes the history of hacking and hackerspaces and how they’re evolving.  It also lists some resources for learning more about hackerspaces
  • It gives the replies to questionnaires they submitted to five hackerspaces: Noisebridge, Hacker Dojo, BUILDS, Sprouts (defunct?) and NYC Resistor.
  • And it includes the business plan for MakeIt Labs, a for-profit hackerspace that is now located in Nashua NH.

I haven’t studied the business plan enough yet to say how helpful it will be to us.  But I think the answers to the questionnaires are fascinating.  They asked good questions and got some great replies.

  • Do you call it a hackerspace? Do you use the term hackerspace? If so, what do you feel that term means?
  • What are the demographics of your hackerspace (age, professional/ education background, etc.)?
  • How did the hackerspace start?
  • What is the management structure like?
  • Are you a formal business entity? If so, what kind? (LLC, Corp, non-profit status, etc)
  • How do you deal with liability? What kind of insurance do you have? How much of your operating budget do you spend on insurance percentage-wise?
  • What are legal problems you’ve faced, if any?
  • What are your sources of income? If you charge members, how much? Are there special discounts for poorer members?
  • What are some regular activities if you have any? Do you charge?
  • What is your relationship with the public?
  • What is your relationship with other local hackerspaces?

By the way.  While getting the link to Hacker Dojo I noticed they’re trying to raise $250,000 (yes, a quarter of a million dollars) to “Save the Dojo.” They’re going to use the money to renovate their building and eliminate some fire and zoning code issues that prevent them from having large events.  So far they’ve reached almost half their goal and have received some huge donations ($20K, $15K, $10K).

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