As part of my hobby working in the DIY community, I’ve met a lot of interesting people, and gotten involved (and sometimes over my head) into the national hackerspace scene. This week I’m spending a couple of days in Chicago meeting with folks from the Hackerspace/DIY-Space/Fabrication/Shared-Studio world. We are bouncing around ideas about what it will take to setup a national organization, and what that group would look like, and do. Hackerspaces in Europe have done well to get themselves setup as educational nonprofits, and they have a reasonable amount of grant and event support, and that might be a model to pursue here in the USA.
One of the things I feel strongly is that most hackerspace base resource (space, simple tools, phone,etc) should be covered my membership fees. I think this is a good and gasp market-driven way to get the right size and complexity of a space for the community they are in, and for the needs they meet.
Something I had not thought of, and I think is a good idea, is that this neblous national organization shouldn’t be just hackerspace focused. There are plenty of other shared workspace groups, from woodworking to Jewlery Makers and glass blowing shops, which have a similar basic system. While I think hackerspaces present a sub-domain of the problem that is more fun, all of these kind of nonprofit shared workspace groups need similar help, and can and should share ideas, experiences, and tips on how to run well.
I want to make sure whatever organization we setup or get involved in is providing enough value to their member spaces, to justify any membership cost or work. I think that will be the trick, in figuring out how to make an opt-in national support group useful for spaces, hacker and otherwise. I look forward to meeting over the next few days, and finding out exactly what the other people here want and expect, and how we can make the USA a more innovative place.