The Makespace Guiding Principles
We’ve put a lot of thought into how Makespace should operate – learning from the experience of other spaces, talking to the community, and working through scenarios. The result is this, the first draft of our Guiding Principles, which sets out how we intend to work. These may change in the future – we’re going to be learning for a long time! – but this document sets out what we think is important, and these principles will guide our decisions in the coming months. There’s a lot of unknowns in what we’re doing, and it’s much easier to have some principles by which we can apply to problems as they arise, than to try to plan everything out in advance. (You may also want to read our FAQ)
What is Makespace?
- The community’s inventing shed
- A space where people can meet, learn, build and play – where you can build or fix almost anything
- A place for anyone who needs space or kit for their projects or activities
- A membership organization
In essence: Makespace is a space with various bits of manufacturing and prototyping kit to help you make things, with places to design, build and meet, accessible to members 24/7 via swipe card. Members pay a monthly subscription and need to take a training course and sign a membership agreement before they can use the space. On occasion the space will be open to the public for events.
We are many things – the best bits of each of them!
- Not 100% TechShop – you can’t invest in Makespace and we’re not for profit. We have no aim to spread beyond our local area (although we’d happily offer advice to others trying similar things). But we want to provide useful kit and support to local businesses and potential businesses
- Not 100% hackerspace – we’ve got more engineering kit than many hackerspaces, and we’re inclusive through being insured and safe and friendly. But we’re also a community
- Not 100% coworking space – we’re a community and a place for projects, not just a desk for 9-5 working
- Not 100% FabLab – FabLabs are great but we want to offer more, and not to restrict our users via the (no-)secrecy clause of the FabLab charter
Who are we?
We are two things – a company (Makespace Cambridge Limited, a non-profit), and a community. At some point the community will formalize the way the it works, probably by forming a committee of some sort, so that it’s easy for the company board and others to see how to engage with the community.
The company is responsible for ensuring a space is available. It handles legal issues, health and safety, finance, and so forth, such that a suitable space and infrastructure can be provided. This extends to required things necessary for the lease and insurance to proceed, such as security systems, fire extinguishers, and so forth.
The community runs events, chooses the kit for the space, and runs the space day to day, within the constraints which the company needs to impose for legal reasons etc.
The company exists to enable the community to have Makespace.
A note about the Directors of Makespace Cambridge Ltd:
The directors of Makespace Cambridge Ltd have a responsibility to the company, but also to the community. Though this document draws a line between the financial and organisational responsibilities of these two entities, the current directors believe one of their most important roles is working as members of the community to make Makespace a success by ensuring the community is able to operate successfully – for example by securing sponsorship to buy equipment.
Principles and priorities
That the space is available for use, and that systems are in place to maintain the space.
This is more important than any particular piece of kit
Company & Community
The company is responsive to, and facilitates decisions of, the community. The company can veto community decisions, particularly on grounds of legality or health and safety.
Membership fees are OpEx
Membership subscriptions pay for running costs, and not (capital) equipment.
This means that there are no disputes over whether Bob can get a discount because he never uses the laser cutter. It also means we aren’t tempted to take risks, for instance by spending subscription income on new kit and potentially reducing how long we can stay open for.
The choice of kit is the responsibility of the community. The company supports kit purchases with structures to help payment and fundraising.
Kit acquisition is the responsibility of the community, not the company. However, the co-founders (wearing their community hats) expect to be heavily involved in securing sponsorship and other fundraising and arranging purchases of kit, especially in the early days, so this doesn’t mean that Makespace will be empty to start with.
The company ensures the structures are in place to support the acquisition of kit; this might include processes and document templates to support sponsorship of kit, for example, or by connecting a crowd-funding platform to the company’s bank account. The community determines what kit they want, and raise any necessary funds for the purchase. This might be through sponsorship (supported by documentation from the company), through crowd-funding, through donation, or other means. The company may veto any kit purchase. When purchasing kit, enough funds must be raised for maintainance of that kit for some time to come; these funds will be added to the company’s bank account for use in maintenance and other space expenses.
Purchased equipment will, in general, be owned by the company.
(The company may choose to use surplus funds to purchase kit selected by the community, if the money is available – see “financially conservative” below)
To ensure everyone has a sense of responsibility for the space and some “skin in the game”, all members will pay something towards their membership.
Also, all Members are individuals; there’s no “company” pool memberships or shared access cards.
Accessible to all
Everyone who wants to be an active member of Makespace should be able to, regardless of financial means.
We aspire to scale to accommodate all local people with a sustained interest in Makespace.
We don’t have any plans to turn into a national scale operation, or to franchise out what we do
Open to all
We are open to everyone, regardless of what they do or who they work for, or whether they are learning or in business or playing. Commercial, non-commercial, whatever.
But the company can ban anyone who is found to be in breach of the membership agreement.
Fairness and clarity
There are no exceptions on pricing. The rules are clear and fair.
If we find we don’t accommodate something, we need to change the rules which apply to everyone.
No land grabs
The space is shared between everyone. No one has a space or bench or desk which is reserved for them. When you leave the space, you clear down the area you’ve been working so others can use it whilst you are gone.
We plan to provide a good means for keeping ‘work in progress’ around, but out of the way! Perhaps trays or lockers for storage of your projects is the exception to this!
Makespace is financially conservative. We do not take on loans to buy capital equipment, and probably we don’t take loans out in any circumstances, unless perhaps taking a bridging loan was the only way of keeping the space open and operational.
We aim to operate within a set of financial targets which are designed to maximize sustainability of the space, which will involve us having in place some defined level of cash buffer meaning that we can continue to keep the space open even if circumstances turn against us (equipment breakdown, loss of members, etc). These targets will be set by the board of Makespace Cambridge Limited.
The company may choose to allocate surplus funds over and above what is needed for sustainable operation of the space to support community choices of kit purchase. Alternatively, the company may choose to allocate surplus funds to improvements to the space.
Cash vs cool
When we have sufficient cash in hand to be operating within the cash buffer position mentioned above, if there are choices to be made, we will opt for things which are “cool” (as defined below). When we do not have this level of financial security in place, we will make decisions which will improve our cash position.
The stereotypical example here is that if we have a conflict of groups wishing to hire the space for an event on one evening, if the cash position is secure we will pick a community making group who pay a discount rate over a merchant bank; if however we are not within the financial targets we aim for, we will choose the merchant bank who will pay high commercial rates for the space.
Our organizational structure is secondary to these principles. If we need to change structure to best follow these principles, we will.
What is cool
Here are some things we think are cool and makespace-ish. This is not an exhaustive list.