On the topic of membership growth and how you can help, or even to help understand how a hackspace grows, retains and attracts new members. I want to share a few lessons and perspectives I’ve learned over the years.
VHS is now at a very exciting time as we transition into a new permanent home that ticks so many boxes on our wishlist for a hackspace’s space. Of course, that comes with costs but so much more opportunity!
Here are a few things that I think are helpful to know or good reminders as to what help hackspaces in general maintain growth:
Tuesday night is when new members are made, people sign up in person, when they see the space and meet real members. Being present on Tuesdays for no other reason than being social goes a long way to building community and growing interest for new members. People seeing the space for the first time, tools, machines, etc is great, but having a member passionate about certain equipment on how it’s helped them with a project brings the space to life.
Invite people down on Tuesday nights. Inviting people down to come see the new space or just to check it out because you think they’ll be a good fit goes a long way!
Be aware of other member’s projects. Either as a source of inspiration or a personal education but this really helps when you talk to others you’re reminded of other cool projects/tools/techniques people have employed at VHS which can be relevant to your day-to-day and other people you meet.
Reduce the friction for new members signing up. Most often people’s first foray into a hackspace is accompanied by incredible enthusiasm and a new found sense of empowerment, we should do everything we can to encourage this passion and motivation. There is balance here but be critical of policy that adds barriers for new people to join.
Focus on the core value of the hackspace - our space - our equipment - our members - love all three of these and they will love you back. Speak out on bad behavior, broken systems, un-maintained equipment, unsafe practices; sweep the floor & be excellent to each other - the space belongs to you and you should be proud of it!
Many of these points are old news to most people in the community but they can serve as a good reminder nonetheless. Your pride, excitement and enthusiasm for your hackspace is it’s beating heart! We’re coming to a time where we need to drive up our growth to fit our new home, there’ll be challenges along the way and hopefully there is some lessons or inspiration here that helps keep us on that positive trajectory!
About 6 years ago Protospace, the hackspace in Calgary, had a very similar pivotal moment of moving into a larger space more ideal for hackspace activities, and at the time, we were banking on surging member growth to secure our future in that space. VHS as an organization has been preparing and adjusting to set ourselves up for this new growth, new space and brighter future with so many awesome things to come. There is an old post on a mailing list for hackspaces across Canada that discusses how we did things at Protospace to both encourage growth and how to manage it. It wasn’t perfect and VHS is it’s own beast but it’s worth the read to gain some perspective on what the situation is like for other hackspaces in Canada: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/canadiancreativespaces/bIUF2HZnB9E