Sacramento Open Shop
by William J. Betz
Imagine a building that you can go to any time. There you will find friends who are working on gadgets, painting pictures, sewing costumes, making a video, talking in the kitchen, or in general, just doing something. You will also meet new people, or people you didn't know well previously, working on something so interesting that you just have to walk over and find out what is going on. You might even pitch in and spend the next week working with them.
This building can be a fun place. Once or twice a month, all of the furniture is rearranged and there is a fund-raising party, or a spaghetti feed. We can host events for other groups looking for temporary work space.
That is the very minimum that I am proposing with the Sacramento Open Shop.
I want to have classes. Exciting Classes! Classes where you learn to do something. Classes that get you to think about new concepts. Rather than a certificate or some other piece of paper, the student walks away with something that he has made; a printed circuit board, a robot, a piece of jewelry, a custom shirt, a birdhouse.
Most of all, I want to teach how to DO. The majority of people in our society are taught how to show up and process paperwork, follow orders, speak softly. I prefer people who grab a few tools, scrounge through used material, make a lot of noise, bellow across the room, and when they are all done they show you their 'work of art' (which sometimes does not look like much at first glance, lol).
A building full of people of this nature would seem to be utter chaos, but the end result is a stream of these 'works of art'. Some might be microscopic (or digital), while others might be as large and noisy as a semi-truck.
It would be advantageous to focus our 'hackerspace' on open technology. Open hardware, open software, open education. Open means that you share EVERYTHING with the world. We can use open software to run our office, open CAD systems, and open hardware like the Arduino. When we create something, we publish ALL of our documentation on the internet. The advantage of the open concept is that much of what we need to get started is FREE! Another advantage is that the act of sharing our knowledge attracts attention to our organization.
A possible direction for us (to insure our non-profit status as 'educational') would be to create an Open educational system. This is actual work, so it may be difficult to find the time and funding to carry it out. In the long run though, it would save time and effort, because if someone is going to teach a class, it would be helpful if every member had learned the basics on their own time. Possibly it could be a task of the students to create the material or upgrade earlier versions.
I would also like to be constantly involved in social media broadcasting. That is, there should be an area of the space that has equipment set up for making videos, and mobile cameras. We will teach people how to promote themselves and the group.
For this dream to become real, we need money.
The biggest expense is a building. It would be great to have a HUGE building, centrally located, with plenty of parking. That can only happen if we raise HUGE amounts of money on a regular basis. Perhaps we can do that. We haven't really tried yet.
We also need money just to get started. We need to file legal documents to become a non-profit corporation, file for tax-exempt status, liability insurance, and probably 20 other things. AND, we don't want to lease a building until we have at least 6 month's rent accumulated.
The traditional way to get this all started is to have a group of interested people (that would be you, hopefully). These people donate time and money, and they get their friends to donate time and money. The easiest way to get donations is to sell memberships. I am hoping that we can sell at least 50 memberships at $50 per month, giving us a basic budget of $2500 a month. Various other efforts can be used to bring in more money.
If we get other funds, we can reduce the membership fee. I would prefer to bring it down to $25. Many of the people that are interested in the shop do not have the money to pay for a membership. For them we should find sponsors, micro-scholarships, staff positions or any other solution that keeps them in the group. Creative makers are rare. Knowledge and experience have great value.
Initially, we will probably settle for a smaller space. Perhaps a 1000 sq. ft.? Or we might work a deal with a place like Urban Hive where we have access to a common space with some storage for equipment for a small monthly fee. What we get depends on the level of interest we can generate.
At this time we are looking for people who are willing to be on the board of directors. The main task of the directors is to fund the organization. This starts with donating money yourself (I am donating $200 to start, and $50 a month membership). Next, a director brings in friends as paying members. After that they try to find other funding in any imaginative way possible. It should be easier to raise money once we have our non-profit status and start applying for grants.
We can have up to 11 directors. If each director becomes a member and promises to get 4 other people to join, we will have enough promised income to get this dream rolling at high speed.
Would you like to be a director or member? Get involved with us. Build a community.
William J. Betz