Get a group of makers together from different makerspaces (or hackerspaces), and they will quickly realize that they have common space challenges. While we’d all like to believe that our space is somehow unique and special, the reality is that we all deal with challenges like preventing burnout of key contributors, paying the rent, keeping the space organized, working with difficult members, and “donations” of unwanted e-waste.

These challenges are not new. The Hackerspace Design Patterns have long offered solutions for many of these challenges, and if you haven’t seen it, there is a great Tumblr called “Running a Hackerspace” that provides some much needed laughter therapy for makerspace organizers.

http://runningahackerspace.tumblr.com/post/147952530316/its-cleanup-day

In a previous post, I shared that as part of the President’s Nation of Makers Initiative, a large group of makerspace organizers met at the White House to start discussing and addressing these challenges that are common to makerspaces, with the benefit of being able to form large coalitions that can work on solutions that would not be feasible as individual makerspaces.

Makerspace Organizers meeting in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House

Makerspace Organizers meeting in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House

After the meeting, a strategic process was suggested and adopted to document these issues and then work to find solutions.

Click for full size graphic. Strategic Process overview graphic created by Ian Cole based on process overview shared by Andrew Coy.

Click for full size graphic. Strategic Process overview graphic created by Ian Cole based on process overview shared by Andrew Coy.

Once the process was understood, a flurry of activity started with diagnostic statements being created both individually and by groups. There were conference calls, Google Hangouts, and many discussions in the Nation of Makers Slack channel to discuss the challenges and then get them in a common format.

Everyone shared their diagnostic statements with Andrew Coy, Senior Advisor for Making from the Office of Science and Technology Policy who then shared a compiled document. This document is archived on the Nation of Makers Github if you’d like to review the diagnostic statements.

As we move into the next step of the process, “Scout”,  Andrew has suggested that we form into multiple tiger teams  (of 4-6 people) to “explore the suggestions within each topic area, to uncover and to document existing solutions both within the maker movement and in parallel systems, and to create a series of decision matrixes related to identified options.”

Step 2 “Scout” of the Strategic Process – graphic created by Ian Cole based on process overview shared by Andrew Coy

During the Scout phase, each team can identify:

  • Existing Actions: research into the existence of initiatives, programs, or projects that address one or more aspects of the problem statement
  • Parallel Models: examples of similar efforts in other domains that could be instructive/applicable
  • Important Considerations: list of broad categories that should be considered when making any evaluation of potential solutions
  • Nodes of Expertise: organizations or individuals who are positioned to help

I’ll keep reminding myself that the goal isn’t to select the first good solution, but to document all the possible solutions!

I’ve been amazed at the positive, passionate energy that I’ve seen working with the group of makerspace organizers that convened at the White House, and that is now working together each day through online tools. We now need to move quickly to form the teams, and get to work.

If you are a makerspace organizer and you’d like to follow this in realtime or get involved, you can get started by joining our Facebook group then navigating from there to many of the other resources that are available. Please note that if you request to join that group and your Facebook public profile doesn’t obviously identify you as part of a makerspace, you’ll receive a Facebook message from one of the admins asking you to identify your makerspace (so if you aren’t approved that day, look for a message!)

Thanks to makerspace organizer Ray Doeksen for the meeting image in the OSTP conference room.


Earlier this summer, the White House held a Nation of Makers meeting before the National Maker Faire in D.C. that brought together an unprecedented number of makerspace organizers together to discuss some of the common issues that makerspaces and hackerspaces face today.

This article is part of a series on the efforts that are now taking place as a direct result of that meeting. You can read the first article here.