Discussion on space workings

There’s been considerable discussion in Telegram about whether or not a general meeting (extraordinary or not) should be called for the purposes of improving the way the space works.

There are numerous areas that have been touched upon:

  • transparency and visibility
  • infrastructure
  • people stepping up to take on roles within the space (such as sub teams)
  • (your point here)

This thread is to collect and capture these points.


An EGM may be a useful way for the space to make constitutional amendments, such as reinstating AGMs, looking at formalised board positions for those who wish to take a more formal role in a subcommittee, and so on.

In fact an EGM is required to make constitutional amendments, but this thread can be a place to discuss this and plan out whether a pre EGM general meeting is called to discuss things.

I think this all started when I asked whether I needed training to use the bandsaw. Then I pointed out that there were multiple conflicting sources of information about this, and it seems to have snowballed.

So at the moment we have:

I don’t think you can collapse all these into one service, but I think we should have fewer. London Hackspace for example ran on just MediaWiki, IRC and Google Groups (the main website had almost no information on it). Since our wiki isn’t maintained well, I’m in favour of archiving it (mark it read-only and remove the link from the website).

I don’t think any changes to do with the above need a general meeting as long as the potential changes are advertised here and objections considered. If other matters have come up which need a general meeting, though, go for it.

When I say the wiki hasn’t been maintained well, I mean not enough people are contributing to it for whatever reason; I don’t mean any disrespect to people who are currently updating it.

The structuree of the space hasn’t felt like it has been working efficiently for as long as I’ve been a member two or so years ago, despite many great changes in that time.

Communication, roles, and visibility has lacked as I see it, which has caused many issues that keep reoccuring: including actions/issues being lost or forgotten about, times where one or two people end up doing far too much, rifts, and times where people don’t know how to get something done when they want to affect change.

I see these as key issues and believe an EGM is the right way to go about fixing them.

I’d like to see:

  • increased visibility and transparency

    • of the board and what’s going on,
    • structured roles that can help spread load and clarify who is responsible for what.
  • Information / infrastructure

    • wiki could be archived as it’s no longer useful - was only ever maintained by a few and has become a mess.
    • website become an authoritative source of information for the space.
    • website could be an easy to use CMS where members could have editor accounts to keep it relevant but structured.
  • more peole helping out!

    • Currently this is not happening despite everyone being equally free to do so.
    • Subcommittee takeup was low, despite boards best efforts
    • Having “head of committee” roles on the board will give responsibility and importantly autonomy for that committee, and makes it clear that the committee is a key part of space functioning.
    • a minimum commitment will further encourage people in a position of responsibility such as the new committee roles to get involved.
  • a more formalised structure at the space for various roles:

    • chair (exists)
    • secretary (exists)
    • treasurer - for regular updates on the bank balance, sorting out the issues with barclays.
    • head of committee as per previous point

I belive an EGM is an appropriate action to take for the above as these can be written into the constitution. These issues have been going on for years and despite many member meetings which I started about two years ago, turnout has often been low so there’s not been the urgency to get change.

I caught some of the stuff on telegram, I’ll chuck a couple of thoughts on here, for what it’s worth.

I used to be on the committee for a 500 seat theatre, it had to be run somewhat well to work, so I have some vague experience in how we managed to make it work whilst facing many of the same challenges of Hackspace (i.e. member commitment).

Everything is way to complicated at hackspace.

There is a board, multiple sub boards and layers of committees, and it felt like when I joined as a bright eyed and eager member, if I ever had an idea of something I wanted to do, I’d need to speak to the so and so committee, and it started to get complicated to find out even who to speak to let alone get anything done. When we started the building work on the current space out of necessity a lot of these structures were abandoned and we just got stuff done.

Transparency and democracy in the running of the space is important, but I think this has resulted in a setup where everything is checked by multiple people incase a wrong decision is made. When you vote for an MP you don’t vote on every choice they make - I honestly think it needs setting up more like that. Have somebody responsible for graphics, metalworking, woodworking, and have them able to take decisions to the board. They won’t always get it right but at least it’ll be done. If people don’t like it, then to be blunt either offer to help out, or be thankful for what is being done for you. You can’t please all the people all the time, so aim for efficiency.

When I was at the theatre I sat on the board and was in charge of the technical department. Although the tech department covered many peoples roles, I just made the decisions on my own, because we all accepted that we just wanted to get things done. Last time I asked we had sub 200 members and we have more systems and structure than companies with twice as many full time employees.

I ran into the same thing as Jim when I joined - a lot of things are in all kinds of places and it’s hard to know whats used and whats not. Does everyone remember that line in Jurrassic Park where he says that they got so obsessed with whether or not they could, they never stopped to ask if they should? This. 1000% this.

I put a lot of my time and effort into the planning and build of space 4 - I sourced all the materials, planned the build process and took on a lot of the work. I wasn’t on any committee or sub committee, we didn’t have time. The end result was we just got on with things and things got done, but to be brutally honest there were things that should have been done that got vaguely referred to the outreach committee or procurement or whoever and things just didn’t seem to happen - I don’t at all mean this as criticism or an attack on anybody but nothing happened. I said we could be reaching out to building companies explaining who we are and asking for a donation of or towards materials, maybe we could get them at cost from certain suppliers if we ask the right people in the right way, and even if it didn’t happen we might gain some members. We should have had photos of the build in the local press to drum up members and let people come down and volunteer time on the build - god knows we needed the help. These types of things never happened because nobody was empowered enough to just go home, pick up the phone and get something done.

I want to come back more regularly, I actually live a good 10 miles closer now than I did - but I only have so much free time to help, can we cut the faff so we can all get on and make some cool stuff?..!

This was absolutely not an attack, but I think it’s better to be fairly blunt. Just my own opinion and observation.

This feels fair.

The irony of course being that the teams structure was initially meant to help empower members to help out with the day to day running of parts of the space, and provide a sense of ownership over a part of the space. I feel it has ended up becoming another abstraction where people assume “someone else is in charge of doing it”.

It sometimes feels like there’s a lot of willingness in groups like this to fall into the trap of making official decisions on what other people should do with their free time and how they should be doing it (and I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of this in the past!) - Maybe instead of building more layers of structure we should first try to tear as much of it as we can down and try and go back to our more do-ocratic roots - if you’re the only one doing something, you’re doing it more right than anyone else :slight_smile:

-Bob

I’d like to show my support for an EGM. A group of us met over a zoom call and prepared a document listing a few point regarding what we wanted from an EGM:

I joined in August last year and similar to others pointing out how everything is everywhere, it made it very confusing to get started. I was fortunate that I was shown how things worked and while I consider myself good with technology and computers, these systems get complicated very fast and can be off putting for new members.

I’m quite active in the space and often enjoy working on infrastructure projects. Some may remember the space modification proposal I wrote with help from others, the current work in progress to get dust extraction in Woody Dusty, and the greenroom into large member storage. Going forward there are still lots of tasks still to-do. I believe a silver lining of the Covid situation is we got a grant that should help cover the costs. My hope from this EGM fixes some of the issues faced in the past as noted by Giles.

Disappointed to see that we jump straight to an EGM, and that no one has raised these concerns in the meetings we’ve had this year. Also, I’ve not seen any communication to the board covering any of the concerns raised above.

We’ve had a tough year but we’ve kept the space afloat during covid - and are financially in the best place we’ve been since I’ve joined (if not from the start of the space itself), and we’ve had to deal the electrical issues at the Mill, plus the current asbestos issue.

So I agree, if people are calling for an EGM, then the current way is not working… people need to be able to come forward and speak out. Personally, I’d like to know why this is - please PM me on telegram if you have your reasons (@mikebratt)

All of this has made me wonder if I need to consider my position on the board and if we have an EGM then I think this is the best time for me to stand down.

There were some messages on the Telegram main chat on Wednesday evening which quickly got lost but are important to this discussion, do need addressing and relate to a previous post in this thread.



2020-07-22, 21:49

Amelia:

@Marcus6275, since “The EGM Cabal” want more transparency, I’m wondering why:

  • this secret, unidentified cabal met in the first place (not very transparent)
  • why members in general weren’t told about it?

The former (existence of such a “cabal”) seems to be hypocritical in being entirely opaque in their meeting and discussions, and the latter makes it seem like only a pre-existing clique were allowed to meet together to discuss? Was the assumption that nobody else in the membership could’ve had anything to contribute in that regard?

(FYI: asking you as you’ve posted publicly on the forum about it, and there’s no identity or public discussion of it otherwise)

Jim

I had similar thoughts.

Amelia:

It just seems a bit exclusionary and not in the spirit of being excellent to each other :woman_shrugging: (sure, we can all add to the forum post, but secretive anonymous discussion groups seems to be rather against the whole point)

Mark:

Ah so I copied this from a document we wrote so that history was removed… While we’d like this document to be taken seriously when writing it as a group we added jokes that needed to be removed. The EGM Cadal is an oversight by me and should have been removed. It was a joke name we have ourselves, similar to how you’d do in school on group projects

The secret ‘meet’ happened on Saturday during a public ‘games’ night as these have turned more into evening of chatting about thing we are interested in. Discussions about changes required have been happening for some time in a more casual manor. We decided we should start taking appropriate steps to formalize our views.

And while it’s been raised before by others. This is not personal, an EGM is REQUIRED TO MAKE CONSTIUTIONAL CHANGES. We thought we’d take the opportunity to add on other operational changes we’d like to see while we’re at it.

Everyone is welcome to give there thoughts and opinions, we are making no attempt of silencing anybody so please don’t accuses us of acting in such a way or that we assume others have nothing to contribute.

I hope that clarifies your question.

Amelia:

Please don’t shout, as a company director I’m fully aware of what meetings are and aren’t required for constitutional changes.

Mark:

Well when people don’t hear the first time you repeat it louder

Amelia:

I didn’t accuse you of silencing anyone. I said the practice of what was seemingly a not-widely-announced, not-open-to-all-for-input meeting/discussion could be exclusionary. That aside, “joke name” or not, one wouldn’t expect games night to be a discussion of EGM-related things, so - if one desired to talk of such things with a group of like-minded folk - wouldn’t assume that as the place to go.

I don’t need to hear it, so kindly stop with the hostile shouting and sweeping generalisations.

Very defensive answer to a reasonable and valid inquiry… Certainly not coming across as being welcome for anyone to add anything with that, but I suppose that comes with not being in the cabal :woman_shrugging:



There are clearly a group of people who are not wanting to or don’t feel able to put their head above the parapet for whatever reason.

These messages are quite aggressive and are worded in a way that provoke a reaction - it’s not going to help anyone who may not already feel intellectually safe enough to speak out to do so, if anything it might make people more scared to speak out.

There are also friendship groups that form at the space and sometimes discussion of the space happens as it’s a thing people have in common. Not every conversation that involves the space has to become public with named participants. Board matters and official business, sure. But this attack is missing this point, entirely.

Such messages frankly come across as a witch hunt. There are people who frequent the space, even if only occasionally, who see things that those who mostly participate online don’t. This is all done to improve the space, so I don’t know where the venom comes from. The fact it’s taking calls of an EGM show that it’s an important issue and needs attention.

Such messages as quoted above are an attack and seem solely designed to ridicule any attempt for change.

Member meetings in the past have clearly not been enough to solve these underlying issues, so you can understand my scepticism and view that another casual members meeting is just further plastering over the cracks. I started the member meetings because there were apparent issues that needed discussing, and yet here we are again, this time with even more people saying it.

So what needs to change?

Just to reply to this from my point of view - I don’t think this is anything to do with the action of the board or board members. I certainly see the board as very hard working.

The issues as I see them have been longstanding across many boards despite much effort at fixing things, and so I’m for an EGM in order to look deeper at the underlying issues and affect deeper change if required, in the constitution and generally.

Board Response to EGM Proposal

The board formally note the EGM proposal but have yet to receive formal written notice of a request from 5% of the membership however the proposal does raise valid points and we wanted to address these as soon as possible.

Transparency

The board regularly discusses how we communicate decisions to members and currently do so via regular updates on telegram and the forum (Example include Important Update on the Space, An Update from the Board - Following this month's Board Meeting, Board Development - Proposed Changes to Structure

We also held a number of Q & A Sessions over the lockdown period for any questions relating to the space and these Q & A sessions is something that we want to continue with one at least every quarter.

We have also been very open about the fact if you have any questions to email us, We will never withhold any information that a member requests regarding the running of the space unless it is information that we cannot disclose for a legal reason (including GDPR) and any requests should be made via email.

We also provide a quick summary of the board activities at members meetings but will look at how we formalise these summaries to provide a more standard update at each meeting (regardless of the board member in attendance)

We note that board meeting minutes haven’t been uploaded to github as regularly as they should be (this has been resolved) and this is something we will strive to improve happening though should be noted that we don’t see Github as the best solution for this as not ever member uses it or wishes to use it. We will look at how else we publish board minutes including on the forum and how we make better use of the Board board at the space.

We welcome any other suggestions from the membership on how to improve transparency in regards to board activities etc

Sub-Committees

Sub-committees are still in their infancy of creation for the space, we remain committed to them and would like to see them operational as soon as possible.

The majority of the committees are still waiting on formal membership approval from the board but hasn’t yet been done due to the low number of people actively wanting to be part of these sub committees. The board noted at our board meeting in February to increase the membership drive for these but that was put on hold due to the closure of the space.
Members of each subcommittee will be listed on the team page of the members area alongside noted on the notice boards in the space.

Sub-commmitees have the autonomy to act on their own without the approval of the board for various decisions as set out in the terms of reference for each subcommittee which can be found on the forum at https://list.hacman.org.uk/uploads/default/original/1X/20cb4d7734cf96d6721406b5a55629ac4abcf06c.pdf and in fact the reason for setting up sub-committees was so that their was more authority and decision making by active members and this is something the board wishes to happen.

Each subcommittee is required to submit a report to members meetings and the board detailing their activities including any expenditure request and these reports will be published on GitHub & the forum.

We ask that anyone wishing to be on a subcommittee formally notifies the board via email so these applications can be acted on.

We also attempted previously (Nov 2018) to formalise the role of the Members meetings within the space by formalising a chair and secretary postion for these meetings (by doing which provided an oversight and organising roles which could formally feed into the board decision making structure however there was no enthusiasm from anyone to take on these roles and as such the members meetings have remained quite informal.

Board members for subcommittees

The Finance Sub-Committee (FSC); - Grayson / BunnyGirl
The Membership Sub-Committee (MSC); Ross
The Health & Safety Sub-Committee (HSSC); Bunny Girl / Mike
The Infrastructure Sub-Committee (ISC); Ross / Ben
The Outreach Sub-Committee (OSC). Grayson / Mike / Ross

Infrastructure and Space Access

Virtual Infrastructure

Our key systems (main website, membership system, moodle, helpdesk etc) are run via our own server hosted by hetzner. Direct access to this server via ssh is restricted to a small number of people for security purposes. Access to the various systems is set on a per user basis and is based on the access needs of that member (Eg a trainer will have instructor level on moodle for editing courses). Access to systems are granted based on membership of a subcommittee or team where required or by formally requesting it if an appropriate use case is demonstrated via (currently the board but will be delegated to the infrastructure) sub committee

Fobs & Keys

There is no such thing as a super user fob, the zerocool fob is a standard fob against our membership system for the Zerocool user, the fob doesn’t provide any additional access to that of a member fob) only one of these is operational and that was provided to Adam for use when sorting the electrics.

A Fob has also been issued to northern group as per the terms of our lease. This is mainly used by them to gather meter readings for billing purposes.
There is currently 5 sets of keys in operation 2 sets of these are for the black fire door and are held by Rossy & Mike, there are 3 keys to the main outside door which are currently held by Ben, Rossy and Conor (this was transferred from Greg to Conor (with board approval) prior to lockdown due to Greg leaving the area. A list of key holders are kept on a google doc by the board.

We currently have 150 fobs issued to active members (members who pay a monthly membership fee) (including the Fobs issued to Northern Group and Adam)

The board are happy to provide a regular update on the number of fobs in circulation etc at each members meeting as part of the wider update from the board. (this may be delegated to the infrastructure sub committee if seen more appropriate)

Finance

The board note that there could be a clearer published overview of the space finances available for members at a regular basis and see this as one of the key functions of the Finance Sub Committee to better improve transparency and provide reporting to the members and to the board. This sub committee is the only one we have approved membership for (though requires 1 additional member to become operational) and getting this subcommittee running will be a key priority for the board members delegated to this committee to get it operational and provide the necessary updates and overview. Until then the Board will publish a finance summary for every members meeting.

Board Requirements

The board agree that their isn’t any currently detailed handbook/induction for board members (terms of reference etc) which is bad governance practice. A lot of information does remain in the heads of current and past board members and the board understands the need to preserve this information in a better way.

Minimum commitment for board members – The current minimum commitment for board members is to be available to attend a board meeting (normally once every 2 months) and outside of that there isn’t a current commitment for any board member to be active outside of that.

The board will look at implementing a Governance review and will discuss this in detail at our board meeting in August. A Governance Review will look at all aspects of the way the board works including succession planning, minimum commitments and requirement of board members, board inductions, skill audits, processes and policies and the formal governance arrangements including election processes, constitution changes and structures and all members will have the opportunity to input into this review alongwith seeing the results of it.

Tracking of issues – the board agree that an issue tracker is a good way to prevent tasks being forgotten about etc and propose that a space wide trello style board will be implemented that covers non sensitive board tasks alongside the tasks of each subcommittee and general space tasks that can be carried out by any member.

Improvement to policies/processes – The board will happily consider any improvement to a policy or process to any aspect of the space or the running of the space and will delegate this as necessary to the subcommittee or team responsible for that area of the space operation or where the change is wide enough will consult with the membership at a members meeting or via the forum etc.

Board Nominations

The board note the proposal to amend the constitution to include (the current practice) election process and agree that this change should be implemented. The board may do this by calling an ordinary meeting with 14 days notice and will look at doing this however before this happens we want to have an open dialogue around any other constitution changes including amending the number of board places or adding back in the requirement to have AGMs as part of the governance review and we plan to use the member’s meeting in August to start this conversation in detail and take these forward in time to implement them for the next round of elections later this year.

This response sounds to me as if you agree with the points raised, but don’t want them to actually be enforceable. I took some part in writing the proposal - mainly around the election proposal, and am concerned about the transparency and governance issues too.

I note that the board response was posted by the ‘zerocool’ account - one that I understand to be an administrative account. It does not suggest the board have seriously considered these matters if they are responding under an administrative account.

Hi all,

Not sure if people are interested in reading how other hackerspaces are being run, but here’s some info from the ones where I’m a member

Farset Labs

The overall rules, including links to the Code of Conduct & the Ops Manual - the latter containing a bit on info about the structure of management & responsabilities of the directors/NEMs.

So Make It

Their rules, membership induction, and what the folks there refer to as their Large Change Process

Greg the response from the board was posted using the Zerocool account as that is the account over the last 2 years that has been used to post updates from the board. its an admin account that the board has access too and helps keep Board or Official Updates separate to personal use of the forum etc like this message is a personal message not a board message. Maybe there should be Board Forum account for that and I will pass that back as something for consideration.

Regarding your other point, Personally I agree with the majority of the proposal, i disagree with your point that we don’t want it to be enforceable as the response was supposed to be we agree with the points and actually this is the steps we are going to take regardless of if they are enforced upon at an EGM (which can we just get right an EGM does not exist in company law any longer it in fact just a general meeting) (with the exception of the changes to the constitution which will require a general meeting being called) and from a personal point of view if I don’t see action on these issues that the board (which i am a member of obviously) has said will be taken then I will happily add my name to the list of those wanting a general meeting called.