Just wanted to get a informal gathering of thoughts. What do people think the board does (past and present) and/or what do you think they should be doing?
Hopefully this can help us set expectations and make us aware of any holes in our responsibilities.
You can refer to the board role(s) here if you want a starter Upcoming board elections - Overview of the role of a Director
When I first joined which was when we were in the northern quater (maybe 10 years ago?).
It was mostly about just keeping the lights on, keeping the rent paid, making sure the door worked, that sort of thing.
Although I’ve never been on the board myself so it’s more of an external view of things.
We have a lot more members now, so making sure everyone gets along is also probably a thing, dealing with Coc violations as well.
I remember there used to be a single person that dealt with all the accountancy stuff a few years back, they sort of did it as a favour from what I remember.
I think they were classed as a board member even though they didn’t attend the hackspace.
That eventually stopped and things changed.
But it makes me wonder if it might be an idea to hire an accountant for the odd jobs that need to happen, such as the company registration / that sort of thing to make sure they don’t get missed.
I agree with Richard, the remit of the board has always been to pay the bills and keep the lights on.
Goings on in the space have always been member-led and so board roles have kept to the business side of things rather than the specifics in the space. This means board members have a “board hat” they can put on when needed but otherwise are just ordinary members which keeps the structure nice and flat.
The board is generally responsible for sorting incidents when members can’t - e.g. historically any two members could request another member leave the space, though I think this has been stripped from the rules. Generally members should sort things out.
With the need for better H&S the board has had an additional responsibility to oversee the H&S stuff but even this should be member led with the board just making sure things are cromulent. All members have a responsibility to ensure people use tools safely and report those who don’t.
It’s work but it’s important for the space to continue. A lot of work needed in the space can be done as a regular member, though incentivising this has been an issue.
I think the board’s role has had to go a bit beyond this in the past few years.
In the past, I think the board could concentrate on getting on with the high level admin of the space and let the (then smaller) membership just get on with making the space work as a very loose do-ocracy.
But as we have grown, the board has had to step in as a central authority to ensure things like consistent training methods across workshops, encourage participation, and really emphasise better H+S practices, for example.
These are the really boring things that members don’t generally want to do, because they’re focused on making, and possibly enabling spaces for making. But they’re not really interested in renewing insurance or appointing data protection officers and so on.
The board also has a really crucial role to play in bigger picture stuff. Things like our development as an organisation, relationships with other bodies, funding, governance, etc. Again, this becomes more complex and more relevant as we grow.
I do think the new board roles, for example, are a good step in formalising these responsibilities. I’m not saying that individual members can’t be instrumental in helping with these big picture items, but the board has to lead the way by saying A) “here’s where we need to go” and B) “here’s what we need to do to get there.”
I fundamentally and entirely disagree with you here. A government should act entirely in support of an not in guidance of its electorate.
That’s a fairly abstract philosophical position, but I don’t think we’re arguing for different things.
I’m saying the board should be showing active leadership by setting overall strategies and goals and enabling the members to then work towards meeting those goals. At our size, you can’t just assume that 250 members will autonomously go out and do exactly what’s in the best interests of the space as a whole.
So it goes beyond ‘keeping the lights on’. It requires one eye on the future to ensure that the lights will still be on in ten years while the world changes around us.
I think we all agree that it’s not good enough for any board to say “the membership voted for us, so we will just do what we want”.
There needs to be regular feedback loops, with legitimate votes, space for people to raise thoughts, and a constant check that there is indeed consensus at all times.
What kinds of decisions have been devolved to the membership in the past vs. remaining board-only?
For example, we discussed the CCTV implementation at the AGM, but who made the decision about a change of premises when we moved to Unit 1? Other things like suppliers (e.g. electric, insurance, etc.) are normally left to the board’s discretion, but what about, for example, waste disposal?
I remember the change of premises was a big thing when it’s happened, I think the final call was with the board.
I also remember Rossy (at the time board) putting a lot of effort in, in contacting different places we could have moved to at the time.
There was participation between everyone, I even remember putting lists together myself for the requirements for a new space on the mailing list we could search for
although at the same time it did need someone to proactively just get things done when it was time to make a decision since I think things were time critical
It’s difficult to have a long drawn out vote or conversation if an opportunity presents itself right away, but I suspect the situation would be different if we moved again due the member count
At the time I think it was cheaper for us to move downstairs and we’d have more space and be more accesible all at the same time so it was an easy win win when it came up (the only downside was loosing the daylight from the windows, but the lift was a nightmare)
For waste disposal I think we got away with just putting everything in bin bags for a long while (including wood dust), but that changed later on to where we are now
I’m not sure why, maybe some other part of the mill was taking the piss a bit with dumping, maybe they just caught us out after a while or maybe due to a change of ownership of the mill