Maintaining Communication and Tribe in Makerspaces

Maintaining Communication and Tribe in Makerspaces

Every makerspace I’ve created has started out with very small, organic growth. Meet as a small group of folks in a coffee house or a restaurant and brainstorm what the organization could become. From there scale up and, if you’re doing it right, become a group of 30, 40, 50+ people and so on.

As the organization grows it becomes hard to have that same community feeling as the small room of people. In-person meetings, while still important, are no longer sufficient to maintain group cohesion. The organic nature of things somehow begins to feel more forced.

This is the challenge of managing a large egalitarian-leaning group: everyone is equal and communications are flat. Flat communications, unlike schemas more pyramid-oriented (top-down), are noisy. So we look for tools to keep everyone connected. We try social media, chat clients, forums, wikis, and everything in between.

But these also seem insufficient. So where do you go from here?

By abstracting up. Fragmenting the growing group into somewhat smaller nodes, and giving: a) people within those nodes means to communicate with each other, and b) each node the ability to interface with other nodes. Nodes can be anywhere up to 30 individuals, and people can shift between them.

The answer doesn’t lie in more structure from the top down, but in structure across the base. This reduces noise while maintaining the flat nature of the organization.