Running A Creative Space in Small Town America Redux

A while back I wrote a piece for Make Magazine on running a creative space (hackerspace/makerspace) in a small town. I won’t rehash it here, but if you want to catch up with my writing, here’s the article.
Every now and then I still get emails about that piece from people looking for more information. It seems there are plenty of folks who want to start their own space in their village, but don’t know where to begin! Setting aside the fact that this seems to suggest a lack of practical information for people looking to start makerspaces outside of central urban areas, it’s really great to see so many folks interested in growing their communities into true places of learning.
Anyway, along with the usual obligatory response of sending these people emails back encouraging them and linking them back to my Make article, I’ve begun giving the following advice, which I’ll copy and paste here for posterity:

  • You may have an idea for what you want the space to be, but let the members drive it. Start meeting at a coffeehouse and having people talk about their projects. Let their interests drive what the space does and what machines it acquires.
  • Partner with local libraries to teach classes on 3D printing, coding, etc. This is a great source of revenue for small spaces, and libraries really want these kinds of programs.
  • Run classes regularly at the space to bring in money and also to drive membership. Try starting a series like “Learn to Make” that runs through the basics: soldering, circuit building, programming for microcontrollers, 3D printing.
  • Find industries in your area that are looking to expand into emerging technology, and seek out partnerships with them. Listen to the problems they are having and see if you can position yourself as a group that can help solve them through continuing education and advisement.
  • If the space allows it, offer a co-working option. People usually have jobs with regular hours in smaller towns, and so the space will be empty during the day — unless you can fill it with a few co-workers.

As always, I am available to speak and consult on this topic with your organization or company. I’ll be speaking at the AMA ChangeMedEd 2017 Conference in September on the transformative acts of making in education (the likes of which happens at makerspaces!), and at C2E2 in a few weeks about how to make games (where I’m sure I’ll end up talking about making as a practice as well). Come say hi!