I was a heavy user and then board member and occasional user from 2015 through Covid time and right up to the non-profit merger with ASMBLY. I had not been in the space for a long time and I cannot express how much joy I felt, moved to tears, touring the space and using the facilities this week. I’m moving away from Austin – my home these last 27 years – and I feel so much closure and peace seeing what the community has achieved. @stewards @leadership @dannym and volunteers past and present – so much gratitude.
The textiles area – so well needed, bright and well laid out. Seeing enough lathes to make teaching a class profitable, and hearing about the plans for improving and expanding beyond it. The shiny welcoming front room and, mirable dictu, a welcoming volunteer at the desk. Noting that “residual dust on the saw fence” is the standard for carelessness among the community. The woodshop felt both more open and more capable, great balance.
Most of all, seeing @dannym’s laser blasting through 1/2" material with one tube down like it ain’t no thing, well documented, cared for, everything you need at hand.
Three reflections on opportunities for further growth.
You’ve done an amazing job of making the machines safe from the users and sustainable for the teachers and volunteers. The remaining gap to perfect-enough is, for each area of the space, to closely follow a cohort of novice users all the way from initial class on a machine through however many machine sessions they need to label themselves confident and competent. Include at at least one person for whom joining the space is a brave and difficult emotional process i.e. they were raised to believe that they are not welcome near tools and such.
I’m saying this because despite the staggering leaps in documentation, in workflow simplification, and the significant skills I came in with, I encountered many little stumbling blocks along the way to re-mastery of lasers and saw some remaining gaps in workshop tool organization. For the lasers, I documented several of them and have flagged others as homework for volunteers. I trust your judgement to slow the roll there – if that’s too many things for volunteers invited or if they would be distractions, mute the posts, all good. The only strong suggestion I’m making here, which you may already be practicing, is to shift from planning around improvements to the space to instead remediating the remaining barriers to success.
A second, lesser suggestion is to offer instructor-less(ish) intermediate classes on an Oxford system:
- a menu of small projects that will have the maker go deep into one or two aspects of the craft
- Time slots when a Tutor will be on call for questions or assistance – but with the goal that the student is largely proceeding on their own. As such, the Tutor’s role is to direct the student towards learning resources, rather than solutions, wherever reasonable.
- Class completion criterion is to either make a notable improvement in documentation for the problems they encountered along the way; OR a to add well-documented (with photos) tutorial for executing that project on ASMBLY facilities – posted on the (wiki? YO? your call).
- A recognition card or something on a wall in the space upon completion of the project and the documentation
The one last thing I saw missing from the hackerspace of my dreams and the ASMBLY of today is tangible outward recognition of the volunteers, stewards, and leaders of the space.
- Add the names and faces or avatars of the leadership team and stewards to the website. Researching makerspaces near my new home, I gained so much comfort seeing that they had a diverse board of not-too-many-not-too-few leaders. True artists sign their work, and you’ve done great work.
- Dedicate a wall of the entryway for laser-cut cards celebrating contributions such as serving on the board or leadership team or being a steward for a year, or giving enough volunteer hours to earn the bonus. Caveat: I tried a version of this once a while back, and the idea of it helped some but it was not a sustainable process. I think it may be ready to succeed now.
Literally cementing a person’s name to the wall and similar community rituals help are the difference between “I pay for an ASMBLY membership” to “I am part of ASMBLY”, between this-is-an-activity and this-is-who-I-am.
Closing with the main point:
For all the volunteers, members, leaders, board and stewards, thank you, you’re doing great work, and it was worth all the heartache and toil to see what the place has become.