Starting a Hackerspace in the UK

If you're thinking of starting a hackspace in the UK, here's some advice which we've found useful:

First Steps

The first steps we recommend for people attempting to start a new space are the following:

Organise some meetings

Once you have a fair number of people on the mailing list you should organise some meetings:

That last point is REALLY important, focus on the community first and foremost, the space cannot exist without it. Spend several months building up a group of people who want to hack together and it'll work brilliantly. Don't even start planning the physical space until you have a community of enough people to make it viable.

When it comes to setting up mailing lists/blogs/websites, getting it done quickly and in an easy to use manner matters much more than doing it "properly" on your own servers. A google group is fine for the first few months, as is a tumblr blog and everything else. When you have a group and you're not spending all your time evangelising the hackerspace you can migrate! (It's a bit controversial this one, but we've seen many people waste time setting things up and writing code.)

If you'd like a subdomain of .hackspace.org.uk pointing somewhere, let us know.

Organisational Structure

The recommended way to organise a hackspace is as a community-run non-profit co-operative: Nobody receives any profit, every member has a vote in the running of the organisation, and there's a democratically-elected, volunteer board of trustees which handles the administrative stuff. In UK company terms, this structure is a "Company Limited by Guarantee".

You can read more about organisational structures on Russ's blog. We've also done some research into charitable status, but we wouldn't recommend going in that direction.

Insurance

Many Hackspaces don't have any insurance in their early days, but as you expand / incorporate, you'll probably want a basic policy covering:

Hackspaces/Makerspaces throughout the UK face a similar challenge in terms of finding the right level of insurance cover for an affordable price. Many insurers do not understand what these spaces are, and thus how to insure them correctly. This can result in a failure to quote, unaffordable pricing and/or insufficient cover.

As a first step, a large number of spaces collaborated in early 2016 to establish a "master scheme" that other groups can opt into. It wasn't quite a formal tender process (that will have to wait for 2017), but it has resulted in a very simple cost-effective policy that can be tailored to your particular needs. Premiums start from around £300, including Public and Employers liability, Contents and Legal Cover - arranged by Export and General Insurance Services (see below for contact details).

To develop a tailored policy/quote for your space, please contact John Mitchell at:

Export and General Insurance Services Limited
Desk: 0208 255 0617
Mobile: 07768 865983
Email: john.mitchell@exportandgeneral.co.uk
Wickham House, Hampton Wick, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 4DY
http://www.exportandgeneral.co.uk

Any Other Questions?