I had a flash of insight today about my vision for the educational part of LMN and I’m posting it here in the hopes of getting some discussion going and in the interest of communicating with the whole volunteer corps about aspects of our work at the space. I’m actually a little jazzed about this, because it feels like the most clear vision I’ve had for what LMN can be educationally.
Today I was thinking about the portion of LMN’s mission as a quasi-educational space and what’s missing from our current approaches to meeting that mission. A lot of our recent discussion about that mission has been centered on class offerings. That makes sense to some extent–classes are an important source of revenue, an important way for us to demonstrate key skills, etc. I’m all for developing that part of the space further; however, I don’t think they’re the only way LMN should be focusing on teaching. I think we also need volunteers whose active role is to help members think through and develop their projects in the space.
Thinking back to when we were at St. Joseph’s and my early days in LMN, one of the things that most made me want to keep being a member was that as I worked through my projects, I would reliably run into people who would spend time helping me think through my projects. When I was working on a crazy idea for a table made of tiny scraps of wood, any number of people would stop and talk me through how that could be done, and that both kept me going and made me rethink and redesign the piece as I went. In the larger space, I’ve seen less of that. Partly because the separation between the front desk and the back makes it less obvious to come up and chat with us.
I know there are cases where people have been more involved in helping people with projects, and that people report this as a reason why they’re happy to be part of the community. I think if we can develop a group of volunteers whose role is explicitly to consult on projects, the educational mission might extend a bit past classes and more explicitly extend into building community among people at the space. When I think of how popular our Open Forge and other nights are, I think the major reason is that it brings together people with different expertise levels and lets people see themselves as part of that community. It makes us less lonely. Maybe having that be a more consistent part of how we operate would help with that.
I can talk through models of this I’ve been a part of if anyone’s interested, but for now I’m done. Does this sound like something that is worth pursuing to anyone? Am I way off base with this? As is often the case, what seemed so clear and exciting in the lightning flash of inspiration is starting to seem rife with problems and open for rejection as I express it in words now.
I love that these conversations are getting really active. A couple of thoughts:
Classes as revenue and growth: i think that classes as they exist now are nearly perfect. A step by step process and oversight allows for “non makers” to get a feel and some confidence. The example here is my 20y daughter. I brought her to a cutting board class with no real wood experience and now she is planning on once a month board projects. I think what’s missing is the bridge to get those class takers back into the space. For my daughter i was the bridge, but for the random public that is missing. How do we get those people back in? Maybe it’s offering a 102 cutting board class? Maybe it’s offering a wood package for them to come back and do one on their own? I don’t know what is needed but it is missing
Classes as growth: i agree that running into people with higher levels of experience is great. I was myself considering a “intro to 3d printing” or a “lightburn basics” night. Less of a class and more of a “het i am going to be playing with this tool tonight maybe you want to come and watch me goof around and ask questions”. Maybe this would do better with a class structure? Maybe this would be better as general gatherings. I know that @Evelyn and i have talked about show and tell nights, so maybe that gets adapted into a more how to night?
Either way i am excited that we are thinking about these things!
It’s great that there is so much discussion, debate, and theorizing about doing something to attract more members and bring in revenue from classes. Practice is better. Hats off to @Vic_Reynaud for doing something! His post about a potluck will build community. More events like that will be needed, and should be scheduled. Offering more and new classes will help keep the lights on, if that doesn’t take forever. Resurrecting old classes may be quicker.
The epic five day battle of Marathon was over in an afternoon once the epic four day debate was abandoned.
I agree about developing further and more advanced classes that build on each other. To some extent we’re already working toward that. Jewelry and Blacksmithing have both started developing “skills” based classes that are meant to build into a curriculum. I’d like to see that in Woodworking and Crafts, as well. (Crafts, Electronics, and Digital Fab could use some classes for anyone interested in developing them, FYI.)
What I was talking about above, though, was the broader educational mission of the space. I think there’s room for creating a more structured or obvious way for volunteers to be available as project consultants. I want to have volunteers available whose specific role is to help members developing their projects in the space. People who can say “oh yeah…you want to do that with a lap joint. Here’s how you do that” and then teach how it’s done in the moment. My thinking is that this will help with member retention and with shaping the culture of the space.
I want to add, to address the point @GaryB just made, that this isn’t just me posting for the sake of debate or theorizing. What I’m proposing is a way forward for a part of the educational mission at LMN that I would like to enact. I’ve been thinking about a longer-term vision for the educational part of our organization, because several Area Managers have asked me to do that. I could have sent this only to the leadership team, but volunteers have noted that they feel out of the loop in these conversations. Out of respect for that, and an effort to be better about communicating, I decided to open the conversation to everyone.
If anyone doesn’t want to be part of that conversation, that’s fine, but developing classes and trying to develop a long-term educational strategy is qualitatively different than putting together a potluck (not to take away from the very good thing that @Vic_Reynaud’s potluck will be). It requires more thought and coordination, and it’s not something I would want to jump into impulsively and without hearing what other people in our team have to say about it.
Finally, I hesitate to add this, but since it keeps cropping up in these threads, speaking only for myself I want to note that I this continued narrative that we’re all just doing nothing but talking is inaccurate, demoralizing, and–again, speaking only for myself–insulting to the amount of time I put into making things actually happen at LMN.
I really like this idea. I think in order for it to work, we’d need to focus on educating our volunteers first. The most knowledgeable volunteers are currently wearing too many hats around the space as area managers or course instructors, while others are wishing they had more projects to work on. I think if we focused on getting more volunteers trained on areas in the space they’re interested in, and working on group projects that help improve the makerspace, we’d gain valuable experience that would help us become consultants to members.
@Rossi.Bossi you should not take this as a personal attack or insult. Among the several people I have spoken with, you are only one, and the one that I have probably spoken to for the shortest amount of time. Many of us have discussed nearly the same things for a very long time without action. I have taken no action of my own. I also credit Vic with taking action on a schedule. Debate and discussion can be viewed as an action, but not one with product. Debate and discussion are good things and necessary. However, if that is the only thing to happen, then nothing has happened.
Many things have been discussed by many people. Getting those people together, face to face, will get the discussion really rolling. With the right people attending, things can be put on a calendar. Then they happen.
So, rather than say something that may stop a discussion, when do people want to get together?
So, some of this needs to be a larger discussion involving the area managers and @Jimmy. If we’re talking about more thoroughly training volunteers to be consultants, I want to make sure the area managers are at least briefed and that we can have their support for the training effort.
However, I’d also love to chat with volunteers directly about possibly helping with the admin aspect of getting classes on the books. I stand by my observation that class development should be careful and considered, but I don’t want it to drag. To @billehhg’s point in another thread, I’d like to have someone to help with scheduling classes each semester and addressing the cognito forms as they come in. If I’m underwater at work, that will take some of the lag out of the system.
Also, since I have time now, I want to actually talk with volunteers and talk through some other developments in terms of ways you can teach at the space. So. My semester starts next week. It’s going to be a busy one, but especially in the early days of the semester I can make time to work on these things (it’s the mid-to-late bits of the semester where I start having 60-hour weeks).
I appreciate the mentor idea, but I don’t think we need dedicated volunteers for it. Every volunteer loves to help.
I have always loved the communal and educational aspect of the space. When I need to know about a tool, or how to do something I go and ask. I have gone to @RealCarlRaymond for advice on the woodshop countless times, and @Vic_Reynaud and @Clifford_Bohm are always available to answer questions about metals when I have them. When people come to me, I help them if I can, or I tell them who could.
Maria is correct that what we need is to train volunteers on the spaces that lack guidance. We also need to advertise this aspect better. People need to know they can ask for help, but a dedicated team to do it just seems like an extra step.
In thinking about it today, would it be possible for anyone on @SpaceForce who is interested in having this discussion to meet on Saturday to carry on this conversation in person? I’m interested in working out how best to go about the training so that people can be mentor/consultants as volunteers, how to find ways forward for teaching at the space that doesn’t just involve the traditional classes, and anything else related to education at the space that I can bring to the next area manager’s meeting (date TBD).
I’m available to meet in person on Saturday! I think it would be helpful to get together and brainstorm and come up with a plan of action.
Not to volunteer more work for someone, but if anyone can take a vague “minutes” i’d be interested in hearing what’s discussed but cannot make it saturday. No problem if that’s too much hassle
I’m running a CNC checkout that morning! Can’t stay too late though
I was thinking afternoon. I have a shift at 5:30. I was thinking around 3:30.
I like the idea of a “go to” reference person/mentor for help in a given area. I’m out of town right now, so I can’t make the Saturday discussion. Please post a recap here if possible.
I’m available Saturday at 3:30. Please keep me posted.
If you all do end up meeting, and this is indeed a meeting that is open to all volunteers, please make a post of the date and time so that all who have a vested interest in this discussion can be made aware.