David Springs - Nominee Questions

What are some favorite things you have already done for MakeICT?

I’ve served as an Area Lead, Security Lead, and Treasurer. I enjoyed the privilege of coordinating the recent Magic Wheelchair Fire Truck build for Logan Stewart, who squealed in delight when he saw it. I’ve had many more opportunities to enjoy over the past 4 years, as well. We finished the arcade (yeah, it needs fixed. Someone want experience with that? I’ll help you this time.), and came up with the kiosk concept and have been working on that. We now have a sign on the building.

What in your opinion qualifies you to be a board member?

I care very much about the future of MakeICT, and have enjoyed serving as Treasurer for the past 2 years.

If you have served on the Board in the past, What do you feel you did right? What do you think you did wrong, or could have done better?

I’d like to think that I’ve accomplished a number of things (always with the help or support of others) that we struggled with in the past. While it ultimately met an unfortunate demise, I was able to finally get the electric bus titled in our name. It had been sitting with its status in limbo for years. Our finances and taxes are now supervised by a Certified Public Accountant experienced in nonprofit organizations, and we have a good relationship with a law firm who now reviews matters that need reviewing. Instructor checks always go out in a timely manner (thanks to Christian for making it much easier to calculate).

As for things that could have been done better:
I would have liked to have the kiosk project finished before the upcoming Annual Meeting. That was a goal of mine, but a few things required that I spend time on them – the bus arson, a broken leg, things like that. I am still working with the team (thank you Christian!), and I am confident that it will get done.

We’ve had good people leave, taking their skills and knowledge with them. I know that these things happen, but they’re our friends, and were a part of our unique group of people who love to make.

We’ve failed to properly show our gratitude to those who have given us their time, or money, or goodwill.

Are you able to be at Board meetings, Maker Mondays and other events for the duration of your term?

I expect to be able to attend every meeting in the upcoming year. Attending Maker Mondays is a very reasonable expectation as well. As I’m sure any past President will tell you, the position really requires your presence at many things beyond Board meetings and Maker Mondays.

It is our mission to innovate, learn, and build community at the intersection of art, technology, science, and culture. How would you support our mission as leadership?

By encouraging and supporting our volunteers and members (future volunteers), doing my best to make it easy for them to succeed. And by enthusiasm. In spite of a few disappointments, MakeICT continues to be the absolute best thing going in Wichita.

What are your thoughts about MakeICT’s direction in the coming year?

We need more space at a price we can afford. I think making another run at the Booth Elementary site is a goal worth pursuing. Yes, we should consider everything out there, but that location is a very good match for us. Our members agree by an overwhelming margin. If that absolutely cannot be saved, then we’ll need to work twice as hard to find and pay for our next home. That really is our priority.

What’s your agenda for what you want to accomplish in the coming year?

I have a list that I will be sharing with our members as soon as possible. It includes twelve specific goals that I will lobby for during the next 12 months.

How will you gauge whether we’re successful as an organization?

We have been, and I believe that we shall continue to be successful. The metrics we use are membership (raw numbers, longevity, and churn) and classes (both number offered and attendance). Satisfied members stay. Unsatisfied members leave. It really is that simple. Our facility, both in space and in condition, directly affects member satisfaction.

How do we keep and grow membership?

Growth has been easy for us, and it is relatively simple, as well. When people hear about us, they are interested, they visit, and they join. Much of that can be driven by social media, but when we’re ready, I’d love to see a feature article in the Eagle that tells all about us, possibly followed up by a few wise media buys to reach as many folks as possible, with the right message, for a reasonable cost. People cannot be interested in us if they don’t know we exist. That’s the barrier we need to tear down. I’d like to find that at the end of the next term, most people in the area who know not only that we exist, but what a makerspace is, and does, and is all about. When you tell someone you’re a member of MakeICT, how often do you have to explain what a makerspace is? We’re part of the makerspace culture, but in general, people aren’t familiar with the concept. I can say things like “restaurant”, “school”, or “theater”, and people automatically have that picture in their heads. It isn’t always that way with “makerspace” because there’s nothing in their experience to associate with that word.

They need to also know that we’re the best bargain around, and that they can easily afford to be a part of MakeICT.

Tell us one thing the Board did in the last 12 months that needs an undo. Be specific.

Some may disagree, but the recent Bylaw change that has the President only voting in case of a tie is, to me, a mistake. The President should be the one building consensus and championing smart initiatives. Doing those things, then not even voting on that very issue sends the wrong message. I’d like to see that particular change done away with. Ideas that end in a tie are the ones that cannot command universal support. I’d hope that they are the rare exception, rather than the rule. If eight or nine Board members cannot agree on something, over four hundred members can’t be expected to do so. We want initiatives that pass because Board members are convinced, not outvoted.

Tell us one thing not done in the last 12 months by the Board that still needs done. Be specific.

We need to engender more participation among members. We have a core group who do the majority of volunteering for MakeICT. Many members participate only to the extent of paying dues and using tools, but we are much, much more than just a place to use a table saw. We need to help our members find out just how much more satisfaction comes from not only making, but also from helping others become makers, and from having their own learning experiences in other areas. Everyone should automatically think of MakeICT as MY makerspace.

How much Autonomy should Area Leads Have?

I’d be much more comfortable with authority than autonomy. Autonomy implies doing things on their own. We want our Area Leads to be able to do those things that they are inspired to do, with the Board both making it possible, but also as their biggest cheerleaders. By the same token, we want each Area to feel like they are a valued part of a bigger whole. We have a great team, and they should know we feel that way. We couldn’t exist without them. When something needs done, it is almost always the Area Leads who make it happen, and the Board should be listening and looking for ways to help them accomplish their vision for MakeICT. We have an absolutely dismal record when it comes to recognizing all of our volunteers and donors in a tangible way, and that has to become a priority. Even Grandma expects a written “Thank you” card when she sends your birthday present each year. Don’t expect another one if that’s too much trouble.

What experience do you have in grant-writing or fundraising?

Unfortunately, I fear that we all lack grant-writing experience. Fundraising is something I’m comfortable with, but most of that comes from our members, who are very generous. I need (I think we all do) to get better at giving those outside of MakeICT a chance to be generous to our makers and future makers.

What are your ideas on promoting Volunteerism and a Community Mindset at MakeICT? (ie Scholarships, funded leadership conferences…)

At our stage of development, funded conferences aren’t something I’d support in general. We have struggled with maintaining a consistently administered scholarship program. I support offering scholarships, but we need to settle on the parameters of that program, assemble a team that can handle it, and take it off the Board’s plate unless an issue arises that is beyond the scope of the Scholarship Committee.

Do you promise you can serve out your entire term until next June? Do you predict that you’ll be open to running for a second or third term so MakeICT has a continuous, stable board of directors?

I have already served two full terms, and I believe that if I make a commitment, I’m bound to honor that. As this would be my third term, I’d have no plans to run for any office next year.

Have you read our bylaws and standing rules ?

Yes I have. I would like for each newly elected Board to take a refresher course on our Bylaws, Standing Rules, and history.

What areas of the makerspace are you proficient/not proficient in?

I’ve really wanted to get involved in Ceramics, have limited experience in Textiles, and would very much like to complete training on the Tormach. In the past two years as Treasurer, my time has been somewhat taxed. I expect that to continue if I become President, but in my case it will be a one-year commitment.

What are the best and worst aspects of your leadership and communication styles? What can you do to improve or mitigate your worst quality?

I can be impatient with people at times. When a solution is obvious, I struggle to be patient when I feel we’re wasting time on unfruitful activities. I’m finding that taking a little time to consider a situation before responding makes a world of difference. I also am learning to ask for input from individuals in our organization that have shown themselves to have good judgement. We have some really wise and experienced members who nevertheless have no interest in being on the Board. I consider these people to be extremely valuable to us as a makerspace and to me personally.

If MakeICT didn’t exist, what would you do with your time?

I’d be doing less of the same thing, with fewer resources, at home. Being asked to develop a new, unique device was what led me to MakeICT in the first place.

What steps would you take outside the Maker space to continue growth of the knowledge of our existence, so we’re not Wichita’s “best kept secret”?

I’d do exactly what I’ve always done since coming to MakeICT…I rave about it to everyone I meet. We have a number of members who are members because of my personal relationship with them. Some came and went, but some saw MakeICT the way I do, and they’ll be here for a long time. (Yeah, that’s you Phil, Leslie, and Matt!)

A few last thoughts:

  • If you want to get something accomplished, look to someone who is already busy.
  • Every single person who joins MakeICT brings their own rich pool of knowledge and experience to our group. We can’t benefit from that if we’re just here to rent tools.
  • I’m learning that signing key forms is a great way to begin to learn about what new members bring to MakeICT in the way of knowledge and experience, and as a result, I’m no longer ever bothered about being asked to sign them. Instead of being a gatekeeper, being a signer gives me a chance to see new skill sets and possibilities.
  • We’ve had some disappointments this past year, but we have the potential to see our best year ever going forward, and that excites me!
  • I can’t expect to see eye-to-eye with everyone on everything, but I can recognize that other people can want the absolute best for MakeICT, even when honest people honestly differ.
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Thanks for taking the time to fill this out. Great responses, too! I especially liked your response to this: Tell us one thing the Board did in the last 12 months that needs an undo. Be specific.

I can recognize that other people can want the absolute best for MakeICT, even when honest people honestly differ.

<3

the recent Bylaw change that has the President only voting in case of a tie is, to me, a mistake

I agree - this shouldn’t be in the bylaws IMO, and agree that it should be changed. Anybody can opt out of any vote without a specific bylaw - although I’m not sure I understand the mentality of a board president who doesn’t want to stand behind an idea.

We want initiatives that pass because Board members are convinced, not outvoted.

This isn’t always possible, of course. We should be willing to fight for what we believe in, but everybody on the board needs to back every board decision - even when they are outvoted and unconvinced.

Everyone should automatically think of MakeICT as MY makerspace.

Couldn’t agree with this more. Language is important. It’s our community, our makerspace, our laser cutter, our website, etc.


David, the work you’ve done for MakeICT is immeasurable, but I think you are, perhaps, especially qualified to comment on a specific on-going concern. It looks like you’re running unopposed for President, and that the Treasurer position will then also be unopposed. We’ve been lucky to have the candidates we’ve had, but luck isn’t something we should rely on. What can/will you do, as President, to make sure that we will have more candidates in the next election?

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Dom,

It seems to me that the prevailing notion is that serving on the Board is a fast trip to burn-out. I can understand that…we’ve had several Board members quit in the past year, and there has been conflict, and if that’s all a person is aware of, then I can see coming to the same conclusion. That isn’t an accurate picture, though. Kim has served two terms as President, you served three (right?), and many folks have served. You’re all still members, all still 100% behind MakeICT, and all still see a bright future.

It seems that the simple way to increase the number of candidates is to have a larger membership, but that isn’t really it. What we need to do is -inspire- future leaders, because those are the leaders who serve because they desperately want MakeICT to be here in 2, 5, or 10 years… I want my grandkids to be making here when they’re old enough.

So to answer your specific question: As President, I want to be a MakeICT Evangelist. After four years, I have my own 3D printer, and my own CNC. I have access to tools. But having those isn’t equal to being a -part- of a community that all has common goals. MakeICT is much, much more than a place to use cool tools and take classes. It is wandering in at midnight with a problem, and having 2 or 3 people sit down and help solve it. It’s a sense of accomplishment in helping to build and support a group that does so much for so many people. It’s building a Magic Wheelchair for a crippled kid in Oklahoma, and having him squeal with delight over it. But it is also about learning to accept that the guy next to you isn’t going to agree on some things. We have a group that is bound together by something other than ideology or politics, yet they are willing to overlook their differences and deal with their common goals and pursuits. Sometimes it takes a while for that to sink in.

So we need people who are inspired by MakeICT, and who have caught that vision. As leaders, we need to set that example to begin with, and then be conscious that our actions and attitudes will filter down to others. That means that we need to learn, as a Board and as Area Leads and as committee members, to go out of our way to find the best path for MakeICT to take. We need to recognize and thank those who give money, and time, and support to our group – and we need to do it publicly, tangibly, and often. We need to remember that the goal is to agree on what is best, which is different than to do what is best. “Agree” is important. We have to convince, rather than bully.

I want to put far more emphasis on the work we have to do between Board meetings. We should strive to have differences worked out by meeting together in working sessions each month, with a goal of finding out what we can support together, and how we can compromise with solutions everyone can support.

We need to ask our co-owners to come alongside and help steer, and if they are unwilling, find out why, so that we can work on removing the obstacles. It’s something we all need to learn, to some degree. But having a goal gives us a target that we can work on achieving. But we are never going to have perfect leaders walk in to take over each year…we have to grow our own. If we learn to do that, then each year be easier and easier.

I realize that I’ve got a lot of flaws. We all do. But that’s all the more reason to strive to overlook those in others. I don’t expect that Board meetings will suddenly be all sunshine and rainbows, but I do expect us to work on working together without rancor. If I’m elected (which is not a certainty – anyone can be a nominee between now and election time), I intend to set aside the very first moments of every Board meeting to remember why we’re there, because I could stand to be reminded of that, myself.

(Sorry if I rambled on too much. I figure the more I say about that, the easier it will be to point it out to me if I don’t follow it six months from now.)

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Thanks for the response - I like your answer

Can you elaborate a little on exactly what this will look like?

I guess the idea is to reinforce to all of our members that the only way we can have a community like ours is that we rely on our members as volunteers. Getting the message out that volunteering is the norm, rather than the exception, helps to engender that mindset from day one.

As a matter of policy, we could routinely communicate to our members that serving to our elected and appointed positions is very definitely the kind of volunteering we need. In conjunction with that,and with some thought, I’m sure we could come up with a dozen ways to mentor new leaders. Our assistant leads are an example of how that can look, but we also need something to help our members learn, bit by bit if necessary, how to serve. Give them a chance to do something – anything. It will take some thought and planning, but off the top of my head, we could definitely use help with something like streaming our meetings. It would be far better than having Board members trying to tend a stream while participating in a meeting. But in doing so, we now have more volunteers working directly with the Board. There are lots of different avenues, but the more interaction there is between our leaders and our other members the better. We need to set two expectations from the outset – that we expect our members to be involved with leadership as a matter of course (OUR makerspace, not their makerspace), and that we’re eager to teach people how to serve in that capacity. It does seem clear, though, that the important thing is that a member starts volunteering for something. It’s a giant leap in some people’s minds to go from member to Board member. It’s a small thing to go from sweeping to being in charge of a few people who clean. And from there to taking over responsibility for having a particular area (wood shop, for example) cleaned by someone on a regular basis. Pretty easy to go from there to becoming an Assistant Lead, and from there to Lead. Just a natural progression of small steps, but each one helping that member become a leader, step by step, with positive reinforcement and encouragement all along the way. Soon they become the encourager for those doing the job they did last year, and so on.

I’ve never had the responsibility of serving as President of a makerspace, but I have been in charge of other groups over the years. I’ve found that, by and large, people tend to rise to meet your best expectations. If you truly think highly of someone, and they know that, then they strive to be the great person you see in them. I would be surprised if you didn’t also find that to be the case when you were President.

Finally, I know that in my case, I started volunteering when I was asked to help with a specific job. Bonus points for you if you know what that job was.

So I guess that the accurate answer to your question:

is “No, David can’t elaborate a little on anything.” :slight_smile:

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I chuckled. Well stated even if a bit long winded…

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So on the topic of sharing the load and getting volunteers involved, you’ve been treasurer the past two years. That’s one of the bigger more time-consuming job at the makerspace. Are there any tasks related to finance and accounting that we could divide and conquer?

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That’s difficult to do, although having a CPA is making a huge difference. I don’t know of a way to efficiently split up certain jobs. It doesn’t make sense to divide a month’s worth of receipts, when the second person will just have to call to find out details on this or that anyway. A second person might be able to do some things, but they’d really just end up being a gopher. In most tasks, though, it would end up with two people dividing up a one-person job. Perhaps our next Treasurer will use his imagination and find ways to divide it up, but in my experience, dividing the work and working around another person’s schedule adds more work than it saves. It will be a big help if our new Treasurer can complete the task of issuing individual debit cards to our Area Leads. Between the conversion to Quickbooks, the new building tasks, chasing around to get a good title for the bus and then dealing with insurance companies and investigators after its demise, and adding new revenue streams, it is a task that just didn’t get done. We’ve grown in the past two years. A lot. We have to remember that each of us is a volunteer, and volunteers really need to have the freedom to work on their own schedule whenever that’s an option. Giving our Area Leads the ability to do their own purchasing, and eliminating frequent trips to manually enter items from the cash box by having the kiosk done will eliminate much of the time-consumption that has gone on while I’ve been Treasurer. I hope our next Treasurer can exult in all that free time.

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