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.
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.