Hello makers, I am running for another term as president. Here are my answers to the election questions. I felt like I couldn’t read anybody else’s answers until I posted my own, so I’d better get them posted I would strongly encourage everyone to only vote for board candidates who take the time to sit down and answer these questions, they’re important and this year we have plenty of time to answer them.
What are some favorite things you have already done for MakeICT?
My favorite thing will always be all the classes I’ve taught, it’s been a great way to get to know a ton of you and reach out to draw people into the space.
A new favorite thing I did this year was get our blog and newsletters back up and running. I wrote 24 posts to the blog last year. There’s no easy way to keep everyone up to date with all news, people ignore most of what comes their way, but if it’s on the website at least I can say I tried.
A third favorite thing is helping out with events that get us noticed by the outside world, whether it was the alternative gifts market, boy scout encampment, open streets, engineering expo, makerfaire, riverfest, I try to be at everything and truly believe that the whole board should make the same effort.
What in your opinion qualifies you to be a board member?
- I’m a manager for my full time job, I love leadership books and training and applying those lessons to MakeICT.
- I am willing to change my mind on issues and support ideas from others even if they’re not mine. I try to be constantly open to feedback. It’s tough to offend me or step on my toes.
- I care very passionately about our new member growth and orientation processes. I will always jump in wherever I see the greatest number of confused people who need help.
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?
Good things: I kept those board meetings moving so they are no longer 3-4 hours. We stuck to our budget. We advertised volunteer opportunities and committee lead openings by having one-stop-shop signup pages.
As for what could be better - I would have liked to spend more time forming partnerships with outside organizations but all of that takes more time. This year, I focused internally, I have no strong regrets there.
Are you able to be at Board meetings, Maker Mondays and other events for the duration of your term?
Yes. For the past year I was at every board meeting, every quarterly member meeting, and almost every maker monday. Most of the maker mondays I’ve taken on the role of coordinating helpers and recruiting new presenters. I would love more help with this. In fact, if I could get OUT of the job of presenting and running tours that’d be great, because then I’d have more time to answer questions or do outreach activities like I did last year. To help out here is the form: http://makeict.org/volunteer/
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?
To me the most important word in our mission is “intersection” - bridging gaps between people who don’t normally work together. We need to keep reaching out, helping new members get into the space, and telling Wichita what we’re all about.
What are your thoughts about MakeICT’s direction in the coming year?
Yet another fantastic year with continued growth. I’d like to have more people in leadership positions - running committees and taking the bull by the horns on things that need done around the space. I’d also like to appoint an educational program director who can channel our existing energy around classes to be successful. The new building question is obviously one that’s set on a course too, it started with the brainstorming town hall in September and now we have a lead collecting requirements from all areas of the space and we’ve even checked out some properties. I think we are on a good path there but we’re still gauging the level of urgency by listening to members, so I’m open to hearing your thoughts.
What’s your agenda for what you want to accomplish in the coming year?
Some things I’ve started that still need work:
- Measure and set goals for our educational program
- Figure out how to make each quarterly meeting valuable to our membership. We tried some things - ice cream night, a halloween party, etc, all fun but nothing was hugely popular.
- Track volunteer activities. The active volunteers in the space need to be recognized and rewarded - I’d like to give them first pick of lockers if we get those set up. We need a crazy simple tracking system that’s so easy you could click a button on your phone, and we need an incentive for recording your volunteer activities. From fixing tools to running the vacuum on maker monday, people are secretly doing things for the space which is great, but secrets can’t be recognized or have backup plans in case someone leaves.
- Improve our demographics tracking. The survey we ran this year was not sufficient, hate to say it, I’d like to go back to the drawing board on that. It needs to be integrated with wild apricot, which I know not everybody loves but we seem to be stuck with it.
How will you gauge whether we’re successful as an organization?
The membership count is important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I tried this year to track how many members were leaving, and introduced a lapsed member survey so we can find out WHY we lose people. We learned a few good things through that. I’m also always looking at the number of different people in leadership positions and keeping and eye out for volunteers who weren’t volunteering last month. We started opening each board meeting with “who do we want to thank this month?” and it’s been a great way to notice new helpers.
What should our priorities be in terms of trying to find a different space versus extending the lease on our current building?
I have two thoughts on that. First, I see a huge benefit around moving to a bigger space. If we had two classrooms we would have twice as many classes. We have small areas like textiles, the print shop, the ceramics studio, jewelry, that deserve a classroom-sized space but they’re practically in closets. The metalshop is one of our most popular areas and it’s tiny when you figure up how much of it is occupied with a walkway for ceramics. We have no kitchen. There is no place to paint. The kids area is another walk-through that makes it way too tempting for kids to just run laps through the whole space.
On the other hand, we will lose members by moving so it needs to be to the right space, and moving will be a huge undertaking. We will need all hands on deck, everyone take a week of vacation to move MakeICT. And we need to find the right building. I sometimes tell people sure, we’ll move, as soon as we can find a move-in ready 18,000sq ft cool old building in the middle of the douglas design district with a huge parking lot. They all laugh and tell me good luck.
So we’re in a tough place. I am not going to move just to move. We are gathering requirements now. Let’s remember - we can do a lot in our current building still. I haven’t given a tour yet where someone said “well I would have joined if you have a paint booth, but you don’t, so bye.” I still don’t think we’re missing anything critical to our survival in the space we have now.
Do you think MakeICT should focus on one space down town or multiple satellite locations in underserved communities?
At one time I liked the idea of one satellite, a “MakeICT West” so to speak, but in order for it to work we’d need 4-5 very motivated leaders to come together and say “we will set up this new location!” When I lived at Central & Ridge in that zoo full of apartments I would have loved to just walk across the street and use a bandsaw and a laser cutter - it doesn’t have to be a full up 7000 square foot makerspace. BUT when I ran a survey on this, most people didn’t want us to split up, so I dropped the idea.
I have never heard anyone suggest that we set up space in underserved communities. Is that what people in low income neighborhoods need? There’s a great book called Toxic Charity that talks about the bad side effects of people going into communities they’re not familiar with and trying to “help out” without being part of the community first and really listening. I would rather stick to what we know - helping Wichita’s very cool downtown area become cooler.
Do you believe the Board should deal with day to day issues? Should area leads have more authority over day to day operations?
Area/Committee leads all the way. Delegation is a critical skill for leaders trying to focus on long term strategy of the organization. Some examples:
- This year we agreed that area leads can set their own authorization policies, subject to review of the board. I didn’t even want them subject to review by the board. When the metalshop gets a new bandsaw and the metalshop lead wants to require authorization for it, great. The board should not be worried about every little tool.
- This year we introduced the “three nerd rule” to get rid of stuff. Previous policy was that no property of MakeICT could be transferred to a third party (ie, sold) without board approval. Now if an area lead wants to craigslist an old tool, s/he can just get approval from one board member and a director, and sell it. I took office wanting to declutter the space, I quickly learned that people did not want me running through with a blowtorch, but I could at least get the board out of people’s way!
- We spent way too much board meeting time on “somebody broke a rule how hardcore should we be about it”. Security and the area leads need to make those decisions quickly and know that they just have our support and we will not debate/rehash their decisions.
We need to keep moving this direction. I love having a board of nine people for big important critical decisions, but there are so many things that are NOT critical to the long term growth of our institute that keep getting in our way. We have to STOP doing those things if we want to START doing the big things.
The most important thing leaders do is get the right people in place in the right framework so they can just do their job.
Do you support and expansion of board terms from 1 year to 2 years? Why or why not?
I do not care passionately either way. When it first came up I thought it sounded like the right thing to do, but we’ve had a lot of pushback and people brought up some great points. 1 year terms give us the flexibility to vote against someone who’s not working out. Terms can already be repeated, so if you as a board member want to be around two years, run for another term! I do think that 2-3 years on the board should be highly encouraged. If you want a board position, I hope you want it for more than one year. This is an organization that’s going to be around for a long time. Part of the reason I’m running again is because I think this job is too important to just do for one year. Once the organization gets to know you and you’re on a good path, it wouldn’t be right to make them go through a whole leadership change again. Imagine if the US President said he only wanted one term… we would be very disappointed in him, like he must not have wanted the job that much. I love this place and being president, even if it’s tough sometimes, it’s been life changing, so I’m still willing to serve.
Would a 2 yr term affect your decisions to accept a nomination?
I’d accept either way.
Would you support staggered elections June and December for general directors seats? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. It took a while for us as a board to learn to work together as a team. I do not want to re-learn a new dynamic every six months, it will throw us into turmoil. This year we had three repeat board members (Kip, Logan, James) - even with those three, it felt like we were all new to this and there was a lot of learning. And no, you can’t learn the job just by reading every policy. What job can you learn by just reading? Being there, living through the reasons, getting practical guidance, learning about the rest of the leadership team personalities, understanding that there are some policies that the previous board meant to change, that all comes with time in the seat, I hate to say it.
Tell us one thing the Board did in the last 12 months that needs an undo. Be specific.
I’d say the three page key form, but we just undid it, so that’s not a great example. I’m interested to hear everybody else’s answer to this one though.
Tell us one thing not done in the last 12 months by the Board that still needs done. Be specific.
Appoint an educational director - but first I am trying to set an example for what I’d have an educational director do:
- Recruit teachers
- Track classes and statistics
- Organize a curriculum we can advertise to the world and promise to offer consistently
I got the group activities page together this year but it was a struggle and highlighted the need for an official director, so I’d really like to find that person in December, but I wanted to model some of the activities myself so we’re not starting from scratch. A “program” should prove itself as a very successful committee with activities and passionate people, no great program started with just a pure mission statement, did I use the phrase “channel existing energy” yet? Channel existing energy. With over 260 classes taught last year I would argue that we DO have a successful educational program, we just don’t have our arms around it.
There’s also something we didn’t do that I struggle with, and that has to do with how the front of the space is arranged. In December I challenged some members to come up with a dream space allocation plan for the front area. Thomas Bloom did a fantastic job coming up with options. Then when I asked them to be presented at a meeting, I was told by others that I should not worry about it, it’s not a board thing, the board should not be running the makerspace and Kim should stay out of it. So I did, but then none of the plans ever made it to the finish line and as a member I wish I could do more.
Do you believe the entire membership should vote each year at the annual meeting on the organizations Standing Rules? Refer to Article III Section 2 of the bylaws.
I’d like to straw poll that but my gut feeling is no. When I was a member, I didn’t care passionately about rules and policies. I wanted them to make sense, I wanted someone to take care of them, I wanted to use the tablesaw in peace or go help kids make paper rockets, not re-hash pages and pages of policies every year.
We have open board meetings and a process where any member can bring a proposed policy up to the board for a vote. If you want them changed, bring that change up.
The way that bylaw is worded is odd. What if the membership votes “no”? Does that mean there’s no standing rules? It’s on my list of bylaws I’d change if we were doing a re-write, but we are operating efficiently without spending all our time dissecting policies right now, so I have not made it that a priority. The Kansas requirement for an annual meeting makes sense for organizations that do not meet regularly about their business, but we meet every month, so our annual meeting should be a celebration and review of our year, not another board meeting.
If you read all of this THANK YOU and I would be happy to address any follow-up questions.