Fab Lab Association Discussion

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Workgroup Fab Lab Association Request for comments Please react before or on Sunday 9 January 2011 Dear members of the worldwide Fab Lab community

At a plenary meeting during the Fab6 conference in August 2010, the Workgroup Fab Lab Association was established to initiate an International Fab Lab Association. The workgroup consists of Pieter van der Hijden (chair), Peter Troxler, Harmen Zijp, Hiroya Tanaka, Lindi Mphuthi, Phyllis Klein, Sherry Lassiter, Klaas Hernamdt (ex officio). The new Fab Lab Association should be up and running before the Fab7 conference in Peru in August 2011.

At this moment, we want to present you a summary of our plans and ask you for your comments. We would appreciate if you read the text below this message and let us have your comments before or on Sunday 9th of January 2011 (as the workgroup will meet virtually the other day)

  • Do you see any other essential, basic tasks for the association? Do you consider any of the basics tasks of the association as superfluous or not being a task for the association but some other organization (if so, which?)?
  • Do you see any other aims or objectives the association should strive for? Do you consider any of the aims mentioned as not relevant or not appropriate for the association?
  • Do you see any other activities the association should pursue to fulfill its aims? Do you consider any of the activities mentioned as not suitable or not appropriate for the association?
  • Do you have any comments and suggestions for improvements?

The Fab Lab community asked us to do this job. We do it with pleasure and on a voluntarily base. We appreciate if you help us improve the plans for the association.

Your way to contribute:

  1. use the discussion page on this wiki to add your comments
  2. use the Fabfolk forum discussion list http://www.fabhub.net/showthread.php?57-Workgroup-Fab-Lab-Association-Request-for-comments-(before-or-on-Sunday-9-Jan.-2011)
  3. send an email with your comment to Pieter (pvdh@sofos.nl)

Thank you for your cooperation, and a Happy New Year 2011!

Pieter van der Hijden (pvdh@sofos.nl) chairperson of the workgroup

Workgroup Fab Lab Association: Request for comments

Our community

Many people in the Fab Lab community as it exists today enjoy the way it is organized. Fab Labs are independent nodes in a network that cooperate when needed and almost without any regulation. Individuals are mainly involved with their "own" Fab Lab and when active at community level they easily take an initiative when they feel there is something needed or missing. CBA, last but not least, offers often helping hands and is, even literally, a switching board for the whole. The whole is like a liberated area. So far, so good.

In the current situation there are issues that could be improved. Individuals and organizations entering our field often do not know where to go. They have to collect information by browsing through a web of sites without encountering some meeting point where they can find it all. For individuals who take up certain tasks like assembling whatever rich overview of information, it can become frustrating to see the results of their efforts evaporate as soon as they hoped somebody else would take their self-declared task over. There are also questions about maintaining the Fab Lab charter, setting-up and implementing a rite-de-passage for new Fab Labs that should result in an unambiguous list of Fab Labs.

Developing a policy for our community is difficult. In fact the Fab conferences are the places to meet many colleagues, but discussions there are without any obligations. As far as there is some form of decision-making, it is rather informal and not really documented, nor communicated.

Nothing is as risky as a liberated area, is a historical lesson. You easily forget to take into account that some pirates are waiting their chance. You also may think that life will always be as it is today:

  • In fact we saw some pirates already: one took the domain name, another took the logo. And at Fab6 there even was a "foreign missionary" trying to win our soul for money.
  • There are also some future developments we have to prepare for. At Fab6 CBA more than once indicated that its core business is research; it cannot run the community. At the same time we expect an explosion of new Fab Labs in the coming years. The way we are organized today will be inadequate when we double in numbers during a sequence of years.

A light weight association

We propose to establish a light weight International Fab Lab Association. In fact the workgroup creates the structure (the bones) and some basic content. The board and the members can fill the structure with more or less content (the flesh and blood) as requested over the years. Such an association is a legal body; the board is representing it.

All fans, users, volunteers and staff of the Fab Labs can become members of the association. They pay a modest contribution fee (different tariffs are possible) and can vote and elect and being elected (e.g. as member of the board) at the general meeting.

Every year, there will be a general meeting of the members, preferably during the Fab conference and with facilities for distance participation. The general meeting votes on policy and budget issues and elects the board members.

As basic tasks of the association we consider:

  1. public window to the international Fab Lab community (offering an overview of the community, acting as its central address and web site, meeting point from where to go in all directions);
  2. strengthen our community and stimulate knowledge sharing and cooperation in addressing common needs;
  3. prepare for the future;
  4. maintain the Fab Lab charter, set-up and implement a rite-de-passage for new Fab Labs resulting in an unambiguous list of Fab Labs.

The association should have a firm link with CBA and with the Fab Labs as organizational entities. Therefore we propose to establish an Academic Council and a Fab Lab Council. In fact these councils advise to the board and the general meeting.

The structure of the association and its basic operations (e.g. general meeting, elections) will be described in the constitution, an official document to be presented to the notary, etc. Such a document often remains unchanged during the years.

If we want to have additional rules and regulations, e.g. the charter and the rite-de-passage, we create so-called Byelaws. These may be changed more frequently than the constitution.

Our policy from year to year will be described in an annual policy plan and budget that will be presented to the general meeting.

Aim and means

One important element of the constitution is the formulation of the purpose of the association. It should be rather specific in its formulation in order to make clear what the association is and what it is not. However, it should also be rather general, in order to give space for future developments without the need to change the constitution every time.

Here is our proposal

The aim of the Association is

  1. to unite professionals and practitioners from across the world and from diverse disciplines who engage in the research, development and operation of workshops for digital fabrication (Fab Labs),
  2. to establish and maintain a clear definition of Fab Labs, a rite-de-passage for new Fab Labs and a list of Fab Labs,
  3. to fulfill the stewardship for the Fab Labs name and logo,
  4. to be the source of information that is intended to represent the Fab Lab community,
  5. and to further do everything that is directly or indirectly related or that may be conducive to these areas, in the broadest sense of the word.

As a catalyst, the Association attempts to stimulate the development, operation and research of Fab Labs and Fab Lab methods in a variety of domains across the world, like community development, education, small and medium size enterprises, health care. The mentioned methods include a broad collection of research, consultancy, teaching and learning methods and techniques. The common denominator of all these methods is digital fabrication.

The Association strives to realize its objects by

a. closely following and distributing new developments in the field of digital fabrication; b. stimulating researchers and students to conduct systematic research into digital fabrication; c. stimulating practitioners to use digital fabrication to their full potential; d. stimulating scientists and practitioners to present and publish their findings and to share their experiences; e. enhancing the proper use of digital fabrication, including its ethical aspects; f. supporting scientists and practitioners to expand their knowledge and skills in the field of digital fabrication; g. enhancing cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration between scientists and practitioners, and further by applying all other legal means that are deemed to be useful or necessary for realizing the set objects.


With the approach presented above we hope to maintain the charm and beauty of the current Fab Lab community and make it future proof.