On transparency, community, and drama

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Najey Rifai

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Mar 10, 2023, 11:10:28 PMMar 10
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In light of recent events, I want to give my two pennies. I've been waiting for the right time to say this, but I've realised that the longer I wait the less value this will contribute to the conversation. So here goes.

I think this is all very childish; coming from me, that means a lot! This community workshop, at least since I joined in 2018, is a place for crafters to come together, support each other, and create amazing things. I think it's only right that people know: there's been a secret coup between senior members of the workshop. Isn't that mental? What do you think this is? Reality TV?

The fact it's been happening behind the backs of the very same people it effects is just upsetting. The fact that everyone is so touchy about keeping their grievances private has only worsened the situation. If the initiators of this situation had manned the fuck up and actually put their concerns to the members I don't think it would have gone this far.

From an outsider perspective there are no bad people in this. Petty, partisan, pathetic maybe, but everyone thinks they're doing the right thing. AFAIK I'm friendly with all parties involved, but if this continues to spiral I'll leave, and so will others.

I know I'm going to get a lot of shit for posting this but I've had enough. Fuck this madness. To those benefiting from this directly (my honestly loving advice): the truth will out, and the people will react; I hope you will humble yourselves before they humble you. 

Mr.G

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Mar 11, 2023, 1:47:54 AMMar 11
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 I have no idea what this is about?
Is there a clickable digest?
Do I need worry? 

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Vance Briggs

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Mar 11, 2023, 3:48:11 AMMar 11
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Najey, All,

I appreciate you for trying to vocalize what I believe to be "common sense", but very few people know what has happened (including myself) and therefore cannot put your comments in context. 

I presume given the proximity to Mark's resignation that these are related. I am concerned that  Mark felt the need to resign as I consider him to be the most level headed director. 

I don't want this to turn into a sh*t slinging contest, but I would appreciate an unemotional statement from the remaining directors. 

Vance

On Sat, 11 Mar 2023, 04:10 Najey Rifai, <najey...@gmail.com> wrote:
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Tom Bayley

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Mar 11, 2023, 4:01:24 AMMar 11
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What seems really sad is that the inconsiderate and selfish ruin it for the others.

But I guess that is the world we live in the narcissistic people take/ destroy and feel nothing.

Going to be sad if the hack space disappears 

Tom Bayley  

Tom Allen

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Mar 11, 2023, 6:04:48 AMMar 11
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I am not really sure how your insults and complaints add to this situation in any meaningful way, but I hear you are upset.

I agree that far too many things have been happening in secret. For example:

How many members know that over £60,000 of THEIR money is sitting in a savings account while they try to make things in the space with broken heating and broken tools?
How many members have been witness to a director making horrible comments about members behind their backs?
How many members were consulted about large purchase decisions bought with THEIR money before they happened?
How many members voted in the current directors?
How many other important things have been kept secret from the members because some of the current directors believe they have the right to operate without the consent or even informing the members?

All of these things are directly against the principles of a community members organisation.

In the past ALL matters, other than misconduct, were disclosed and discussed and agreed upon as a community, that is a hackspace.

Tom Allen




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najey...@gmail.com

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Mar 11, 2023, 7:25:48 AMMar 11
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This is exactly what I wanted, thank you! I wanted transparency. I didn't know any of what you just said. Now in your defence, my language is a bit biased by what I've seen. In my defence, what I've seen is what I've been able to see. My money and time goes into the upkeep of the workshop, as does that of a couple hundred others; in return we get to enjoy the experience of attending said workshop! That experience is intrinsically and directly affected by the behaviour of the directors (and let's be honest, landlord). I have a right to know and all of you have a right to circumvent the directors and tell everyone if nothing is being done. I've been intentionally vague because this isn't an attempt to out any bad behaviour directly, it's an attempt to warn people of the consequences of keeping secrets in a hope that they will not!

Andrew

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Mar 11, 2023, 9:05:57 AMMar 11
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On the subject of Rlab funds: it's been known to Rlab directors and anyone that's asked us that the current location of Rlab is in an area that reading council plan to redevelop in the next 5 to ten years, the development plan they released is available online and I'm sure you've noticed the flats going up around us, as such some years ago it was considered prudent to build up some level of savings to ensure the continued existence of Rlab in the event that we need to move. Though by the company charter written when RLab was founded (available from the companies house website if you're interested) directors cannot legally divulge financial details of RLab, even to members.

On the subject of broken equipment: Members of Rlab that have previously been involved in maintaining the heating system have been taking action on this, but as you have pointed out, as a Hackspace everything that happens does so only when members are able to volunteer their time and experience to the task, and when those members are unavailable then the project stalls until others are able to take up the project. An example of this is the compressor, when it first broke there was discussion about how to replace it and no clear consensus was reached, eventually two members took it upon themselves to plan and source a replacement. Unfortunately they have not had the availability to complete this project and it has since stalled.

On the subject of horrible comments: please see our inclusivity policy on the wiki for more details but I'll summarise here too: If you hear anything said at Rlab whether to yourself or otherwise that you find offensive then please let a director know. If it is a director saying it then Definitely let another director know. It will be investigated.

On the subject of large purchases could you please be more specific. Which purchases do you think should not have been made and why?

On the matter of voting: As it says on the wiki and in the induction the Rlab is a 'do-occracy'. Important decisions about what happens at Rlab are and always have been the decision of those members who volunteer their time and effort to get things done. While this is often one or more directors we would be very happy if more members would offer not just their opinion but their time. The mandate of the directors of Rlab is to sign the paperwork that needs signing for Rlab to exist as a legal entity, everything else we do is done as a member of Rlab with the time and will to volunteer.

On the subject of secrets: I have always answered any question that doesn't relate to an investigation of misconduct to the best of my ability to anyone that has expressed an interest and I'm sure all current and previous directors have too. This forum and the discord group we are trialling are both excellent ways to reach out and talk.

TL;DR:
If you have questions, ask.
If you have options, volunteer.

Andrew,
On behalf of the directors.

Vance Briggs

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Mar 11, 2023, 9:16:24 AMMar 11
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Tom, All,

(Andrew has somewhat beaten me to it, but as I have drafted this I'll post it anyway)

Having been a director of the hackspace I agree with your idealistic view of a "Community Members Organization", but the reality is that very few of our members actually get involved in that community and put effort in.  There are of course the exceptions and I applaud them, but the majority come in, use the space, and go home.  Some don't even bother to clean up their workspaces, let alone volunteer to maintain pieces of equipment or put effort in that benefits the community as a whole.

Your comments implying that the directors are somehow working against the community are generally unfounded.  I feel that  if anything their failing is not having encouraged more participation/contribution from the members (and I include myself in this failing).  I also think that maybe there is a weariness amongst the directors in feeling that they have to do everything themselves (Chicken and Egg).

Whilst I agree with you that there should be more transparency around finances, I feel that your comments about money in a savings account is "sensationalism" aimed at stirring up the community. I am sure that you are aware that that money is being accumulated to try and ensure that the hackspace has some longevity beyond its current location.  Flats are going up all around us and it is likely only a matter of time before the industrial area on which we live is sold off.  If we don't make provision for a deposit for alternative accommodation then the hackspace dies with the building.

I don't believe that the lack of spending on equipment is because anything has been turned down.  It is just the ambivalence of the community to organize, cost, poll members and generally co-ordinate the approval/purchase/installation for new kit.  It would appear to fall to the directors to manage this and as I said above I feel a weariness from them for lack of support/assistance.

If you want new tools then do the donkeywork, poll the members, cost up a proposal, identify how the kit will be installed, identify who does the Health and Safety assessment, who maintains the machine, etc.  Then present that business case to the directors and ask for funding.  If you are just seeking funding and the business case is solid then I can't see a reason why it would not be granted.  If all you do is moan about not having machine X then it is no surprise that it doesn't magically appear in the hackspace.

Vance

Gavin

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Mar 11, 2023, 9:25:44 AMMar 11
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some thoughts from me on this:
1/ Najey is right - there is something afoot [fwiw I didn't detect any insults in your post Najey, just forceful expression of your frustration], and I am in broad agreement with what Najey says, including being friendly with all people involved and being concerned that this could spiral out of control and cost us the hackspace and community that goes with it. @Everybody - this is a time for cool heads, and careful, considerate communication, not unfounded allegations and insults.
2/ I think it is right that RMS Ltd maintains a reserve of cash to guard against having to secure and move into a new property at short notice. Being unable to do this is a common cause of hackspaces failing. I haven't run the numbers to figure how much is enough, £60k is likely too high, but there are other factors in why they have accrued so much money.
3/ Before anyone starts projecting false motives on to RMS Ltd for having all of this money, my understanding is that the Articles of Association guard against the Directors extracting this money in the form of wages, dividends or otherwise to their own benefit (see point 5 below)
4/ There are other reasons why money does not get spent at the hackspace, including lack of capacity to spend it, concerns about value for money, and doubts about whether an item has sufficient appeal to a broad base of the membership. Btw, anyone waiting for a new compressor, might want to put some effort into forging agreement about what type/model of compressor to buy - as I understand it, it is lack of consensus that is delaying that purchase.
5/ I think everyone needs to remember that the Directors are not paid. Everything they do, including sign-ups, inductions, purchases, resolving differences and investigating complaints, is done for free. Ask yourselves - what do they get out of it?

Gavin

Tony Summers

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Mar 11, 2023, 9:36:53 AMMar 11
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"Though by the company charter written when RLab was founded (available from the companies house website if you're interested) directors cannot legally divulge financial details of RLab, even to members."

Not true. The articles say members have no automatic right to inspect the financial records but nothing stops the directors choosing to share them in whole or part or summary. (section 3.1.1)

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Frank in Woodcote

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Mar 11, 2023, 2:08:13 PMMar 11
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Am I partly responsible for all this? Or at least all those who know me...? Not being a fully paid up card holder, but aquainted, on and off over the years, but only more formally recently. 

I've been making suggestions of how we can actually get even more money in the kitty, which I why I came up with the idea about a collab with the bike kitchen across the way, just as one example. 

In an ideal world, the entire enterprise would be self funding, where monthly fees could drop to only a few pounds a month (under £5), which would open it up to many more people. I was even thinking about a gov't scheme where tuition or guided help to job seekers and people willing to re-skill would raise a fair bit more money still (like over 20k). The gov is trying to help everyone become more skilled in the exact area that rLab is so good at. 

Tools and machines wear out and break. Accidents (breaking stuff) happen. It's all part of the plan and has been budgeted for as I see it.

We are a group of people varying between absolute newbs and seriously skilled individuals. And 'generally' are great at working together. I mean come on, look at some of the stuff we've all accomplished. There's not much we can't do if we work together and help each other out. We're ever so good at it! Be proud. 

Ultimately, i don't need rLab, but I do enjoy helping people expanding their knowledge, just like you do Najey 👍🏻

Who else is going to the next repair cafe (next weekend)? Stuart's doing a fab job coordinating everything.

Nigel Worsley

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Mar 11, 2023, 2:21:07 PMMar 11
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On Sat, 11 Mar 2023 at 14:05, Andrew <andrew...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Though by the company charter written when RLab was founded (available from the companies house website if you're interested) directors cannot legally divulge financial details of RLab, even to members.

I assume you are referring to article 50 of the Certificate of
Incorporation, and it doesn't say that. What it DOES say is:
"Except as provided by law or authorised by the directors or an
ordinary resolution of the Company, no person is entitled to inspect
any of the Company's accounting or other records or documents merely
by virtue of being a member."

This removes the normal automatic right of members of a company to
inspect the accounts, it in no way restricts the directors' ability to
publish any figures as they see fit. Hiding behind this clause seems
to be exactly the lack of transparency that is being complained about.

Nigel Worsley

Tom Allen

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Mar 11, 2023, 6:49:13 PMMar 11
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I feel any policy that significant to the membership should only be taken with awareness and agreement of the membership. 

Members who were in hardship paid their dues believing that was essential to the spaces survival unaware the directors were counting the savings go above £50k in private. Above the 20k they originally agreed as a reasonable war chest. Does that sound right to you? 

I find if you treat and induct new people as customers , they will act like one. If you induct them as members of a community they own they are much more inclined to participate. This community is already 13 years old and it has rejected autocracy the whole time.

Tom

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Tom Allen

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Mar 11, 2023, 6:54:12 PMMar 11
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For full transparency. I as landlord, have called for a members election of new directors on the basis the current directors are not operating a hackspace with integrity as a members organisation. I did offer them a number of opportunities to engage with me about this over the last month and also met with a number of you to gain information. If anyone would like to speak to me about their views on this matter please do call me on 07939 025131 or msg me etc

Tom 

Tom Allen

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Mar 11, 2023, 6:57:01 PMMar 11
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By which I mean I will not rent the building to any organisation other than a hackspace of integrity operating as a members organisation. Those who have known me since the start know that is all I have ever cared about.
And giant friggin lasers! 
Imagine what even 10k could have done to reignite the space post shut down..... And that was not the only problem by far. 


Vance Briggs

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Mar 12, 2023, 3:09:33 AMMar 12
to Reading Hackspace
Tom,

Just for clarity, what are you proposing to do with "our money"?

Vance

Gavin

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Mar 12, 2023, 3:21:55 AMMar 12
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Tom, my friend - for the sake of the Hackspace, I think you need to step back from this. 

I understand you are concerned, but do not think this is the way to deal with it. I think that by taking this action you are imperilling the thing that you are seeking to protect. You are creating an environment where, no matter what directors, structures and processes are put in place, the Hackspace operates in fear of the judgement of one member - you. This is effectively an autocracy in itself. As fellow members, we will always be grateful for the way that you have stepped in and provided premises - an arrangement that has provided the stable conditions for growth over a ten year period. But having the landlord reach in and use their position of power to call the shots is extremely unhealthy and irregular. For good or bad, you need to let the Hackspace govern itself.

1/ if there are unaddressed issues of conduct they need to be reported to the directors, not to you, and the directors should be given the opportunity to resolve them. If they concern one of the directors, then they should be reported to one of the other directors.

2/ if there are issues with the directors as a group, then perhaps they should be heard by a panel of the members who could consider and, if appropriate, recommend a remedy. I would not be willing to serve on such a panel, but would trust the collective judgement of the people who did. I don’t think you should sit on the panel (for the reason set out above), and think that you should agree to trust them too. However, for the sake of justice, any complaints need to be considered within the frame of the rules and norms of the Hackspace at the time, as judged by that panel, not how you think they should have been or should be going forward.

3/ if you think there is need for reform of how the Hackspace is run, make a case as a peer member to the rest of the membership. Make clear that you are doing so as a fellow member, and take care not to bring your power as landlord to the discussion. Take the threat out of the situation so we can have a genuinely open and even-handed discussion about how the Hackspace should operate.

4/ if at the end of all this you do not feel that the resultant organisation is one you can support, then make plans for an orderly exit from your position as landlord in a way that at least allows the community to plan and find new premises and preserve the good that has resulted from your involvement. As I said, we would be forever indebted to you for your contribution.

Gavin

Tom Bayley

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Mar 12, 2023, 4:22:15 AMMar 12
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Getting the correct view can change the narrative.
I think a full and structured face to face discussion would be more healthy 



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Tony Summers

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Mar 12, 2023, 5:09:08 AMMar 12
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That's always been the case and to pretend otherwise is silly. Tom can pretend to be just another member all day long but the reality is he knows and we know that the hackspace needs his approval to operate.

Alex P

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Mar 12, 2023, 5:10:29 AMMar 12
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I agree a members meeting is probably a good idea, happy to have a look for a local hall to hire for a couple of hours if people agree?


Tom, apart from the money, what other issues have you got, please could you let us know what your grievances are?

Gavin

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Mar 12, 2023, 5:17:09 AMMar 12
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Maybe, but the extent to which this is an issue depends on how Tom chooses to act as a landlord - either respecting the governance of the Hackspace or imposing his will autocratically. I believe that this issue can be best managed if Tom separates his benevolent contribution as our landlord from his contributions to the community as a member. 

Gavin

On Sun, 12 Mar 2023 at 09:09, 'Tony Summers' via rLab / Reading's Hackspace <reading-...@googlegroups.com> wrote:
That's always been the case and to pretend otherwise is silly. Tom can pretend to be just another member all day long but the reality is he knows and we know that the hackspace needs his approval to operate.

I understand you are concerned, but do not think this is the way to deal with it. I think that by taking this action you are imperilling the thing that you are seeking to protect. You are creating an environment where, no matter what directors, structures and processes are put in place, the Hackspace operates in fear of the judgement of one member - you. This is effectively an autocracy in itself.

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Mark Morris

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Mar 12, 2023, 6:27:55 AMMar 12
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A few things from me.

I have been looking to step down for a while, my job takes up more of my time and headspace, but also I don't like the constant gossip and rumour spreading. Every time I come into the space someone trots up to me to say who has done what. It's tiresome.

Being a director is hard, not hard hard, but it is draining.

I have not resigned because Tom is trying to force us all to resign, or because I accept the charges made, but because I've just had enough. It's ludicrous that is has got to this stage.

We were in the process of bringing in some new directors and I was going to make sure we had a code of conduct in place, which would apply to all members but which the directors would be expected to embody. I'm not sure any of those people will still want to be directors. Why would they?

If Tom wants to suggest a framework for voting on directors then I am all ears, but it's naive to think that will make things any better. 

The finances are not secret, it is well known we run a surplus each month and have a fund for when we need to move. We publish quarterly stats to give a flavour of this. I'd like to think most members have trust in this. Perhaps we can be more open here, but which members have raised this and to who?

Any member can suggest new/replacement items. It is not up to the directors to do this. We have generally been more than happy to get stuff.

We would buy a new compressor tomorrow if there was agreement on what to get. Andrew was in the process of trying once more to get consensus.

So are we accused of hoarding money or spending too much without consultation, it can't be both.

The hackspace is a brilliant place, every time a new person comes into the space they say how amazing it is. I think we forget that at times.
Last Thursday evening was how it should be, people had brought in their projects to discuss, there was a great atmosphere, I saw new members getting involved and I caught up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while. And there was cake. Really good cake.

Unfortunately now it is a shitshow.

Behind the scenes I've had many discussions with Tom and it sounds like others have too, but seemingly to no avail. I know he is doing this with the very best intentions but is going to kill off the very thing he thinks he is saving. Those members advising him, bringing him gossip and half truths and pushing him to this should be ashamed of themselves.

Mark


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Tony Summers

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Mar 12, 2023, 7:19:59 AMMar 12
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Bringing in new directors? So where was the public call for nominations? or were you just planning to co-opt someone who agrees with you?

Finances not secret? Last time someone tried talking about it here all you said was their figures were wrong and that denial is seems misleading given the current numbers.

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Andrew

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Mar 12, 2023, 7:52:30 AMMar 12
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So, I've been looking at RLab's memorandum of association (available on the wiki) and companies act 2006 and it looks like a vote at a general meeting would require at least 51% attendance of the membership. I am not a lawyer and this interpretation may be flawed so speak up if you think so, but I think based on engagement with this thread that we wouldn't see 100 people at such a meeting.

As such and since the primary disagreement here seems to be who holds positions as directors I'm going to seek some measure of consensus here before we resort to that.

Here is my proposal:
That any individual that believes themselves to have the time and will to participate in the role of director should nominate themselves such on this Google group with 7 days. (Before 19th March)

That any individual that objects to a director candidate (or current) shall email those objections to myself within a further 7 days. (Before 26th March)

I will collate and make anonymous any and all objections and present them privately to the individual they concern within a further 7 days (before 2nd April). That if it is called for I will ask for volunteers to form a committee of not less than 5 and not more than 9 members, to whom I will as a director delegate the role of receiving, collating, anonomising and delivering such objections. This committee will be named in this Google group before they engage their duties and will be subject to any and all appropriate GDPR requirements. The formation of this committee and their action will extend all subsequent deadlines by 14 days.

To which said candidate may choose to make a response on this Google group or withdraw their candidacy no later than 7 days from the previous deadline. (9th April unless committee is formed) If the candidate is a current director they may choose to withdraw their candidacy with the understanding that they shall resign once new directors are satisfied with the completion of the handover process.

My hope is that this will produce not less than 3 candidates for which the majority of the membership can feel confident in, who will then become directors. In the event that any current director is not among those candidates then that director shall resign after all candidates for which the membership is confident in have been made directors and are satisfied with the completion of the handover process.

In the event that there is strong objection on this Google group by not less than 10 members (approx 5% of membership) to any individual candidate at the end of this process they may withdraw or arrange 5% of the membership (10 members including themselves) to call for a general meeting, during which whether they should be a director will be voted upon in the process described in the memorandum of association.

In the event that there is a surplus of candidates such that there would be more than 9 directors I will propose a method of voting on this Google group to include all candidate and current directors, and if there is no strong objection we will implement that. If there is strong objection to the method of voting I would propose then I will call a general meeting and we can proceed with the appointment of each individual per the format described in the memorandum of association.

Please let me know what you think of this proposed process. It is my hope that this will lead to a fair and democratic decision and that all members will feel that their concerns have been heard and acted upon.

If you feel that your concerns about the transparency of decision making or financial transparency of the directors would not be satisfied by the appointment of new directors you are invited to make yourself a candidate and directly implement the changes you want made. After all, the guiding principles of a Hackspace are to make it yourself.

Jeremy Poulter

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Mar 12, 2023, 9:15:36 AMMar 12
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Hi,

I think you may need to clarify what a member in that context is.

It is my understanding that Reading Maker Space Ltd and rLab/Reading Hackspace are legally not the same thing. As far as I understand it the directors are the only 'members' of the Reading Maker Space Ltd from a legal perspective (but I am not a lawyer and this is just based on conversations with the people who setup the company rather than any detailed research).

Cheers,
Jeremy 

Andrew

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Mar 12, 2023, 9:27:40 AMMar 12
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So, approximately 10 years ago the people involved in the makerspace created a company to exist for legal purposes, signing insurance and paying bills, that sort of thing.

During the induction process that has been used since then new members are asked to tick a checkbox to acknowledge that as a member or RMS ltd they are liable if the company defaults to a limit of £1. Anyone that hasn't checked that box in the 10 years that rmsl has existed is not a member of rmsl and cannot be a director and cannot vote in general or extraordinary meetings. This is a paraphrasing, you're invited to read the relevant documents if you want more information.

If you are a member of the Hackspace but are not sure if you are a member of RMSL let me know, I'll check in the database and if not we can arrange a meeting at rlab where you can tick the box and get things squared away.

Richard Ibbotson

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Mar 12, 2023, 9:34:17 AMMar 12
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Hi Jeremy,
This is not my understanding.
I have been assured by the directors a number of times that they keep a list of current paid members of rLab and that this also constitutes the members of Reading Makerspace Ltd.
To be a director it is required to be a member

Irrespective of the legal position it has always been the spirit in our community that it is member led. This means that the directors whenever possible dynamically respond to the requirements of members without recourse to officialdom. There is plenty of opportunity for them to do this without invoking the legal thresholds. 

Richard


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Richard Ibbotson

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Mar 12, 2023, 9:40:47 AMMar 12
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Might I request that we move this topic to a private members only forum?
Some of our members have a life outside rLab where their social media is scrutinised which makes posting on topics like this a risk, and some are reticent to make their positions public given some of the other postings.
The new Discord does appear to be an opportunity for this, but I am not clear if it is members only. Otherwise maybe resurrect the cardholders group?

Vance could you advise?

Thanks,
Richard


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On 12 Mar 2023, at 13:34, 'Richard Ibbotson' via rLab / Reading's Hackspace <reading-...@googlegroups.com> wrote:

Hi Jeremy,

Andrew

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Mar 12, 2023, 9:46:16 AMMar 12
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So, the discord link is a public invite in that anyone with the link can access it, however so far it has only been distributed to members. If anyone would like to discuss this there I'll be in that chat too but I would not suggest it be thought of as a private forum.

If anyone has concerns that they would like to raise but would like to do so anonymously please contact me directly and I will relay them here as a proxy.

Vance Briggs

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Mar 12, 2023, 10:14:48 AMMar 12
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I agree that moving these discussions away from the google group which is both public and has a lot of people who are not members of the Hackspace is sensible.  I am looking into how best to achieve this.  I will post on the current Discord server shortly.

An email was sent out to all paying members on 7 Mar at 14:29 containing an invite link to the discord.  If you wish to partake in these discussions please follow the link and join the discord server.

Vance

Richard Ibbotson

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Mar 12, 2023, 10:16:04 AMMar 12