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In the cornucopia of hackerspaces, four forms of governance can be seen:

  • adhocracy, governance as needed (laissez-faire),
  • bureaucracy, government by committee (or committed group of stakeholders, i.e. the bureau).
  • do-ocracy, government by whoever takes the initiative (by those who DO),
  • benevolent dictator, government by a (possibly hired) director.

Two organizational structures have survived the forces of entropy: do-ocracy and bureau-cracy.

They represent two competing ideals. Do-ocracy is a vertical axis of individualism and bureaucracy is a horizontal axis of collective decision-making. Economically, the comparison would be like capitalism vs. socialism; politically, like conservatives vs. democrats. The other two forms tend not to work through failures of individual development: either not enough initiative(adhocracy) or too much of it (dictator).

The success of do-ocracy is that you can just get things done -- if you already have the gumption for it. (Gumption (Def): informed action.) The success of bureaucracy is that everyone is empowered by the organization -- when there are resources to do them.

The weakness of do-ocracies is that since there is no pre-planning, things you need aren't there. It gets there after a failure occurs and if an individual acts on it. The weakness of bureaucracy is that things happen s-l-o-w-l-y because it's difficult to reach consensus and people not included in the decision-making give up.

Most hackerspaces are not quite at these extremes as do-ocracies implement weekly meetings, for example, for collective discussion, and bureaucracies generally allow individual action when it doesn't adversely affect anyone else or affect safety.

There are interconnected reasons why hackerspaces die:

These problems run through every adhocracy and benevolent dictatorship. Such organizations can last for some time, but generally fail after the original power or success that made them dries up. Yet, it is important to understand these two, because they represent the natural forces of order, despite their failures.

The solution is a balance of all four. Try the World Game on a cork board. It utilizes all four styles.

See also:

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