Here’s a piece talking about both the importance and practice of building community at a hackerspace or makerspace. From MAKE:
Occasionally, I’ll visit a frustrated makerspace. “We have a space. We have tools. Where are the members?” They describe how they’ve put energy into the physical aspects of the space and say nothing about the community building aspects. To this I typically reply that a makerspace without a community is a soulless place. Without a soul there’s little passion and therefore little stickiness for prospective members. It’s not easy to create community but it’s an important theme to develop. One way to do this is to tap into existing community. Below are some techniques we’ve used at Nova Labs.
Most cities have interest groups of many types. As a simple test, go to Meetup.com and do a search for what exists in your community. You may find several groups with maker instincts: woodworking, robotics, PHP coding, etc. On Meetup.com alone, the variety in major metropolitan areas is staggering. Identify a few and get to know them. By doing only this, you can discover mutually beneficial opportunity to nurture community.
Our makerspace was actually founded with one such group at its core: Northern Virginia RepRap Group. NovaRRG is a hub of 3D printing enthusiasts and experts who meet regularly and build Prusa 3D printers. As time has gone by, we’ve reached out to the DC/MD/VA Robotics and Automation Group because our robotics enthusiasts were champing at the bit to do things. It turned out the group needed a space to meet regularly so we offered our conference room and several collaborations have resulted. We also connected with the DC Area Drone User Group because, heck, we wanted to fly drones! Leveraging Nova Labs’ space, resources, and 3D printer group build expertise we collaborated on a kit build with great success. In each case, we’ve been careful to work together for mutual benefit so both communities continue to want to work together.