How can a [freespace] revitalize a neighborhood?

What would you do if you were being evicted from your home in a neighborhood where housing is becoming increasingly scarce, rent prices are climbing, and homelessness is nothing short of an epidemic? For San Francisco resident Zaria Gunn and a small team of big-hearted volunteers, the answer was simple: do something to make a positive impact in their community in the short time that they had left.

On Saturday, April 19th, Refried Friends hosted The Free Shop Pop Up at [freespace], located in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco. At 10am, they were hard at work setting up rack after rack of new and gently used clothing, donated by people within their neighborhood. By mid day, the building was filled with people who were finding everything from new coats to button down shirts, blazers, and even the occasional book or piece of artwork. By the end of the event, over 250 residents of the neighborhood had participated.


And everything, of course, was free! Over the bustle of excited shoppers, curious passer-by’s, and the [piano] just outside the front door, it wasn’t uncommon to hear exclamations of gratitude, disbelief, and the occasional “I love you!”. The latter was from Oliver, a window washer in the neighborhood who stopped in when he heard the piano being played. “Do you understand how important this is?! If I saw these people walking down the street, I would have no idea that they were capable of doing this. Music is such a release, it’s so important… You guys are revitalizing the Tenderloin.”

The Free Shop Pop-Up is fulfilling a mission of engaging communities by allowing residents and business the fortuity to support individuals in need through non-monetary means. Participants in Saturday’s event walked away with new clothing, and an increased awareness of what’s possible when someone who cares about their community has a lot of passion, and a little free space.

Read more about the Free Shop and Refried Friends, their projects, and ways to get involved, on their website.

What is next for [freespace]?

The future of [freespace] remains uncertain, but the spark that [freespace] has ignited will not be put out with the closure of 1131 Mission Street. The movement has begun, and what comes of it is up to everyone. As the month comes to a close, everyone is wondering what is next?

Over the course of the past few months, a community driven, inclusive, dynamic makerspace has been created in San Francisco yet the movement is one of global capacity. [freespace] would like to see similar spaces all over the world, and is well on its way of doing so.

[freespace] is part of an intentional movement to make mutli-use spaces accessible to all everyone and to create community where it once did not exist. [freespace] was created out of a desire to create a space that has open ended possibilities and requires no money. The unique approach to the combination of money, structure and community engagement that [freespace] takes is essential to the creation of similar spaces worldwide.

The social civic experiment was originally set to end at the end of June, but due to an immense amount of support it was extended by one month. At the end of July, when [freespace] was set to close, the organizers took a moment to reflect on the success of the project thus far and to decide how to proceed. The leaders of [freespace] had to decide whether to ride this wave of momentum and support or stop and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Everyone was curious about what the future held for [freespace].

While the physical space was not open in August and September, activity was still buzzing in the [freespace] community. The projects that had been started over the summer were still going strong. While the building was closed, [freespace] took a few months to breath, process and plan for the future. Should [freespace] remain as a physical, permanent space in San Francisco, or should [freespace] assist in the creation of a global movement of makerspaces? Both of course.

When [freespace] opened again at the beginning of the month, the immense community support was still there. Some of the original people that were fundamental to the success in the beginning had moved on to other projects and careers were due to, at least in part, to their participation and work with [freespace]. One of the many beautiful aspects of [freespace] are the opportunities that have arose for [freespacers] as a direct result of their participation. There were also many fresh faces, eager to participate in any way the could.

[freespace] has open-sourced their codes to make creating a [freespace] as accessible as possible. [freespace] web guru Jaki Levy has created a how-to guide (with a simple 7 step process to create your own [freespace] website), wordpress theme and a badging and presence system that has been posted on github repo so anyone from anywhere in the world will be able to utilize the tools that [freespace] has created in creating their own [freespace] website. Anyone can use it as is, or modify it to more closely align with their specific [freespace]. [freespace] will be able to track the changes and iterations of the tools.

The website is not the only aspect of [freespace] that is open-sourced. Co-founder Hunter Franks created a toolkit that explains in detail the key ingredients necessary to the creation of a successful [freespace]. Locating a physical space can be the hardest part, but the toolkit has helpful suggestions for the best way to go about locating a space. The toolkit also explains how bring the community together in this shared space, the importance of harnessing the amazing energy of volunteers. Of course, what kind of impact you want to have on your community depends on the projects and programming of the community itself.

One goal is to get a [freespace] on every continent for the World Cup in 2014. Like the original [freespace], the goal is to bring the community together in a space open to everyone. In 2014, the World Cup falls just two weeks after the National Day of Civic Hacking which will be the one year anniversary of the day that inspired the birth of [freespace].

There are already a few places lined up, and many more are expected to pop up closer to the event. The set up could be simple; all that is needed is some way to show the world cup games. All over the world people will come together in these shared spaces and have a uniting experience of watching a game that people all over the world are watching at the same time therefore broadening the [freespace] community to a global scale.

[freespaces] are already popping up all over the world. [freespace]s in Bristol, Bogota and Paris are already underway. Chole Faith discovered [freespace] while travel around the US. She was very inspired by what she saw and changed her travel plans to spend more time in San Francisco at [freespace]. “It was the people that inspired me, lots of bright eyed souls who were open and interesting, interested, alive and adventurous and full of potential and possibility,” says Faith,” It was too the variety in what the space offered, the fun of the parties and events, the garden and murals- the beautifying of the space was very inspiring and the spontaneity that emerged.”

While the Bristol [freespace] has not officially opened yet, there have been many meetings and discussion as to how to metamorphosize [freespace] in the UK. A space has been offered to them and they are working on finalizing the details.

This is the conclusion of a successful first experiment, however it is by no means the end of [freespace], both as a movement and as a physical space in San Francisco. [freespace] has had such a great impact on the community and the energy that was created will be kept alive the. According to co founder Ilana Lipsett, “We are exploring a few options in spaces we’ve been offered, and want to do what will have the most impact – both on the neighborhood we choose and on the [freespace] community that was created.”

Artist Profile: Tim Lawson

Fallen Angel

By then end of this week, most of the artwork at [freespace] will have been painted over in preparation for moving out. Before that happens we wanted to call attention to a few of the pieces.

I came across artist Tim Lawson painting late into the night on a Tuesday. His canvas stretches between and through two windows that have been seamlessly worked into the piece. His piece, tentatively called Fallen Angel, depicts a young girl with heroin needles all around her. Lawson was inspired to make this piece when saw a young girl strung out on heroin

Close up

outside of the Metreon in the early hours of the morning. This image of a girl so close to her deathbed stuck with him and when he began his piece at [freespace] he soon realized the girl he was drawing was her. The painting depicts this girl with needles floating all around her and wings indicating her proximity to death. Although he saw this girl downtown, he chose to draw her on Valencia Street and uses many identifying markers of the stretch of Valencia street between 16th and 20th.

If you take a step back, the needles make the shape of a skeleton. This is one of are many subtle additions to the piece that you would not comprehend if you did not take the time to study the painting closely. Other aspects to take note of are the direction of the lines on the syringes and the number of fingers the girl has.

Across from Fallen Angel, he has displayed a whole series of his work that illustrate the different mediums Lawson has used over the years. [Freespace] has been a wonderful opportunity for Lawson to hone his painting technique and practice his craft on a large scale. Like many artists at [freespace], Lawson had never done a piece of this size before. He has been working and re working the piece for a long time now. He knows that next week his piece will have to be painted over however he is still putting finishing touches on it. It is the process of creating the piece that inspires him.

Artist Profile: Michael Covington


By Saif Z-Man the F’Artist, write/photographer;documentarian and Zoe Siegel


Michael Covington has been an inspiration for the [freespace] community through his role as art curator of [freespace]. Several of his pieces that grace the walls will be painted over with all of the other artwork when we move out of our space. As the month draws to a close, we would like to take this opportunity acknowledge the inspiring art that has come out of [freespace] and the hard work that Covington and all of the other artists have put into making [freespace] a beautifully inspirational place.

Covington began his career in the restaurant industry then seamlessly metamorphosed from chef to artist, a process that he attributes, in part, to being raised by his artist mother and chef father. As a child, he wanted to be an architect. Today, you can see his interest in architecture coming through in the symmetrical patterns with the geometric shapes of his art.

His background in the culinary industry began in fast food, however, he worked hard and learned everything there was to know about food production until, 8 years later, he got the chance to work with celebrity chef Michael Minna. He familiarized himself with the ideology of fine dinning, neo-American and Asian cuisines and dishes with Japanese flare and French taste while also perfecting the arts of color, portions, shape and presentation. He brings his cuisine art knowledge of colors to painting, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he is able to mix his own colors and make shades to reflect the emotions via color. He learned rapidly and held his first show at The World in North Beach in February 2013. A few months later he embarked on a journey with [freespace] as their art curator of [freespace].

Covignton1 Covington’s unique artist process begins with the type of music he listens to which evokes different styles. Heavy metal brings out a gritty vibe while it is more likely that pastel colors will emerge when he listens to easy listening. While the lines and angles make sharp predefined images that may trigger emotions or elicit sharp reaction in a volatile manner, the circular spiral brings about a more cohesive spirit where the nurturing warmth nature of the spiral transforms it’s energy and cradles the angry lines, lullabying all to a mellow agreeable space for growth. Covington believes Da Vinci is one of the greatest artists and his favorite modern artist is Liechtenstein.

Covington works hard to stay busy. He is frequently spotted at SF Temple and MIRUS Gallery, and of course [freespace]. Although he claims he is still finding his place in the world, he feels comfortable where he is at now has a positive outlook on his future. In the future, he would like to combine food and art together and perhaps own a 5 star restaurant where rare and on demand art hang on the wall.

Convington’s passion, drive, persistence and determination show he can only succeed, by not accepting failure. Like many of the greatest successful artists, athletes, researchers or performers, he tends to compete against himself. He feels like he can always do better, hence his work is never done; he is constantly trying to improve so many of his pieces. With such promising possibilities, hope his desires are fulfilled and dreams realized. Good luck Michael Covington, hope we get to see your name among the bright lights soon.

Art and Innovation Tour around [freespace] this Friday



Are you curious about what sort of innovation is going on just outside of the beautiful [freespace] walls? If you have been, you’re in luck! In honor of Innovation month in October, join [freespace] on The Urban Innovation Exchange Arts and Innovation District Tour this Friday, October 11th. Beginning at 10:00am in front of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), this three-hour guided walking tour of the “Central Market Arts and Innovation District” will stop at a variety of organizations such the HUB Bay Area, the San Francisco the United Nations Plaza Federal building, Techshop in addition to many other nodal points in the urban innovation ecosystem of the area.

Of course, no tour of the Central Market Arts and Innovation District would be complete without a stop at  [freespace] . After the event, there will be a discussion and charrette at HUB Bay Area exploring how urban innovation ecosytems manifest on both a local and international scale. The event is put on by [freespace] supporter and partner Urban Innovation Exchange  (UIX) Global, an economic development consulting agency that is no stranger to urban innovation ecosystems. UIX is working on other inspiring events coming up at [freespace] later this month. To register for the tour go click here.

Innovation Month is a month to acknowledge the individuals, civic and private institutions that manifest opportunities for innovation in the San Francisco. It is a partnership between the Office of Civic Innovation and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, shines the light on people who are making innovation a way of life. Innovation month will feature organizations and entrepreneurs that make up today’s generation of thinkers, builders and disrupters. To learn more about innovation month click here.


Stay tuned for more news about great Innovation Month events happing @ [freespace]!

So – what’s next?

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” 
― Yvonne WoonDead Beautiful

First – thank you all for a truly amazing 2 months of [freespace]!! Together, we demonstrated the power of creative community.

61 days. 185 Events. Thousands of Visitors. And those are just a few of the amazing numbers. But numbers only tell part of the story.

What started with the National Day of Civic Hacking has turned into a powerful and meaningful movement, showing what people can create when given the space to do so.

So – what did we do with this awesome space in just two months?

We created amazing art, built one of the most fun indoor slides, shared bikes, held countless free yoga classes, brought smiles to peoples’ faces by giving them flowers each week, cooked delicious communal meals, celebrated The Summer Solstice, threw an amazing Digital Detox event, and went to The White House to get Washington excited about what we are doing too.

Lasting Change

One of our primary goals, though, was to create lasting change. We decided that we would incubate several projects within freespace, providng them community, space, and volunteer help.

The resident projects included a community garden, The Learning Shelter (mobile classrooms in shipping containers), homefrontFan (empowering women veterans), SF Yellow Bikes (community bike sharing program), local community engagement, and artsSpace (which helped bring art murlas into freespace). To learn more about these projects and get involved, check our projects page.

Community Building

Beyond that, we mobilized an incredible community. A community so strong that together we raised over $25,000 from over 250 contributors to keep the space open for July!

We cannot thank every one of you enough for making [freespace] what is. You’ve made it a mind blowing success! A very special thanks to our partners. They helped us keep the lights on.

While we are closing our doors at 1131 Mission for August, our project doesn’t end there. Throughout the past two months, people have asked us “What will [freespace] look like in the future?” The beauty of this project is that answer lies in you. As we reflect on the great fun we’ve had the past two months, we’ll keep working to create [freespace] everywhere.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the past two months. Leave your comments below. Or post your thoughts on our Facebook page. Let us know what you loved and what you’d like to see going forward. Help us decide what [freespace] will look in the future.



– Marisa, Brittany, Jaki, and the whole [freespace] crew

Champions of Change

We’ve got some exciting news! Our [freespace] crew was recently invited to participate in the Champions of Change event, hosted at The White House. You can watch the event broadcast Live, on July 23rd, 10am ET on

White House Live


via The White House’s Press Release

On Tuesday, July 23rd, the White House will honor 15 leaders and organizations as open government and civic hacking “Champions of Change.” As entrepreneurs, innovators, organizers, and community leaders, these “Champions of Change” have made a tremendous positive impact by building high-tech tools to help health workers and disaster-response crews better serve communities; piloting innovative programs to involve traditionally disengaged communities in local governance; using new technologies to enhance government transparency and collaboration; and more.

When presenting his new management agenda earlier this month, President Obama said, “… We the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better…We all have a stake in government success — because the government is us.”

The White House Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative. Through this program, the White House highlights individuals, businesses, and organizations whose extraordinary stories and accomplishments positively impact our communities.

To watch this event live, visit at 10:00 am ET on July 23rd. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit

Download the Press Release


Oh – and for more information on what Civic Hacking is, read our post “Civic Hacking Explained” :

Networking [ freespace ] PART 2

With another month paid for, can we consider [fs] a success?  I would like to argue yes, especially if [fs] has connected people and groups that otherwise would have never met. But how can we show that this is the case? The answer may be in the numbers.

Two weeks ago, I posted a blog entry asking [fs]ers to fill in a spreadsheet with information about their personal networks*. Specifically, a list of their organizational affiliations. I then used this information to run “social network analysis” [SNA] on both the network of people who responded (40) as well as the network of organizations that are represented by these respondents (109). SNA allows us to map the relationships and flows within a network, giving us both a graphical and mathematical understanding of its inner workings.

To evaluate the importance of [fs] in bridging organizations together, we can look at the location and groupings of ‘nodes’ (in this case organizations) to better understand which are the connectors, bridges, or core actors of the network. In SNA we call this measuring the ‘centrality.’ Below, we’ll look at three of the most popular individual measures of centrality: Degree, Betweenness, and Closeness.

Here is what the organizational network of the [fs] community looks like. In this case, colors represent local communities pulled out by the analysis.

Degree Centrality

SNA measures network activity by evaluating the number of direct connections for each node. Nodes with more direct connections have higher degree centrality and are the ‘connectors’ or ‘hubs’ in a network. In our case, by default, [fs] comes in with the highest possible degree measure of 1 (values go between 0 and 1) since ALL of the people on the spreadsheet belong to [fs]. Next is ReAllocate with 0.24, and then Camp Grounded and Singularity University tying with 0.21. Unfortunately, proving  [fs] connects us together isn’t as simple as showing we all took part. What really matters is how [fs] connects the otherwise unconnected! It could be the case that [fs] only connects those who are already connected together.

Betweenness Centrality

So enters ‘betweenness,’ a measure that allows us to see if the location of a node in a network brokers connections between disparate groups. A node with a high betweenness measure (again between 0 and 1) plays an extremely important role in a network, allowing information to flow between different clusters. In our case, [fs] again comes in on top with a score of  0.73. Next in place we have SF City Government with 0.26 and Freespace in Many Places (an organization built off the back of FS!) with 0.25. With such a high betweenness measure, the numbers definitely suggest [fs] is working as a connector.

Closeness Centrality

Lastly, we look at a measure of the shortest paths to all nodes in a network – closeness. A node with high closeness (values between 0 and 1) has the best visibility into what is happening in a network. In trying to make the argument that [fs] is bringing people together, closeness may be one of the most important measures, since a high value would suggest [fs] not only bridges groups but also allow us to transfer knowledge more easily between them. In our SNA, [fs] again has the top score, but this time, closeness scores are so low that it’s likely the network is too dispersed for information to flow efficiently in the first place. The top closeness values were [fs] with 0.007, Cosemble and The Culinary Institute of America tied with 0.005, and Ace Monster Toys with 0.004.


So, all in all, does SNA confirm that [fs] is a connector? The answer seems to be yes, but there are some caveats. For example, many of the organizations added to the spreadsheet had only 1 member and were therefore only connected via [fs]. What happens if we analyze  only the organizations that were previously connected? (In this case the 20 organizations that had at least 2 members). Does that change the analysis? Here is the new network diagram:

As you can see, things look very different. [fs] is still in the center with a degree centrality of 1, since all of the respondents  are members, but the structure is much less distributed. Now ReAllocate and The Hub also have high degree values (0.89 and 0.68 respectively). Because the network is more linked, [fs] no longer acts as a bridge. [fs]’s betweenness measure for this network clocks in at 0 with SF City Gov., ReAllocate, and MIT acting as the main hubs (0.15, 0.13, and 0.11). Closeness measures in this smaller network are larger, but again [fs] is not the main actor (0.021). Here, SF City Gov. wins out, with Food Hackathon and  U. of Mass. Amherst tying for second (0.034, 0.033, and 0.033).

In summary, it seems [fs] IS connecting us together, but in a very specific way. What [fs] seems to be doing is acting as a bridge between the outliers in our networks – the companies, nonprofits, and groups to which only a few of us belong. What [fs] is not doing is helping connect those organizations in which many [fs]ers already take part. Interestingly, this fact may be one of the best success measures we could have hoped for. By connecting the periphery [fs] should (over time) pull those outlying organizations into the main group, where it can be sustained once [fs] moves on.

* In itself, creating the spreadsheet was a bit of an experiment in crowd-sourcing, and I am the first to admit that the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Feel free to check out the R code I used over here. It includes a few more bells and whistles I played with, but didn’t blog.

Thank you!

Just a few minutes ago, we hit our crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo.



In just 4 weeks, we have the following numbers for you :

$25k+ raised.
109,000 People reached through FB.
26000 Visitors to our website.
6000 Smiles, Laughs, and Individuals in the space in June.
2124 “Likes” on Facebook.
1500 Daily hits on our website.
659 Moments captured.
109 Events hosted.
30 Piece a capella Leonard Cohen chorus — all bearded.
27+ Blog Posts.
20 Kindergartners painting sunshines on the floor.
18 Murals.
16 Yoga classes.
12 Articles in the press.
7 Silent discos.
4 Civic Hacking Salons.
3 [ freespace ] spin off spaces sparked.
1 Visit by Gavin Newsom.
1 Invite to the White House to present our idea on a national stage.
1 Giant slide

NONE of it possible without you.

Thank you!

Outdoor Film Night – Tonight!

We’ve got lots of great events happening today.

Tonight, we’ll be hosting a very special screening of Style Wars – an iconic film about street art, graffiti, and counter-culture. We’ll be starting the screening around 8:30pm (Sundown) – please do come by before hand, check out all the art we’ve got at [freespace], and setup your picnic blanket before the sun goes down.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!


RSVP’s are available here but not necessary.