The making of [ freespace ]. Behind the scenes as the story unfolded…



TL;DR We want [ freespace ] to stay open in July so that we can more effectively spread the message to other communities. Contribute to our crowd-funding campaign  and we will love you forever.


Back in mid-May, I stumbled into my roommate Morgan’s room and joined in a proto-meeting for some space, unnamed, that MIGHT happen if my other roommate, Zuckerman, could secure a building in downtown SF for free.  Sounded unlikely but I am always one to support the improbable efforts of activated friends so I threw my two cents in.

Over the next week or so a few key pieces fell into place, including the FREE building. We hosted a more official unofficial planning meeting which was attended by many of the core team of what was to become [ freespace ].  We also spent 80% of the meeting talking about a one day event that never actually happened…so I guess you could say that when we opened the doors to [ freespace ] on June 1, we hadn’t planned for much and had no idea what was going to happen.

But something DID happen!

What began as a few friends coming together to host an experiment grew into a slow rumble of growing energy and excitement. The murals began. The website was live. The event requests began rolling in and [ freespace ] was sparked. That slow rumble turned into an avalanche of smiles, shared moments, interesting conversations, learning, and one hell of huge group of people interested in having a little more [ freespace ]  in their community.

WOW! Yay. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and awe of what has happened in this space over the last three weeks. Amazing! Chaotic. Beautiful.




The response to  [ freespace ]  in me has been multi- faceted. I know that the idea of [ fs ] wasn’t new. There are other similar groups and spaces around here and there. However; [ freespace ] is an emergent phenomena that people are ready to receive NOW.  I believe that’s why this project has captured the interest of so many individuals and organizations. This space fosters meaningful spontaneous connections in a play environment, exactly what technology over-saturated young urbanites are lacking and exactly the type of environment that encourages lateral thinking, creativity, and full engagement.

When an individuals are engaged and challenged by a project and supported in their expression by their peers, they do their best work. Corporate organizations of all sizes and shapes are trying to figure out this very idea. I have a feeling that is why so many orgs have contacted us at  [ freespace ] interested in gleaning some knowledge about the “magic” here — and how to put it to work in their office space.  We tell those people to come on down and play with us, and then they will understand.

[ Freespace ] is an idea more than a space. We would like to spread the idea as far and wide as we possibly can because [ fs ]  makes people feel loved. It makes people feel giddy and excited. Like they belong…because they do and they are loved. In the last week we have had many individuals contact us expressing that they want a [ freespace ] in their city. And you know what? I would fucking love to bring it to their city, and your city…all cities! Some others of the core team here think that is a good idea as well.

SO, we decided to make a push to try and keep [fs] open through July.  We need more time to put together information that would allow others to activate unused space in their city or town. We would LOVE to visit other [ freespaces ]  and create a network of like minded community builders across the globe. We would like to create a white paper “How-To” style document to distribute to anyone interested in building a [fs] in their neighborhood….for FREE. We would like to make a series of video clips in the space while it is still in operation that we can send out to the world … free too. And, we would like to bring in representatives from local government, and businesses to show them [ fs ] in operation so they understand what we are doing and why it’s important to provide space like this in communities and why its so powerful to provide space like this in businesses.
We need your help to do this.

1. We need you to come down to  [ freespace ]  and check it out! Hang out with us and play.

2. We need you to tell your friends about us. Tell them to go to and plug in.

3. We need you to tap into and fully activate your inner creative passion monster and unleash it here.

4. We need you to help us stay open in July by gathering some dollars and contributing to our Indiegogo campaign. We cannot do it without you and we really really want [ freespace ] to be the beginning of a larger movement across the globe. We need more time. We need to show people what is happening here while in operation.

It’s not about money, it’s about something so much larger and more meaningful than all that.

It’s about hugs. It’s about art that makes you think. It’s about collaborative innovation. It’s about laughter. It’s about feeling like YOU really belong. It’s about a hopeful future. It’s about dancing. It’s about gratitude. It’s about expression. It’s about weird things. It’s about unexpected things. It’s about feeling like a kid again. It’s about leading with love. It’s about community.

[ freespace ] is already a wild success of proportions none of us in Morgan’s bedroom five weeks ago could have imagined.  We get over 1000 hits on our three week old website daily. Two thousand Facebook “likes.” Almost a dozen articles written about us from SF to the Netherlands. Over two thousand individuals have passed through our doors in three weeks…many of them returning day after day to contribute their voice to this chorus.  Organizations are approaching us to re-create this in the workplace. By all measures of success I know…we are off the charts.  Srsly amazing.

Please contribute at

Please contribute at

Please contribute at

Please contribute at

Please contribute at


Networking [ freespace ]

[ freespace ] is an experiment in civic hacking and bringing people together.

But, how do we know if it’s working?

It turns out that with a bit of crowd-sourcing and some social network analysis (a fancy word for not-too-fancy math) we can actually test goal #2: Bringing people together.

Social network analysis allows us to view the strength of connections in a network. With it, we can empirically test if [ freespace ] bridges groups that wouldn’t otherwise have connected.

Here’s how it works:
(1) We create a google spreadsheet with each column a person’s name, and each row an affiliation or group (workplaces, communities, societies, etc). An example row might be ReAllocate, a non-profit where a few freespacers work, or The Embassy Network, a co-living house were Jessy Kate and I live.

(2) Freespacers can add their name and affiliations the google spreadsheet found here: Let’s try to keep things alphabetical (simply add a row or column in the right spot with a ‘right click’)

(3) After adding new rows, go down to your name’s column and place a 1 in all the group / affiliation rows to which you belong. For example, I have a 1 in the Embassy Network row, but I don’t have one in ReAllocate (since I don’t work there). Only put a 1 in 1st degree connections (ex. if you’ve been to our house for dinner -> that doesn’t count).

(4) After enough of us have populated the spreadsheet we’ll run some math to see if [ freespace ] is ACTUALLY a connector.

If it is, this analysis will help us confirm one of [ freespaces ] true successes!

A Walking Tour (Video)

Haven’t been to [freespace] in a while? Check out this video to see what we’ve been up to!

(watch on YouTube)

We’re currently running a campaign to keep us in the space, create lasting change, and help launch more initiatives like this.

All contributions will help us put together a playbook – similar to this great article in We’re at 80% of our weekend goal, so take a moment, chip in, and help us tip the scales!

Yes! I’ll Chip In!

Stay tuned for an exciting Week 4…


Parking lots to gardens: if you plant it, they will come

by Leah Hunter

Over the past few weeks, [freespace] has heard from people across the US running projects that inspire, beautify, and connect their communities. They are world changers – who all have found a way, in their backyards, to inspire people to come together and create.

wall and gardenYesterday we spoke with one of these people, Jaime Zucker. Jaime runs the PHS Pop Up Gardens, a project that is about “transforming neglected spaces in Center City Philadelphia into lush and inviting places for all to enjoy.”

We got really excited since the [freespace] garden started much the same way: as a pop-up garden planted in our parking lot by Nima Torabi, a local guy with a passion for horticulture who happened to be walking by. (Originally, we’d just planned to roll out sod for a parklet!)  Why Nima got involved? “I live a block away in a shoebox apartment with no space to grow in,” he says. “This is a giant playground and a canvas…to turn a city, not usually the most green thing, into something living.”


Like the [freespace] garden, Jaime’s gardens are also temporary – pop-ups that happen in vacant lots. Amazing patches of green in otherwise concrete neighborhoods.  The PHS Pop Up garden mission is about “promoting the power of greening to transform cities.”

+1 to that!

Learn more at:

Freespace in Other Cities

When we started this initiative, we knew we were in for a magical ride. But we had no idea how magical it would be. Or what form it would take. The community that has emerged in the past 20 days has been nothing if not inspirational. Below are some photos of our SF community (click through for the full set).

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Yes – we’ve had great press. Yesterday’s article in FastCo did a great job of describing our entire initiative. But it didn’t really capture the fact that other [freespace] type initiatives are already popping up. Miami, for example, is being led by Alexandra Saba. She’s got a crowdfunding campaign to get [freespace] in Miami going. We’ve also seen emails and blog posts from Delaware, Brazil, the Netherlands, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and – well – you get the point.

What we’re building is more than a space. When you’re contributing to the crowdfunding campaign, you’re contributing to more than just another month in our current space. You’re contributing to the [freespace] initiative : a new way of organizing and supporting local communities.

Take a moment and support the Indiegogo campaign. Spread the word, contribute, come and visit us, participate. You’ll help launch more initiatives like this. This is not just for “1 more month” – it’s for a new vision of getting things done.


On Robots, Homelessness, and Clothing Swaps: An Afternoon at [freespace]

Creating community comes in countless forms.

Clothing swaps rank high with budget- and fashion-conscious moms, grad students and early-stage professionals. Yesterday’s clothing swap at [freespace] was the first I’ve seen, where men and women appeared in equal numbers to collaborate on funky, freebie finds.

It’s also the first clothing swap, where I learned about innovation in homelessness, Matterport 3D cameras, which are still in beta, and the challenges of commercializing robotics technology.

“Enginerds have a hard time explaining the benefits of the robots they build,” said clothing swap hostess Erin Rapacki, who is originally from the Boston area. “Clear communication is important in any industry. It’s essential for selling the capabilities of robots.”

A product manager with a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, Rapacki moved to San Francisco four years ago. Over beers at the bar, Rapacki’s friends discovered her aptitude for communicating the business applications of robots.  Now she gets paid to talk on the topic, and will soon venture to Sweden to do so. Rapacki currently works at Industrial Perception on a product that gives 3D computer vision to massive robot arms.

In contrast, Hand Up seeks to solve a more human problem: How to donate to the homeless without harming them. The Hand Up approach will arm panhandlers with business cards and Internet profiles. Would-be donors can give via text message, and ensure that their contribution goes to goods and services such as food, shelter, hygiene and job training.

“We will all do better in a society where people have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and a chance to learn,” explained Hand Up founder, Rose Broome. “The government can’t solve these problems. The system is already broken. So we have to re-engineer the system.”

Hand Up’s new mobile platform is still being tested. The fledgling organization will partner with Project Homeless Connect, as its service provider. Anyone in San Francisco interested in the issue can join the Homeless Innovation Meetup started by Broome.

As Broome wrapped up her impassioned explanation of the problem, her friend, Matt Bell decided against a vintage button-up shirt in Navy blue. (Too baggy.) Then, he gave me a virtual tour of the spaces his Matterport camera transforms for online visitors.

In a corner by a window pouring natural light, a photo shoot took place. Yellow rose petals and golden hair blew in the wind, captured in a frame suspended from the ceiling. Three friends having fun.

Ten feet away, a mother and son played foosball.

These are just a few of the people you might meet, and a few of the topics you might discuss, when you stop by [freespace] on a Saturday afternoon. What is your community doing to bring people together to share talents and ideas?

Where’s your [freespace]?

This is the gift of [freespace]

Spending the day at freespace on a Saturday… 11am and I roll upstairs pretty much by myself. I meet a lone wanderer and we chat for a bit about github post-commit hooks, but then he takes off and I set up shop for my main task of the day, to get some time lapse video cameras and ninja block sensors wired up for some social science analysis we are running in the space. This is a task that might take me an hour or two at home – unboxing, initial configuration, and some duct tape here and there. At [freespace], I was setting up from 11-8pm!

IMG_20130615_185236At first I was frustrated – distracted by all these people… people who want to talk! Who wanted to share ideas, ask questions, be inquisitive… . and then I stepped back and realized that this IS [freespace]. Freespace isn’t about efficiency, it’s about emergence. Here I was generating relationships, collaborations, and new ideas… and yet some part of me was doing it kicking and screaming.  We are taught that “progress” and “success” have predefined outcomes, brought about by assembly lines of hipster co-workers listening to pandora and avoiding eye contact, then socializing in prescribed boxes called happy hours.

By contrast, [Freespace] holds space for cultivating wonder and surprise, for efficiency distributed over time, peppered with play and curiosity in ways that by definition we cannot control. It challenges us to be present while also manifesting our dreams. And if I couldn’t hack that, I shouldn’t be there.

Over those many hours, I talked to people about the project and added them to the [freespace/science] facebook group. I painted my nails black while sitting in a chair that sonified my heartbeat. I got distracted by the clothing swap and emerged with 5 new ([free!]) pieces of clothing that I look pretty damn awesome in. I had a conversation about love, and a conversation about the meaning of [free] and new economic systems. And ultimately with some help from people less afraid of heights than me, they climbed high onto ladders and we installed the time lapse cameras that represent the first step taken on one of my own long-time dreams: to study the dynamics of social interactions in build environments.

This is the gift of [freespace].

Civic Hacking Explained


Nick Skytland is a smart man. As a rocket scientist at NASA, he helped launch (pun intended) National Day of Civic Hacking. The event was the impetus and inspiration for [freespace].

Nick came down to [freespace] and had this to say : “This is an amazing experiment in what civic hacking can look like in the United States.” Watch the rest of the video below

And for a glimpse of what Nick is working on, check out the presentation below

Thanks for stopping by Nick!

And while you’re here, visit our projects page to get an idea of what civic hacks we’re working on.

Some Recent Press

Seems like we’re not the only ones excited about [freespace]. Here’s some recent press about the space, and the events we’ve hosted.

Welcome to [ freespace ]

The Daily Portal on June 5th

Photo Feature: [ freespace ] Art Opening
Posted by the Art Enthusiast SF on June 12th

Do This Tonight:  [freespace] Art Opening
Posted by the SFist  on June 10th

How [freespace] Challenges Burning Man’s Emergent Principles
Posted by Jon Mitchell  on June 11th

For an ongoing archive of Press hits, visit our press page.