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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.

[Coming Together] Day 12 Update



Today’s events included Maura Dilley and Marc O’Brien’s Ideas -> Action workshop in the [movement room] section of the third floor. Nima noted, “It was a constructive and fun way to brainstorm and explore ideas and existing projects… The learning shelter, freegarden, community engagement, the bikeshare/yellow bike project ( for more info) each broke in to groups with their respective leaders, and the workshop encouraged participants to define the mission of each project beyond the level that the project coordinators had done previously.” Techniques involved included rapid prototyping and speed feedback.

New artwork, paintings, and installations have been added to the space, along the walls and staircases. Alan Macy’s Heartbeat Amplifier chairs ( were explored by new cadets as they toured the space, and Peter Nelson and Erin Rapacki continued work on their 20 ft long slide that they plan on having up and running by the end of the week.