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Contact: Mandy Silverman

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Asks if the gift of a 14,000 square foot space can engage locals to participate in civic hacking.


SAN FRANCISCO, June 11, 2013 — [freespace], a new civic innovation experiment organized by local residents, today announced its one-month pilot to engage locals in civic hacking and the launch of its crowdfunding campaign. The group wants to prove that the gift of a physical space can engage local talent to show up, get involved and transform the city.

Originally inspired by the two-day White House “National Day of Civic Hacking,” San Francisco organizers chose to challenge the very concept of a hackathon by focusing on space, culture and community. This will last an entire month because they were able to secure a one-month lease of a 14,000 square foot warehouse in Central Market for just $1. The building opened on June 1st and within 24 hours a gallery of indoor mural and outdoor street art by local artists including Eon75, Ian Ross and Zio Ziegler had transformed its dilapidated exterior and began to draw in creative changemakers by the hundreds.

Mike Zuckerman, co-founder of [freespace], says his inspiration for the project stems from experiences with traditional 48-hour hackathons. To have a lasting impact, he says, “Ideas need a space and a longer runway. With the National Day of Civic Hacking, this empty warehouse, and my unwavering faith in the creativity, skills and passion of the San Francisco community, I saw an opportunity. I wasn’t sure exactly what would come out of it, but knew it would be positive, and I am blown away by how much has happened so quickly.”

Ivan Vera, manager of the Community Arts Program at Hospitality House, agreed. “I am amazed at what the community has been able to do with the building in just 10 days. The amount of energy, creativity, and generosity that I saw is inspiring. [freespace] is bringing people together from all walks of life in the name of making the city a better place, and from what I’ve seen, they are already succeeding.”

[freespace] is hosting an open house and art opening today, Tuesday June 11, from 6-9 pm. More details can be found on their Facebook invitation here.

As a temporary space for lasting change, [freespace] expects locals who spend time with one another to be inspired with a purpose, self-organize and start hacking. Visitors to the space are introduced to each other through gardening, open mics, creative reuse challenges along with various scheduled and impromptu events.

“[freespace] showed up all of the sudden and allowed me to collaborate and prototype a project I had been thinking about for awhile,” explains Mark Roth, who is already starting to hack homelessness by providing technology skills training. “In true San Francisco entrepreneur spirit, I’m excited to work in this space and even more excited to see the creative ways that other people activate this amazing Mid-Market location.”

The group wants to not only take on the city’s challenges, but go a step further to ensure that civic hacking sticks around the neighborhood. Volunteer teams have formed around long term projects such as community engagement, increasing the number of murals in the city, and a free bike share program. To foster further activity, partners ranging from the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation to corporations like Levi’s to tech firms like have begun to join forces with [freespace].

Other partners include the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Department of Environment, Mesh Labs, Friends of the Urban Forest, The Wigg Party, Burning Man Project, SCRAP, Rebar, ReAllocate, SF Yellow Bike Project, Silent Storm, ArtisMobilUs, The Bold Italic, SF Postcard Project, Urban Innovation Exchange and Collective Agency.

The current arrangement allows the use of the space for the month of June. Inspired by the energy, creativity, and contributions of artists, teachers, techies, and changemakers who have already transformed the building, the group today launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to keep the building for another month. To participate in crowdfunding [freespace], please visit Organizations and companies interested in exploring partnerships are invited to contact

About [freespace]

[freespace] is an experiment in cultivating civic hacks. Its aim is to prove that a gift of temporary, underutilized physical space inspires an untapped local talent pool to come together as a community of creative changemakers addressing the city’s challenges. Coordinated by a small team of Bay Area professionals inspired by the National Day of Civic Hacking, the effort quickly expanded when the team secured a one-month lease of a 14,000 square foot San Francisco Central Market warehouse for just one dollar. All are welcome to join in at 1131 Mission Street and connect at, on Facebook and by email.

Sundays are for Dancing, Gardening, and LED Walls

Today [freespace] received a beautiful new installation by Ping Yee and Benny (, who created and programmed a wall of 625 LED’s in front of freekitchen. The lights are individually programmable, and all are welcome to participate by hacking away at the LED wall. Check out for more information.


Freegarden was bustling with cadets today, and rumor has it that parkcycle (the giant pedal+solar powered mobile garden parked out back) is almost ready to roll. The day ended with a silent disco contact dance session led by Natel and an abundance of hugs as we wrapped up day 9.

Come by for the Burner Hackathon

936295_10100605196438424_559228150_n This weekend, [freespace] will be hosting BurnerHack.

What is a BurnerHack?

BurnerHack is a weekend full of beautiful beings making marvelous manifestations in preparation for the playa.

Burner: A person who attends Burning Man or who lives by the Ten Principles.​

Hack: To change default reality by imagining and creating something new.​

​Hack on software. Hack on blinky lights. Hack on costumes. Hack on interactive body piercings. Hack on anything your robot heart desires!

We sat down with the event’s catalyzer, Micah Daigle and asked him a few questions.

What inspired you to start the event?
I love hacking on shit. And I love burners. It’s a natural combination. We created BurnerMap two years ago and it blew up. Something like half of Black Rock City uses it. We were planning on updating it, so we thought, why not invite other people in on the process?

What can we expect to see if we attend the event?
Burners. Hacking. What does that mean? People building art projects. People hacking on software. There’s going to be EL Wire workshop. There’s a whole list of projects on the BurnerHack site.

What are you most excited about for this weekend?
We’ll see what happens. Burners will be here. And people will be getting excited about the burn. BurnerHack is a great way to convene Burners that is not about the party. Because Burning Man is so much more than a party. It’s [also] about making really cool shit. Most events before and after Burning Man (like decompression) are about partying, which is cool. But the Burn is way more than just partying. So this is an event for us to get together, and convene as a creative community.

Anything else we should know?
Come to event and participate!

Building Community

This weekend’s opening at [freespace] was fantastic! We started out the weekend with a community potluck. During opening day (June 1st), several people facilitated group discussions around logistics, safety, and general operations around the space. Remember – we’re starting with nothing except space and passion.

So – we not only have to sort out what events will happen when. But we have to sort out who will turn on the lights, who will keep the bathroom stocked with toilet paper, and who will take out the trash. All as a community. With volunteers.

In addition to actually sorting out these logistics, a few other magical things happened –

A mural went up

Walls were painted

SF Yellow Bikes setup shop

A public art project went up


And people congregated

This afternoon, I personally organized a team meeting around our website. For folks that haven’t visited the space, it’s just not very clear what’s happening and why. Our calls for participation are also not clear. Much of this organization is happening on Facebook, simply because that’s where our friends (and their friends) are. We’re all okay with that. The less we have to build, the better.

Our Philosophy, Our Needs

We’re building more than a website. We’re building a community. The website, like the space, is in flux. It’s dynamic. And it’s a community project.

In practical terms, it is also very useful for coordination and documentation. So during our volunteer-run meeting today, we discussed what the website should be used for going forward, what some existing needs were, and how we should go about building things. We are, after all, volunteers.

Our needs, specifically include :

  • coordinating volunteers
  • gathering donations of goods (paint, routers, cleaning supplies, etc)
  • planning events
  • documenting our process

Some outcomes and [potential] resolutions from the meeting?

We took the wireframes (developed by Jessy Kate), created visual mockups, and are now working on a child theme that we will make available to other community spaces.

Here is a summary of the principles we discussed :

  • All our custom code will be open-source (via our newly setup github repo)
  • All our contributions (and those of our community) will be licensed under Creative Commons (specifics are TBD)
  • We will work to document our process so other can learn from us and replicate them in their own communities
  • We will acknowledge and thank those who contribute to the community
  • We welcome participation as long as the safety of our community and participants is not threatened

Creative Commons License
as of now…. freespace media by Freespace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


In the spirit of documentation and process sharing, I’ve listed out what we’re using to run our site.

As of now, our website is running on a multisite network provided by WP The software itself is run on WordPress and WooTheme’s One Pager Theme. Our hosting is provided by Arrow Root Media, and served up by WP Engine’s servers. WP Engine is providing Varnish caching, a CDN, and solid tech support as needed.

Our WordPress Plugins collection include :

Other Assets

Of course – the most important asset we have right now – passionate, caring, dedicated smiley volunteers who care about community, resource sharing, and the power of the collective. Without these key principles in place, we’d all be working on “just another project.” But with vision in action, we are able to catalyze a community of people in a very short amount of time.

Looking forward to more!

Comments, love, appreciations, ideas, and inspiration are welcome. Leave your thoughts below!

Space opening

Today is our very first “official” day. We’re excited to have you! Come by today and tomorrow and join the community. And check out our calendar of events for an overview of what we have planned (so far).

Check out some of our freespaces below …

We sneaked and peeked

Beautiful people – there was some great idea jamming tonight! Tours were held at roughly equal density intervals! We sneaked and peaked, schemed and planned. So many great conversations and new friendships forming.

FUN FACT: If 120 people volunteered for a single 6 hour shift during the 30 days of june, we would be open 24-7 for the entire month straight.

Check out some the ideas people wrote down in old-school analog fashion in the image below. THEN, sign up on facebook for the upcoming opening weekend. And if you have an idea – why not enact it? If you’re hesitating… well, remember Goethe and suck it up! Seize the day!

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  (Goethe)


Hot Damn, you guys are goooOOOd!

A great turnout  for the Demissification tonight! Please post pics to the freespace facebook page!

What cleaning party for a freaking FREE space would be complete without an impromptu brainstorm of possibilities and intentions! As the evening wrapped up we went around an introduced ourselves. People threw out some crazy and awesome ideas, as well as practical questions about coordination and collaboration.

Some of the ideas included Hack trash – repurpose and rethink the trash we create. Bike sharing. Free haircuts. Pop up cafes – YOUR pop up cafe! Screenings. Regularly scheduled inspirational documentaries.  A daily participatory exquisite corpse sculpture. Make and teach music, and publish an album at the end of the month. Digital-analog calendar hacks. Beer brewing. Wall drawings.

So many ideas! And more to come – this Thursday will be the “official” (as official as it gets anyway) sneak peak of the space, complete with brainstorming facilitation excellent-ness. Check it out on the events page.

On Saturday many people will be attending the World’s Biggest Potluck in UN plaza downtown, as a way to kick off the month! If we’re lucky we’ll get the leftovers! If anyone has a link to that event please post it in the comments!

What can you do to help now? 

  • The space needs people to help “staff” (what’s a better word?) from 10am to 10pm. If you are down to be a responsible party for set period or periods of time, fill out the form on the main page of the website… and while you’re doing that others will be scrambling in the background to determine a reasonable process for handing your generous offer… so whatever you do, don’t offer to help determine a reasonable process for handing generous offers, since that would just descend us into a viscious spiral of recursion.
  • Greeters! People willing to give tours to new visitors around the space and orient them to the Awesome, for specific shifts of time (of course, impromptu greetings will never be turned away).
  • Events in the first week – the best way to get the word out is to be in action and kick some ass right out of the gate. if those of  us who know about the space now hold events in the first week, so many more people will hear about freespace and contribute to holding their own events as the month goes on. so if you have ideas, don’t wait! start planning for the first week and shout your intentions through the sign up form!
  • there’s certain more, and this is just the list of notes i took – so feel free to add your suggestions.

Some people are working on additional/improved digital coordination tools (read: mailing lists, decentralized event scheduling, etc.). Leave a comment if you have an opinion. Or if you want to post to the blog.

Hope to see you thursday! Share with all the thingspeople!





Freespace: The Before

Check out this whirlwind video of the raw beginnings to our one month experiment! Look at those beautiful wood floors and great light. This is the beginning of something uh-maz-ing! And soon it’s gonna look so much more RAD because we’re getting started sprucing this puppy up! Join us tonight at 6pm to help Demessify (a technical term). RSVP on facebook or just drop by! Lend a hand, scheme, and get inspired. If you wanted to show up with a 6-pack (either kind), well, we wouldn’t stop you…