The Hacktory began informally in November 2007 by a group of art and technology enthusiasts who frequented monthly MakePhilly meetings. This group wanted to provide formal instruction in technical topics and a central meeting place with accessible, sophisticated tools. The first course offered, Microcontrollers for Artists and Makers, was an instant hit. Stan Pokras, the Executive Director of Nonprofit Technology Resources, quickly saw how The Hacktory could further his organization’s mission of bridging the digital divide and reducing e-waste and offered space to hold events, store shared equipment, and become The Hacktory’s fiscal sponsor. In April 2012, The Hacktory was awarded a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create a special residency for artists. To accept this award, The Hacktory had to transfer fiscal sponsorship to the Miami Foundation, the Knight Foundation’s fiscal partner. This transition led the organizers to reflect on the future of the organization and as a result, the core organizers decided to take the first steps to set up The Hacktory as a separate legal entity and registered nonprofit. The organizers incorporated The Hacktory in Pennsylvania in June of 2012.
Around the same time, The Hacktory was invited to co-locate in a new space and form a partnership with other organizations doing similar work in the region, which included NextFab Studio, Public Workshop, and Breadboard, a program of the University City Science Center. The organization said a friendly goodbye to its first sponsor, Nonprofit Technology Resources, and moved to its new space on the ground floor at 3711 Market street, to the new partnership and space named The Department of Making + Doing (DM+D). Through this partnership, the organizations have collaborated to create a diverse selection of programs that focus on hands-on learning. The potential of this partnership to engage new audiences in hands-on learning was validated when DM + D was awarded several significant grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, ArtPlace, the Barra Foundation, and Cognizant Foundation, totalling $385,000.
The Hacktory has continued to provide classes and events that build our mission to inspire and empower people to use technology for their own personal expression, and through the partnership at DM+D, has been able to increase our capacity to an impressive degree. To further those efforts, the organization is now seeking its own 501c3 status to cement its own funding foothold, and continue to become a sustainable and responsible organization.