Moving into the future by learning from the past.
The next chapter for Halospace is my attempt at reviving and focusing on the reasons I started this non-profit in the first place: to create space for people who are passionate about supporting their community. Space to innovate, build, collaborate, and share ideas, technology, art, and direct aid.
If you're reading this, I want to thank you for your interest in Halospace that brought you here, and for your patience as I fill in some gaps that this website has yet to cover.
Hi. My name is Phillip and I'm the founder & director of Halospace Foundation. I am an engineer, builder, and creator of code - fascinated by all things technology. I am queer (he/they pronouns), differently-abled, and have struggled with chronic pain throughout most of my life.
It took some time to decide how much you might need to know about me or my life in order to understand what Halospace is and where it's going. At first, I considered telling my whole life story leading up to now in awkwardly painstaking detail, but after starting down that path, I realized that it's not as important as talking about who I am: my character, values, and intentionality. Like any creation, this non-profit is a reflection of those things in me. This is what I'll try to keep in mind and convey as I take a trip down memory lane and tell you about my journey. I'll be brief in some places, and not so much in others -- my way of overcoming procrastination due to perfectionism. After all, I can keep writing more posts about my story as I'm able.
To me, chronic pain is a gift. It has taught me courage to withstand, perseverance to keep going, and honesty -with myself and others about my true emotions and attitude toward life, separate from the pain. Looking back at the beginning of this non-profit journey, I see a similar theme: I had to learn courage to jump into something completely new with only an idea, perseverance to believe in what I was building, and honesty about the mountains of mistakes made along the way.
Early in 2020, right after Coronavirus changed everything and everyone was at home, I made the choice to reach out, find ways to make a difference, and challenge myself to keep asking "what can I do?" At first, this led me into my workplace, which was devoid of people but rich with technology. I had found the Portland 3D Printing Lab (and later MakerForce PNW), a Facebook group where hundreds of people were beginning to collaborate on efforts to 3D-print, assemble, and distribute as much PPE as possible. Among all the technology going unused, the lab had an industrial grade 3D printer that was state-of-the-art 5 years prior, and had seen little use in recent years despite being in good working order. So I had an answer to the question: I can make PPE - specifically, face shield headbands which I started calling "Halos for our Heroes." The printer turned out to be slower than most, but its output provided something none of the others could - comfortable headbands that could survive the heat of an autoclave and thus be sanitized for reuse. And what the printer lacked in volume, I made up for with involvement: writing up and sharing my experiences with technology that most people don't have access to, helping others at my workplace to make open-source ventilators, and volunteering to help with assembly & distribution. In the months that followed, thousands of face shields were collectively provided to the community, regional hospitals, and around the country including the Navajo Nation. I was constantly amazed by the feats of innovation & collaboration, also dubbed "adhocracy," required to make all this happen, from a print job scheduling system, to collaborative design, to donation, to shipping and distribution coordination. I had some innovations of my own as well, including the "crowd printing stream," where I live-streamed videos of my and other printers making PPE in order to raise awareness and inspire more involvement.
At some point in this time, while continuing to challenge myself with that question of what can I do, I had an idea. I was observing rapid progress in a positive feedback cycle of this adhocracy: broadly speaking, it was people in the community responding to an urgent need, working with those in need, and taking feedback to improve the response and provide more precise solutions to unique problems -- thus better meeting the needs of the community. I wanted to recreate that positive feedback cycle in a dedicated space and apply it to not only 3D printing, but any areas of (advanced) technology that could benefit the community through community-involved innovation and collaboration. That sounded to some people who heard my idea like a makerspace, which can be loosely defined as a community space for sharing knowledge & using tools related to technology development such as 3D printers, circuit fabrication machines, soldering irons, and everything in between. I wasn't sure whether that's what I would end up creating, but it felt like the best thing to aim for if I wanted to actually pursue the creation of this space. And thus, the name "Halospace" was born, which embodied a vision of a place where these "halos" and things like them could be made and improved upon by the community, for the community. A place that could bring together people and tools without a focus on profit, which is where I started to become at odds with the goals of my employer.
I had little confidence in this idea but made a point of doing anything easy that would progress it toward existence: filing for a (nonprofit) business license, getting a logo thanks to a friend and gifted designer ("It's a halo, with a space!"), and creating a Facebook page with my ideas & content I was starting to amass through my response efforts.
On May 25, I started my day early by sharing some music for the first time ever. I was working up the courage to file a 501(c)(3) application with the IRS as a "disaster response" organization, and finally did so that afternoon. Later in the evening, I saw the news that George Floyd had been killed by police in Minneapolis, and the unrest and frustration of protesters on the streets there. Then I found myself driving through downtown Portland on the day after the first protests, seeing the aftermath: droves of police, barricaded with their vehicles & weapons in preparation for the coming nights and no acknowledgment or allowance planned for the peaceful protests that people were calling for. Once again I asked myself, "what can I do?" I was already entrenched in 3D printing and volunteering, and nervous about joining the protests. On the first night of the city council-imposed curfew, I found myself with an answer to that question while trying to watch three different live streams of the protests: I knew how to put these together and show people what I was watching, and so I did.
Only seven days after applying, I received a confirmation letter from the IRS stating that Halospace had been granted 501(c)(3) status. It was unusually fast, where some applications often take up to a year for approval. Suddenly, I was a nonprofit director, and 6 months later, I found the courage to leave my job and focus on non-profit work, while also coping with the new realities of progressive chronic disease.
I eventually found myself at a crossroads: I had started providing more media support to people at the protests with things like USB batteries, tech support, and streaming their view of the protests as part of a collaborative effort, associating with anyone who shared my vision and in support of local efforts toward police accountability. All because that's where I felt that Halospace could be useful to the community, and that feeling was validated when I started meeting more people and networking for further community support, such as mutual aid and media support at events. But I kept wondering, was this "Halospace Media" a thing that held the original spirit of my idea, was I on the right path? For over a year from that summer, my answer was "yes," because I was creating space, collaborating, and supporting the community - just in ways that I had never expected. I believed it was the right thing to do because I couldn't see a path toward having a real, physical space with the right tools. It was just too expensive, outside even all the funding I was able to provide thanks to years of work and privilege.
But then the realities of my disease - Ankylosing Spondylitis - returned in 2021. I found myself spending more time at home in pain, less able to physically cope with the responsibilities I had taken on, and less able to emotionally cope in the face of difficult personal experiences. As an introvert struggling with depression for years, navigating the unfamiliar social complexities of protest & community support became overwhelming. I changed my focus to more directed media support for things like podcasts and re-streaming important City meetings for commentary, and set my sights on acquiring grants for the work I was doing. The 3D printing efforts had cooled off and I was suddenly doing more with media than anything else, and not building the space or things I had hoped.
Amidst limited success in finding grants or a continued path for the non-profit, an opportunity arose. There was a space in SE Portland that a close acquaintance was looking to rent out, and it was something I could actually imagine affording, at least for a while. Although rough around the edges, I could see the potential. I had to wait a few months, but in that time I started to plan what this could be. I found a common thread among all my work in media, community support, 3D printing, and technology development: each of these things supports and uplifts the other. The media work had helped to promote 3D printing & community support, and the community support provided opportunities for technology development and media support.
And so the idea and plan for the space became something that I hoped was unique enough to survive and eventually pay for itself. At first, I called it a "Makerspace Studio," which evolved into calling it a "StudioLab." A place where builders, artists, and "noisemakers" (musicians and local journalists) could come together to collaborate, build, create and innovate.
Since March of this year, I've poured every ounce of my ability into shaping the space into something that would fit the goals that I now shared with at least a few other people, enough to encourage and give me hope that it would be worth the additional pain that I endured to make it a reality.
Today, we are now up and running at the "BANG Studiolab" (the Builders, Artisans and Noisemakers Guild), slowly refining our capabilities and capacity for community support. There is still a lot of work to do, and I still have a lot more to tell you about this place on this website.
For now though, I'd like to come back to all of this in the context of my non-profit journey. Although my path was unexpected and I made plenty of mistakes along the way, I'm grateful for where it has brought me.
We've created a unique space that embodies Halospace's mission and values, of supporting the community before anything else, and providing a place for people to thrive in their efforts toward making a difference in this city. With the help of tools, technology, and space. I believe that this sets a path toward a meaningful future for the Foundation, and gives us a reason to ask for your support in making it a reality.
We aim to make this a safe, inclusive, and affordable space, and we're looking for grantmakers who also believe as we do: that creating space for open sharing of technology & knowledge empowers the community to stay connected, and thrive.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share comments and feedback on my Facebook page where I've linked to this article.
Last updated at 3:22 p.m. on Thursday, August 4th, 2022