I found out about MaCUS – which stands for “Màquines collectivitzades d’us social” (that is, “machines collectivized for social use”) – from Hector and Marta, CIC members I met at AureaSocial. MaCUS is one of CIC’s “autonomous projects of collective initiative”, which was launched in 2012 with the aim of becoming a commons-oriented lab in Barcelona where both traditional machines and new technologies are used for collaborative research, development and production.
When I first visited it, I was struck by its size: the two-floor building in the area of Sant Martí, where MaCUS is based, occupies 600 m2 and is host to the activities of a close-knit group of modern as well as traditional craftsmen engaged in making wooden furniture, clothes and herbal medicine, fixing bicycles and repairing home electronics as well as photography, sculpture and digital music production.
The business model of MaCUS is based on renting out space inside the building to collectivity members where they can set up their workshop. The rent is ten euros per square metre and is inclusive of water, electricity, internet and telephone. This income is used to pay for the building’s utility bills (about 200-300 euros per month) and its rent, which amounts to 1833 euros per month. To strengthen the project’s economic viability, a business model that MaCUS members are currently experimenting with focuses on the development of prototypes with the aim of selling them to third parties, providing thus the collectivity with an additional revenue stream.
The manner in which the decision-making process takes place at MaCUS is paradigmatic of the governance model of “autonomous projects of collective initiative” of the CIC. For that purpose, MaCUS members have a monthly assembly where they make decisions in a direct-democratic fashion (based on consensus). Within the collectivity, organization is horizontal and anti-hierarchical: the equality of the members is ensured by the fact that those who rent space inside the building are at the same time members of the collectivity managing MaCUS and as such they can participate fully as equals in decision making.
The relationship between MaCUS and the CIC is also quite interesting. MaCUS was launched upon the initiative of the CIC and initially depended upon its financial support for the payment of its rent. However, the income generated by renting out space inside the building to collectivity members has allowed MaCUS to evolve into an economically self-sustainable project, which has no need of any external financial aid. Besides, that is the goal of all “autonomous projects of collective initiative”: to become economically self-sustainable so that they don’t need the financial support of the CIC.