intro’d to edgeryders via Nadia el-Imam.
from their about page:
Edgeryders provides Open consulting: expert advice powered by ad hoc networks of citizen experts. We rally to your problem the brightest innovators, hackers and trailblazers, driving change at the edge of society.
Think of us as a big “Bring on the hackers” button.
The unMonastery’s gestation began in 2011, the year of Occupy and the Indignados, a time of so many ambitious undertakings with ambivalent outcomes. The Council of Europe’s ominous-sounding Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division sought, in the words of its chief, “to have a better idea of the extent of insecurity in society.” The international body sponsored the invention of Edgeryders, “an open and distributed think tank” of people working through an online social network and a series of conferences. Anyone could join, but those who did ended up being mostly young, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial, and mostly from Western Europe. What united them was not a political ideology, but the dead-end conditions of austerity and the hope of figuring out better ways forward. They produced a report about the economic crisis—a “Guide to the Future.” Soon the council’s funding ended, but Edgeryders pressed on as an online network with more than 2,000 members and an incorporated entity. The group presents itself as a company in the business of “open consulting.”
The idea was this: find a place with unmet needs and unused space to lend a building to a group of young hackers. Live together cheaply, building open-source infrastructure for the commons. Repeat until it becomes a network.
..documentation can trump even failure; others can study the attempt, tweak it and try again
..or when they worried about whether they’d done any good for Matera whatsoever, they reminded each other, “Everything’s a prototype.”
Building a new society in the shell of the old can seem so impossibly hard. Capitalism, meanwhile, makes organizing ourselves look easy by paying us to pretend that’s what we’re doing.
..Rapt in admiration, we the people are being de-skilled out of actual self-organizing.
Far beyond the Sassi, the unMonastery idea has continued to circulate. Michel Bauwens, an elder statesman in Europe’s peer-to-peer movement, wrote an open letter to Pope Francis suggesting that underused churches and monasteries not be sold on the real-estate market but repurposed as sites of a new collaborative economy. He cited the unMonastery as a model.
Maybe the unMonastery really is a protocol that can travel, that can go to other places with unused spaces and unused people who want to do good. These spaces could become workshops for commons-based resources, or bulwarks against gentrification, or hubs for disaster relief—with or without permission. A lot of religious communities are trying to figure out how to put their empty buildings to use these days, while preserving some kernel of their traditions. And there’s a fed-up generation looking for the resources, both material and spiritual, to create a society more worth living in.
feb 2016 – update
Lots of things are happening in Edgeryders. Many of us have a hard time keeping track of everything. This is a general update on where we are; what we learned; what we expect to be doing next; and how you can be involved in it. Warning: it’s quite long, about 2,600 words. Expect about 10 minutes reading time.
The idea was to provide more meaningful, paid work for members of the Edgeryders community to take on. Get paid to be radical, do adventurous stuff and attack big problems: that’s what most of us aspire to. But that did not go so well. We spent a lot of time negotiating and writing proposals. Sometimes we were successful, like in the examples above. But often, too often we just wasted valuable time in unsuccessful bids.
with technology, we can understand conversations at a larger scale than without it.
So far Edgeryders-the-company has been emergent, with almost no strategy. We don’t take debt. We don’t seek investors. We don’t seek core funding. We have no business plan. We take on paid work, trying to blend it in the community’s interests as we go. We refused to do all the usual social startup stuff of investor pitching and spreadsheet compiling. That freed up time and energy to develop our product and test its viability. We now have a product: collective-intelligence powered expert advice, hacker style.
We tested it, it’s viable. Now what? We’d like to try and do more of it, faster. We are hackers (Matt, Vinay), researchers (Noemi, Asta, myself), designers (Nadia), organisation experts (Patrick, John). We need to boost our business skills and contacts if we are to run a “real” company. But we are educable, so we are considering incubators/accelerators around the world.
@ladyniasanHow can we mitigate the negative consequences of unemployment on psychological & social health of the individual?buff.ly/24Wh3n5
In one of his darkly observant essays on the fall of the Soviet Union and its lessons for present-day America, Dmitri Orlov advises against being a successful middle-aged man :
When their career is suddenly over, their savings gone and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth goes as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society. (Reinventing Collapse, p.122-3)
The figure of the ‘graduate with no future’, identified by Paul Mason, has the advantage of youth, yet in other ways she resembles Orlov’s successful middle-aged man. People are capable of enduring great hardship, so long as they can find meaning in their situation, but it is hard to find meaning in the hundredth rejection letter. The feeling of having done everything right and still got nowhere leads to a particular desperation. Against this background, the actions of those who might identify with Mason’s description – whether as indignados in the squares of Spain, or as Edgeryders entering the corridors of Strasbourg and Brussels – are not least a search for meaning, for new frameworks in which to make sense of our lives when the promises that framed the labour market for our parents no longer ring true.
Four years ago, in ‘The Future of Unemployment’, I suggested that it might be helpful to distinguish three types of need which, broadly speaking, we have looked to employment to provide. I want to return to this model as a way of structuring a search for examples of effective action on the level of meaning. Departing slightly from the original terms, I would summarise these types of need as follows:
- Economic/Practical: How do I pay the rent?
- Social/Psychological: Who am I in the eyes of others?
- Directional: What do I get out of bed for in the morning? And where do I see myself in the future?
Those who find it difficult to access the labour market are also likely to find answering these questions more difficult. The stories shared on the Edgeryders platform during 2011-12 illustrate the variety of ways in which young people find their access the labour market limited: not only through unemployment, but underemployment, casualisation and the prevalence of short-term contracts, the increasing cost of education in certain countries, the role of unpaid internships as a path to accessing certain industries. Where skills and qualifications have been acquired through formal education, many find themselves unable to secure work that makes use of these; where skills are acquired informally, the challenge is to represent these effectively to potential employers.
begs we disengage from proof/validation ness.. ie: if someone wants to join.. (in a free world.. where pay has is non existent.. et al.. their wanting to join is enough/better proof than any validation ness we’ve used to date.. no?)
From my own observation, another key aspect of the Access Space model is the power of its insistence on self-referral: this means that participants are drawn from a range of social and economic backgrounds, rather than exclusively from a target group identified by its deprivation. This means that participation at the centre provides an alternative to – rather than a reinforcement of – a negative social identification.
This experience reaffirmed my sense of the power of what people can do when they come together to work on something that matters to them.
that’s it.. that’s enough..
In particular, talking to those involved, I was struck by how positively many of them experienced using their skills as part of the Feast, when compared to their experience in regular employment. Might it be that work that takes place outside of employment is more likely to be experienced as meaningful? And, if so, why? Several possible answers exist. The psychologist Edward Deci famously demonstrated that being paid for a task tends to decrease our intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon he explains in terms of the shift of the ‘locus of motivation’. Meanwhile, as I argued in ‘The Future We Deserve’, the logic of maximising productivity has made industrial-era employment an unprecedentedly anti-social form of work. More practically, though, are there ways we can build a better relationship between meaningful work and our ability to pay the rent.
by disengaging from paying the rent..
we’ve played that game long enough… no?
The Unmonastery: One of the projects to emerge from the first phase of Edgeryders was a proposal for something called an Unmonastery: ‘a creative refuge bound to host problem solvers and change makers, who together work to solve (g)local problems, in exchange for board and lodging.’ At present, this proposal is being developed by a group that met through the Living on the Edge events in 2012. The initial response suggests that young people are willing to take a step down in their material expectations, if this is balanced by sufficient security and autonomy to pursue work which they believe matters. The challenge will be to develop a vehicle for this willingness which is capable of ‘interfacing’ with existing institutions and accessing resources, which can achieve a reasonable degree of stability, and which does not devolve into a mechanism for exploitation.
Daunting as this sounds, it is likely that we will see more experiments along these lines in Europe in the years ahead. (Edventure: Frome, which launched in October 2012, has parallels to the Unmonastery model, although framed in educational terms.)
The scale and harshness of those realities makes me hesitate: I do not want to overstate the case for the examples I have discussed here. Yet I would suggest that they may offer clues, at least, towards another kind of regeneration: what might be called a ‘regeneration of meaning’. There is no guarantee that this will happen, nor that, if it does, it will take the kind of form we would wish to see. However, for those who consider the possibility worth exploring, I have a few questions:
- What would it take for this to coalesce into something serious?
- How far along is it already? (Is it further than we/others assume, due to its illegibility?)
- Where are the other examples that would build the case?
- What are the dangers? (For example, could the Unmonastery inadvertently become the workhouse of the 21st century?)
Nadia EL-Imam (@ladyniasan) tweeted at 5:49 AM – 10 Sep 2016 :
MT: @edgeryders global action network of changemakers in 40 + countries, is organising a joint application to 100 Million Dollar grant… (http://twitter.com/ladyniasan/status/774575550543298560?s=17)
Edgeryders (@edgeryders) tweeted at 7:42 AM – 26 Apr 2017 :
Spawning The Reef: How we are re-inventing communal working and living (again), and how you too can be a part of it! https://t.co/hZVDcKRtPd https://t.co/4i1WYTmBKr (http://twitter.com/edgeryders/status/857228432253517825?s=17)
We dream of a new kind of space, that can be the hearth for our families but still be open to the broader world.
We have dreamt this dream before. In its previous iteration, we called it the unMonastery. We prototyped it in 2014, in the Italian city of Matera. That experience taught us much. The most important lesson was this: a life/work space can not be too close to the needs of a single client. Neither can it be dependent on the grant cycle. It needs to be financially self-sustaining, and benefit several projects and lines of business.
begs a vision where granted money is temp placebo..
But the unMonastery also got many things right. The one I am proudest of is this: we went ahead and tried it. Planning and due diligence are necessary, but trying things out makes for richer learning.
So, we are not going to keep dreaming about a new space. We are trying a second iteration. Right now.
We are calling it The Reef.
But now The Reef will give it a permanent offline presence. Reef members will be the kernel of the Edgeryders community. Everyone is free to join the kernel or not; everyone is free to play the role she feels most at home with.
We ran the numbers and we are sure we can make it work. We are going to start with a small-scale prototype: a Brussels loft, with four bedrooms, common living area, office, courtyard. @Noemi , @Nadia and I are going to be full-time residents; one more room will host temporary residents. We are going live on May 1st 2017, and try it out for one year. We are already looking for a (much) larger space to move into in spring 2018 if the experiment goes well.
Edgeryders (@edgeryders) tweeted at 4:30 AM – 10 Aug 2017 :
How do you identify the boundaries on your own construction of reality?
https://t.co/05qrYhuWmd https://t.co/1O1w6VGfiB (http://twitter.com/edgeryders/status/895593072171651077?s=17)
how do you identify the boundaries on your own construction of reality?