Orphaned Challenges - 'cause if you don't care then we don't care

After talking with @Hazzard last night (in IndieHaus Berlin) about my experience in unMonasery Matera, I realized that I didn't capture possibly important lesson.

During pre-process of Matera pilot, we harvested a bunch of challenges from local community. Later different unMonasterians had different opinions about those challenges and what we might want to do or not to do with them.

Personally I see a major failure in accepting orphaned challenges. I mean by that - challenges which no one from local community committed to work on with us, I would say at least for one full day each week. By doing that we might have taken on ourselves responsibility of solving problem which no one really cared about. Reasoning here - If someone really cares about solving some issue, than they naturally should engage in working on various possible solutions.

In a future, I would like to consider only accepting challenges which come together with personal commitment to collaborate on solving them. Otherwise why would we 'outsiders' care?



Orphaned Challenges

Vidrij Da's picture

Couldn't agree more, essential to establish local collaborating partner-activists when outsiders are adopting projects from a community wish list. Sometimes 'common sense' is not so common. ;-#


Worse than you think

Alberto's picture

Good point, Elf. And it gets worse: very many influential policies, from social to developmental ones, are only about orphaned challenges. The whole idea is to "serve the underserved"; a noble principle, but it means sticking labels on people facing some issues ("the Roma", "minorities", "people with disabilities") and relegating them to a passive role, which is great because then we get to solve their problems, deriving money, prestige and occasionally power from it.

Back in the days of the Council of Europe, the common criticism levied but the hierarchy against Edgeryders as we had dreamed it up was: you are talking to élites! They use computers, they cannot be disenfranchised! I used many time your example to demonstrate how their categories did not really hold water, and how people could be dumpster diving for food and yet be influential and respected. 

I am still fighting that fight: gov agencies simply do not like that people try to solve their own problems. What they do like is participation, in the sense of making detailed requests to the powers that be: "tell us what you need!". Meh.


Hei Elf

Bembo Davies's picture

Hei Elf

Good to hear your mind mulling.  This was indeed obvious from the word go.  I remarked at the event where the challenges (in their original form) were distillation that in fact they didn't need an unMonastery - they knew the problems better than anyone; no one else was better situated to address them.  As usual, my brilliant comic timing lead people to ignore the wisdom in it.  Remember, the dear jury also tidied up the challenges to make them marketable - a classic error in development fieldwork.

Some good stuff happening among the masses.



working TOGETHER

elf Pavlik's picture

Hey Bembo,

Regarding: " I remarked at the event where the challenges (in their original form) were distillation that in fact they didn't need an unMonastery - they knew the problems better than anyone; no one else was better situated to address them."

I don't agree that unMonastery can't offer support, assistance, consultancy, facilitation, collaboration or simply help. In my opinion people who know certain problem very well ('locals') and people who know various ways to address problems in systematic way + stay very well connected worldwide ('unmonkeys'), put together can create very powerful synergy.

When it comes to process of preparation for Matera pilot session, we gathered a lot of challenges and mobilized many talented 'unmonkeys', but we didn't make sure that 'locals' who face those challenges in their daily lives make serious commitments to participate in various processes to address their very own problems.


Local + supralocal

Alberto's picture

Yes, @elf Pavlik. Teaming up local knowledge and skills with supralocal ones is a classic move of development economics. It's not disengagement; it's not colonization. It's involvement that does not create dependency. And it is very difficult. But we try... this was the whole idea (aborted by now) of unMonastery + Aree Interne. Maybe you remember Fabrizio Barca at LOTE4 speaking about it, if not he speaks about what he's trying to do in this video. This is where he wanted to plug unMonasteries... but the whole thing got stuck, I am afraid. No matter, the problems are not going anywhere, we will have another occasion. 


Local cluster interface node?

trythis's picture

I haven't read through the two posts+comments that precede this but I'll throw my 2 cent in what I hope is the general direction of the problem:

1. When you collect ideas, etc. you want a low threshold - thus no commitment required.
In my opinion this is a good approach. Not only because for reasons related to the brainstorming process but also because really good people are often really busy. (1 day per week can be a lot - who manages to dedicate 1 hour per day to physical fitness?)

2.a) When you commit limited (in amount and impact) outsider-resources you need leverage and complementarity through local effort.
2.b) Most projects will need a minimum continuous input to keep them breathing. But required effort over time usually varies a lot for various reasons, and a continuous input (e.g. 1 d/w) may not work well in general.

Now my 2 cent:
Has anyone got experience with making a deliberately micro-networked approach for such things, where it is not just "myself and some outsider", but "a bunch of my buddies, me, and some outsider". Psychologically a big difference. Resilience and skill sharing wise also. The group of locals has to be organized enough so that it can be handled as one node. Information spread among them is expected to be near instantaneous. Ideally they have 2 interface persons with high passive availability, and overlap into other local clusters.
E.g. they commit to supporting with X hours, per Y, but XX hours per YY minimum. Response time is agreed to as ZZ hours (with Z std dev).
Communication is what got cheaper, so we ought to be able to involve more people and drive down individual commitment costs. My gut reaction was that a "1 day a week" borders on infanticide* (to stick with the orphan-metaphor). @elf Pavlik I think I understand your problem and I sympathize. The hope I have is that you will get more people involved, some of whom will rise to the occasion if they see that the others need them. Often these people are too moderate or shy to join such an effort from the start - they need some time to lurk around the project first.

*We ought to get the metaphor / narrative framework for this "fixed" at some point I think. "Orphanages" do work - and may be pretty effective in some contexts, but I personally feel a little uneasy with that phrase. I've thought about "orbit" for a time (which is not good), and I've heard "freezer" (which I like better). But the "freezer" is too friendly in my view. People stick things into the "freezer" and then generally forget about the "power outages"...


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