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Community Call #1: Creating a simple offer and process for participants

Nadia's picture

Let's take two examples of successful community engagement around an ambitious goal: OpenAndChange and Alt33c3. I think the success of both depended on a few critical factors

1. Clear, attractive offer. OpenAndChange: Save time ( 2.5 hours  to participate in large funding bid instead of min. 1 month full time work). Alt33c3: Get benefits of a much loved, sold out, event through a parallel event situated in the same building instead of just being at home. Work in progress here and here (you can see that we are not there yet if you look at the communication here)

2. Clear process, low threshold to entry: OpenAndChange: Do these 5 steps with clear instructions (retweet once a day, fill in this simple form etc ). Alt33c3: contribute money in exchange for rewards (main one being the ticket to the event). Work in progress here.

3. Centralised coordination. You need a small core group that breaks down bigger challenges into small tasks, recruit people to do it, and organise onboarding events. We have done a lot of background work here. But we need to connect it to rewards and communicate this very clearly and succinctly.

This week's Community Calls are dedicated to completing the above three challenges. See you tomorrow Tuesday 28/2 (9 AM CET) and Thursday (3 PM CET) here.

Ping @Noemi and @Natalia Skoczylas



Unavailable for the calls

Alex Levene's picture

Unavailable for the calls thia week, but i get my life back after the 5th March and i'd love to spend some time working on this stuff with you.

Can happily volunteer my time for the Tuesday or Thursday that week (6th/8th)


My notes from the call

Noemi's picture

Over the past weeks we are seeing an opportunity to start a pre-Reef stage - an Edgeryders physical space - in Brussels. We are going to test it this year where Nadia and Alberto currently live (200 sq m space).

The question we talked around was: What is a good membership offer and one that is financially fair?

Some models we went through:

  • In Bali: people are willing to pay 500 USD a week and the big draw is coworking space and social connectivity
  • In Cluj: Impact Hub memberships range from 60 to 150 eur, main target is startup scene
  • In Yerevan: Impact Hub more expensive; focused on expats and the Armenian diaspora, but missing out on the connection with the local realities
  • SMART BE where LOTE5 was hosted in Bxl: they bought the space very cheap; their revenue (as far as we know) mostly comes from insurance companies they work with to support independent artists more than from the space itself

Important distinctions:

All of the above are for profit businesses, unlike edgeryders.. 
Buying vs. Rental model: in the longer run we want to own our assets
One-off costs vs. Running costs: one-off costs are easy to crowdfund for in our network; we'd need to break the benefits into benefits for being a shareholder, in return for helping create the space and benefits in using the space, for contributing to the running costs.

Personal thoughts: obviously in between the high end market of the Impact Hub and other highly urban cowork models or small informal places ran by friends (we've seen mostly failing attempts everywhere) Edgeryders is positioned in between. We definitely need:

1) people paying with money in order to meet the end of the month costs and run it sustainably, but also

2) keep the door open for the severely underfunded people and projects who are aligned in vision, and who could pay in kind. 

The offer to these two types of "participants" are different imho. For the first - costs are covered by permanent residents + membership fees and services (! this is where the beef in the thinking is). For the second - costs are covered mostly on a shorter basis, more flexible and in kind. But for the sake of sustainability the emphasis should fall on the first, at least in the short term. 

@Maria and @Iriedawta I'm looking forward to read your impressions after the call. What should we not miss? What would your expectations from such a space be and what do you see yourselves contributing in exchange, say on a regular basis? Thanks!


sorry @Nadia and @Noemi,

Natalia Skoczylas's picture

sorry @Nadia and @Noemi,  there was 5 hours long superstorm here when you had a call and no internet whatsoever. I will be there on Thursday for sure


My 2 cents

Iriedawta's picture

Here are my reflections @Noemi


Community Call #1: Defining the Offer

Nadia's picture

This is my summary of what we discussed today.


The Reef Mapping membership models

Coworking spaces are generally not financially viable by themselves. Their costs are covered by revenue from other sources, they serve as a differentiator when peoplem have choices between two similar options.In order of scalability:

  • Sales of specialised services for independent/freelance businesses (SmartBE),
  • Group Purchase and Development of real estate for living (Simone's Coliving in Milan)
  • Revenue from personal development and bodywork courses (e.g. Theory U/Spiral Dynamics workshops or Yoga Teacher Training ) 
  • Rental of short term accommodations (hotel rooms/beds e.g. ROAM) and long-term housing (regular apartments e.g Techfarm in Stockholm).
  • Also, I read this article today which I recommend: Like Startups Most Intentional Communities Fail, why?



  • The key driver is to meet and build relationships with interesting people.
  • Different value propositions will work for different people at different times and in different combinations: Comfort // Productivity // Adventure // Wellbeing // Personal development // Business Opportunites // Conviviality and friendship // Happening social life// Social Prestige // Cost saving
  • A good membership model ensures that we are economically sustainable. It supports diversity and experimentation. It allows for a mix of different kinds of participation, commitment and investment.
    • Basic Membership: Generates baseline revenue without depending on square meters . Number of available memberships is unlimited. Required membership contribution depends on costs of organising events and community management.
    • Subscriber-Investor Membership: Generates capital in exchange for co-ownership. Number of available memberships is limited. Required membership contribution depends on cost of acquisition and renovation of real estate, size/number of rooms and number of days per year.
    • Resident Membership: Generates rent for running costs. Number of memberships are highly limited. Required membership contribution depends on number of square meters per person, number of beds and duration of stay.

Thoughts @Noemi @Maria @Natalia Skoczylas @Yannick @Alex Levene @Matthias @johncoate @Alberto @trythis ?


Need to think about this a little.

trythis's picture

In the meantime, here is a talk by "the Airbnb guy" that I am halfway into. Perhaps useful in this context?

That guy probably has a bunch of leads via his twitter.


Takeaway from article

WinniePoncelet's picture

An interesting takeaway from the article for me is what is mentioned in the piece on Damanhur: "600 full-time citizens, primarily organised into small ‘nucleos’, or makeshift families, numbering 15-20.". Large groups broken down in smaller ones to increase effectiveness.

It reminded me of the important relationship between diversity and scale. Each context & group has their own correlation between diversity and scale, and each situation thus has its own sweet spot(s). Small groups tend to lack diversity, yet they are likely to be efficient at the few things they do. Large groups tend to follow the opposite rule. Too much diversity in both cases loses functionality. Not enough leads to inbreeding of ideas.

Maybe this has been said already, but I wanted to share it anyway. Your hurdle seems to be very pragmatic, rent and business model, and you're looking to start at a relatively small scale. So I think it might be a good idea to reduce diversity at the start. In other words it might be better to start with people who agree on one business model and leave the door open for diversity as context changes, size grows, opportunities arise. Lean methodology wise.

The potential extra cost of starting in a lean and not-so-diverse way, the potential deficit, could be considered an investment in all the lessons that you will learn from starting this way. You could structure this investment as a mortgage or loan to future users. They will be benefiting in hard cash when the model with lots of diversity is ultimately in place, as this model should be more resilient, economically viable and able to offer lower prices on multiple fronts. It seems natural that dues are paid for what it is built upon. Support from the future community. In financial terms, it would be a relatively standard loan I suppose, though I don't know how realistic it is for you to get one.


well said

johncoate's picture

good advice there.


About that article..

johncoate's picture

an initial reaction is to take this sentence and suggest we parse it out  and know where we are with each one, because it's pretty all-inclusive.  I don't necessarily weight them the same, by the way.  For example, "poor systems of conflict management" weighs in pretty heavily in my own analysis.  In the patois of the Farm days, not having that means the vibes will "silt up with subconscious" (which can be taken to mean unstated thoughts and feelings that have an effect on the conscious mind, even if it isn't clear.)

Anyway, here is that sentence:

"But the more relevant drivers that cause many communities to unravel sound more like the challenges afflicting any organisation today: capital constraints, burn-out, conflict over private property and resource management, poor systems of conflict mediation, factionalism, founder problems, reputation management, skills shortage, and failure to attract new talent or entice subsequent generations."


How would we parse it?

Noemi's picture

@johncoate even if we can weight them, how would you do it beyond the value level..? 

I feel like we either need a business development expert around here or at least map an actual space onto all of these. Spaces come with their own stories and tangible challenges.. the rest seems too abstract given that - after this call it's become more clear that we can't model our own concept concretely on any of the examples mentioned above (FOAM, Impact Hub etc).


I think we are looking here

Natalia Skoczylas's picture

I think we are looking here at a much more complex space, along with models of financing.

First of all, it would be great to clarify what type of space do we open for LOTE - do we try to buy something and use the event for barn raising (at the same time skipping bargaining with host cities - the more independence we have, the better), or do we want to have a space in Brussels, ready to use as Nadia and Alberto live there already? Or both?

For me buying a land and a farm sounds most interesting - because of the costs, because of the location (out of the city, obviously well connected, but also in an underprivileged, a maybe slightly abandoned area that would use a community and an investment) and access to farming land. I was looking lately into offers in Portugal, and discussing it with one of my friends, and it's easy to find something rather cheaply - for 40, 70, 100.000 euros for a big piece of land there. Portugal is well connected by highways and has relatively many airports around. For me living in a big city in Europe is not that interesting anymore anyway:)

About the model, it will greatly depend on the space - and vice versa. I would see it as a mix of super cheap or free accommodations for people who work on things (fellowships, residencies), residential spaces for those who want to invest long term in it where we also cover the costs, and a business model - high-quality rooms we could rent short term, but also services. If we manage to build a community where various practices of care are available, this could be a source of revenue. We could start offering training for companies in well-being. Or open a section for a couple of elderly people, paid, but affordable. 

These ideas could build up into a de facto village we would be running there. 

The village could be at least partly financed by the crowdfunding campaign, but once we have this sorted, we should submit the very same plan to Velo foundation in Denmark that offers support in purchasing real estate for organizations. And if we connect LOTE with this land purchase, we can actually, once in a lifetime, offer a chance to buy tickets for the event with the intention that the money from the tickets (and merchandise) goes to renovation and so on. It won't be compulsory - it would be a voluntary donation, and I think many would find it reasonable. 

I am only worried about the timeframe. Can we really buy a space within a couple of months? I know that Nadia is planning to go scouting, while I am preparing a list of places where there are interesting lands and farms. Or the Brussels space has to be the first step, and we will look into the purchase sometime later, once we see what works there?


The scary thing freedom is

Noemi's picture

Wow you summed it all up Natalia, and even offered a quick plan :-)

I think where we all seem to agree so far is these three types of membership (Nadia's terminology)/ offer: a mix of (I would say affordable) super cheap or free accommodations for people who work on things (fellowships, residencies), residential spaces for those who want to invest long term in it where we also cover the costs, and a business model - high-quality rooms we could rent short term, but also services. 

It is at the business model where we seem to get stuck.
I think we are going to need some more time to figure out the purchasing vs renting dilemma, and the home space in Bxl now buys us that time.


A Balance

Alex Levene's picture

In many ways i agree with Natalia. A rural, larger space is probably more interesting and holds more potential for growth and development of the project in the medium to long term. This would certainly need to be purchased land (or at least very long leasehold)

I also forsee that it will remain beneficial to hold a place in at least one major city, for no other reason than it serves as a pysical 'shop window' for the organisation and the work we're doing. It also give the curious a space to engage with us in a way that it undemanding on resources,time and steps into the unknown (important if we want to bring in new ideas and voices). I could foresee this space being an incubator for the fellowships and residencies program, and a small way of bringing business and professional engagement with the organisation.

My gut feeling is that in the short term a city based rented space could help stress test certain areas of the project and act as a crucible for designing larger idea. Funds must be raised, permissions saught and connections and partnerships with local communities formed. The 'where?' of a city is much less important than the 'where?' of a larger settlement.


Parsing at the Crucible

johncoate's picture

This is a big undertaking.  An historic one for all personally involved so far.  (I have some group experiences but were quite different in several important ways.)

Thus the two-apartment place in Brussels does look to be a crucible for figuring out the larger plan, and also as Alex says, a place to stress-test things.  A modeling workshop.

Living in the country has many advantages.  More land, fewer rules, more quiet privacy, possibly ways to sustain such as water source and arable land.  But the disadvantages are strong too: fewer or less reliable services like broadband, sewage treatment, water and heat and ultimately health care, that thing you don't need until you do.  It just isn't as good in the country overall.  So, more freedom but corresponding self-reliance.  That means being good at fixing things and having the time to do it.  This will be compounded when you add people who won't see it as their responsibility to deal with certain problems as they arise, but they will expect to have water, heat and broadband.

Five years of my Farm days were spent in urban communal living in cities.  Some of that time was doing that Bronx ambulance project but most of that time was in Washington DC.  Usually 10-12 adults and a bunch of kids.  We paid for it by having some of us do the work of our mission there (we were - and still are - a nonprofit that gives direct aid to needy people, often native people and some of us run a remodeling/carpentry business.  The work of our mission was encompassing enough that all of us living there took part in and gained the experiential benefits of participation (events with native Americans, managing a big no nukes rally and concert, etc), but for us remodelers, the work day was all about fixing up houses in DC just like the one we stayed in last September.  That got everything paid for and it also meant we had the tools and the ability to deal with the household stuff that broke.  Because I was more of a mechanic than a carpenter, I maintained our small fleet of vehicles as well as the washer/dryer and other appliances plus the household electricity and plumbing.  Believe me, all of it goes wrong at some point and if you can't fix it yourself it either falls apart or you pay a lot for someone else to do it.  What I am saying is that this kind of thing compounds in group situations.  But I say, accept it and treat it as an opportunity for self-sufficiency.  Care starts at home.

As for parsing those things, some of it is pretty obvious, but here goes a stab at it.

1. Capital constraints: Obvious to all.  Money.  Groups can economize to almost unimaginable amounts (like at Findhorn and The Farm), but it also means there are all sorts of things you can't do.

2. Burn-out: just like with any office refrigerator and dishes, some people are neater than others and some people care more than others about certain daily realities of the physical space and on to completely mental/psychological/relationship issues.  It is inevitable in any group that you will have a kind of bell curve of participation at the most basic levels of responsibility where some people take on anything and everything, most people do some, and some people don't do that much.  This is one of the most important reasons why certain things have to be worked out and talked through.  Putting a bunch of signs around and just being rule-enforcers might work when the large majority of people there are transient, but for a smaller more committed group, it can take on a life of its own that can get to be a drag.  Plus, it wasn't said in that article, many of the intentional communities or collectives, are started by people in their younger adult years.  Sometimes the real story is people grow and change and their life goals shift.

3. Conflict over private property and resource management: related to burnout and capital restraints.  This is a situaltion where I think it ought to get written down as to what the basic agreements are about who owns what and who is responsible for what.  Not getting this right is dangerous.  But that is what the crucible and planning is all about.  Many ways to go on this, with pros and cons at every turn.

4. Poor systems of conflict mediation: One of the best quotes in that article was, "‘It’s not utopia. It’s microcosm. Everything that’s in the outer world is there – marginalisation, addiction, poverty, sexual issues, power. Communities are just fractals of society.’ The difference for Sutherland was that in Findhorn there was good will and a clear commitment to waking up: ‘People are willing to look at their stuff.’

"People are willing to look at their stuff."  No matter how you say it, get this working and you can go on and on.  Avoid it, and, well, vaya con dios..bad vibes await you.

5. Factionalism: Inevitable perhaps to some degree, but can and should be diffused with regular open and honest talk about it.  Requires total fidelity to truth, even if the truth is somene admitting that they are conveying an impression and not facts per se.  The thing is, frank talk should not get put off too long or too often so that bringing up anything turns into some huge blowout deal.

6. Founder problems: leaders and founders don't easily relinquish.  Every situation is different.  In a "does the work/calls the shots" environment this won't present itself as a huge problem as long as everyone understands and agrees on the meaning of the word "work" and what work has what relative value.

7. Reputation management: can be a problem as an attractor of new people.  One of the agreements of the operation should be "don't be an asshole" plus make sure the plumbing works and the reputation ought to take care of itself.

8. Skills shortage: this has been discussed already in terms of having a variety of people clustered who know how to synergize what they know.  But if you go out to the country, this will become a big deal right away.  Unless you want to spend your time learning country skills.  But in the city the skill sets are going to be more focused on the ER mission as it plays out now, right?  Grant writing, business management, event planning, workshop managing, etc.

9. Failure to attract new talent or entice subsequent generations: not a near term issue at all.  But one problem with groups is they can get pretty smug and insular.  That's not attractive.

Noemi said get a business plan.  I say yes, at least write down a realistic profit/loss and cash flow sheet.  One of the best pieces of advice I got when preparing budgets was not to sugar coat the revenue projections but be as dead honest as possible.

Anyway, that's a quick sketch.  Speaking of skills, I need to go now and look at my son's leaking water heater at a house he just bought nearby.  I still have a good tookbox.


What translates from the online culture? Hm.

Noemi's picture

@johncoate I can only hope we are / will be worthy of this thoughtful advice. 

Reading you I would say some points come earlier than the rest (1,2,3,4,8), and thinking them through well in advance should avoid, at least in theory, the others.

A question, do you think having already a culture of "who does the work calls the shots.." or a doocracy pretty well instated in our online community should help with the community management points? I would suspect so. What makes it challenging is that at least some conditions typical of do-ocracy (or listed as favoring factors) are turned almost upside down in a physical communal space:

  • Stakes are low. Typically, if job X or task Y didn’t get done, or got done poorly, it’s not a life-or-death situation.
  • Authority is non-coercive.

Working to accommodate to higher stakes and more authority (presumably of the capital providers/ managers etc) already means stepping into a new space with rules different than those on an online playgroud. Which means acquiring new skills - beyond the physical skillset which for people like myself, sounds pretty scary I must say. Point 8 is indeed.. yikes.




From online to offline

johncoate's picture

>do you think having already a culture of "who does the work calls the shots.." or a doocracy pretty well instated in our online >community should help with the community management points?

Yes I definitely do.  You have already been through a lot together and you have refined your thinking along the way.


What a beautiful thread!

Alberto's picture

You guys seriously rock. Especially @johncoate - the depth and robustness of his experience is invaluable. It would take me 10 more years to figure out this stuff on my own.


Next Step: Building the Crowdfunding campaign

Nadia's picture

Hey guys thanks for a really interesting discussion. In today's Community Call we look at what the suggestions about mean in practice.

If you cannot make it in person don't worry, we'll put up the documentation from the call and continue from there.


How it's been done before

Jonathan Sundqvist's picture

There are quite a few property crowdfunding 'platforms' in the UK. Though they solely focus on financial gain. But perhaps there is still something that can be learnt from them?

Also this is a rather interesting article on the topic:



Alberto's picture

Thank you @Jonathan Sundqvist . How are you anyway?


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Noemi has updated the Working out loud | OpenVillage organising wiki page in the OpenCare Research group

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