A few of us. living together (somewhere) and changing things?: The (un)Monastery

hey all, so this is my first post since Edgestock, although like a lot of people i’ve spent much time thinking and talking with people about what we all did. i wanted to write, on behalf of a few people, about something really exciting that came out of the unconference. no-one could be everywhere, so the following is an invitation to get involved in something super-awesome that you may have missed:

We had a discussion about a currently un-named idea, which was first called The Monastery and then, because it’s not actually a monastery, called The un-Monastery, and then later called The (un)Monastery because, y’know, it neither is nor isn’t a monastery. anyway the point is that whilst it has nothing to do with religion, it is totally Righteous. if you agree, consider getting involved.

here’s The Deal: everyone felt that they knew of places around Europe with serious structural problems, which were often the same - things such as underused building stock combined with homelessness; a feeling of community breakdown and lack of rootedness; high levels of youth unemployment; low levels of computer literacy, meaning low take-up of low-cost technical solutions to social problems; lack of socially-conscious arts infrastructure. at the same time, we each felt that we had a set of skills that were under-used, or which we could put to use in a socially-conscious way.

the solution: decide on city that needs help with those sorts of problems. talk to local authorities and city leaders. persuade them to give us a space to use, as a co-operative live/work space, for at least a year. we move there as a small-ish group. we work, alongside local residents, to help the community adapt in a positive way, using the specialist skills that we would bring.

how to do it right: we’re not patronising anyone. we’re under no illusions - we’re a small group, and we don’t think we’re going to solve problems overnight. but we’re going to work, for free, to support a community in achieving its aims, and in doing a load of cool stuff along the way. in return we’d ask for an empty building, and an arrangement that takes care of our living needs for the year (there are plans afoot). edgeryders have a lot of very specialist skills, that are often undervalued - whilst at the same time often being in a state of precarious employment themselves, or striving to make a difference in the face of the wider economic situation.

a year? no way! that’s right. but that’s just the length of the project - we’re thinking about ways to make it work for different people, and we’d like your help there too. we face two competing challenges: we know that to really make an impact, a timeline of at least a year is necessary, and so is a feeling of continuity and commitment to the local community. so we’ll be there for that long, and at least some people will be. for some of us, this will seem like an amazing opportunity, and we’ll want to be there even longer if we can. others might feel like they’d like to take part, but can probably only do so for, say, three months: so we’re designing a system where people can take up short-term ‘residencies’ to bring a particular focus to a particular project. at the moment, we’re imagining maybe five full-timers, with at least one of them there for a full year, and a whole rolling programme of residents, there for maybe 3 months at a time.

what would we actually do? it could be anything - from networking local people with particular skills together, starting or supporting local groups with specific positive agendas, facilitating open local discussions about big ideas, supporting people with new online tools that we build or bring in - and anything more you can think of. the building would function as an open-access hub where residents could come to take part in workshops, have informal discussions, give ideas and feedback. we’d also hopefully have some level of leverage with the city, that we could use to the residents’ advantage, because of the city’s commitment to us.

sweet! sign me up! done. a few of us have had a couple of brief discussions since Edgefest, but things are at an incredibly early stage. we’ve found out a few things, and are pursuing a few good leads in different directions, but we need more. the level of detail is greater than i could outline above (i didn’t want to overload anyone - and i’m sure people will be able to chip in more), but it has a lot that’s needed. most of all, we need willing volunteers! we need people to help draft documents, forward good leads to funding, partners, collaborators, cities, spaces, that sort of thing. we need people who are able to say that, pending our collective plans coming to fruition, ‘i will be there, standing on a doorstep in an unknown city on the day that we agree, and i will help’. if you have things to say that you think might be useful, if you’d like to be involved on whatever level, or if you think you might be one of the people described above, then write it down below. over and out!

Count me in.

This is one of the sessions I was heavily involved in during #edgecamp and I’m personally super excited about it…

I hereby (un)solemnly swear…

I’ll be there

Which towns/ cities?

Is there a list of tentative places where this would be done, cities where there is a lot of potential for this, like for example where relationships with public authorities would be more permeable?

What about Demopolis as a name ?

We worked with some friends on a project previously named “open source university”. It appears it’s mostly the same thing as (un)monastery project. Its name recently changed to Demopolis as “the city of the people”.

Using the word university was like making a competition with existing structures, as someone pointed me out.

I also agree that using the term monastery isn’t the best selling argument.

So why not use the term Demopolis ?

It’s understandable in most languages, demopolis.org domain name is free to use…

I was present during a part of the session about it at unconference and, to be honest, it was pretty amazing to see that everyone was going in the same direction and wanted the same thing !

Recently, the university project evolved into the idea of a meta-system of peer governance, discussed here : http://demopolitique.com/node/71

And also, i started getting in touch with the local institutions of Epinal, and also the region and department. I got interesting contacts, i notably met the director of general services of the city, the guy who manage the ressources of the town. He was pretty interested in the ideas i developed and gave good feedback. Told me to contact him when i have more concrete proposals and that he would talk about it to the mayor.

It was this tuesday, i sent him a mail with the latest version of the demopolis project : https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ej-VdibfjxepnzpT9R7SpOF94Dj62tiazfqrC3hx1oE/edit

I also told him there could be interesting opportunities for the town to open further more to europe.

So of course, you can count me in !

In Epinal or any other town, i’d like to give a hand.

This is exactly the kind of place where i wanna live. :slight_smile:

Interesting name but taken

Nirgal I checked for the demopolis domains and many are taken including .org …


Just tried demopolis.org (without www)…

Anyway, it’s not a brand or anything, it still can be used i think.

It’s not so good for internet visibility through google, but still, there’s not so much demopolis things does say google : https://www.google.fr/search?aq=f&sugexp=chrome,mod=14&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=demopolis


please count me in for some help with bootstrapping of this venture and couple of short term stays…

i’ve just heard that in Dresden even easier then in Leipzig one can get at least bottom part of a building from city ‘administration’, if you know people working on projects from there maybe they would know more?


100% On board.

We’ve (Edwin, Nadia and Ola) been working together since #LOTE to pull some structure/foundations together to get this off the ground. So what have we go so far?

During the session at #EdgeCamp we wrote down almost everything that was said, that document is still in a fairly unordered format but since then we’ve broken it out into 3 practical documents; Scoping Report, Website and Framework. About 10 people from the session said they were fully onboard for this, if you’re reading this, you might on be one of those 10 people, are you still onboard?

If you are -get involved- leave a comment with email and twitter!

The ideas that came out of the session were pretty mind blowing and broadly speaking seemed to reflect a desire to make the transient nature of the EdgeRyders platform solid, sustainable and capable of more than just knowledge discovery for the benefit of policy.

The goal for me is to establish a network of spaces throughout Europe, half hackspace, half live/work - as was highlighted in the session; spaces of this nature are numerous already but many follow a single agenda, that isn’t reflective of the transglobal attitude that was expressed at #LOTE. I see these spaces becoming a sort of physical node in the network. It seems most of us have already been prototyping this  in isolation, if we begin to pool that knowledge into a single project we could build an incredible amount of momentum.

But we’re a long way from the above, there’s work to be done - beyond committing to the project; What are your ideas for taking this forward? 

Leipzig Collective - Existing Research and Network to build on




I’m up for being involved - both digitally and in real life.  My level of participation depends on many things.  When, where and what else happens in my life in parallel.

I agree this is a great project and I’m excited to be involved and see where it leads.

Will Do What I can, Where I Can…

I’m completely in love with this idea, though you wouldn’t know it by how uninvolved I’ve been and the little effort I’ve put into making it real, so far.

When I left my university last year, and began exploring the idea of learning, creating value & community ties through Hackspaces and Access Spaces; I found that the idea of them being resedential was a valuable and missing dimension- at least in the UK . So imagine my joy when the unmonastery idea began emerging from Edgeryders. You would think that I would’ve done something about it a year ago- but instead it just became a ‘distant vision’ as more and more people I discussed it with, could only find fault.

Right now I’m in a tricky place, possibly going back into formal Higher Ed, with commitments to too many things, some family, some personal wellbeing, some external projects- which means I may be stuck in London for a while.

So whilst I can’t promise to be on the doorstep in another city- I can see what I can do about developing the idea, researching what works well, if anything similar has been done before, who would be naturally in favour of supporting something like this & cultivating some interest within this city.

Looking forward to keeping up with how the UnMonastery moves forward, and giving it more of my time and attention as I figure things out on my end.

Lately, I was dreaming of a place like a wwoofing headquarter for an opensource projet, what about a biodynamic farm were we could give hand for that too and be thus autonomous on food? (imply at least electricity and an internet access too) Is this kind of vision compatible?

In any case, I can’t promise much at the moment because of scolar debt I have to take care of, or not from Day 1, but I will be at least short term contributor and would be glad to help it to happen!

Totally! Forgot to mention…


I forgot to mention that there’s a whole host of dimensions, depending on the unique needs and interests of the community you’re going into, that you can build in an opensource space like an UnMonastery- biodynamic urban farming is definitely one of them.

As you mentioned, it helps the space to become more autonomous and support its residents/curators. Excess produce can either be sold to generate funds; donated to those in need of food; or use a ‘pay what you can’ system to accomodate both.

Would be interesting to hear peoples take on what the UnMonastery could be and to weave all these visions into a mindmap to ideate the vision from! A couple of friends are starting a house in countryside Sweden and all the 80 people helping out that weekend did a mindmap of their visions!


this would be perfect if it could be done…

It would not have to be attached/part of the un-Monastery…just not far away…30mins walk or something like that…


There’s a list of empty villages in Spain somewhere. Also, oseeurope.org and @appliedhistory’s entry over at globalswadeshi.net come to mind. #occupyeurope? :wink: #yikes

Some more links - Rural/Urban


a current list of Ecovillages :


An international not for profit organization based in Brussels from which I’d like to inspire ourselves from,

but with a more “urban renewal” twist ?


I wish such legal framework to support the Leipzig Project I try to support ( see links further in this thread )


I like James’ (@appliedhistory) idea.  Enacting what a resilient/sustainable future could be like opens up lots of nice possibilites for crazy, attractive, cyber punk stuff and invites some community visioning.

We can dress up in natty silver jump suits and grow food in crazy machines.

Edgeryders could start a local debate of what the future will hold for communication, democracy, ‘work’ etc. etc. and start to build with the community some parts of a visioned future.

Dressing Up…

Ooohh…what fun…

who will design the ‘Edgeryders’ ‘habit/uniform’…?

will there be sequins??

there will have to be ‘boots’… :wink: