Two years ago I was sitting in the passenger’s seat of my best friend’s car trying to entertain us both for an 8-hour ride to Cluj. We were on our way to this new music festival that had such a cool location and line-up that it convinced a couple of non-festival goers from Bucharest who had never been that far North-West to plan a weekend getaway around it. In between changing radio stations searching for oldies but goldies we could shamelessly karaoke to (hello, Rod Stewart), I told my friend of this witty American blog I’d just discovered and spent hours on, reading the comments. It was smart, open-minded, feminist. ‘Do you think anyone in Romania reads it? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a local version?’
An hour later we came up with a name and by the time we reached Cluj, it had a first edition sketched out on a yellow notebook with a drawing of a rabbit hugging a catatonic bearded guy. It would be an online publication with first-person accounts of young adults telling of their journeys towards maturity. It’d have plenty of women’s stories, since it was a thinly veiled excuse to surround ourselves with experiences that made us feel less alone in our own search for versions of adulthood that made sense to us.
I had no idea how we were going to make it happen, but at that moment it seemed like all the resources I would need I could find among my friends and their friends. The life stories, the photoshoots, the illustrations, the interviews, the translations, the programming. No money used except for event supplies and web hosting. The first edition happened through the work of 50+ people who each contributed in a way that made them feel part of something that reflected a part of them.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Working without money, or actually bringing money from home can be rough. The doubt that it will ever become sustainable is still there. In fact, the publication was going through a slump when I first heard about Edgeryders, a couple of months ago. When I understood that it was a community of people also working with limited resources on passion projects they believe make a difference, I felt relieved. Some people are pushing through. And I had a way to reach them. My biggest question now is how to build resilient teams that manage to withstand uncertainty and that’s what I’m coming to the #Futurespotters workshop to learn.
A trademark of our times, uncertainty is here to stay. We can live in constant anxiety about not knowing what we’ll be doing in 5 years’ time, or we can ride the wave of fast change and get our input into it. And we can ask for help.
It used to be a sign of weakness, but asking for help nowadays seems like common sense. The better you ask and explain what your challenges are, the better help you’ll get. In communities of bootstrapped projects, helping out is a form of investment - you don’t get to cash out, but you do get a gift card of skills, advice and know-how which you probably couldn’t have afforded if price tags were to be set.
Have you reached the limits of your circle of friends? Well, there’s a community of 2.600+ people from all over the world curious about what you’re doing and able to point to some direction - maybe even partner up. And there are 50 people from Bucharest already signed up.
Spot the Future is scanning for grassroots projects that hint to where Bucharest might be heading, should alternative initiatives find ways to thrive. From a city we passively inhabit through routine, going in and out of our apartment-boxes, to a place we each shape through myriad interactions, consumptions, creations.
We stroll through street festivals, buy tickets to independent plays and films, join peer-to-peer workshops, bike through town, buy second hand clothes, play childhood games with hundreds of other people, donate to foster homes that nurture, speak up against discrimination, discover hidden streets with free city tours, get the facts straight from those checking politicians’ declarations, walk with pride to support diversity, gather with neighbours to save green spaces, attend music festivals with local bands, sign petitions to reopen cinemas, read in public gardens, gaze at lights transforming buildings into pop art, subscribe to independent journalism that makes sense of our lives, work from public libraries and shared spaces, walk museums at midnight, protest for environmental causes, volunteer at summer camps for underprivileged kids, recycle creatively, run marathons, crowdfund comic books, incubate start-ups, occupy universities, blog thoughts, post parable-like anecdotes.
No longer an inert background to our private lives, Bucharest is slowly becoming the product of our summed-up interactions. You and your project /initiative/ idea are a part of this - pieces of this toggling puzzle without a definitive pattern, open-ended for the better.
They say good content ends with a call to action. Here’s mine:
Leave a comment with the most urgent need your initiative has + one thing you’re a natural at. If you’re not yet registered on Edgeryders, you can do so here.
We’re starting a game of resource tag where everybody shares a point of pain and a point of strength. Pass the tag along to those who might come out of isolated fights with windmills and benefit from a community formed around the idea that we’re each other’s resource.
If you want to develop that comment into an article about your project - how it started, the obstacles you’re facing and what you could use help with - it’s wanted, here.
See you at the futurespotters workshop, July 9-10.
You can register early through a comment below - official post coming up later this week.