đź“— Capacity Building Manual

Below is the updated version from 2018-07-27. It is important to tighten some areas in our operations and free up work in others. NB this is not new, it follows at least a bunch of conversations in the past: onboarding :lock: of people we work with, building relationships with potential long term partners, allies, board members.


1. What works

2. Example strategies (with mixed results)

3. What we wish to change

4. References

1. What works

  • strategic financial investments: medium term paid sales work based on concrete deliverables. Example: Anique in the Research Network. Previously, Eva & the Nepal team as temporary = hires in projects with clear leadership and resources; Natalia being paid chunks to run off and produce stories, upload them online in a combination of elements: project with clear leadership and enough resources.

  • re-inforcing collaborations among a set group of people to whom we offer paths into the company as board members or regular/ ongoing project work: Turkey retreat 2018;

  • small admin help desk (bookings and calendar management like Irene was doing for Alberto), banking and payments (Noemi and Alberto sharing these tasks), and content management (Anu, under Matt’s guidance).

  • social media drumbeat: none of the directors can take this on; so far we have only managed to source this work through projects - hiring Said, Owen (for opencare, Edgeryders Academy) or Zmorda (OpenVillage, Edgeryders Academy); much to improve here, but it’s something we cannot live without.

  • working with the same collaborators the second and third time around and training the new generation of i.e. community managers significantly contributed to lower coordination costs and better results (Inge, Hazem, Natalia)

  • investing small amounts into relationship building, blue sky exploration for both capacity growth and reflecting on the state of the company and our wellbeing: the Athens Retreat in 2015 (Namahn collaboration followed up); the Turkey Retreat in 2018 are considered by most directors highly worthwhile. (see section 2.4 below).

  • add more here

2. Example strategies (with mixed results)

In no particular order.

2.1. Growing the EU funded project pipeline

We hired a person for an initial 8 month part-time contract against clear deliverables, with possibility of extension. See the Research Network for more information. Highly successful.

2.2. “Help us Grow Edgeryders in Brussels”

These were open ended discussions based on a general Hire Yourself offer (tested in June-July 2017 with Irene, Yannick). The approach: Meet them and open a discussion to explore what they themselves plan to build for the future.

Starting offer by Edgeryders: for Irene to organise 3 dinners ahead of OpenVillage and help us connect with more local people (format); for Yannick to co-produce the event: find a venue for Day 1 and organise 2-3 dinners ahead of OpenVillage.

We didn’t pursue this further as there was not enough availability and commitment from those we spoke to.

Another reflection is that there might have been too much open endedness and lack of timing.

As of 2018, Maria is volunteering to scout and build The Reef v2.0. To be continued.

2.3. “Approach us for a project partnership”

It went through explicit invitation, but also by making this opportunity visible in ongoing conversations with people around us. We join efforts in project funding application writing where community members lead. Tested with Jonathan Melhuish (proposal on climate and sustainability - did not pass), Matteo U (Creative Europe - won, to begin in 2019), Hugi (Tech for Co-created Culture, won!).

2.4. “Join the Edgeryders company”

We launched an invitation in the aftermath of OpenVillage Festival, October 2017. We later followed up at the Edgeryders retreat in south Turkey, May 2018. The purpose was to grow the core, preferably into teams, or units of business development. We have seen re-confirmed interest and commitment in Edgeryders by a group of a dozen collaborators who got full access to our Company group and Matrix accounts. They are mentored closely by one of the people in the board.

Results: An extension of the Research Team and work to scale it; A reboot of the Culture Squad and new business development work; A sales team focused on private clients works highly autonomously.

What we are learning is that new capacity can only be developed both with attention and leadership of at least a director.

2.5. Investing in offline, quality time to build relationships

Again, the retreat. Also effective are working sprints where people spend time together for a few days in the same place (Nadia, Hugi, Matteo in Brussels, or Lisbon; Alberto working with Anique from the office; Alex Levene visiting to work on the Culture team, and so on).

2.6. Investing in long-term remote collaborators

This is the case with @anu, who works from Nepal for Edgeryders in a 50% job since August 2017. This is overall a very positive experience so far. Anu has helped us a lot with small tasks in content organization, tech and process improvement, and through that got used to our way of collaboration, our tools, and also learned a lot of new skills (Discourse administration, Inkscape, Python scripting, advanced Google Sheets, git and Github etc.). She’ll still some guidance for complex tasks, but always learns through that. So it makes sense and the investment of time on our behalf will pay off but only if this is a long-term collaboration. Assume the first 3-4 months of such a collaboration to be “slow”, as there is a lot to learn that we take for granted but is absolutely new for others, esp. where work culture is still much less Internet-driven.

Making this a long-term collaboration means guaranteeing a job independent of project work, paid by the 20% Edgeryders company profits for the most part. Which is possible for a small company like us only due to the extreme value disparities through the currency exchange rates between Euros and Nepalese Rupees (Anu earns 3.70 EUR/h, which, we believe, is an above-average pay for this kind of job in local comparison). It’s always difficult to know what is a fair payment in such a situation as we don’t want to exploit anyone, but so far, everyone seems to be happy with this :slight_smile:

This kind of collaboration only works with the “right” people, who are curious, driven and motivated to learn all kinds of things. Definitely applies to Anu, who taught herself Python programming while working for us and now already does some (small) programming jobs for us. It’s always a challenge to find these “right” people, but in many cases young, well-educated women from so-called “developing” countries are fabulous for this. Young well-educated men often are less motivated because they have other opportunities, for example working abroad.

Another ingredient for this to work is that it needs a dependable and supportive person among the Edgeryders directors for such a collaboration. If that person has a personal motivation to make this collaboration work, it will help a lot. (In this case, @matthias gets a long-term “assistant” who can take over Edgeryders tech tasks, and also it helps with keeping a connection to Nepal …)

3. What we wish to change

  • that we each end up taking on small tasks which take away A LOT of attention from more strategic work: sales efforts in particular: hosting events at the house, managing admin for whole project teams (contracts, travels for opencare, WB MENA, the Masterclass… to give just some examples)

  • that the bulk of sales efforts is or has, for the longest time, been covered by only two people in the company

  • that we miss out on opportunities due to being stretched too thin: this goes especially for Brussels, where growing a network and tapping into work opportunities systematically is a full time job

  • investing (not enough) resources into strategic developments: we have a list of small fails we can learn from - The ER Comms Agency; The collaboration with Antiheroes in LOTE5; The ER Culture Squad as projects with a combination of:

    • weak leadership Ă— unclear roadmap Ă— unknown resources
    • weak leadership Ă— clear roadmap Ă— unkown resources
    • strong leadership Ă— unclear roadmap Ă— unknown resources
    • other versions of the above …

4. References

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Also the project management manual

Other directors may want to set up their own versions.

This one is based on my own management style ( centralised decision making and client relationship ownership).  https://edgeryders.eu/en/the-edgeryders-lbg-project-management-manual

Updated this and restructured with latest info… But so much more to add, when and if we have the time. Many lessons learned in the past two years or so.

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Also updated by adding a section about my collaboration with Anu. (@anu, you’re welcome to add your experience to chapter 2.6. as well … no need, but if you like, write something … the more honest the better it will be to help us along.)

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