Choosing projects and people - another Unmonastery design problem

So, it seems Matera is interested in hosting the first Unmonastery after all. I will be meeting with the director of the Matera 2019 committee and the mayor on tthe first week of September. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have come up with an interesting (and quite sensitive) question. We all would like the Unmonastery to be a success: so, in an ideal world, we would get a ton of people who want to join. That would mean someone has to, somehow, make a selection between people who get an invitation and people who don’t. How do you think this decision should be made? And who should make it?

A possible approach could be to merge the selection process with a process built to ensure that the projects developed within the Unmonastery resonate with the local community. For example, you could get a pool of local projects, needs and people as a knowledge base; candidate Unmonks of all genders would angle their projects so as to maximize local impact and interaction, and then post them somewhere online; we could then involve the local people in the selection of Unmonks and their projects, based on the collaboration they see happening. The whole thing looks like matchmaking: great for ensuring collaboration, but I would hate to see great ideas go to waste because they don’t match with anything on the ground – the whole point of having the Unmonastery in a place like Matera is to inject some novelty. 

Difficult. What do you think? What would you consider a fair, efficient selection process?

Other unmonastery links - all discussions stil open, feel free to join!

Selection process

  1. Fieldwork and on ground research to identify let’s say 3 - 5 problems/ challenges that the locals want solved and 3 - 5 opportunites that can be replicated and shown as exemplars to follow.

  2. Call for projects in these 6 - 10 areas.

Each field must have min one project and max 2/3 projects.

– Those edgeryders who have ideas that they want to lead can post them and specify the number of people they envision working on this project. Depending on this, fellow edgeryders can apply for project work.

– Edgeryders who have ideas but do not necessarily want to lead it can nominate a project leader who plans, manages everything. Others can apply for the project depending on ppl required.

  1. Projects can be chosen based on votes from -

– Edgeryders community

– Local community

The project criterias (challenges - opportunities) ensure that the projects are novel, solve local challenges, inject new energy and ideas thus createing high impact and satisfaction for all involved.

Mixed bag

Charanya, thanks for your insights. I completely take on board the point that our process should allow for team formation - and in a sense for team emergence, as people see a cool project and volunteer to join it, perhaps taking it in a new direction, not originally envisaged by the project proponent.

On the other hand, the time cost of the process must be reasonable. Calls + votes + assembling teams + choosing leaders… it seems a little overwhelming. How would you implement it?

A system of constraints

Alberto, I’d suggest four constraints on the decision-making process. Anything which violates these rules is likely to have problems.

1> A public list of the “electors” - people who are entitled to vote/rate/approve projects going forwards. Who is making the decision must be transparent.

2> Secret ballot - people must be free to vote/rate/approve without fear of social pressure from their friends. We’re a community now, and that means that people are socially accountable for their decisions if they are public. We want honest, real appraisals, not socially convenient ones.

3> Secret bureaucratic filtering. I hate to say it, but people will always throw a couple of dumb ideas up the charts which are universally loved, but so toxic to the people supporting us that they have to be spiked. That part should be done in secret by people who know what the real constraints are. “It doesn’t matter who votes, it matters who counts votes” - Stalin It’s ugly, but any successful process is going to have this filter at some level, so let’s make it official. Have secret ballots, and don’t let people know the scores. Spike the ones which are going to piss off the funders. Such is politics.

4> It’s critical that people gradually learn how step 3> works. Quietly let the people who’s projects were spiked know why it was done, if possible, so that the process is clean.

I don’t think any process - voting, rating or approval - which includes community participation but without these executive functions has any chance of success, so I want to put that in public now: the deals get cut, but community participation in decision making is not the same as success! We need both halves: an electorate, and an executive.

Welcome to the real world.

Like this (mostly)

I like your criteria a lot, and I had not thought of 1 and 2 so clearly. Great work, thanks!

I like less the process: it looks too much like a beauty contest, and beauty contests are easy to game. We don’t want people squabbling about votes, or registered users that only log in once, cast a vote for their friends and go.

I think we want the community to express itself in the form of comments rather than votes. This takes away much of the strategic incentive, because you can’t fake a convincing case for a project. This also gives maneuverng space for top-down filtering - which, I agree is badly needed. So you basically get top-down resposibility with bottom-up advice: when the bottom-up cases are good and more or less unanimous, you can just shut your eyes and wave the project through. When in doubt, exert top-down selection.

The conundrum is: I can’t think of anyone that could be sure of doing a good job of acting as a top-down selection mechanism. I certainly would not trust myself to do a good job of it! People do all kinds of crazy things, and I only understand a tiny fraction of the whole spectrum.

So, we would probably be looking at a rather messy discussion involving people making a case for their own projects; a community giving feedback; local people proposing needs to address; and some diverse “council of the wise” somewhere having the final say.

Hmmm. Difficult.

Wisdom of crowds ?

This discussion is indeed a hard one !

But it could also be seen as an exemple of decision-making process through discussion and content instead of traditional voting and representative processes if we get to a consensual decision about this particular topic.

For a better integration of any kind of projects, it must answer real needs so i’d suggest to make a survey based on local needs, collect the data and discuss around it to get to projects.

Projects can then be defined by their needs to get accomplished and crowdsourced by expressing its needs (money, people involvment, materials, place…).

Instead of decision making, it would be more about problem solving.

Some kind of serious game could allow that in a cool and interactive way.


Facciamo crescere la passione, se il cittadino e il primo ha fare il giardiniere della propia citta comprendera quanto vale per lui la sua citta, allora ha turno gli aspetta la cura di un fantastico giardino, credo :slight_smile: vero.

La passione per la coltura del cibo, anchessa, il gioco e lo svago.

La passione di innovare anchessa, diffondere consapevolezza.

il monastero e passione! è un vivaio che coltiva la passione e la diffonde in ogni angolo della terra.

edgeryders casa, diffonde il buon esempio coinvolgendo i cittadini nelle passioni del monastero, il monastero si trasferisce cosi nella casa di ogni cittadino che ha sua volta diventa experto.

un lento processo che dara buoni risultati in tutti i settori. vita sana corpo sano e mente felicel’

l’Esperto Edgeryders deve aver provato la passione per tutto cio che e bene comune!

Acqua, strade, ossigeno, case, cibo, mezzi di trasporto, terra  ecc …

il progetto deve contenere la passione per il bene comune

non si può fare per i soldi come ricompensa

i soldi servono per strutturare,

la ricompensa e  sentirsi parte di una  comunità europea  senza caste

cosi ciao

Why not a “ton of people”?

The whole point of this is creating a diverse open learning culture of willing participants, this whole constraints thing is coming way too early in the game, already killing off diversity and emergence before anything has started!


Well, because - at least in the setting we imagine - Matera would make an investment in the Unmonastery, providing bed and board for the unmonks/nuns. And that is expensive!

Besides, I personally think it is a good idea to dip our feet in the water. The idea is fascinating, but it could well fail. Then, it’s better to fail for cheap on a small scale.

Feet on the ground?

Aren’t you talking about the numbers involved in the selection process, rather than the people that would be going to Matera, Michael?

I also think its exciting, quite experimental and better to fail small.

I think its important that ideas for projects are built over time and through discussion.  Isn’t it likely that ideas will overlap or could be designed together, which may possibly thin the field enough to remove the need to vote on ‘winners’?

I guestion the need for a ‘council of elders’ to vet the community decisions.  I get the impression that open inclusive projects and transparency are core values of most Edgeryders and wonder why it would be necessary to, at least to some degree, trample them now?  Surely if ‘wise’ people are interested in engaging with Edgeryders they could do so by participating in the discussion.  I’m interested in what people think is likely to be so offensive to funders which Edgeryders would not be able to weed out themselves through open discussion?  Surely this is a big point of this project?

A few months back I read @Pietro Speroni di Fenizios’ post about the Future of Democracy , some very interesting ideas.  I wonder if we can draw from his work in this decision making process?

Balancing talk and action

Hi Darren, yes sure there will be time for discussion and vetting ideas online (just as we did prior to our meetup in strasbourg) but there’s sometimes nothing better than just getting started without thinking about it too much. It’s commitment enough just to come and spend a week or a month or a year somewhere, you won’t know what you can really do until you get there. It will involve having to do things you really had no idea needed doing. Showing up is already an important step, being present to needs the next step, listening, collaborating…and so on, slowly building community, commitment, engagement…great ideas are worthless if you cant even work with the people around you…

Amen to that

Definitely a good point.

Failure? Cheap?

Dear Alberto. Why even mention failure? What is failure? It’s all part of the iterative learning process that any project like this needs to build into itself, mistakes are vital to any new emergent type program such as this. Matera has limited funding for sure but that should not be placing any sense of limitation upon us and the way we operate. Put out an open call, build a small initial foothold while simultaneously extending it out into the immediate neighbourhood, seeking local support (couch surfing, other free accommodation, resources, etc) with unlimited access for all who have the desire to participate. The process has to feel open and accessible otherwise it already starts to get top heavy, killing off the creative, the emergent, the possible and the impossible!