Collaborative platform uniting people to act

I am one of the founders of an organization which is developing a collaborative web-platform to serve society, which we recently called (here’s a bit more about the meaning). Our aim is to bring people together in one online space and to facilitate meaningful social interactions which result in finding solutions to the problems that matter to us. There will be only one issue per page per location so that we can make sure everyone gathers in the same space to share their knowledge and ideas and to collaborate.

We want this platform to be a space where people can co-develop initiatives collaboratively and effectively and this is why we’ll have collaborative and project management tools so that the users can act on their plans immediately.

We see EdgeRyders as a network of entrepreneurs and changemakers who share the vision of collaborative and participatory society. This is why we are very eager to connect with more people in this community.

Looking forward to future discussions here!

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First website, then community?

Hi Kristina, welcome to Edgeryders, officially now :slight_smile:

Yours seems like a great idea in theory (the new Wikipedia and the new Google for collaboration!), I don’t fully understand how it will work in practice though, as you’re crowdfunding for a website. Does it prove to be a convincing case, from the feedback you’re getting so far?

Many people, also here on Edgeryders think that we already have so many platforms, what’s missing isn’t so much a technical solution to it but getting everyone to migrate from their preferred space and talk to each other. And not sure we can speak of “everyone” when it comes to the web anyway…

I think the only thing I can offer at this point is the lesson we’re learning at ER. Our website, albeit less than perfect, was built with no monetary resources, just time, and we already had proof of concept - a well fledged community that wanted to stick together because we were already doing things and needed an online workspace that’s ours. We even designed it together in one of our events.  So how do you know if you build a website people will show up? Do you have an idea of who your community is and a community building approach? Also for reference, here are some of the stuff that guide Edgeryders’ approach.

Hi Noemi

We can see why it may feel like the problem is not the technical solution but rather the ability to get people to come together. In developing we’ve looked at numerous projects that are out to ‘do good’, or help people work together - each with a unique angle. However, we still came to the conclusion that there is something huge missing from the social web and we outlined what we think that is in our blogpost ‘The gap in our social web’. Having said that we don’t assume that what we are talking about developing now is for sure going to fill that gap. The main objective is to find the right solution rather than the one we are currently describing.

We’re getting two types of feedback on our project. One type is the ‘reception’ to our crowdfunding campaign: muted, to say the least. We assume there are several reasons for this including the fact that there’s no prototype for people to click on; our limited resources and experience in promoting the campaign effectively; perhaps too much of our vision described on the page may make it difficult for people to fully grasp? We may have also prematurely launched the campaign, before the communities that might support it were properly nurtured? We’d love anyone’s thoughts on this, especially those who have been following our development over time.

This brings me to the second type of feedback we’ve been receiving which is a resounding ‘we need something like this’. The way that we’ve developed is through numerous workshops and one-to-one conversations with communities of practice that have taken place over two years. As part of these workshops we did extensive research into the sector: what’s available etc. As part of my own personal investigation into communities of practice I spent several years in the community sector working building partnerships between charities, individuals within the community, local businesses and government bodies.

It’s true there is a looming question about getting people to migrate to work together. However, that’s a challenge that can only be answered by the solution speaking for itself within communities of practice. That’s why our first objective is to establish a prototype mechanism that does everything it needs to do effectively and to ground this within a community of practice. If that can be achieved, the system will speak for itself. As noted earlier is based on years of discussion and experience within communities of practice; some of whom are gathering around as a potential solution. So we’re looking at a range of possible pilots at the moment.

We’re actually going to be running a workshop / hangout on about our pilot strategy on Saturday at 8pm. Would anyone here like to participate in this discussion?

First community, second community. Then, maybe, website!

@SholiLoewenthal, the idea of people meaningfully collaborating on the web for the common good is beautiful. Most people would agree we definitely need that. But such a system has two component: one technological, one human. The two interact in non-trivial ways.

So far, we all agree (well, most, at least). But then, here’s something that always puzzled me: when faced with this dream, most people set out writing code, and very few people set out building communities that share values and rules of interaction. Neither strategy is sufficient in itself: you need both. But in focusing on one, almost everybody chooses to focus on the technical component.

The Edgeryders tech was 100% commodity at the start: just Drupal. Now it’s a pretty sophisticated instantiation of Drupal, so maybe it’s 80-90% a commodity. Edgeryders is cutting edge because of its human component: great, smart, generous people, who are teaching themselves to write instead of talk, and operate according to a shared social protocol. It’s our rules of interaction, like “who does the work call the shots”, that are fundamental enablers.

Who does the work calls the shots means that nobody is authorized to tell anybody else “don’t do that”. If you don’t like what I am doing, the only way that you have to get the community to see it your way is to do better than me. This frees us from cross-veto; empowers the doers; and dismisses the whiners. As a consequence, whiners leave and doers stay on. This is not encoded in the platform; it is encoded in the culture.

At the next iteration, some culture gets encoded in the tech. For example, Edgeryders uses tasks, a Drupal module created for software developers, for coordinating around real-world activities (we are still driving adoption, only the most active and advanced edgeryders actually use it). Another example: we use wikis a lot. This both sustains and is sustained by the culture of open collaboration we share.

So, you see: a strong enthusiasm for your vision is compatible with a skeptical attitude about a platform – even a good one. My discussion for this is here.

Alberto, I agree with you that the system’s two components - technology and human - have a truly symbiotic relationship. That’s probably why it seems like there is an emphasis to develop the technology first because if that does not exist then it’s going to be hard to understand whether community can gather around it.

Wouldn’t you say that most successful communicative or information websites have a similar success story? They built something that - in principle - represented the key function; people adopted it; they then improved it. Often times, even though the improvements are huge, the society’s collective memory of the product remains contiguous: solidly reliable in the initial functions they served.

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How to facilitate the emergence of a community

@Noemi and @Alberto, I like the way this discussion is unfolding and the theoretical paradigms that are being explored. Thanks for sharing the relevant links about your community.

What you @Alberto are touching upon here is the educational element. Not even so much the question of the adoption of technology but the question of with what mindsets do people approach the technology and how they interact with it. You spoke about it very eloquently!

I am also aware of the pitfalls of what E. Morozov has called ‘solutionism’. Namely, that technology and smart widgets are not going to solve anything by themselves and that there are lots of false hopes that with ‘this technology or tool things are going to get better’. No, the technology on its own is not going to change anything. We need a cultural and social change and for that we need a community, which embodies the values of change and becomes the ambassadors of change and new values. So, yes we need people - individuals, who desire to really change the things our society is concerned about.

You guys have built a wonderful community which has a very big potential. How did you start? What was the locus that brought you together (as far as I know you gathered together around an EU project: did you get together because you were part of the same network)? There wasn’t a platform to begin with, but how did your activities and interactions change (if at all), once this platform was built? Did it transform the community? These are very interesting questions to me as I am curious to learn how your platform has instigated the emergence of new projects (and as a result of new communities)?

One of my main interests in what we’re doing is understanding better the potential of what communities that organically emerge from around the world can achieve together. So in that sense, I see technology as an actually crucial aspect of bringing people together. If there wasn’t your platform today, we would not have this thoughtful discussion here. This is why I think that tech is useful as a facilitator and a framework within which great things can happen. There are Facebook and Google + to connect people, however, these two platforms have developed a certain culture of communication and virtual interaction which is underpinned by triviality (Google+ less so), which is, in my opinion, encoded in the software. We want to deconstruct that by building an alternative and I believe we share that desire :slight_smile: