[DESIGN]ating Purpose


Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to get to know EdgeRyders. I drew an (unclear/unspecific) image from my online experience that got much clearer and much sharper after an offline experience - meeting in person with Noemi. I view this gap as an opportunity to contribute to the EdgeRyders online community some ideas from my experience with design.

Following the meeting with Noemi I began thinking about (and compiled a document of) questions (with some temporary answers of my own) that may form a foundation for a design process. I would like to give these questions to the wider EdgeRyder community, but this requires some preparation. I believe it is important to first share why these questions need to be asked before actually asking them. Which brings me to this session proposal (thank you Noemi for providing the structure).

I would like to suggest a 30 minute session to share some ideas about design (hint: beyond graphics, beyond screens, beyond user experience). OK, another hint … have a look at the session title again. I believe that design is first and foremost an inquiry of dharma - a precious opportunity to identify and connect with purpose. When you want to create something (for example a website), having a clear sense of the purpose of that thing can be very helpful. It may sound obvious and/or far-fetched (funny how such extremes can coincide), but I believe it can have very practical implications.

That would be followed by a 1 hour session in which I would be happy to facilitate a discussion during which we could begin a process of EdgeRyders design. I will bring my list of questions as a starting point and together we could review those questions, ask new ones, suggest answers, hear different views … and maybe co-create a new view/approach to our community effort of creating an online EdgeRyders presence.

Though much of this session will be aimed at EdgeRyders’ online presence, it will, (by design!), touch the heart of EdgeRyders itself. It is the purpose of EdgeRyders that connects the website, the business model, customers, projects, community … everything. A wonderful thing about EdgeRyders is that purpose is abundantly available. We need to put a bright light on it and find tools and techniques that will keep us attentive to it as we continue our journey.

I have an additional secondary wish/agenda in this proposal. I believe open-source development suffers from a systemic flaw when it comes to design. Most people speak of user-experience, but I believe that flawed user-experience is a symptom of something deeper (and that trying to fix user-experience without going deeper is a flawed effort). I have been on the sidelines of open source for some years now, occasionally attempting to contribute through my design skills (not much luck so far). I believe that if we can find a way to introduce practical and relevant design into our own community, that in doing so we may be able to provide something valuable to other open-source / community efforts.

If you are interested in this and wish to come more informed and better prepared I recommend this inspiring and fun to read book: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Session Requirements

  • A writing-board with colored pens to write on may be useful.
  • A computer + web browser + internet connectivity + projector setup may be useful.
  • Writing tools (pen and paper) for participants may be useful (bring your own!s?)

Update (original post left unedited) Sep 18th:


  • I'd like to leave the first session early in the event as already planned: 30 minutes introducing ideas + 60 minutes workshop. Hopefully this will leave us all thinking and wanting to say more ... and so
  • I'd like to add a second 2 hour session later in the event where we can let ideas flow and try to move in an actionable direction. Beyond the actual design discussion it would be useful to talk about how to implement this process (should we choose to continue it) in the EdgeRyders system.


If you’d like to come more invested and prepared to this session:

  • check out the book recommendation above.
  • spend time with the question: "What is the purpose of EdgeRyders?" Try to be specific, if there are a few things try to prioritize.
  • based on your answer spend time with the question: "Who are the people (=roles they play, not specific names) that are involved (technically: stakeholders) in EdgeRyders?". Again try to be specific (try to characterize beyond general titles) and to prioritize.

kind of soft purposes&narratives

I would have the same experience: no way I would be able to get my head around it unless I met people in real life. I didn’t have any idea of the purpose of it, and I still don’t.

When people get curious about Edgeryders platform and I try to communicate these “core” things or “purpose”, I get stuck.  May be because for me it doesn’t have any particular purpose, which doesn’t stop me from reading this post and enjoying it and wanting to comment.

May be also because if you look at the platform as a tool, so to say actively look for the purpose of the platform, you’ll find “it’s for communicating and coordinating stuff”. Then, if you look at the stuff communicated, what is the purpose of this stuff? Well it depends.

But if you look at something which is not a tool, or not an object, then how do we figure out how to interact with it? We can assign purpose and change it depending on our needs and imagination (Stroke a cat, eat it, crawl inside of it to stay warm) Platfrom is a tool with the purpose of communication, but I’m not sure which purpose, if any, should be assigned to the ER community itself - it’s a good question. Edgeryders LBG is more of a tool and a toolbox and it has a purpose.

Lets assume the homo explorens exist and some people are willing to interact with something or someone without a predefined purpose, figuring it out on the way and enjoying the process. Like game interface design? Edgeryders platform used to be more obviously game-designed, then it sort of brushed off a bit. I’m not sure if it became more difficult or easier to interact, it is easier for me. But that’s biased because I got used to it this way.

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one purpose to rule them all :slight_smile:

I believe there is always purpose. I believe nature can’t tolerate lack of purpose … so if there is a void it gets filled with purpose.

If there is a conscious effort then that purpose can be clear (I have a clear, concise written purpose of ER).

When there isn’t a conscious and coordinated effort then, especially when a community is involved, diverse purposes get unconsciously mixed together into usually an incoherent mix. Everyone has their own vague sense of purpose and by acting with that in heart & mind contributes to a defacto mixed-purpose. Thats the vagueness that I currently experience in EdgeRyders. This vagueness isn’t isolated only to the platform as a tool but to the entirety of EdgeRyders: the public facing website, the business model (and the discussion around it), the platform, the projects.

The great thing though is that I believe THERE IS a clear purpose (it became clear when I met with [Noemi] face to face). It needs to be identified, agreed upon and highlighted for all to see and know. It should become a lighthouse standing tall in the middle of EdgeRyders so that everyone can move together towards that one purpose.

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Design vs execution and expectations management

Hi [iamronen] welcome to the community.

I’ve been following the discussion about design in and of the Edgeryders online space here and in another thread.  Design leadership in Edgeryders entails taking charge of the tools and learning how to use and modify the platform so that you can match the expectations that a co-design process gives rise to, with the resources to be able to execute the desired changes.

The reason for this is very simple: the fact that there is an online platform at all, and  is thanks to huge efforts of a very small number of people inlcluding myself who contribute a lot of time to do the heavy lifting in terms of producing content, modifying the platform etc. Without additional execution capacity there is no way the implications of the design conversation are going to get implemented.  Also without a clear understanding of the design parameters and constraints of the technologies we are using, it is easy to spend a lot of time focusing on things that cannot be implemented without a huge investment that you don’t know people are willing to make.  

So perhaps what could be a useful compliment to this session is to start with an introduction on how to use and modify the Edgeryders platform. Followed by facilitated co-design process that ends with a do-athon in which participants implement changes themselves directly on the platform (we have a sandbox online environment where people can test things without breaking the existing site). With p2p support from more experienced members of the community.


“Design and Execution” vs. "Design vs. Execution

There is a common misconception/assumption about the relationship between design and execution - that what is designed needs to be executed. It doesn’t have to be that way. Design can exist as a seprate/parallel track to execution. With that in mind a design process can be used as an exploratory path - to draw a picture of where we want to go. There can then be a conscious selection process of what (if anything) do we want to execute and to what degree. Execution can deviate from the design and that deviation can be a conscious choice. Without a design as reference that cannot be a conscious choce and you can wonder aimlessly in execution (as many open-source/community efforts I have witnessed do).

Because our resources are limited I believe we have to be even more caring about how we use them? If you, as a core contributor, have a list of things you can do to contribute, how do you choose which one to do? how do you choose where is your time best spent? Wouldn’t it be useful to you if you could some how evaluate (not necessarily in a mathematically quantifiable way) which tasks contribute more to the overall progression of EdgeRyders?

I am aware of the realities of technological realities of choosing to live withn a platform and of the qualities of community development. I am also aware that what I am suggesting may be pushing against the edge of these realities … but what better place to explore this relationship then here at EdgeRyders?

There really is no need for consensus

It’s your proposal. You shape the session as you see fit.

My advice would be to present in more detail how the structure you had in mind for the session. As well as to engage people in as much preparatory conversation ahead of the event as possible. So by the time we are in the room we have covered some ground and can be efficient with our time.

The more of the process of developing the session, documenting and executing it is happening in a participatory way online,  the more others who can’t be physically present can contribute.  Obviously you can use whatever tools you like, although I recommend using the platform functionalities as much as possible. e.g. Wikis in here rather than google docs or etherpads as this makes finding and keeping resources updated much easier.

And yes I agree, I think it would make sense to have a session like this early on.

more time and split session?

I have a feeling that we may benefit from more time for the 2nd part of the session … maybe 2 hours instead of 1?

Also, it may be useful to do this session early in the event (the 1st or 2nd day) so that we have time to digest and reflect and then come together for a second work-session?

some updates

I’ve added a few updates (see end of post): thoughts on structure of the session and for those interested how to come better prepared.

Defining the purpose, suggestions for process

Hi, I wanted to join the discussion because I’m also approaching it from a design perspective and I’d like to support iamronen in trying to come up with a way to structure the process in such a way that we can be clear what the purpose is of edgeryders and first of all communicating it to people participating in ER and secondly being able to communicate it to the outside world.

Just like iamronen I think that there is definitely a set of goals and a specific purpose that is central to the community and by distilling it into a simple, readable form we can make it easier to build upon it and decide on a strategy. Of course I am quite new to this so as an outsider I am quite unaware of the ideas and assumptions that the more active members already have.

I think what would be very valuable is to make a list of specific design techniques that we commonly use in the design process and apply them systematically.

This is a list of some that I think would be useful:

  • Defining Vision/mission/strategy/scope/function/aestetic (similar to J.J. Garrett's approach to elements of user experience).
    • Try to define each one (starting with the first ones) in a short, succinct way. I often try to define each one in 1 word, 3 words, 1 sentence, and 100 words. 
  • Research overview of all the ideas people have about edgeryders, documenting these, comparing them and visualising to extract what is already common consensus
    • Perhaps we can do a survey with some key questions we want every ER to answer (much of this info might already be available.
  • The business model canvas - a good starting point (http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas) 

These are just some starting points that could help us structure the session a bit better and work towards tangible results.

I think that we should also make sure that we document the most important results of the session (preferably in a visual way) and communicate them back to the participants/community so it can form the basis for the rest of the conference.

I’d like to view your proposal iamronen and see if I can contribute.

my vision

Thank you for your vested comment thereallex :slight_smile:

I plan to introduce some tools that I believe can go along way in the hands of anybody that cares to use them. I am hoping to communicate a hollistic approach that does not require specializations (such as the ones you mentioned) but can give context on to any other technique you or others may be familiar with or like to use.

I am refraining from presenting my proposal at this stage for these reasons:

  1. Like you I am relatively new here and I do not want to make superficial assumptions. I have questions to ask other EdgeRyders that have been around longer.
  2. I believe that doing so without first establishing a shared understsanding can introduce misperception.
  3. I am used to doing this on my own (due to past experience in the "consultant" role) and I am trying to avoid this and to give an opportunity for something else to surface in a group setting.

In the same spirit I have refrained from making quite a few comments on various topics I have come across on the ER platform. I do hope that people who participate in diverse tasks - shaping the platform, developing the business model, leading projects, building the unMonastery participate in this session.

I will bring my thoughts with me and put them out there (like anyone else who cares) for consideration.

… and for more context and inspiration I once again recommend the book I mentioned in the post.

Re purpose: After South Africa trip

I think this session proposal is starting to take a nice form. If you want to raise awareness and draw more engagement into it, you may want to consider making use of the twitter storm we discussed during yesterday’s community call for focusing participants attention on fleshing out the program (check next summary of the community call for more info).

Re: the visual documentation, maybe ping [Sam Muirhead] who is running this session on video documentation?

After a week in South Africa of preparing the Edgeryders presentation to would be clients with Arthur’s help, gathering their feedback and then iterating the presentations I have come to some conclusions. These apply for me, others will have different interpretations:

  1. Edgeryders is at it's core a platform for enabling collaboration on a massive scale around alternative responses to systemic crises : ecological, economic and political (without focusing on ontology). It does so on three levels: 
    • Connecting people experimenting with solutions with their peers in other places. Basic level collaboration is sharing of experiences, knowledge and advice
    • Enabling hands on, place-based collaboration between people with hands on skills from experimenting with solutions and those with detailed knowledge of the issues at hand through unMonastery residencies. More intensive collaboration through people moving from one part of world to another where they work in teams with people from the areas which recieve them.
    • Many people sharing many experiences of problems and solutions = patterns begin to emerge. Third level collaboration is collective intelligence about alternative responses to systemic crises, grounded in hands on experience. This can then be used by community members for purposes of interacting with power and resources on basis of hard evidence and scientific rigour, but also as a means to become better at what we do together.
  2. Edgeryders is a do-ocracy: the rules of engagement are designed to enable people to collaborate in free-forming constellations and self-organising swarms, not build consensus about what needs doing before people can act. We have no idea how to fix the big issues, so we need many many experiments happening in parallel and knowledge flowing between them. 
  3. There is a core of people that have more central positions in the network by virtue of having done hands on community buiding and management for the most amount of time. Or because they craft thoughful posts and comments that contribute interesting/useful  information or knowledge that resonate with other community members. And because they are active in promoting their posts on social media.

Don’t know if this helps.


I’ve been following your writings from Africa and they seem to be resonating with newfound clarity.

I understand and agree with almost everything you’ve written … there’s much we can talk about … but it already feels like a mature direction and I believe that further refinements will come through more and more doing.

However I feel there is one aspect that is still missing. You’ve spoken of what EdgeRyders IS but I would like to talk about the PURPOSE of EdgeRyders. This isn’t a dialectical excercise. I offer this for reflection:

“The purpose of EdgeRyders is to make cutting-edge knowledge available to mainstream society.”

A lof of the things that “EdgeRyders is” are not unique to EdgeRyders … people are doing and researching and collaborating and communicating all over the world. However I believe that the effort to bring all this into mainstream society (the business model discussion) is a unique cutting edge of EdgeRyders. Speaking from personal experience, I live kind of like a monk in my unofficial unmonastery. I do lots of applied research however I do not (for numerous reasons) make an effort to make it public knowledge (other then publishing it online). That is where EdgeRyders comes in with a unique offering to both me (being part of a commmunity, make a living, etc.) and to mainstream society (finding ways to connect, organizing information and knowledge, creating circumstances for relevant applications, etc.).

I believe that a clear purpose (the one above is just my suggestion) can offer loads of guidance and clarity into decision making. Here are some examples, based on this purpose:

  1. The public website should appeal first and foremost to the kind of people who we believe we can reach and work with in mainstream institutions.
  2. The public website is a tool to support the work of people like you Nadia who are trying to find a business model that will provide the financial breathing space needed to sustain EdgeRyders.
  3. The public website is not just a side-effect of leaking information from the internal platform.
  4. Maybe we can call these mainstream people "potential customers"?
  5. Maybe we need to all (as a community) care about potential customer - to remember that maybe they are not EdgeRyders (though they may be perceived as such within their context of life/work). Maybe we can adapt and moderate our internal forms of expression when expressed externally so that potential clients can better connect with us.
  6. Maybe we need to figure out (or make assumptions) about what we can gift to potential customers that will make it easier for them to digest EdgeRyders and to "sell" (on our behalf) it inside their organizations.
  7. Maybe projects that we do inside EdgeRyders can be considered for their value in the context of this purpose. Compatible projects can be presented with more focus and clear presentation to the outside world.
  8. Maybe this purpose can bring clarity and guidance to projects taking place within the community?
  9. Maybe there are projects that we can initiate - such as tools that enable our customers to interact with our community? Maybe such tools can empower our community AND create a unique value offering to our clients AND in doing so create income to sustain ourselves?

When I moved to living in a Romanian village I was worried about money and so are a lot of people who I’ve spoken to about making a similar transition. The underlying question of this view is “how/from where can I get money”.  I didn’t have and still don’t have answers to that. But once here we launched a CSA (community supported agriculture project) with some features unique to the cultural setting we found here … and the project has created a small, reliable, growing (with much potential) revenue stream for us. So now, when asked, I offer this as a reflection: instead of asking what you can take ask yourself what can you bring and offer to the village?

Almost everything you wrote was self-serving - the self being the EdgeRyders community. Yet you have been investing quite a lot of work in serving those that are outside the community - reaching out to our potential customers - but that part is not reflected in what you wrote and I believe that is the core of EdgeRyders and the key to its abundant sustainability.

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Do you have these written

[Nadia], do you have these written somewhere in a separate post? Totally apply for me, and also twitterstorm-friendly. Important point on do-ocracy.

Not sure I understand :slight_smile:

If you’re asking whether the points about how I define what Edgeryders is and aims to do are posted somewhere else, the answer is no…I wrote them in response to Ronen’s question. Feel free to post them somewhere else if you want to. The Twitterstorm for N00bs how-to guide is here: https://edgeryders.eu/blog/twitterstorm-for-dummies-how-well-do-a-press-conference-on-twitter-and-that-means-you-too

Maybe you were asking something else?

I meant that I find these points useful to shortly introducing people to ER and for this matter useful for the next twitterstorm. I’ve started a quote depository wiki to put all these bits and pieces of content which … hmm I like. Will put them there

Not sure I understand :slight_smile:

If you’re asking whether the points about how I define what Edgeryders is and aims to do are posted somewhere else, the answer is no…I wrote them in response to Ronen’s question. Feel free to post them somewhere else if you want to. The Twitterstorm for N00bs how-to guide is here: Twitterstorm for dummies: how we'll do a press conference on Twitter – and that means you, too! - Community Outreach & Coordination - Edgeryders

Maybe you were asking something else?


First and foremost we must be here to serve one another.

This idea of being customer to one another is a model yet to be sustainably proved here before we can hope to extend (or market) it any further.

We cannot truly serve one another unless we know who that other is…and not just their current work but their visions, hopes, needs…

How to create a platform that can reveal and communicate (in ongoing, evolving, live fashion) such personally complicated yet important data…

“Must”? “Should”? Who determines this on behalf of others?

I am very uncomfortable with  assumptions underpinning communication that contains the words " should" and “must” with regards to anyone other than the person making statements that contain them. Also imho one way to test a model is to contribute towards testing ideas and conversations which already exist and could be built into a model to test with a little work. I would like to draw  the conversation away from a theoretical one. to one in which the discussion is based on evidence and reflection on practical, first hand  experiences from trying different things out, together or alone. Otherwise we are in the domain of  opinions and not knowledge which  makes engagement in Edgeryders much less attractive to me and renders whatever conclusions drawn and presented to the world from Edgeryders much less credibe.

NOT customers to one another

I did not and do not suggest we be “customers to one another”. You misunderstood me.

I used the word “customer” to describe people [Nadia] has and is meeting with in an attempt to give life to the consultation business model which is intended to provide finacial sustenance so that we can continue to explore and create together.

Confused again by these recent replies

Not sure how to reply to any of these. Who is misunderstanding who is misunderstanding who is mis?