Edgeryders: Should we morph into a social enterprise?

Changed my mind

I just changed my mind over the last hour after looking through this. Time is running out in Europe, we gotta use our little resources wisely if we want to have any effect …

[You can watch with English subs!]

Basically, if we really want to be a social enterprise, we want to be valued for solving social problems. If consultancy contributes just to our clients’ indulging in academic discussions, and to politics as usual, it’s not worth the effort. Independent of any finances.

Which means, if we don’t have and follow our own agenda of what to solve and how, we’re not social enterprise. If teh consulting contributes to solve the problems we want to solve, all fine. If we do consulting to extract money from wealthy clients in politics and establishment, it makes no sense.

To the point: How to build a self-sustaining organization that brings on the revolution?

(The “revolution enterprise” will seek a democratic revolution of course, like it has been started in Iceland, sadly stuck now. But it has to be this profound shift in society that we all know has to come …)

@Nadia: We had a little discussion about this lately. Seems I changed sides now :wink:

1 Like

Action vs. services

Matthias: I think you might be confusing taking action with providing services that make taking action easier. People in Edgeryders might be involved in both, but the company (as I see it) focuses on doing the latter.

Let me explain. I’ll start by making a list of ongoing collaborations across people in Edgeryders. There is no repository, but just off the top of my head:

  1. Ben, Gaia, Anthony and I have tried (unsuccessfully, for now) to get a research project off the ground.
  2. Gaia and Anthony are collaborating around an offline social network analysis project.
  3. Elf and Max are involved in organizing OuiShare in Paris. So is Nadia, as speaker.
  4. Pietro Speroni and Smari are cooking up something around network politics/algorithmic democracy.
  5. Nadia and Jasmin joined forces for DIY days in Gothenborg.
  6. Simone and Yolanda are deploying Casa Buna as a waypoint to Petros's Expedition Freedom.
  7. Kat has organized a dinner with a bunch of social venture people for Nadia to present Edgeryders and make a case for the potential social entrepreneurs at the edge.
  8. Anthony, Rysiek, Kat, Felipe Gonzalez and I are discussing a Eurohackathon in collaboration with the European Parliament for the 2014 Euro elections.
  9. Ben, Nadia and Dougald have all been guest lecturers at the design course Ola is giving in Hyperisland Stockholm.
  10. The unMonastery (Ben, Gaia, Bembo, Ola, Nadia, Jay and others) has moved to the stage of prototype. I was instrumental in funding the first iteration.
  11. And of course, there is Mission:Baltic, in which some of us were involved with an Edgeryders hat (-ish).

There are certainly others I don’t see.

This is pretty amazing. If we were an incubator, we’d have on of the best success rates in propitiating new projects. This is an impact we can be proud of.

So, you see. If you want some kind of systemic change, your best bet is to catalyze a lot of these meetings of minds. This will be the contribution of Edgeryders, the company. In order to make this happen, it will need to align this goal with the goal of others: and advise organizations, do research, write reports, organize events. Some direct solving might be there, but I think the people in Edgeryders are better at solving problems than an Edgeryders organization. Whatever creates learning and connecting opportunities, while giving changemakers opportunities to shine. Makes sense?

Company or not-company?

Hmm, I see your point. Actually, being an incubator and facilitating change, if coupled with an agenda what to facilitate, is in my view even a valid strategy for “bringing on the democratic revolution”.

Yet, facilitating interchange and incubation is not what an Edgeryders company would do. This might be cross-financed or supported by the company, but we could also find other ways to support this. From crowdfunding to community contributions to some philantropic money. The defining element of the company is rather, what it sells as a product. Which also applies to social enterprises, just that their product (hopefully) solves a social problem rather than creating one.

In our case, that product is our new Edgeryders-flavored knowledge product. So to see if that product makes sense, we gotta look at the change done, or facilitated by, this product. And I fear that the change effect of our consultation work is neglible, at least if we accept just any client who wants to hire us (esp. those from the establishment :D). So I propose we should rethink the product to be of higher impact. Or alteratively, to build a self-sustaining association / organization that exists solely to be this mind connector / incubator that you speak of. This one is not a company then: its primary purpose is not to offer and sell a (beneficial or not) product for money, but to fulfill its non-monetary goal, as resource-efficiently as possible …

This is pretty blunt startup reasoning, I know. If somebody can explain me why it’s better to broaden my concept of “company”, (s)he’s welcome of course …

This is very exciting!

Great points Matthias, Alberto and others!

Indeed it is important to distinguish between the actions of individual edgeryders and the services that some Edgeryders memebers would provide. I think we need to work on several key principles of an Edgeryders SocEnt like those of Rochdale or Burning Man. They would come in handy in hypothetical moments when Edgeryders would be asked to deliver services to oil companies, corrupt and/or violent governements, TNC, … you get the point.

For me the trouble is imagiing how would the organization look like. Here, I think some lessons could be learned from such structures as Al Qaeda. The secret to their longevity is the fact that that they are based on a specific ideology and a very loose structure spanned worldwide. With enormous (!) amounts of money targeted at destroying it, with losses in leadership it manages to remain resilient for more than 2 decades. Similarly many positive elements could be drawn from Anonymous.

I hereby subscribe to the proposal of giving the Edgeryders a more formal/de jure structure. I guess it will be up to all of us to further propose, discuss and vote on the final form it will be taking. Perhaps it is obvious for the rest of you, but my only caveat would be that Edgeryders would maintain a culture of noncooperation/civil disobedience in relation with the insitutions/structures that are (partly) responsible for the proliferation of impoverishment, violence, environmental degradation, democratic deficit… We should avoid collaborating with such institutions whose aim is improvement of their own image in the eyes ofthe wider public, simulation of social responability, creating marketing stunts to gain a wider customer base, etc.

It’s a great pleasure to be follwing this conversation. I’ll keep my eyes open for intereting forms of community organization.


Evolution = not Revolting :wink:

Love the feeling, perhaps a few changes in the lexicon :slight_smile: All of the good stuff that drives the things we love move in step with the exchange. Things are evolving and we find ourselves the frustrated fit for a way ‘the world’ hasn’t caught up with yet. I like that folks like b-corp paved the way as they did…nice slogan too,

B the change

What you said about the CoOp structure sparked with what b-corp did in establihing legal foundation for social purpose companies in the US. ( http://www.bcorporation.net/ ) so far in Europe there are no legal grounds for ‘cooperative social business’ organizations that are transnationally applicable. In Ireland a social enterprise goes under the Charity act…the system hasn’t caught up, and because it so slow, things that could happen- can’t.

Edgeryders finds itself in a very interesting position here, forming in relative non-space in European organizatinal terms, and becoming increasingly fit to emergent circumstances, as far as I can see. Wise action here could be in taking the famed step back, observing the field, the actors and processes, look and see who and what is at work, ask the world what it wants, and based on that move with the whole as and when fit.

Legal form

If you were setting this up in the UK, you would use a company limited by guarantee (and register it as a B corp, if you saw some value in doing so). This entity would own the brand and be a guardian of the purpose and principles.  I would then imagine a number of projects that operate under or in association with the brand. In order to use te brand you need to sign up to the purpose and principles and agree what % of the earnings go to Edgeryders Ltd and what would be retained by the project leaders. I wouldn’t expect you would have any employees of Edgeryders Ltd (not initally at least) - you would have a board (paid a minimal amount to cover time and expenses). You would also need some strong processes to make sure:

  • quality is maintained;

  • everyone is held to acccount by someone else;

  • important decisions affecting the group are made collectively;

This is not completely unlike the model of Apache Software Foundation (their software powers 70% of the world’s servers). They are project led but have a charity that owns the brand and whose board members (unpaid members of the Apache community) set policy.

I am sure there must be similar legal forms to the Company limited by guarantee in France, Germany and other EU countries, and for tax reasons apart from anything else it might be better to have the entity in the Eurozone and not in this island floating off France.

1 Like

My hat is off

Patrick, this is great input. My humble thanks. Nadia will probably want to be in touch with more questions…