We are now in the phase of making sense of transition together, as a community and with the help of a small research team. The outcome of this process should be useful at the level of the individual Edgeryder. If we want the findings to have a chance at having an impact in the policy world we want it to also speak to individuals in institutions charged with addressing specific issues. It is a considerable challenge. So we are breaking it down into a number of steps, clustering the material into edible chunks that a small research team have helped read, analyse and put into context. We’re starting with a summary of the report submitted by Rebecca Collins and Valentina Cuzzocrea with ethnographic research findings from Edgeryders stories. Do you recognise yourself in the description? Are there questions or issues you feel should be included? Any questions of your own you would like help in getting answered? Please leave comments either below or directly on to the google doc: full report available
On being Edgeryders. A picture of young Europeans navigating their transition to an independent life.- summary -
The report is an analysis of textual material generated through the online platform until mid June, as well as comments after that date and discussions from the March mini-conference and June Living on the Edge conference. Valentina and Rebecca used WEFT QDA, a free qualitative data analysis software package. All codes will be shared online so that anybody wishing to run a search or their own analysis will be able to do so.
Who Edgeryders are:
- Geographic location of participants: France, Italy, UK, US; Spain; Germany; Sweden; Canada; Belgium; Romania (top ten)
- a majority are between 20-30 years old (although there are some regular contributors in their forties and fifties); typical age cannot be determined since the information wasn’t requested at sign up on the platform
- a majority have university education and many hold postgraduate qualifications; also, they are open to online learning services, highly ICT-literate and knowledge-hungry
Values and motivations
Edgeryders are committed to changing the world despite of a dire current socio-economic context and lack of governments’ support. The core motivations discussed in more detail throughout the report are integrity, passion, autonomy.
Risks Edgeryders are sensitive to:
- fear of exploitation: either by doing cheap labor to support oneself or use the extra time for meaningful work, or through unpaid work (example internships)
- criminalisation: especially in relation with efforts to enable commons
- marginalisation: feeling distanced from peers and communities or through actions considered “inappropriate” by institutions;
- failure to make the transition: deriving from the risk of living permanent precarious lives; there is a growing realisation that there are no longer “jobs for life”
Both real and virtual networks constitute a fundamental structure of support for Edgeryders: they provide an arsenal of inspiration, motivation, skills, guidance and mentoring, emotional support, and they are channels where individual projects can take off, through understanding of reciprocity, and the reputational mechanism. For some Edgeryders, peer networks are taking on characteristics associated with families. The latter are indeed the cornerstone of support, emotionally, but also financially.
The policy-relevant implication here is: who else should be bearing some of the risks – and enjoying some of the rewards – of Edgeryders initiatives?
Edgeryders values and skills are naturally at work in all their initiatives. When trying to implement own projects, they do so with innovative thinking, collaboration, dialogue and looking forward, attempting to improve their lives and also those of their peers and their communities’.
Edgeryders ways to live somehow fall into the “individualization thesis” (Baumann 2001, 2005; Beck 2000) in that they are in charge of their own destiny, and while they have an inclination towards self-reflection, they are also expansive in their option for connectivity, community, collaboration and communication. There is a propensity to go around the system and provide for themselves and others when services are missing, and this changes models of participation.
In their activities participants act most often through local action and a focus on local problems - leading to stronger community formation and citizenship. Alongside local commitment, geographical mobility is highly present, and with positive outcomes: enthusiasm for discoveries, openness to diversity, inclination to creative thinking and problem-solving. The benefits of travel and international mobility expressed by so many of the participants constitute an urgent call to promote mobility for all young people within Europe.
Finally, there’s a need to plead for more institutional support that can help make Edgeryders projects happen. Currently, their (local) initiatives benefit from a lot of network support and collaborations, aided by digital environments and technologies, but one wonders how much more impact they could have if given proper support (not necessarily monetary).
- Edgeryders desire to shape the world through making positive contributions in collaboration with their peers
- A common background participants share is that they “come from the Internet”
- The fact that their trajectories are individualized by no means implies that institutional support is not needed
- Edgeryders is a group of self-selected, priviledged citizens (in that they have looking forward, to the future views) and some voices are missing
- The positive results of this project should be an encouragement for institutions to open up similar channels for communication with groups, but the amount of positive initiatives, energy and willingness of this community to engage are extraordinary and should not be taken for granted