Edgeryders transition: getting the "big picture"

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


Thanks for the amazing executive summary. It is not for me to engage in validation, but I find the short-version ethno report very useful!

Slow purge out of systems

Hey, hello! Sorry for my silence this summer: I’m gardening and spending most of my time with hands and nose in the dirt, and rest of the day, I’m in coma rolling over my bed, recuperating from the unusually high heat and herculean transformation of garden into self-productive food and water resilient system. It’s giving results already: I’ve been eating fresh delicious vegetables and fruits all summer, and producing family meals costing almost nothing.

Very good wrap-up of the Edgeryders community! Looking forward reading more. It’s inspiring and an excellent description of the participants.

I specially appreciated the conclusion (‘The fact that their trajectories are individualized by no means implies that institutional support is not needed’). Although the Edgeryders participants have shown to be extraordinary individuals and can certainly do a lot with little means, they are not magicians and cannot make wonders without ANY support. The “inappropriate” institutions cannot expect to continue indulging in their “inappropriate” behaviour forever, while letting the youth gravitate on their own in attempts to fix the problems and build a new society. We’re all in the same boat. However, elites with selfish preoccupations seem to slowly being purged out of the systems. And eventually, we (the people) might be left with a majority of decision makers, business and government managers caring about a little bit more about the others.

Glad to see Canada as part of the top 10, and also that it’s not only applying to the young per se, older people also qualifying.

‘Not be taken for granted’, humm… that surely would be really nice…

(For now, I feel I’m not taken for anything. Surviving is my preoccupation NO. 1.)

Getting the overview & identifying impact

Noemi thank you so much for putting together the summary, it’s very helpful to get an overview and puts some things in perspective. I think one of the most challenging aspects of navigating the world and the challenges I come across in my personal professional and social paths is getting a sense of the bigger picture. Where does it make sense to make a personal investment…what things are within my control and sphere of influence and which things completely outside my influence can and do have big effects on my life. Taking part of information via media consumption is really not enough as we tend to live in echo-chambres. Take the Olympics in London as an example. Based on what is going on in my twitter and FB feeds the overall experience of the London games is negative. But when I was in London for a brief visit yesterday and had conversations with people this couldn’t be further from the truth. The experience on the ground is really very different from the information I was getting was implying…What questions do you have after reading the paper? Do you feel it answers any of the questions you had about navigating you own transition? Any areas you want us to explore in more detail or that you would like to ask others in the community?

Unlocking pressure to perform a certain way

The ways Edgeryders have to be making the transition, as illustrated in the paper, reveal a number of personal strategies that feel immensely useful for me personally… I have learned a lot about personal resilience in navigating my transition. In my case it’s more psychological because before I felt there was a lot of pressure from older generations and the society (community is too big a word for this): for which making a living with integrity has a lot to do with status and coherent & ascending career paths. This felt so even before the crisis and huge unemployement rates. It seems Edgeryders are restoring the meaning of integrity, and that helps unlock the pressure and opens up a world of possibilities in terms of making a living and being happy about it.

I think an important function of this Handbook will be the re-building of trust in ourselves and giving hope to our generation. Gilda was mentioning it in the beginning of Edgeryders project, and I think we can now check this off our list!

About remaining questions, one that’s been in the back of my head for a while now, also looking at the big picture, is how do we link Edgeryders new culture of working to those people who don’t know there’s a new culture of working which can explain what they think is #failure or inability to ascend, to make a living “successfully”? A commentator on the full report doc asks: “What about young people who do find employment, but are prevented from growing personally and professionally because of a job that doesn’t fit their aspirations and interests?”

How can they and others, not so much ryding edges, maximize their opportunities? is this where better policies come in?

Another thing I wonder is: how do we translate portofolio careers into socially accepted norms and professional paths? I wrote a post here explaining in more detail, if anybody is interested to help with it…

Nicely done

Thanks for this, I read the longer report last night, in fact it was early morning and I was quite tired and to be honest, the language and structure were a bit much for me. It could well have been the tiredness, I will try again today. This summary is much more digestible.

There are some things it leaves out though. In my experience of the edgeryder community it has been fairly apparent that the will of the members is one of global change. The actions are local, I agree, and yet that is probably due to the fact that scope is not really an option for most in this bracket. Would that there were more ‘maker spaces’ , incubators and hub-like or hacker-space-ish type places in Europe I imagine this local action would very quickly widen in scope.

From what I know of people like Nicolas, Matthias, Helen Findore, Lucas, Jacky, Bridget, Patrick, Dante, Tiago, Elf…the list goes on…) it seems pretty clear that implying the active space of edgeryders as ‘local’ is perhaps missing something important, many of the people here are working, albeit in local ways, on global problems, and in ways institutions could not appropriately address without serious waste of resources due to their structure.


Agree! The full report does explain that the local dimension is linked to the global concerns …

 “…if we want to change something we have to start from our own environment even if the challenge is very hard to achieve.” (Irene Fazio)

One of the most striking facets of the project as a whole has been the ways in which Edgeryders’ actions have mediated between local and global concerns. As such, the scale(s) at which they act constitute an important analytical focus. Edgeryders are demonstrably keen to act at a variety of scales – local, regional, national and international – and in both physical and virtual spaces. A key question that emerged in the early analysis of this project surrounded how these multi-scalar interactions knitted together. Viewing the project in its later stages, one clear pattern dominated.

The focus in participants’ mission reports is often on geographically local action or local challenges. [… examples of projects implemented at local levels]

Finally, it is important to consider how Edgeryders connect their local actions with the global issues that inspire them.  In one sense this is about making use of the networks of resources and collaborators that allow their projects to happen – discussed in detail above.  The internet and other digital technologies are, undoubtedly, the key connectors here. 

.Do you think it needs to be explained with more clarity in the Handbook or that it’s just I may have overlooked the nuance in the summary? 


Glocal and holistic ?

“So the analysis written by our ethnographers Rebecca and Valentina illustrates Edgeryders’ ability to be creative, dynamic and innovative in the context of sporadic external support.”

I think that there are mostly reports on local actions because of sporadic external support.

Some edgeryders’ ideas and projects are scalable, some are just at a global scale. There is in edgeryders community a lot of unexploited talent as for the youth in general.

What seems to emerge is an accurate understanding and consciousness on global issues as well as local ones, because there are seen as inter-related.

“The focus in participants’ mission reports is often on geographically local action or local challenges.[…]it is important to consider how Edgeryders connect their local actions with the global issues that inspire them”

From my personal experience and from what i understand from others’, many people here have started to think global before going local. I mean, many local actions come from a global understanding on the key issues and they are answers to these global issues.

I may be wrong but from how you explain the local actions’ importance, it’s the other way around, or perhaps it’s the divide between local and global that doesn’t seem adequate.

OK summary so far

  1. Translating portofolio careers into socially accepted norms and professional paths: Who has an interest and responsibility to contribute towards ensuring this happens? What is a reasonable strategy for achieving it and who needs to be involved in those efforts? What resources are needed by whom in order for it to happen?

  2. Relieving pressure from older generations and society to have coherent & ascending career paths because that opens up a world of possibilities in terms of making a living and being happy about it.

  3. Helping young people who do find employment, but are prevented from growing personally and professionally because of a job that doesn’t fit their aspirations and interests to discover alternative ways of living and working.

  4. Re-building of trust in ourselves and giving hope to our generation

  5. Transnational collaboration between individuals around local initatives and movements that while they may be local in practice cannot be taken as indpendent from their interdependence with the global issues concerned. There is an accurate understanding and consciousness on global issues and local ones, as well as how they are interrelated, distributed amongst Edgeryders. This is useful talent that is not made use of as there is sporadic external support to enable individuals to collaborate and scale their projects.

6.Resources for member driven research and information aggregation initiatives are needed. I think we need resources and support to generate answers to our own questions, and not just be engaged in generating responses to questions or challenges posed by others. Getting to them is going to take some initial work If we are to learn from e.g. how the open data movement grew and started to get e.g. public institutions behind it that we would have to start them as a collective and then drive adoption of our initiatives and methodologies by organisations around - E.g knowledge about which sources of funding are available and de facto accessible as perceived by would be applicants or recipients is one of those initiatives.

Closing the gap…

Yes that is pretty clear, but still I feel that the distinction is too widely put, after all the types of reaction on the one level is in reaction to global-scale issues and often the methodologies incorporated are based on the approaches of movements that, though in practice locally, reflect global trends.

Without the local instance there is no global, I suppose, and so the practices I see being discussed, the commons, healthcare, resilience, currency/exchange, funding, policy creation, education, resource infrastructure, transnational collaboration, technological applications etc. have local activities related to them, but cannot be taken as independent from their interdependence with the global issues concerned.

I hope this helps, and I see that there may be some things that I

could be accused of overlooking; as in the direction taken with the type of information given to the CoE, the desiderata of outcome and so on. I can appreciate the need for local results, but the divide is not part of what I perceive as the general outlook of the edgeryder community who see in more ‘glocal’ terms. What do others think of this?