Handout from today's unMonastery Press Conference

unMonastery Information and Fact Sheet.


“When it comes to work it is increasingly difficult to reconcile making money with making sense. People do work to make a living. Others do work to make meaning. But the two works are not the same work.”

The unMonastery is an ambitious and radical response to the challenge of bridging this gap. It draws inspiration from the 10th century monastic life to encourage radical forms of social innovation and collaboration. A sort of lay, off-grid mendicant order striving for a society that can better withstand present and future systemic crises.

This place-based social innovation, is aimed at addressing the interlinked needs of empty space, unemployment and depleting social services by embedding committed, skilled individuals within communities that could benefit from their presence.

The unMonastery aims to develop a new kind of social space, akin to co-living and co-working spaces, drawing influence from both Monasteries and HackerSpaces, with a focus on the process of co-creation and co-learning between the community and unMonasterians.

At the core of the unMonastery concept is a desire to recreate the best social functions of the traditional monastery: by giving the participants a collective purpose, a chance to develop deep relationships with one another and a reduced need to generate personal income so time can be dedicated entirely to serving the local community and contributing to global efforts in creating new digital tools.

Fact Sheet:

  • The unMonastery is a Non-Profit project that aims to challenge existing dependency chains and economic fictions.
  • The unMonastery was developed in collaboration with EdgeRyders LBG, over the course of 18 months.
  • Edgeryders started out as a project by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, which after termination developed into an international community run social enterprise.
  • The unMonastery as a whole is defined by the place in which unMonasterians gather - and is not tied to a physical geographical location.
  • The unMonastery aims to establish a network of spaces throughout the world, which will work together but autonomously to prototype new solutions to common problems.  
  • The unMonastery is heavily indebted to the concept of HackerSpaces and borrows parts of the model to build an outward facing space that engages closely with its local community.  

unMonastery Matera. Prototype #1 - Summary:

The first prototype of the unMonastery is being built as a brave experiment in one of the oldest human settlements in Europe, the “Sassi” cave-dwellings in the historical neighbourhoods of the city of Matera in Southern Italy. Now recognised as the first UNESCO world heritage site of southern Italy. Matera, candidate city for the European Capital of Culture in 2019, is sighted by the unMonasterians as the natural birthplace for the unMonastery Prototype due to its deep relationship to early monastic orders and the role that monasteries played in past centuries.  

The gambit behind this collaboration is that living side by side, hackers and Materans discover and explore new paths to make the city more participative, open and resilient to future crisis.

Key information about unMonastery Matera!

  • unMonastery Matera is the first prototype of the unMonastery project, it is a brave experiment that aims to change the way in which we live and work together.
  • It is an international/worldwide project with a 200 years projected history - which believes in long term development over short term solutionism.
  • The unMonastery prototype brings 14 unMonasterians to gather in Matera - with individual projects designed to tackle existing social problems specific to the city.
  • The unMonastery aims to build bridges in Matera through a series of initiatives and partnerships with existing associations.
  • This prototype is designed to create a baseline model for the unMonastery that will enable rapid start-up and replication in other locations throughout the next 200 years. Each iteration aims to improve on the last.   
  • CheFare

What does unMonastery Matera offer to the city’s citizens?

  • From the 1st of March the unMonastery will operate an open door policy and encourage all the citizens of Matera to come and join us in our skill sharing sessions, workshops and collective experiments. This will be marked by an opening ceremony on the 1st of March.
  • The first series of workshops and skill sharing sessions at the unMonastery will include; Programming and Computer Science, Open Source Hardware Development, Basic Woodworking Skills, Live TV and Radio production, Film Making and Introductions to Open Source Software - this will expand as more unMonasterians join us in Matera.
  • unMonastery Initiatives:
    • unMonastery Analytics and Open Financing:

      We’re working with existing initiatives to develop news ways to track and reduce the use of natural resources consumed by the space - with help from the Open Energy Monitor and Open Banking Projects.

    • unMonastery Radical Transparency:

      The running of the project is based on developing a culture of radical transparency, with a desire to make visible all aspects of the process, including finances, decision making, individual profiles, energy use in order to set example for how other institutions might benefit from a transparent approach.    

    • unMonastery OSM Challenges:

      With a desire to support the Open Street Mapping Matera group in their efforts to create a free and detailed map of the city - unMonasterians will offer themselves up to map areas of the city specified by the citizen of Matera. This could include; dumped rubbish, disused buildings or broken street lamps.

    • unMonastery Sustainability Plan vs Business Plan

      The unMonastery isn’t interested in developing a business plan but instead a strategy towards sustainability focused on reducing dependencies from the monetary economy: obtaining the use of unused buildings, growing food and reducing energy consumption. Core to the prototype’s development will be the creation of a Sustainability Plan that can be used by other groups.

  • unMonastery Open Partnerships; aims to share the resources and opportunities it has with associations, institutions, groups and individuals based in Matera. We actively encourage existing groups to approach us and work together with us to establish new perspectives and projects throughout the city.
  • unMonastery Open Space Initiative; as part of the early development of the project, the unMonastery is intensively documenting the process for making use of disused property in Matera, in order to enable those living in Matera to create their own projects and make use of otherwise wasted spaces and resources.  

Individual unMonastery Projects:

  • Lucia Caistor-Arendar: developing an asset mapping tool which enables current and future unMonasterians to embed their projects within the place they are working, through the creation of “walking ethnographies” with people living and working in Matera.
  • David Bovil: unMonastery Radio and the Festival of Growing. The aim of the project is to use radio to create an innovative and sustainable local festival, focused on youth engagement and training, and establishing global connections.
  • Katalin Hausel: unGuide, tells the story our of collaboration with the city and the narratives that unfold. In order to develop a new site-seeing route, focused on the unknown parts of the city beyond the traditional tourist route through the Sassi.  
  • Maria Juliana Byck: a video production project created in collaboration with the young people of Matera and their elders.
  • Kei Kreutler: An introduction to computer science that aims to establish an open school for–and by–the community.
  • Dorotea Mar: upSkilling in Empathy, aimed at building foundations for better collaboration within the unMonastery and extending the work developed with local groups and connections.
  • Bembo Davies: Social dramaturgy: thinking about and tweaking the internal culture of the enterprise. Framing the interface with Materiani through raising the ritual elements of our gatherings - Bembo continues to maintain the role of scribe and archivist of the unMonastery project.
  • Maria Piera Sarra "Lois": designing, building and implementing a low-waste and short food supply chain for local producers.
  • Cristiano Siri: perfecting the interface between the city and its unMonastery.
  • elf Pavlik: crafting together a community managed and owned wireless mesh network.
  • Marc Schneider: an open-source system to drive solar panels.
  • Rita Orlando and Antonio Elettrico: designing the objects needed for unMonastic life.
  • Kathleen Cassidy: The Living Well – Bringing generations together to learn, share, play, take action and be present.
  • Francesco Pellegrino: Re-engineering Matera's water cycle for urban farming.

How everyone can work together with unMonasterians in Matera?

  1. Offline - Just drop by any time! we wake up at 07:00 and go to sleep after 10:00

    Palazzo del Casale, Rioni Sassi (Sasso Barisano), 75100 Matera

  2. Online - Visit http://matera.unmonastery.eu and jump right into the action

We start innovating creative ways to keep offline and online interfaces in sync!

What other people say about unMonastery:

This afternoon.

We had a press conference to mark our arrivial and the (near) completetion of the unMonastery building. We were joined by the whole of MT2019, the mayor, members of the municipality and the press. It was relatively relaxed and seemed as though it went well.

I wanted to share briefly the document we handed out to journalists which gives a forward thinking summary of what we’re currently working on and our future intentions. Any suggested edits, ideas and changes would be much appreciated, as this is likely to form the basis of content on the website we’re building for the project.

I really like it

It seems a well thought through summary, well done [Ben] and everybody. On

first reading, I could not recommend any significant improvement. My

suggestion is to let it rest for a while, and dust it off at the next public

outing. It won’t be long, you’ll see.