Help make sense of a collective project design process

Hi everyone!

After 2 full days of intense, challenging and intellectually stimulating discussion at the Social Cohesion, Research and Early Warning Division of the Council of Europe it was convened that the Edgeryders has played its role and will be put on hold. Nevertheless, it was agreed to devise a new project aimed at tackling social exclusion, precariousness and poverty in a collaborative and co-responsible way in 30 cities/towns around Europe. Feeding from the legacy, expertise and methodologies of the Edgeryders and SPIRAL projects, a common understanding was reached on the structure and technicalities of the new project. This time the ambition is to create the world’s largest start-up for social change.

This common vision about the unfolding of (grassroots) local processes rests on four main principles:

  1. Progressivity – upward mobility of the ones most at risk, ensuring sustainable access to basic services and rights, reduce polarization, inequality and social divide.
  2. Practical empathy building (love and trust) – enabling a space free of stigmatization, and dis-incentivizing the stereotypes in the community by making new connections and improving their local areas.
  3. Creating common goods by resourcefully re-using, re-imagining and connecting assets and resources thus creating a sense of genuine ownership of the local processes
  4. Public consciousness about universal human dignity through “hands-on doing”, learning, sharing and other creative elements.

Surfing through 26 pages worth of minutes and loads of personal notes, we broke down the content of what has been discussed into 40+ main points and details concerning the new process. So far, they are structured 3 parts: the technical details concerning the web development, software and communication, the social/offline component and points that are unclear or lack mutual agreement in the team.

As an offspring of this process, there is a grid of target community audience structured along the lines of self-selection - targeted selection and availability or projects and initiatives. We are currently creating solid 1 page documents around these four categories, specifying the ‘carrots’ for the people in those categories, process design ideas and drawing inspiration from examples of great projects.

Throughout the discussion the Edgeryders members and their stories were wired into the design process. The work seems so much more creative, exciting and reassuring there’s inspiration comming from the whole community.

Here are some of the hottest topics of the ongoing discussion. Your thoughts, advice and spirit to figure them out.

  • We focused on identifying challenges and points of pain to be dealt with and finding proper ethical ways of approaching and interacting with people on the ground. How to keep them in the loop despite of their precarious situation, limited amounts of time they can dedicate, lack of confidence in themselves and in the ones around them (institutions, peers, NGOs, external actors)?
  • We are thinking of ways to create and surface support of a local community around an idea or initiative. Also, how to help people develop a new vision of the realities around them and devising an a practical guide to social change for “practical dreamers”?  :)
  • How to attract credibility and create credentials, incentives around an initial activity. How not to lose the Edgeryders community on the way?
  • How to involve the community in designing the new website, especially those that are not tech savvy? The CoE wants to see collective processes emerging that are comprised of different types of publics rather than individual initiatives. How to make the space more inclusive language-wise?
  • How to balance the success of individual initiatives with the collective benefit of the community while keeping in line with the objectives outlined in the project?
  • What other ‘carrots’ or ‘hooks’ we can use for citizens, organizations, businesses and institutions we could use to get them interested and involved?

What do you think?

Keep the discussion going here -

Carrots are for donkeys and hooks for fish you intend to chew…

Language is important, beware the monikers of those who seek personal liberty through public coercion.

Excuse me for being a hard ass but its important. It is good work you are doing, but adapt only the good stuff because there are things inherently wrong with the coralling of donkeys and the netting of fish these days. People are in need of supportive engagement, there is a lot of suffering on at the moment, despite the expenses credit of the lesser felt people round certain power cirlces.

I am all for the EU project, for what it is doing, what it has done, however, it has to realise a collective facing of this situation. We are all suffering the sickness right now and it will not be healed for any one of us without a panancea that works for each and everyone. We slowly come to appreciate the collective nature of a our shared psychical environment as we near a critical level of upset in the EU. We are all aware of the consequences of trying to use focal power in this situation, it simply doesnt work, the aim is to broaden rather than to narrow and this is important despite many thinking of it as wordy flourish.

Ok rant over now to the solid points. (by the way I am totally open to constructive criticism and am learning like everyone else so if you feel some issue with what I say, do bring it up)

You’re right. Transparency & real participation is an insurance

against our own personal shortcomings, prejudices, myopias etc. and their consequences. More eyes, minds and hearts make it both easier and so much more demanding to be true to our own ideals :slight_smile:


and yet tis a myth that those shortcomings, prejudices and myopias were our own to begin with. We are learners, becoming who and what we are through how we be, collectively. Society teaches a lot of dumb shit, the key is to learn to unlearn and to relearn, and we do this by finding our community through our values…this can go either way, and so the more flags and bells signifying the right general direction the better.

And now to mind and thought…

About the primary poiunt there are a few areas, in a holonic bvreakdown it might look like this:

Financing/Asset Acquisition - Policy Mediation - Placemaking - Program Planning - Program Delivery

These are interlinked rather than ordered, each pair has an inverse and there are 25 in total.

Looking at these it is possible arrive at a clear solution based methodology for development.

Where I am from people are lacking simple things, the specialisational methodology of the divisive approach of  politics+consumerism has broken down local meeting points, take Ireland for example, we run about thirty years behind the true west and yet are unpredictable in that we tend to surprise everyone once in a while with flash developments. At the moment the main meeting places have ceased to function, the chuch has broken down and no-one can afford to go to the pub, its shameful but its true. The antidote is placemaking. We feel connected somewhat to a ‘real-world’ situation, but most are left to isolation and to fanciful illusion and this is not only morally and ethically wrong, conequentially it is dangerous.

Why is it important to have a place to go? There are many reasons, the most primary is information exchange. One man or woman shouting from the rooftops is not much good to anyone, there is a community communication at work in all natural systems that generate complx order from the seeming chaos of the random, we can all appreciate that by now if we choose to investigate. Currently, If we have no collectivelly established glocalised communications infrastructure that is cohesive then we are in trouble of largescale fractionalisation of different interest groups, using various fragmented communication structures with no general cohesion. In informational terms its a mess and in terms of actual life it is disconnection, basically what we have here, us on the internet working for a world we are not part of and us in the world working actually which seemingly has little to do with the world of information and more to do with emotion.

If this divide is as pervasive as it seems then it should have some function, and the function has to serve the well being of everyone involved in such a way as to promote their mutual understanding. Over on P2P at the moment they are talking about all moving to one place ion America…well thats like us all moving to Brussels and its bullshit really…definitely in terms of a singular solution. We have to get around the ivory towers and to do this requires exceptionally acuitous foresight and the appropriate design to go with it, basically, it requires more than one mind can muster and demands the facilitation of collective processes that turn information into action through communication in hands on work across the board- whatever that means to you.

If ‘boredom breeds the devils work’ and fear is the opposite of love then communication and activity are the remedy to stagnation. Confidence is reflected light as is anything else, if there is no trust, no community, then there can be no confidence, therefore a signifdicant key to all of this is to establish communication and mutually supportive structures. Dumb silence will not do, and peoples fears of inadequacy can only be overcome in the experiential case of that not being true , which is condition dependent. The myth of the the mechanically self-contained self is a joke, we are more than self-actualizing here, we are mutually self-actualizing according to an experience based lesson in collective consciousness. (the genie is out of the bottle , get over it !!! )

To engage community we do what we are now doing except with our two feet and a finger for doorbells in the real world. We are not trying to generate support for ideas we come up with in a lab, this is equivalent with architects fucking up the environment with their emotional creations being slotted into a shared world, it has poor effects on the perception from all sides. We have to design solutions based on the problems in the area that we understand from the perspectives of a balanced set of the age spread and gender distribution of the area of concern. Action, short of divine, is always a reaction to something and so its necessary to tune the will to the collective rather than run around barking ‘orders’.

Involving the community in the design of the website…do you mean the local on the ground community or the edgeryder community? In the case of the former there is the possibility of local features by virtue of collective mapping and communication at the local level generated by this process, I have layed out my contributions on this here:

Balancing individual with the collective successes demands further thought the question itself is already premature because we first need an understanding of the ‘options for’ engagement. I mean there is everything from crowdfunding, through social finance and philanthropy, to localised fund raising initiatives and everything in between and thats just in terms with coming up with the resources, the resources will only attract around a design, a plan, and so we have to ask what successes are you talking about? How are they to be achieved? What distinguishes a personal from a social initiative? Do you imply a market based solution as in soc.ent. activity in contrast\addition to a  cooperatively owned social business layer, or is it more of an impetus to plan along the lines of partnering EU funding with personal projects for ‘public benefit’ , because if this is the case then what is the reason for reinventing the wheel?

I dont like carrots and hooks, I like possibilities, and like art and beauty, their worth are assessed in the eye of the beholder. We cannot assume that certain things will appeal to all people, they won’t. But, we can safely say that certain tools appeal to certain social groupings, be they politicians, artist, or bankers, and taking those into account will put everyone on equal footing because the work is already being done from so many routes of approach, for now they are all disparate, but not for much longer. Creative social financing can work with tools from the political domain such as EU funds/tax redeployment, with the impact investment and philanthropic communities through their social investment funds and grants, with the general public online through culturally engaged and viralised crowdfunding strategies, and through local engagement with community development of social financing methods which include all of the older methods of fundraisers and local community events dedicated to local social investment. All of these various routes can and will meld.

Great points - add them the list

Hey Eimhin!

Thanks for you input! There are some points you made that I need to better understand/digest.

Here’s what we’ve also put together as a working document. Feel free to leave your comments here.

Some basic questions

Hello Andrei and others! I’m coming from this discussion of the new software features, and while it’s really creative and inspiring we’re currently stuck because we realized that, before dicussing features, we need an agreed-upon vision (aka: priorities, paradigm) for the new project, and hence, the new software. The big idea. It seems here’s the place to discuss that.

From that background, I still have basic questions about the new project:

  • Could you publish these "40+ main points and details concerning the new process" you mentioned? As that seems to be the project's boundaries, including the "technical details concerning the web development, software and communication".
  • Are the 30 European cities that will take part in this project already selected? If not, what's the process for it?
  • How do we know we succeeded to tackle "social exclusion, precariousness and poverty" in these 30 places? Some metrics from the SPIRAL project maybe? Is success measured at all, and if yes, does it fit into the big idea if the software keeps track of it?
  • From the past meetings and the Edgeryders 1.0 context, how do you folks intend the Edgeryders 2.0 platform user's experience to be? Because to me, that seems to be a good way to grasp the "big idea" for the new software. I'm asking for both the users' feelings and activities (s)he can do there. So for example, is it more about the emotional support in a "love and trust" environment that Andrei mentions, or more about heavy action for "creating common goods"?)
Let me put it straight: I'm quite frightened by what it means, software-wise, to include all these "citizens, organizations, businesses and institutions", with a project or not, whether they come or we have to look for them. That would mean pretty much everybody, right? Now a software to help everybody can have no specialized features for nobody. That all-purpose software is basically like a word processor, which you can use for everything from invoices to novels and newspapers, but it's the optimum for exactly none of these. So for us tech folks to come up with great features, we need a more specific vision than "bring everybody together and fight social exclusion, precariousness and poverty". That's why I ask for the 40+ process details and other material that can inform the software design process.

Before reading this mission report, I had the impression that Edgeryders 2.0 is about connecting and supporting existing local self-help projects in these 30 cities, inspiring new ones like them, and bringing their issues also to the policy level. Something like that is workable for designing a specialized software around it. If it is much broader, the only thing software can offer is being an all-purpose communication tool. Think a meshup of a forum, social network, resource directory and map. But there would not be specialized features which are only relevant for some people, like a how-to wizard for actionable local project instructions.

Thinking about this again, the “all-purpose communication tool” idea is not bad either. Very reusable. But anyway, we have to know what kinda software we should create :wink:


I still think it can done from a general foundation with very basic features that can plug in other programs already built to purposes as requested/devised from/by users.

Am I blind somehow, is there something I just dont get?

It’s a question of what effort we can handle

A general foundation with basic features is definitely doable, and the current Drupal basis of Edgeryders is actually quite a good choice for that. Making it a good all-purpose communication tool would be possible with the developer resources we have (currently), but not more. That’s what I tried to say.

Drupal comes with a great plugin system, thousands of plugins to choose from, or to add your own. But so far, we don’t have the developers to do that on top of the general-purpose tool. It would be great if we had, but we’re just at the start of creating an open source developer community and do not have much other options for finding additional developers.

So, when planning what we can create right now, it’s either a good general tool or a good specific software. And to use our resources wisely, I proposed to define the platform purpose better and then go for the specific one. Because it delivers real added value to its audience that is not to be found yet on the Net, like comfortable features that really take effort from the users.


I see your point, and its a good one, and still, if we are planning for a pretty massive expansion in activity then I would choose the general modus and count on the programmers coming in to build this with us in light of resources being allocated, resources that are both treaditional monetary and also resources that can be self created within the system by users using the platform to develop and plug in tools for sharing and exchanging according to alternate methods developed by collaborational groups.

For instance, I have friends in the music world making the most amazing music in the world (to these ears) and then friends making amazing films and each are trading with the other, scores for video work and vice versa, building an app to facilitate this is easy-ish and god knows there are programmers in every nook and cranny in Europe at this stage between all the hacker labs around. Lots of people are learning to work the windows 8 app development roll out, there were free classes being given all over the place and oh so many hackathons and code-a-thons going on. I am a bit of a futurist if I need a fitting category, and right now it looks like this.

I base this on the understanding of the speed at which we use and ditch and reinvent new software. It generally has only a little longer shelf life than the hardware on which it operates when it comes to programs that haven’t got dedicated teams maintaining and developing features. If this scenario holds, then we shot ourselves in the foot by building the set , purpose specific model, it does what it does for a short time and then  either we are forced to create new software of the whole thing grinds to a halt in failure in technology being imitated by failure of the real life correlative. On the other hand if you build it open-plan, so basic that its easy to add to and so open that anyone can do so, then things get interesting.

Again its the ‘light touch’ approach. Now I realise this is not what you had chosen, but its only fair to elaborate on the importance of this issue, because it sets a serious and ultimately unavoidable limitation to go for the purpose focal version of the Edgeryders 2.0 platform. In fact I’m sick to the back teeth of 2.0s we are already way past that and at this stage 2.0, as in social media, is already crying out for a next level, so realistically we have a choice. People are sick of facebook, they are sick of the privatisation and sale of their information and generally it is becoming more and more obvious that something is either already happening, or needs to happen to fill the gap. People are kind of sick of cute cats and inspirational quotes and diversion. So many hours go into fb engagement and to no end. If a sufficiently developed system could take its place, be legally and structurally sound and operated in such a way as to empower people to  actively with the world collectively, then we are onto something.

The reason that the CoE wants to hear from publics instead of from individuals is that individuals are dangerous, mainly because power is corruptive of those foolish enough to believe themselves the wielder as opposed to the wielded. There simply is no taming to be done, when collective activity ensues it unleashes a collective voice that tends to voice the side of social justice, which it aggregates. Look at Anonymous, a bunch of the most idiotic and bored geeks on something as random as 4-chan ended up as a movement that is capable of taking on the Israeli government as it is it engages in war with Palestine. This is serious and it is happening. Now we have a choice…

Do we try to stick a finite cork in an infinitely large bottle and hope the message never gets out, do we say ‘fuck it’ and sit back and see what happens, or do we actively engage in the naturalisation of globally conscious self-organization? The turning gyre of time halts for no human being, not even for the corporate or political being formed of consens, and so if we are to make the right choice we need to act morally, responsibly, and in tune with not our own ideas, but with that collective we purport to support.

Some short answers

Hi Matthias, here’s some responses at each of your questions, I’ll be quick cause we’re still in the office…

  1. Here’s the link to the requirements we’ve come up with, it’s really a work in process and some are pretty vague.

2& 3. 30 European cities is merely a target, of course there can be more… Most of them are benefitting from a vaste amount of work done through the SPIRAL project, a rather standardized approach of collecting data on citizens’ well being and how they see themselves contributing by putting together their own resources. This was mainly done through phisical gatherings. The work of the Council has been to facilitate these workshops with diverse groups of people: think of pensioneers, students, engineers, prisoners etc… So there are some metrics, but rather descriptive of status quo, so far we don’t know how we’ll evaluate impact of specific action. We do have a criteria for process, and that is making sure projects are developed by collectivities and use collective resources.

  1. About the user experience, I guess we’ll see more specifications at #lote2, but for now the supporting of relationships and trust, and conversations that generate p2p support, like we had in Edgeryders1, is implicit. The real challenge is to weave this knowledge towards action. So to answer your question, it is more about heavy action, about establishing processes to support that action, so others can build something with their communities based on processes proven able to be transferred/tailored elsewhere.

So on one hand yes you were right in your intuition, but the meshup of different purposes is a bit there, mainly because these processes involve a lot of stakeholders, and we want as many of them in this new interaction.

Looking forward to all meet and communicate these easier…:slight_smile:

Thanks a ton :slight_smile:

Noemi, a heartfelt thanks to you. That helps a good deal already!!

Another question to find out what software we want

Just got another idea for a question that will help us find out what software we want:

“What kind of user-generated content do you expect / want to see on the Edgeryders 2.0 platform?”

Alternatives include any number of the following, plus everything else you can think of:

  • "Blog-type updates of the local projects supportd by the Edgeryders framework. To communicate the project status and major successes, maybe with video updates. People can then comment this and offer help / inspirations / cooperation. If the project has an existing blog outside the Edgeryders site, these can be pulled in automatically."
  • "Mission reports and comments as before: one-off presentations of the own project, and discussions about it for socializing and mutual inspirations and help."
  • "It should be rather the communications of an action-centric workplace. Like with a forum for getting questions answered with the help of other local projects and initiatives. And with an "interchange of the alternative economy", where local projects and individual Edgeryders can develop a mutually supportive, Europe-wide economy of their goods and services. Maybe inlcuding alternative currency."
  • "Not too much user content at all, because content creation is no purpose in itself. We rather want to provide resources to the users like how-tos, learning resources for tech and social skills, video documentaries on inspiring projects and the like."
You know, it's all about this whole difficult thing of communicating between social and tech minded people and finding out what each other means. But I'm getting better, don't I? :D

You sure are!

You are doing a fantastic job Matthias!

Website co-design, plus language issues

More on two questions from above:

How to involve the community in designing the new website, especially those that are not tech savvy? The CoE wants to see collective processes emerging that are comprised of different types of publics rather than individual initiatives.

In the platform software discussion, Petros came up with the idea to use a collaborative decision making tool for that, like Loomio. If we choose an open source tool (like loomio is), we could nicely integrate it into the Edgeryders site itself to let everybody contribute to decisions on how to develop the software further. Diaspora uses it for transition to a community project, kinda the same task we have for Edgeryders now, right?

With this tool, every platform user would be included in decisions about the platform. (There is no point in letting those have a say on that who do not use the platform at all. Or is there?)

How to make the space more inclusive language-wise?

What we can not handle is translating everything to every European language, like the EU does in their legislation. So:

For reading: For now, English is used as a lingua franca here. Like with every language, understanding it will be less a problem than writing it. So to read English, a nice word-translation browser plugin like Hyper Translate (which I found to be the best) might be sufficient. We can also do a tighter integration with Google Translate.

For writing: Currently, people can use their native language for writing, but it’s rarely used and also hardly understandable by most others (Google Translate may get the rough idea over, but not more …). So, proposal: We can add a human translation feature into the software. It works like this: write in any language, check what language it is in, and after posting the report / comment, a mail will go out to a community member who can translate the thing to English and ideally is also interested in the topic itself. Also possible: people write in English but click a checkbox “please do a language clenaup before publishing”. Additionally, we can recommend a set of great software tools to those who have some command of English but don’t feel comfortable writing in it without some support. (There’s really a ton of free resources out there, see for example my language tools collection for English <-> Spanish.)

Human, too human

Matt, here’s a design principle: it’s all about humans. Do everything you can to attract smart, generous people; and use their time and effort sparingly.

As far as the decision-making tool is concerned, I would probe Pietro. I would prefer a worse tool that comes with someone who is enthusiastic and prepared to put work into it than a better one, but unmanned (I don’t know Loomio).

As far as the translation goes, I think it might be a long shot to commit the community to do human translation. Translating is just about the most tedious work there is! I personally don’t recommend making users a promise that we are not sure we can’t keep: I am afraid “write in whatever language, we’ll get it translated for you” is a risky promise. A machine translation that can be improved upon by the reader would be more realistic.

Also, there is something about not giving a starving man a fish, but teaching him to fish; likewise, a forgiving environment in which to communicate in broken international English could teach Edgeryders more confidence in the language. Your English-to-Spanish resources are just fantastic, definitely a step in the right direction.

Thanks, very helpful :slight_smile:

Ok, I’ll make contact with Pietro about the Vilfredo tool and see how we can collaborate. It’s nice to let it be a community project also in that aspect. His tool looked complex at first glance, so maybe we have to simplify some concepts to really empower the non-techie users with a role in the decision making …

Regarding the language issue, I agree with you now that human translation by the community is not really feasible. From a tech point of view, I’d now propose to implement a software interface to Amazon Mechanical Turk's human translation services, but that’s (1) supporting precarious jobs and (2) so probably not the “collective coresponsible action” style that CoE intends for this project. (You see, you’ll have to remind me of the “all about humans” design principle from time to time when my ideas get too nerdy. smilez)

Yep, a forgiving environment, plus a set of English writing tools behind a button in the Drupal text editor seems sweet. As per my experience with Spanish now, nothing’s better to learn a language than practice …


Small input here. Maybe if there are long convoluted thoughts, as happens with innovative ideas, there could be short summaries, as recommended practice, so that translation - automagic translation, that is - will be easier.

Summary for translation: A short summary of the main idea is good for translators.

“How to shut up and listen”

Just got a recommendation for this very cool TEDx video: a NGO guy explaining how they learned to shut up and listen in order to really help the locals. Seems to hit the Edgeryders original philosophy to the point, and can help us to remember that original approach … . Maybe somebody can pass it on to the CoE side as well?