Slow calm reply
Hi guys, thought it best to wait a little before replying
It was great to talk to @Alberto on Saturday. We had a fun, light weight and inspiring conversation over a lovely dinner at the unMonastery. There was absolutely nothing strategic going on. Our chat was in full view of everyone, and if any sin was committed it simply came from the positive energy generated. I’m truly sorry if any trouble or stress was genrated by this.
I’d like to talk about the content brought up here and continue the conversation over on the much neglected Viral Academy group which I’ll be posting a lot more to in the coming days. Over the last 4 weeks I’ve been here in Matera I’ve been discussing with @Ben about the structural problems of this first prototype of the unMonastery concept. Change is not easy, especially with a concept held so dearly and with a group of people that have been living together day and night in the same space, yet these discussions were positive and open. @Ben is in a very difficult position, and we have all been doing everything we can to support him, and make this project a success. It is the structural problems though that have made this process of necessary change hard, and the pressure for results has been enourmous. The more the pressure the easier it is for people to snap and become defensive.
The first problem was that the original project was structured as a rotating group of 10 or so individual projects living in the same space. Ben agreed that one project/one person wasn’t a good idea and brought it up in our last meeting (Global Strategy Summit at the unMonastery 2), The second and related problem was that there was no explicit place for individual projects to come together and seek overlaps. The group comes from very different backgrounds, and group work differs in each speciality. Group theatre work differs from community co-living, which differs from community engagement which in turn differs from engineering or software project management. In the time I’ve been here we had one planning meeting, which rapidly dissolved into an understandable confusion of approaches. Planning therefore consisted of daily 15 minute reports back as to what each individual had done during the day.
In this framework the only way to seek collaboration was on a small tasks, based on approaching people one-on-one. There simply was no physical space to discuss any significant pooling of resources, time or ideas. Add to this two very significant other factors - pressure to deliver results, and hands off leadership, and I would argue that even the most open and collaboration minded group of individuals would struggle. The greater the pressure the more inclined individuals are to knuckle down and concentrate on their own outputs, and without someone whose job it is to look at the big picture and initiate meetings it is asking an awful lot of people to hope for a collaborative structure to emerge by itself in such a short time frame.
EdgeRyders are doers. The culture is one of a do-ocracy. Each individual tends to be strong willed and motivated to speak through action - long meetings are an anathema. Talking to Ben before the Global Strategy Summit I pointed to the problem of changing culture, and the need to take at least a full day planning this. Even with a simple agile planning session to organise the next weeks work, it is strongly recommended to take a full day. A significant shift in strategy and group culture takes at least this. However, this would have been very difficult to talk the group into, even half a day out of individual schedules is met with understandable resistance. The 2 hours meeting we had failed even to report back, and we never got down to the task of looking closely at rationalisation of resources and project overlaps.
It is with this background that the current mini-flame war errupted. And it brings me to the other major structural problem that the unMonastery has. And this one is unavoidable. It is due to end at the end of May. Everyone is trying very hard to contribute to the possibility of the project continuing, but in the meantime it makes it super hard for all the projects here to gain traction. It was a discussion with @Marc about an Open Culure Festival for Matera that the an idea came up that could address this issue.
Together with @Marc we black-hatted the ideas for the festival we had discussed (handing out open source software, creating a growing map of local resources, running a Creative Commons Film Festival etc). The problem @Marc identified was that he didn’t want to do another event where people turn up, watch, participate, and then there is no follow-up. The solution we thought up together was to leave as a legacy, a local open-source server, and then to run monthly online hackathons to add to or further develop open-data or open source tools for the community.
The follow up could then further be facilitated by offering prizes to members of the local community that contributed most to the development of this open cultural resource for the community - and my proposal was that members of the EdgeRyders community with an interest in open culture could offer a “residency” in their homes. I for one would offer for people from Matera to stay in my flat in London, and based on previous discussions on this theme I’m sure others would. Visually we could show these links from the OpenStreetMap of Matera to places on offer for a residency, and this would make a powerful visual symbol of both the growing local culture facilitated by the unMonastery project, and the cultural exchanges and international connections that EdgeRyders brings to the initiative.
Is this practical? Which brings us to the question of resources (@elf-pavlik notwithstanding My proposal to @Alberto was with regard to using the EdgeRyders Viral Academy budget to support the online initiative, which would allow us to provide the follow-up to this event and the potential closing of the unMonastery to at least the end of the year, and possibly all the way to a festival in 2015. This is I believe a great synergy between the Viral Academy project and the unMonastery. Maybe we got carried away in our conversation, and although I feebly tried to cast doubt on the idea, there is no doubt that we possibly took it too far in our conversation in terms of actual physical occupancy and extension of the unMonastery project (something that I am not sure I could personally do, or that the budget would tolerate).
However I believe in a soft-yes to early stage ideas - as I believe we all should. Running with an idea and exploring it’s potential is something that both the unMonastery and EdgeRyders should excell at, and I fear that many people in this thread have been too negative too early.
Life is hard enough in Matera figuring out how to deliver real results in a difficult situation without each other making things harder. People have been hurtful and people have been hurt. It’s time for some healing, mutual support, trust and some hard thinking.