Mapping disruptors? Yes, please

Hi Edgeryders, 

I’ll use this post both as a personal introduction to the community and as an application to the position you’re calling for.

Here’s my story.

I’ve been communities window-shopping in Bucharest for almost two years now and it’s been one hell of a ride, so I got excited and hopeful when I found out that Edgeryders is using it’s disruption-identifying goggles on Bucharest - you’ll discover (and catalyze!) awesome things.

From start-up hubs, leadership communities and bootstrapped social enterprises to neighbourhood associations, autonomous cultural spaces and environmental protests, Bucharest is definitely happening. I’m not saying this as a nationalist (cosmopolitanism is where it’s at) nor as an entirely born-and-raised Romanian. Returning to native Bucharest as a fresh graduate after a 14-year stay in hectic Venezuela meant having to discover this city and its communities almost as a foreigner would. Lost in space and cultural references I didn’t get, in a mix of awe, anxiety and sometimes disappointment. Yet after 4 years of discoveries, I wouldn’t trade this for any other place (no, not even Berlin ;)). My excitement and confidence in the future of this city comes from the fact that the effervescence of communities in Bucharest is real and they need all the support they can get - I would love to help Spot the Future map it and connect it to the larger Edgeryders community.

Window-shoping for communities and projects with a cause wasn’t a passive journey or a side-activity. It was driven by the need to have control over my life and work and to use my skills for a project larger than myself (since climbing the corporate ladder, building a family or owning property weren’t the kind of things I was drawn to), so I began volunteering at several NGOs I felt close to (youth work in precarious communities, neighbourhood community organising, place-making and tactical urbanism in shrinking cities) while also building a community I felt was missing.

Addressing your questions,

(1) I’m currently most focused on, a community of Millennials discussing the big issues of early adulthood in a time of uncertainty but also of great potential for autonomy and self-starter culture. Based on our readers’ stories, interviews and events, we curate conversations on work, relationships, body image, identity and representation. The goal is to empower young women and men into making bold life choices by presenting a wider spectrum of livelihoods and lifestyles than mainstream media has to offer. It is a collaborative project meant to offer choice, solidarity and representation of diversity (of identities, ethnicities, sexualities, cultures, lifestyle, occupations). While still actively involved in the NGO projects mentioned above, HeyMarie is my main project at the moment.

(2) Monetising projects that aim at social change is a challenge encountered in each of the projects I contribute to. The way I try to solve them, at this point, is by getting this issue out in the open and hopefully starting a larger conversation about how social innovation can find funding without appealing to the charity argument. We must do better than that.

(3) Many incredible initiatives in Romania are still so disconnected that some don’t even know of each other, much less work together. Spot the Future can connect them to each other, and to a wider network. I see Spot the Future as contributing to the budding ecosystem of change-makers and social innovators that still fight individual battles when they’re in fact carrying out work that benefits their entire communities. Spot the Future could take stock of all these initiatives & makers, map and voice their pains and needs and potentially draft a guide to how to grow and be sustainable (even financially) in collaboration. For your 3 initiative challenge, I’d invite Casa Jurnalistului, Claca and a group of programmers for a hackathon on community-led citizen reporting tools.

That’s it for now. Happy to be joining the Edgeryders platform and very looking forward to making connection magic happen. \m/


“window shopping for communities”

I have been doing that too!! I have a draft spreadsheet somewhere where I put in names and links, but then I always think: are these real communities, do people move together in the same direction or are they just currently doing the same thing? Not to dismiss anyone, it’s just hard because community is overrated as a term, so whatever you found in Bucharest, I’m awfully curious to learn about.

I doubt you can even talk about collaboration - the meaningful one that happens with or without monetisation - outside the idea of a community or at least a context conducive to that which doesn’t skew the incentives - people go in for a reason, but then drop out just as quickly.  It could be why is onto something, the question is moving forward somehow and making it sustainable for you too. I would have never thought a website and content like that has only 1 committed person behind it. And lots of love from others of course, but one?! Boy.

Bucharest is new to me, but like yourself, I wouldn’t move out of Romania, at least for now. @Alberto says I’m a patriot, the good ol’ kind, which sounded weird, but come to think of it I am…

See you tomorrow in the skype call I hope. 12 Ro time, on skype.

It definitely is a stretch to call some initiatives communities and very true that it has become an abused term. My definition is that of people with shared interests that know of each other and see themselves as aiming at the same goal. Also agree that meaningful collaboration can only happen if there’s a shared sense of belonging, ownership, or some identity or purpose-based connection. Funnily enough, I sense that some of the more unstructured kind of networks are closer to that definition than those with formal mandates.

I’m just coming home from a park event whose purpose was to get the neighbourhood’s residents to sign a petition to stop building in public green areas and it got me thinking about what neighbourhoods are actually made of. My outsider’s impression was that of a relatively well-knit community, only to later hear the local organisers (themselves a spontaneous gathering of residents) say that they don’t even know each other (that is, the very members of the organising group, not the ±300 people that passed by the signing stand they set up). Some were known faces, but it was with this occasion that they got to talk and realise they all want the same thing - and that they have a chance of getting there together, only through a concerted effort. So maybe needing each other is what triggers it? In any case, what the conditions are for a community to emerge is no small question. Still ruminating on that one. 

I’ll gladly share my findings of community suspects in Bucharest with you - we can have fun picking them apart and triaging them into true-bloods, close-enough or pitifully wannabes. :wink:

HeyMarie was a collaborative effort from the start, it wouldn’t have existed otherwise. It had a loosely defined and constantly shifting editorial & events team (plus a permanent hardcore cheerleading squad), but there was always more than 1 person, or in any case, I never felt alone. Until I did, but that was almost on purpose. It happened when I realised the goal wasn’t being met in the existing format and that something needed changing. Now, after taking a few months of distance and doing some “field work” on how to plant seeds for communities to maybe grow from, I know that changing mentalities takes more than a couple of editions. Shocking, I know.  

Skype call? Didn’t know about it but the time works for me, definitely in. My id: alexandra.stef

the text format has a life of its own :))


The Rich-text editor does not like copy-paste and backspacing from one paragraph into the next. An easy workaround is “paste as text” (on a Mac it would be Cmd + alt + shift + V) or the button with the clipboard icon in the rich text editor itself.

Great post, by the way. Looks like you are a Romanian patriot yourself, @Alex_Stef!

Backspacing did it. Thanks for the tip!

I’ll admit to it only in this oxymoronic combo: localist cosmopolitan patriot - or as they call it around here, “o shaorma cu de toate.” 

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Missing comment?

Hi @RazvanZamfira, I got an email notification with your comment on communities, and wanted to reply but I see it’s gone missing… did you delete it?