New phase, new team: early days of a better Edgeryders



Many organizations are liable to undergo a crisis when they grow, especially as they outgrow their founders. With our activities expanding and more opportunities presenting themselves, Edgeryders in 2018 seems to be close to one such situation. A few months back, it became clear that we needed to up our game if we were to overcome the challenges implied.

But we had one thing going for us. Edgeryders is not exactly an entity. It’s always been more of a network, a set of relationships. Networks have no sharp borders between an “inside” and an “outside”; what they have is a gradient, from less central to more central. So, the default mode of growing is to pull closer to their center people who are already in. This, we reasoned, can be effective and fast, but still quite safe, because we would be working closer with people we already know well, and have already worked with. With a community approaching five thousand members, this did not look impossible.

So, in late May a group of close collaborators and friends decamped to southern Turkey for a company retreat, dreamed up and organized by the wonderful @noemi. We rented a large house in the coastal town of Kalkan, and explored how we could work together to build on these past four years of Edgeryders, set ourselves new goals and live out new adventures.

At the and of three very intense days, I see the start of a new phase in the life of our wonderful little mutant of a community/company. The main changes are:

  • Much larger and more diverse core group. Several people could not make it to Turkey. And yet, there were thirteen people in the house, plus a facilitator. This is a much larger, stronger core than we ever could count on. Also more diverse: this group includes people in their twenties, other in their seventies, and every age group in between; there were people holding passports from 12 countries on four continents; and coming from different disciplines, including engineering, performing arts, philosophy, economics, architecture, design and business.
  • Teams. Working in Edgeryders happens in almost total autonomy. This is hugely enjoyable for most of us, but it can be disorienting, especially at first. We are encouraging the formation of small teams, whose members work quite closely with each other. Autonomous teams, we think, combine decentralization and resilience with a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie. The #research-network is the first formalized team in Edgeryders in this sense; we have several more in the making. My colleagues will be announcing them on the blog as we go.
  • Process reform. The new scale of Edgeryders means we need to rethink the way the run operations, while staying faithful to our principles of individual autonomy, mutual responsibility and resilient architecture. @matthias is leading the rethinking, but we will all be involved. Meanwhile, for the benefit of the larger groups, I had a first stab at writing down the principles for collaboration underpinning Edgeryder’s architecture and processes, both current and future.
  • Induction and board enlargement. We also had to come up with a process to onboard new people into the core group. We are doing it mostly with one-on-one mentoring by the standing board members. Some people have expressed interest in joining the board of directors, and we came up with a process for that too.

In the picture, left to right, you will find the smiling faces of @matteo_uguzzoni, @nadia, @hugi, @owen, @mariacoenen, @noemi, @alex_levene, @zmorda, @bob, @anique.yael, myself, @hazem and @johncoate. Guys, thank you so much for spending valuable time and brainpower in scheming around this new phase. We now have a real opportunity. I, for one, am committed to making the most of it.

(Yes, we did jump in the pool immediately after the picture was taken)

Community Management Webinar, June 25th 2018
Six months of Culture Squad v2.0. What next and looking for allies

Well said. The experience was productive, fun and in the end, deeply moving.


Who knew that being so present for 3 days would be so exhausting!

early days of a better Edgeryders
@alberto nice little Doctrorow ref there!


Well, Doctorow seems to have lifted it from Scottish writer/artist Alasdair Gray, who in turn attributes it to Canadian poet Dennis Lee. My own reference is intentional. I think it is a powerful idea, appealing to the nation builders in us. And yes, Edgeryders is like a tiny nation for me in this sense.


congrats on this new step!
looking forward for what comes with it, and to keep building with ER !


As for the “process reform” part, a quick reminder to the current directors that we’re ready to start with that. Simply self-assign one or more of the process reform tasks to you and your associated “potential future director(s)”, and propose a solution in the next board meeting. As simple as it gets :slight_smile: @noemi @alberto @johncoate (@nadia)


I know of Gray, mostly through the work Lanark. They attempted to adapt it for the stage as part of the International festival in Edinburgh a few years ago. Not sure if it worked, but it got good reviews.
Dennis Lee i do not know, so will be searching out his work.


Still trying to take this much needed time off without getting sucked back in. Thanks for putting the list together, will go through it once properly online after the event in Paris <3


@matthias process reform was something that I was raising consistently at the retreat considering research network scaling. While I’ve chosen not to pursue potentially coming on board as a director right now I think that my involvement in process reform is important, particularly as a priority for me this summer is assessing operational processes for the research network. If you and @alberto agree I’d also like to be involved in the process reform process (haha). Let me know your thoughts and I can assign myself some tasks.


Of course. A very important role you could play is that of “user zero” of the magic spreadsheet. Testing is half development anyway. This would mean taking the budgets of the research projects, putting them into the MS template, and letting us know if the template works, or where it does not. @matthias, do you agree?


Testing the budget spreadsheet is surely useful and something @anique.yael could do. It’s not for right now though, and also it sounded like Anique is eyeing some specific process improvement tasks already? If so, I propose you two can collaborate on these, with Alberto providing some guidance of what processes and tools can and cannot work with the Edgeryders crowd. (Anyway, all contributions would be proposals and first, and implemented after we discuss and agree on them together.)


I have the page open and am looking it over. I am still on the road and have some prep for the upcoming June 25 webinar.

But I have to say, somewhere, so it might as well be here, that is is difficult for me to focus as I see my country devolve before our eyes into a fascist state. This is not my imagination. If Trump and his ilk win again in November, there will be no stopping it. At least I have the positive work of Edgeryders.


This sounds great and @alberto and I will discuss further. I’ll also keep you updated with specific process reform I’m exploring for the research network scaling.


We’re all watching was sadness in our hearts John. Sending love over to you.


Thanks Alex. I just returned yesterday to the USA from a couple of weeks in Canada. Rather surreal what is now going on with Trump and Canada, acting like they are now some sort of enemy. It is all so weird. But that is matter for a different topic…

My NELIS journey in Japan (II): make your own toothpaste and peace dojos for everyone!