Notes from the Call and an update on what I'm doing these days - 24 of July 2019

Present: @Mikomann @AskaBednarczyk @Noemi @Richard @Jirka_Kocian

A couple of things I find important to save for later:

Since we struggle to keep people on the platform and engage them in conversation, despite relatively clear incentives and some benefits (rewards), we need to at some point, when the summer is over, try new ways to make it happen, for example:

  • organize meetups and see if people come to talk (not sure after the Prague experiment, also just heard that meetups in Berlin might be closing doors (this is the platform that was bought by We Work a year or so ago) because people do not attend meetups. There might be some kind of tiredness creeping into us, but this also might be in my little bubble and limited perspective) or attent other events that attract people who we’d like to encourage to join

  • look for activists on the spectrum of political opinions - Asia is trying to do that for example, Mikołaj relies on personal connections

  • look for people who live on the internet :smiley:

  • don’t worry about having too many grandmas without emails: this research is not sociological research as it misses some of the important data, but the key would be to bring stories from as many walks of life as we can find. It does not have to be extremely representative, just offer a wide range of views.

Later on, we can move to organize the event and promoting its subjects and the stories underpinning them in order to get people to talk. We will make it into an interesting space for people to come and share their stories, experiences and connect with people who do relevant work/have similar situations - this is an invitation, as the tickets can’t be bought, but they’re acquired by participation in the discussion and communal building of the project.

Let me know what is missing here. It was great to hear and see you all!

Some of the updates from my side:

This week I was busy connecting people and commenting on their stories on the platform

Pinging my Czech people to share the call and share their stories - got two interviews promised

Had our call published in a big (200plus members), progressive group run by Tri Ocasci (the venue where I hosted my flunk event)

Creating some new content on the platform

Publishing the stories from my trip to the Czech Republic

Started preparing ideas for the event in Poland for November with the Polish team

Helping with the upcoming report


One thing several networks in the US that I’m working with are doing is to identify people with facilitation experience who want to learn to be network facilitators (and are often paid a small hourly stipend). They can reach out to people and ask who they might want to connect to then set up a virtual popup or coffee and help the two figure how they might continue their conversation on the platform. Or they might work with those people who don’t have habits of using the platform and give them tours, help them figure out where they fit in, etc. Such facilitators can also help facilitate collaborative projects and help people in them learn more collaborative tricks of the trade.


These are nice tips, we kind of have them in our tow, but we can’t seem to crack the right usage of it.

The difficulty here is that we’re trying to understand why people vote for populist politicians and we investigate that by collecting personal stories about what doesn’t work around them, or what’s so appealing in these agendas. These are wide, and very different, reasons - and since people represent various social groups, it’s even harder to make them talk.

In this context, what would you advise trying as a step towards building a community?

We tried connecting women over the topic of self-employment and that was very promising, as we already had 2-3 very good stories, but that didn’t work - can only imagine how these young female entrepreneurs are busy.

Do you have a tip or two?

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Based on @Jan’s presentation at the Skunkworks (BTW, Jan, can you share it?), this means we have a demand-side theory of populism: populist parties win because people are unhappy. According to Jan and POPREBEL, there is a competing set of supply-side theories: populist parties win because they got good at what they do (targeted advertising, disinformation, Cambridge Analytica, international funding etc. etc.).

Maybe a discussion around supply – in the line of Jordan Hall’s situational assessment – might garner some extra interest. In fact, it stands to reason that the platform should serve both demand- and supply-side hypotheses. In engagement terms, supply-side discussions tend to attract more people that live online, so they might be a bit easier, no?

Also ping @Richard.

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Hi @juneholley!

You say it perfectly, and I agree that facilitating collaborative projects is what ultimately drives community engagement.

Since this audience is particularly new teritorry for us, as Natalia explains, we need to figure out what would be deemed interesting and useful for respondents: is the idea of community sexy enough? these are people with their own lives and work, so the connection is mostly in some interest in the topics.

In the past we worked a lot with project oriented people, doers, who benefit from new knwoledge and contacts in a more obvious way.

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This is interesting - how do you imagine this showing in the conversation, or even in any way in a conscious reflection of a person, who’d say: I voted for them because I saw them everywhere, which made me believe them.

Even if the message is so well crafted and shows in the right bubbles in the right moment (and as we know, these messages are very well crafted and invisible to many of us, they’re so precise in their targetting) - not sure if that translates into participation on a brand new, English-speaking platform. Let’s see, we keep on trying various things.

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Like this, maybe:

Pepe agrees with a general argument: it does not have anything to do with his own status, at least I don’t think so. This quote comes from a part of his post about the Polish freight companies, whose bottom line is threatened by possible regulation about minimum wage to be paid to (Polish) drivers when they drive across the EU. Pepe himself says he is a doctor in security sciences (machine translation), so his business is likely not in danger. When he agrees with the Polish government, he is not protecting his interests, he was convinced by the argument that the government made against this regulation.


I didn’t see it this way, but it makes sense - the riddle is: is the bottom line the conservative values PiS represents? Or maybe a wrong image of young people running some of the radical, left parties who appear to be well-off and middle class enough not to trust their good intentions towards the underserved? Combined with an allergy to anything that has anything to do with socialism (and how brilliantly can you avoid being associated with it by masses while most of your election’s agenda is built on handouts?)?

So these would be some kind of dignity politics that appeal to a wide portion of our society that maybe only this kind of conservative, nationalist party can really identify and tap into efficiently?


Not sure… But here @Pepe is saying nothing about young people in socialist parties. So, I would just take him at face value. Ethnograpy is, after all, about encoding the point of view of the people in the conversation. Others may have other things to say.

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@alberto and @natalia_skoczylas and @Richard Dear All, I apologize for disappearing for a while. I had to finish several small projects, like delayed reviews and recommendations. I am almost “free” and will start working on Poprebel. My goals for the next week or so: (1) prepare and post my notes/thoughts on Skunkworks (and this thread) and (2) start developing categories for the codebook. The amount of text that we already have (over 50 stories/entries) will give me enough material to work on this for sure. Natalia: let’s try to talk when you have a moment. Ciao, Jan


I am available next week after Tuesday, will write you an email;)

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OK. It will work. I will be busy in the morning (my time) on the 14th (Wednesday) the whole day on the 15th. All the best, J

Thanks for checkin in Jan!

Can I add a small request: once you start reading the stories, can you add comments welcoming people and adding advice or a question, or telling them ‘hey, this other @username said x, do you think they are right?’ (then @username gets a notification so they also could comment on this other story). Do you see what I mean? More like a fellow participant in the conversation, than a researcher? Well, like a citizen researcher if you will, as we all are :slight_smile:
That would really help and encourage the authors to come back and join a conversation, as well as contribute to the community validation (over time) of different points that people bring.


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Personally, I am a little disappointed that the engagement approach we designed collectively - to ask people about their livelihoods around 3 main topics - is taking on a different turn.

Why are we asking people about their opinions about politics? That should not be the starting point guys. It is very hard to then connect people, because there are so many fora where people discuss politics. We should not be doing that I think - not as departing point. There’s a reason why the sex education stories and morality in the 21st century are faring better, and are more visible. Not to mention it will be around those topics that we will build the Festival and bring people together.
I would cc Nadia, but she’s away. However, this is a point of contention as of now, if you ask me. cc @natalia_skoczylas & the local connectors, @Jirka_Kocian

As we try to understand the political context and why people choose populist policies in the Czech Republic, I would like to ask what they are so attractive at the moment? What needs, dreams or ambitions do they promise to fulfill? source.

In Poland we have a good balance, around 1/3 of the stories are more directly about politics, but all of them ask about some aspects of personal experiences. I think each of them has something valuable as a starting point for discussion.

In Czech we indeed went more directly into politics because people were just not really into broader discussion and gave very short answers, so we took a simpler path. But our possible connector was already briefed and i will monitor how the discussion goes.

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Nevertheless we keep on tweaking the way these stories are done, so brace with us.

@noemi @alberto @natalia_skoczylas Yes, I will! I need some warm up period (I will read all the entries) and then I will join the conversation. Actually, looking forward to it. Best, J

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We were so far using the three-issue of wellbeing as a take-off platform, reflecting them in the interviews. Where the in-person discussions lead is a matter of necessary improvisation. But in general, I agree, and online we will focus on our topics.

Hi Natalia and @AskaBednarczyk can I ask you to coordinate with @anon82932460 to set up the facebook event for it a.s.a.p ideally before the weekend? It does not need to be perfect but we do need the placeholder up now. Thanks.

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I created placeholders on fb for all three events, please do not push anything before we have descriptions and decide what content to show along with them. Next week.