Notes from the #Lote4 session on The Case Studies Adventure

Notes transferred from the Lote4 hackpad. Anything you took from the session and would like to share with the community? Do add it below in a comment.

During the summer, brave people at Edgeryders like @lauren, @hazem, @anon, @mariabyck, and others have collected many case studies of people and communities trying to steward assets for the common good. In this session,they reported on what they found and the people they met.

Lauren Lapidge: I moved across Europe (mostly Southern: Italy, Turkey, Greece, the latter turning out to be the best) looking for people and groups doing stewardship projects. I tried to go through social networks of people we knew, but that did not go too well (except in Athens, where Jeff Andreoni’s network worked really well). However, I did talk to many people on the street and that way met unexpected stewards, like Constantinou (?), an Athens pensioner who noticed people were struggling finding even money for food. So he started spending all his pension on cooking equipment and ingredients, which he puts in his car and drives to the worst crisis-stricken neighbourhoods to do a sort of instant soup kitchen. It is only supported by donations. He has amazing social skills too, and enjoys a lot of respect. Athens was the most successful.

A lesson learned for the travel case study: it should take more time in each city and better coordinate in advance; also, Lauren feels it was difficult to navigate new spaces where she didn’t speak the language.

Relevance for stewardship: Costantino a good steward because he saw a problem in the community (eg dumpster diving) and felt he needed to help - ended up spending his pension to feed people. he saw a problem in the community tried to solve it. The stewarding component is visible in that he provides for people, creating a sense of community. is that human or stewarding? what is stewardship? it is not about defining stewardship.

What are the take away points in Lauren’s trip? Found out that there are only a few stewards but they are involved in many many projects. eg Jay Cousins. Ice Hubs: started as a fab lab but they decided it wasn’t the best way to spend the money, so decided to get the community involved in skill exchange; inter generational exchange (pensioneer hacker spaces).

Stewards should be interchangeable, and documentation is a key part of that stewards that can move between different areas in working domain, like someone who can talk to government and talk to a small community projects, can speak the 2 different languages.

Ben Vickers

Mentions an interesting project that sells votes on the web (“bring capitalism and democracy together”) I hosted a couple of meetups around stewardship in London and Stockholm. What emerged is that stewardship is not necessarily resilience. Allotments are seen as a way to discover the values of stewardship. Some people say that stewardship is not a discrete activity, but an overarching philosophy around everything they do. Some people say that they don’t necessarily steward one thing, but rather lend a hand to maintaining ecologies.

Jordan Lane in Sweden understands well system thinking and applies it to small-scale scenario. He is an urban planner working for the public service in Stockholm. He describes himself as a “urban shepherd” (see: This is quite literal: you can use sheep as zoning devices, moving them across the city for various purposes. For example, you can move your sheep to the city center when children go to school, so they slow down traffic and children learn about animal.

The chicken story was very meticulously planned to get people to interact with each other and depend more on each other. For example, hatch the chicken in somebody’s bathtub, so that person has to shower in a neighbour’s bathroom, and that creates a tie. He seems to work in an oblique way: not just go out, buy the chicken and build the hatch, but go by a much slower route, distributing the ownership of the process (and therefore stewardship itself) across different people.

Kei Kreutler

OpenTech School using agile learning instead of having a teacher in front. Started in Berlin and now has five locations across the world, we know it from the unMonastery. They came up with a hackership program. Pedagogically, they have a “no keyboard rule”: the teacher can’t touch the student’s keyboard. All workshops are free and open to everyone, no matter their skills. Also have HackerShip program, a 3 month residency to work on people’s projects - with mentors and volunteers. The funding model is this: when people graduate from the hackership program they pledge to give 10% of their salary to the program for one year.

Jeff Andreoni

The Peliti project in Greece (learn more: stewards legacy seeds from all over the world. Many species are uniquely available in Greece, and that is how they became aware of the issue, but now they are stewarding indigenous species from anywhere in the world. They will give seeds to whoever wants them, so that anybody can become a steward of even just one or two species.

Maria Byck enjoyed the process of meeting different people, a lot of people have different perception thoughts about stewardship. Discovered it was interesting for people to think of them as stewards. In UK: system of allotment - lands owned by the state and people can pay small amounts for small parts of the land. In smaller towns - populations losing their lands in the coal mining during the 80s. People began stewarding gardening practices.

Stewarding the Great Lake Commons: 5 provinces, 6 states in the US bordering Canada. Idea that came from the first nations, the native American indians “we take care of the water because it takes care of us”, important concept which is related to the idea of “EXCHANGE”

Jonathan Ruffer: is a very rich fund manager in London who calls himself “a heavy-duty Christian” and “an old fart”. He bought a castle from the Church of England and is now buying also a lot of land off the church; sees himself as a steward, he feels he’s called to do this work

Amber Film and Video collective in Glasgow: they’ve been collecting stories around the working class and have a huge archive. When the people are documented, for them it’s a validation of their work and being part of a bigger narrative. Documentation as exchange, important for an artist

Pipe Factory in Glasgow: a residency and community art center. Huge volunteering efforts and self care as a critical issue of stewardship - people put off their lives.

Different from working in a public sector and taking care of assets.

Self care is an issue in stewardship. Stewards have a constant tendency to overextend themselves and get burned out or disillusioned. In Scotland there is legislation around letting communities own property (and in fact they have a “right to buy” land that goes up for sale). A similar scheme is now up in England (but in England almost no one uses it). The Scottish scheme is much older.

Nadia El-Imam

On stewardship as an idea of exchange, of doing it for others vs doing it for others or my recognition; In order for it to happen there needs to be a feeling of right to take something - involves a transgression of rules eg Pisolino Libero, inhabiting the public space which in turn protected the neighborhood from drug dealers, recognize something as a common (example managing water) growing awareness, its not a given if you walk pass an underutilized building that someone would neccessary take care of it (state or whatever); lake of trust in the system .

A common problem in stewardship is that, once you start stewarding something, everybody expects you to do a lot more, “you give the community a finger, they take your arm”.

Growing awareness that things are not necesarily well run - that someone is fixing that.

Robin Chase

Intersection repair is a US example that “forces” neighbors to interact.

Hazem Adel

In Egypt communities have a high degree of self-organization, and stewardship happens quite naturally. In the Muslim world there is a tradition of religious charity, so money is quite easily found. However, one person tends to be critical: if she leaves the community, that project will fail until someone else steps in.

Young architects in Egypt lead community efforts (no state intervention at all) to reorganize even the physical shape of the city. In Al-Mutamidiya, Cairo, the community built 4 ramps to the ring-road while the Mubarak government went down ( It was initially illegal, but then the police decided to sanction and now the four (highly professionally built) ramps are legal, there is even a small police station built under one of them.

Caroline Paulick-Thiel

Prinzessinnengarten is a community-run agricultural project in the middle of Berlin. Knowledge transfer seems to be the main problem there, to make more working structures rather than more projects. Documentation is key.

Nunzio on the way the Sassi were stewarded back in the days

I was born in the Sassi, and was evicted as a child in the 1960s. I care about traditional pharmacology in the Sassi. This way of healing is based on the social structure of the Sassi, whose basic unit is vicinato. That is: several dwellings overlooking a very small square with a well and a tub for washing clothes for common use. Commonalities arise around the scarcity of water (three public fountains for 17000 inhabitants in the Sassi, as late as 1930!). The need to share water is the basis of vicinato; then, vicinato becomes a social cell, building in a very cohesive micro-society. Families in the same vicinato help each other economically, but also by caring for each other’s health. That’s how we get into traditional medicine. Things that were exchanged: tools; herbs spices (parsley, garlic); food (tomatoes); ingredients (yeast). As all communities, vicinato had to manage conflicts. Those were mediated by elders, generally quite successfully. People lived in relative harmony, helped by a very strong sense of belonging. Women were central in the vicinato. They were “ageless”; much the same wrinkles at 25 or 70. Their needs were met by the vicinato (gossiping, emotional support, knowledge sharing). They were of course mothers, and families were very big in the Sassi; my family, with five children, was seen as not that big". Women would rule the home-cave, where the bedroom, the kitchen and the stable were.&nbsp Medicine was administered by an older, charismatic woman, the comare (co-mother). Illness was understood both religiously and magically: you are ill, it’s either divine punishment or evil eye. So healing was done via a maciaro (sorcerer) as much as a doctor. A typical treatment would include “segni” (three signs of cross on the forehead, the heart and the belly-button); later, the maciaro would become detached from the religious, and just stir herbal concoctions.

Further readings related to the Case Study Adventure are in this group.

You might also be interested to read Maria’s reflections on the Case Study Adventure here.