A few years ago we started paying close attention to care. Available, affordable health and social care was – and still is – unavailable. Not for some unknown person in some distant land, either. For friends and family members, people in our communities, right here. Something had to be done.
We saw people coming together, stepping into the breach. Communities were taking up the role of care providers, making it work where neither the state nor private business could. They were doing amazing things. Hackers were making open sourced, internet-enabled glucose monitors for children with diabetes. Belgian trauma therapists set up mobile studios and drove them to refugee camps in Greece, to help bereaved refugees. Bipolar 1 patients found and helped each other fight back suicidal tendencies. Biologists and biohackers were trying to invent a cheap, open source process to make insulin. American activists were encouraging each other to eat healthy food and exercise by doing it together.
We started a research projects to take a good look inside these and many other stories. We wanted to learn what these initiatives have in common, and how we could make more. That project is called OpenCare; it is now in its second year. Results are still coming through, but one thing is already clear:
It's all about humans.
Community provision of care services needs humans: more, better prepared, volunteers. People prepared to teach each other skills. Therapists to help volunteers in need of trauma support. So, the highest-impact technologies are those that help bring people together. Share knowledge. Distribute human resources across different care contexts. These technologies are connectors: they help string together and coordinate human efforts.
This intuition is fundamental. It goes even beyond care. And it makes sense: we are, after all, the 99%. We have little money and power. We have no large companies, fancy foundations, prestigious universities. But we do have each other. We will thrive, if we can collaborate. But there's a problem: collaboration is expensive, and hard to monetise. So, any technology that makes it more efficient is going to make a difference.
At Edgeryders, we have resolved to put this lesson into practice. We are doing it by hacking the most fundamental connecting technology of all: the home.
We dream of a new kind of space, that can be the hearth for our families but still be open to the broader world. Where the door is not a barrier to keep the world out, but a gateway to a global network. Where we can live, and work, and sometimes work with the people we live with, and live with our co-workers. Where people are welcome to stay for one day, or a lifetime. Where spending even just an hour in good heart ensures you will never be a stranger again. Where we can develop our talent, learn new skills, get better at what we do. Where we can create for each other a healthy, friendly, cosmopolitan environment and, yes, take care of each other.
We have dreamt this dream before. In its previous iteration, we called it the unMonastery. We prototyped in 2014, in the Italian city of Matera. That experience taught us much. We learned that a life/work space can not be too close to the needs of a single client. Neither can it be dependent on the grant cycle. It needs to be financially self-sustaining, and benefit several projects and lines of business. We also learned how important it is to be diverse, open and outward-looking for fresh air and fresh ideas to circulate at all times.
The unMonastery also got many things right. The most important one is this: we went ahead and tried it. Planning and due diligence are necessary, but trying things out makes for richer learning.
So, we are not going to keep dreaming about a new space. Instead, we have decided to roll out a second iteration. Right now.
We are calling it The Reef. Coral reefs are structures built by tiny animals, corals. They serve as the home, anchoring point, hiding place, hunting ground to thousands of species. Algae, seaweeds, fish, molluscs all cooperate with, compete with, eat, feed each other. As they do so, they benefit the corals, who gain access to nutrients (reefs exist in nutrient-poor tropical waters).
Like coral reefs, our new space will draw strength from diversity and symbiosis. Different people will bring in different skills, access to different networks, different personalities. And Edgeryders itself (a social enterprise, so a creature of a different species) will live in symbiosis with the space and the individuals that live in it. It will pay rent, subsidising those who live there; in return, it will be able to use the space for its own purposes: office, coworking space, venue for small events. We also want to offer some form of access to a broad network of people right from the start.
We ran the numbers and we are sure we can make it work. We are going to start with a small-scale prototype: a Brussels loft, with four bedrooms, common living area, office, courtyard. @Noemi , @Nadia and I are going to be full-time residents; one more room will host temporary residents. We are going live on May 1st 2017, and try it out for one year. We are already looking for a (much) larger space to move into in spring 2018 if the experiment goes well.
If you are considering being part of the experiment, or curious about learning more, get in touch. We are planning a "building the Reef" track within to OpenVillage where we, together, will design the physical space, its financing model, and the activites therein – from business to fitness and personal development.
[PRACTICAL INFO GO HERE]