With this much action, excitement, and moving parts going on lately, I have felt the need to realign the OpenVillage vision and the Edgeryders current project in the MENA region. Particularly, I wanted a realigned timeline, where everyone involved would know what happens next, and when. So I grilled @nadia and @matthias for information, and, with them, debugged loose ends and inconsistencies. This is the proposal that came out of this process. Feedback welcome.
Important: it requires some reworking of the budget. Nadia is in charge of this, and will liaise with her team as needed.
Concept and rationale
We want to test an alternative model to the Silicon Valley-type startup incubator dedicated to social business and social innovation. The idea is to make enough money to be prosperous and independent, but what really matters is to make sense: to give a meaning to our lives by doing something that we, and our communities, think makes a difference. This could be Yosser’s third space, or Heba’s promotion of cycling culture, of Baderdean’s boosting of the use of open source software, or clowning, or aquaponics, or whatever.
The incubator model does not work for this stuff, because getting this kind of projects (not exclusively devoted to profit making) off the ground requires patient support. The time scale is simply longer than normal incubators can afford. Hence, the situation we are seeing: plenty of pitching competitions, small cash prizes, then the idea fizzles out, the proponent loses steam or burns out, and we are back to where we started.
Patient support is unsustainable and undesirable for the incubator model. Unsustainable, because they use expensive dedicated resources (professional mentors and administrators, fancy urban spaces); undesirable because they want people who are not tough enough to get through the meat grinder to give up and go elsewhere.
Edgeryders claims that we can do sustainable patient support if we do it peer-to-peer, and if we use open source knowledge all around. People coach each other; activities are documented and documentation is published with open licenses, so that they and go on to feed a knowledge commons. This means lower costs.
Reef-type live-work spaces – powered by the OpenVillage concept – also create efficiency by riding on existing excess capacity. In The Reef, people and businesses (like, well, a patient incubator for social innovation) live in symbiosis, without competing for space because they have complementary uses for the same space. This also means lower costs.
All this means Edgeryders has a new proposition for the development sector. It is a new kind of incubator offering patient peer-to-peer support to social innovation projects. It has several ingredients: the online community is the one we have developed the most. We are now adding a physical space to the stack. In the next year, we bring this new ecosystem to market.
Given all this, we are going to use a residencies program to support our extant (mostly online) activities in the MENA region, and to build a prototype site of this new type of incubator, and to feed into the unfolding of the larger OpenVillage vision. For this, we don’t need a space in a capital city; we need a large, cheap building in an attractive location. As a prototype, we will probably not keep it going after the end of the project. But we (Edgeryders) will take what we learn there and use it to consolidate our work. Additionally, we make a long-term commitment to the region: we will stay, though not necessarily in the same place where we hold the residencies.
Ways to be involved
We put out several calls:
For project owners. These are people with an initiative to develop. They are committed to it. When the residency is over, they will be the ones responsible to drive it forward. We could host 3-5 of these, all from the region.
For support specialists. These are people with substantial skills (developers, hardware hackers, bio hackers, bizdev people), who agree to support with time and skills one project owner. They can be from anywhere in the world.
For the REEF MENA co-founders. We think we can leverage the demo into a sustainable business. Looking for local partners.
For space co-founders. It seems that quite a few people want to start their own spaces (co-working. co-living etc.) as a way to bring about change and make a living for themselves. So we share expertise and teach one another a way forward.
Selected residents get funded travel to the space; free accommodation and food for the duration of their residency; some very small bursary.
Mid-September 2017: call for applications and boost engagement
In two weeks from now, we need a complete information pack to be online. What we are doing, where and when, and how people can be part of it. This needs a firm decision on location, because the information pack needs to contain a picture of the actual building where the Sawa-OpenVillage community will have its moral center for the next year.
This announcement kicks our engagement strategy into high gear. It should drive interest to…
Late September: info workshops
October 19-21: OpenVillage Festival in Brussels
… the Brussels Festival. We set up an info/co-design session on the Sawa/OpenVillage operation in Brussels. There are ways to get support for people in the region that want to come – @noemi has the details.
October 31st: Deadline for applications
November 31st: residents selected.
December 31st: party!
We start our MENA deployment with a party. In this phase, a space is already available and paid for, but no other support is provided.
January 2018: buildup
The whole Edgeryders team decamps to the new space for a month. We work from there, even those who are not directly involved in the project. Others are welcome to join depending on space, but no support is provided.
May 2018 – May 2218: to be continued?
In the unMonastery “200 years” tradition.