The Edgeryders community has demonstrated to be made up by inquisitive, active people that do not fear to set up and carry on initiatives to take current social problems head on. As the project was defined as a think tank for policy proposals to the EU, it came naturally that the attendees to the conference were provided with the space to develop proposals and projects in the areas Edgeryders deals with. The conference itself hosted 6 such workshops, one for each Edgeryders subject, while at the same time other 18 venues all around the world set up their own discussion groups around those same subjects under the #kfe06 initivative by Kfé Innovación.
Making a living
Making a living was structured along five elements:
Paid work: This table tackled the complicated issue of finding paid work in today’s labour market. One of the first things that came along was the dilemma between working for oneself or integrating into a company. To this it was answered that everyone is his/her own resource, and thus can barter skills with others, in order to create a common product that then can get in the market. Community-based projects and freelance life combine magnificently in this format of finding our own careers.
There was also the issue of motivation for work: should it be based on personal satisfaction or on sustenance? Well, there’s a conundrum, as personal satisfaction is all fine and good but rarely leads to a proper survival position, unless one is capable enough to make a viable career out of hobbies and interests.
Social innovation: The table dealt with the strictures society imposes on individuals and ways to alleviate them. The lack of time for everything (family/friends, work, and our own projects) was of course an issue, as has been in several reports in the platform. The proposal to be all entrepreneurs, both in our personal projects and in the potential company we work in, is an interesting idea. But it depends on finding a company where personal initiative is valued and on having the skills necessary to drive change, a capacity not everyone has.
Recruitment: The recruitment group started by considering the resumé/application process as broken (an affirmation most people who have been in a recruitment process will probably agree with). The frustration involved in sending hundreds of resumés and never getting an answer is a common problem for most those looking for work, and those without work experience are almost always kept out of the market, thus being unable to ever obtain experience in the first place.
Also, people without university degrees have a harder time to enter this process, as it’s often the case they lack the know-how on resumé writing and accessing the application processes. How to support them?
Allies: The allies table considered the possibility of using networks of people with common interests to create diverse and multidisciplinary teams to develop projects together. Coworking spaces, as an example, are an excellent way of contacting people out of your field of experience and receiving useful input for projects, or ideas to create new ones. Productivity was considered more of a problem than a solution: the term “productivity stress disorder” was used and seems like a good diagnosis of the current job environment.
?: This table posed questions, several of them quite to the point. A mapping of the skills was considered, as current skill sets are way too diversified to get in traditional models. Hobbies, as well, should be included to avoid the extreme focus on education currently in force.
Passion and curiosity were considered as a way to actually land a job, and one at that in something that is of interest to us, hopefully.
We, the people
This session was really massive. The amount of proposals and ideas that came out of it is staggering, and since it was one of the most populated sessions, many of them are actually in conflict. From criticisms to representative democracy (either due to lack of direct participation, i.e., the delegation of power to people and ideas instead of real needs), to reforms of the democratic system currently in place, up to a defense of the elimination of the state (due to the inherent inhumanity of power), several perspectives on the governing system were present.
The proposal for tools to enact political change was also a very important part of the session, involving mobile phone voting systems, DDoS attacks as a valid form of protest, bridging the digital divide as an imperative condition, tools to develop Open Government initiatives…
In fact, this session was so massive that it has luckily been documented here almost in full.
Caring for commons
The commons session spent half its time trying to define what commons are, with a humongous diversity of possible definitions. Afterwards, four groups were created around four themes or challenges: the reuse of empty spaces for the common good (with an action proposal based on city taxation to penalize keeping empty spaces), management of commons in an unequal society, that is, ours (which actually came up with the neat idea of making commons non economic factors, thus allowing everyone equal access to them), creation of commons (which proposal delineated a network aggregations software to generate communities of interest that, in turn, would be able to interact with the policy makers), and the protection of commons (heavily based on the Rio+20 conference, this group dealt with natural resources and their protection, and proposed, among other initiatives, the creation of a Global Council on Planetary Rights to protect what, ultimately, is and must be of all living beings).
The session saw loads of knowledge generated, and several proposals on the table. Let us hope these proposals receive better results than the tepid ones the Rio+20 conference got.
The living together session dealt with a delicate issue: the reform and betterment of the social contract that has been the glue of our societies. For that, it focused on what has changed in the equation, and structured the changes in trust, bottom-up and balance. On the trust front, currently there exists a generalized lack of trust in others, and even oneself. A proposal to rebuild trust in oneself to be able to expand said trust is a beautiful idea, but practically impossible to generalize to the whole of society.
Again, the bottom-up proposal to change society is basically correct, as it will mean that society will change itself. The viral method to spread change, however, again comes from the idea of personal change first, and would need several, probably thousands, of people enacting change at the same time.
The loss of balance, due to the socio-economic environment and to a certain level of dysfunction in society, should also be restored, but again the proposal to restore balance is based on the personal level. Also, the point of balance was left undefined, which makes it complicated to create a viable paradigm or blueprint of change.
The session on learning started by differentiating learning from education and providing a characterization of each (learning is bottom-up while education is top-down). Afterwards, three groups were created to deal with different challenges and propose specific solutions for them.
Group A dealt with the empowerment of teachers so they could develop their practice. The proposed teacher-centered curricula instead of the national curriculum (or alongside it), and identifying teachers’ needs and recommended changes by the simple system of asking the teachers themselves. A proposal of equally divided budgets to implement learning projects developed by teachers was presented.
Group B was tasked with developing a new mechanism to evaluate education without harming access to the labour market. For that, classical job profiling must be changed to anticipate the future needs of industry and employers (though how that can be done is a mistery). The proposal involved the elimination of marks and grades along with competition. Instead, a system should be developed to provide a less limited feedback and that reflected individual competences in a better way than the current one.
Group C dedicated itself to the access to resources and expertise. To that end were proposed remote learning platforms, which are eminently accessible, and the sharing of educational resources in a free and open way. This way, the centralisation of education in physical institutions that creates discrepancies in current educational systems would be negated.
All solutions proposed had to be applicable without regard for cultural differences, which is probably the reason why proposals tended to be generic in nature.
The resilience session was tasked with creating ways of making a system survive sudden shocks or prolonged pressure, a problem everyone is probably worried about in the current climate in Europe.
To that end, and given the limited time available, the session focused on a specific crisis scenario: the reduction of health resources to a mere 25%, and options to provide assistance in that situation.
For that, the session developed three areas of health systems:
- Prevention: avoiding sickness and injury can be accomplished by making individual health resilience (adequate diet, exercise…) fashionable. Of course, to accomplish this, aside from actually convincing people to act in a healthy way, the systems needed to provide a healthy life to citizens should be also adequately resilient.
- Treatment: to provide assistance, the group focused on the creation and strengthening of networks. Neighbourhood groups of mutual care, a health care experts network for specific, practical advice, and pharmaceutical networks to produce locally as many drugs as possible based on the WHO list of basic medications.
- Continuity: continuity implies the preparation of the health system for a sustained time. That is, the new activities applied to create a resilient health system must be kept working as permanently as possible. The proposed methods included training in diagnosis with scarcity of equipment, the use of generic drugs, the proper training on first aid as part of the driving license process (although it would not be a bad idea to include it directly in general education curricula probably), the teaching of keeping in good health from school, and identifying simple problems early to avoid larger ones that may emerge from them, among others.
What remains to be seen is if these methods will be implemented in time. The deconstruction of the welfare state is well underway in most of Europe, and countries like Greece needs resilient systems already implemented.
In general, the breakout sessions demonstrated what was already likely: the Edgeryders community not only has ideas, but working capacity and is capable of proposing solid solutions to several problems currently in the minds of most Europeans.
If these are the people writing the future (and already living there for the most part) we’re in good hands.
But this is not the end of it. For these sessions to truly flourish, we need to keep working on them. Who’'s willing to take the bait?