Requirements for The Reef spaces in the MENA region

Wiki to collect requirements for a first Open Village residency / commune / coworking space in the MENA region. Add your changes directly to this wiki, also adding a comment to help us track major changes in the discussion below.

1. Requirements for our temporary space in Morocco

Please also refer to the list of Candidate houses for The Reef Morocco and the topic for selecting one.

Requirements, in order of priority:

  1. Budget. The total budget available for this temporary / prototype space is 3000 USD (~2500 EUR). So the more expensive the rent, the fewer people we can host for less time. Some of the budget should be kept to buy equipment etc., so assume about 2500 USD (~2100 EUR) are available for the rent budget. That means approximately the following alternatives:

    • 400 USD / month (~330 EUR / month) for 6 months
    • 500 USD / month (~420 EUR / month) for 5 months
    • 600 USD / month (~500 EUR / month) for 4 months
    • 800 USD / month (~670 EUR / month) for 3 months
    • 1200 USD / month (~1000 EUR / month) for 2 months
  2. Attractive and suitable for interaction. This is more important than the length of time we can keep the prototype space open. So we aim to get a nice place that can host the people and their workspace. The location (access to amenities, shops etc.) is also relevant. If the money only covers 3 months in such a space, that’s ok.

  3. Size. The space should be able to host 8-10 people comfortably, plus their workspace.

  4. Gender separate living spaces. There has to be a way to separate living spaces (bedrooms and attached bathrooms) of female and male residents, due to cultural norms. For example, two apartments with separate entrances will do that, either on the same level or in different levels of the house. If necessary (and the landlord is ok with it), we can also add a door somewhere to separate a larger common living area.

  5. Bathrooms. There should be one bathroom per two bedrooms, more if possible.

  6. Courtyard or terrace. Highly desirable.

  7. Separated workspace. Separation between live-space and workspace is desirable, for example between ground floor and first floor.

2. Requirements for The Reef MENA as a permanent space

While in general all OpenVillage house projects in the network can choose any location they like – they are independent! – “The Reef” branded spaces are official Edgeryders spaces and directly run by the Edgeryders organization. So for these, we have our own specific set of requirements here. Other OpenVillage house projects may use them for inspiration of course :slight_smile:

By decreasing priority. Non-essential ones are more like a wishlist. We may want to get a more basic space for the project underway, and a “better” longer-term space lateron.

  1. Welcoming host country (essential). So far, both Tunisia or Morocco seem favourable for our purposes. Parameters of “welcoming”: cheap transport to/from Europe and other MENA countries; reasonably open borders, ideally no visa required for short-term stays from either EU/US and other MENA countries; relaxed cultural climate, tolerant of Western mores; workable bureaucracy in registering rental contracts or businesses.

  2. Close to markets (essential). A prototyping environment is not so much like a library for entrepreneurs to study in peace; it’s more like a buzzing bazaar where to hash out possible initiatives and easily meet possible partners and clients. Location decisions need to take this into account.

  3. Reasonably close to a transport hub (essential). Make it easy for the powerful and the well-connected to visit, with a view to enhancing the connections between residents and the local and global economies.

  4. Cheap or free (essential). It’s important for proving future sustainability as early as possible to depend as little as possible on donor money for cost of living, esp. space rent. We want to establish a model that can be replicated thousands of times by independent groups throughout the region. Donor money is better invested for generative tools and materials. The ideal space is an abandoned commercial or industrial building that can be used for free, or in exchange for non-monetary compensation (cleanup and renovation tasks etc.). An abandoned public space is also good, but negotiating with local municipalities to get access to the building will take more time.

  5. Free to change (essential). We must be able to change what we want without having to ask anyone for permission, and without having to undo everything when moving out. Must include things like turning the front yard into a vegetable garden or fish pond, installing photovoltaics, installing a small wind turbine, putting a container into the backyard, painting everything inside and outside, making workshop noise, having a personal junkyard etc… This means an abandoned space is most suitable.

  6. Offer something special (essential). To be attractive. Could be a strange space in a city (for example a boat, tower, …) or a space in a town / village with spectacular nature around (and reasonable access to public transport).

  7. Living / coworking space (essential). Means an open space with multiple use as office, kitchen, living room and for smaller events. Maybe 80-100 m² minimum for 10-15 participants?

  8. Sleeping spaces (essential). Sleeping quarters have to be gender separated. The two basic alternatives are: we may get a residential building with rooms meant to live in and book 2-3 people into a room, or we get a non-residential building and set up two dorm-style spaces there, with furnishing that gives a corner of private space to everyone.

  9. Workshop space (essential). A light-duty workshop. Can be made from any normal accommodation space, as no heavy equipment or special electrical installation is required. While technically coworking space, it should be separate from the living space :slight_smile: 60 m² is good for 10-15 participants, more is even better.

  10. Outdoor space (essential). Needed for gatherings and events, agriculture related actvities, and as living space for people with vehicle homes (like Matt’s, which can serve as a living demo for off-grid living solutions). Ideally immediately attached to the living quarters, but can also be close by (≥500 m). Size can vary and will influence what’s possible in the space: no wishes left with ≥2000 m², while 200 m² is a bare minimum for 10-15 participants.

  11. Utilities (essential at first). It’s not that hard to make an off-grid home (photovoltaics, greywater evaporator, desalination plant, separating composting toilet). However when just moving in, this is not ready, and many people have some basic comfort requirements to feel attracted to a space. So the first space we search should have electricity, running water and sewage connections, and we can work in that space to create mobile technology that will provide off-grid capabilities and can also be taken to the next space.

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Made into a wiki

I took the liberty of converting the post into a wiki. Additions/modifications to the text should be made as direct edits to the wiki. As always, we use comments for discussion.

Two general comments

This is an impressive list. I have two remarks:

  1. Pretty heavy on the "makers" part. 15K EUR looks off budget until we find other sources of revenue: is there something I am missing?
  2. Our mission is to help locals to bootstrap each other around a saturated labour market. That means nano- and micro businesses. This is much harder to do in rural areas than in buzzing urban ones. Additionally, the conditions for an extra investment of ER's own money into this include proximity to our own market. We could, of course, do a short-term residency on some beautiful place by the seaside, but if it is to be long-term I see a large risk and extreme fragility in being "way out there".  I added some items to the list to reflect this preoccupation.
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Valid remarks …

After talking with a friend, it also appears to me that an urban area seems a better fit for the first space in the MENA region. Not so much for the same reasons you mention (market access for products and services, mutual support), but for access to suppliers and service providers. For any project / startup involving physical products, access to more specialized products (with fast and comfortable international shipment if needed) and to services from more specialized workshops is important. Which needs (say) a city of ≥50,000 people with proper transport connections. Regarding market access to buyers, the option of exporting to Europe plus Internet marketing will suffice, given the right product. (We were talking of “innovative small machine” products like an open source optical coffee sorter or open source roaster.)

On the other hand, I’m still fond of the idea of working in the outback at some point (as in, Tarfaya for example): when we get a model that works there, we have proven it  to be valid for everywhere else. Wouldn’t mind staying for at least a year in a place like that.

(About the tools budget, the mentioned 3k EUR lower limit is fine for the start, and may come from saving in rent, “rent or make” style. 10-15k EUR is meant for a project beyond the current iteration, and would be baked into its budget.)

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Added the section “requirements for our temporary space in Morocco” according to what was discussed with @nadia and @alberto in Matrix chat.

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2 posts were split to a new topic: OpenVillage House Jordan