Rethinking Employment Strategies at the unMonastery

Okay firstly, I’d like to make this a post on EdgeRyders because I think it would be useful - for the benefit of those with an outside view, the issues I’m going to list are not endemic or a show stopper but more limiters of our own expectations. What we’re finding on the ground is that 10+ individual projects is an enormous logistical strain, particularly within the time frame - not enough attention was paid to the invisible workload; translation, communication/advertising, (hidden) administration, managing the building, living etc.

It’s also very apparent that the cultural frame most of us are operating in isn’t applicable or effective in the context we’re working - there’s a need for a direct and clear ask to individuals we wish to collaborate with; permission mechanisms, it’s clear we can’t just say “We’re open to anything and everything, just tell us what you want to do” and expect it to happen.

This calls for a slight change of mentality. In order to be open we need to create the infrastructure for openness.

Following a meeting we had earlier today a couple of problems arose that have a potential solution, I wanted to map these out within the framework of Job Descriptions but really we’re talking about Collaborator Descriptions, because we act to reduce hierarchy.

Let me explain roughly and we can build on this in discussion - this is a direct ask to the EdgeRyders community for support, shaping this effectively (and potentially for a workflow of direct support from the online community). If unMonastery is an offline presence for the EdgeRyders network, we need a sturdier bridge.

Issues identified:

  • Lack of collaboration within the unMonastery group (due to highly distributed projects)
  • Language barrier
  • Lack of capacity and support for individual projects
  • Inability to effectively onboard people in a prolonged process
  • Not enough people using the space outside of scheduled events
  • Distributed workload for the same tasks across projects

Approaching a Solution:

Each project submitted to the unMonastery is a fairly well defined entity, they have individual objectives that are beginning to understand their audience, if we were working within a classic frame we could define each of these entities as companies. A Company needs employees to make it function. So what are the job roles within individual projects?

I’d like each of the unMonasterians currently present in Matera to outline 2-3 roles that they need to build their project, I’m providing a template, but it’s important to share the link to the ones you create in the the comments below, for visibility and role matching or copy and paste directly.

It’s also absolutely crucial that jobs aren’t constructed of the laborious tasks no one wants to do but rather a formalising of the connections already made - i.e you may need an advisor / troubleshooter who meets you for coffee 3 times a week. Routine and structure is needed.

Be clear about your position and what’s a fair partnership for collaboration - i.e “I as an unMonasterian am working X hours, with X resources to make X happen, I do this because I want to make a difference to Matera. I would like to share these resources with you so we can make something happen together for similar objectives”

How do we match Collaborator Roles with the issues identified?

  • Lack of collaboration within the unMonastery group:

    Create the possibility for individual unMonasterians to take on the jobs you’ve defined

  • Language barrier:

    Make Italian a requirement where necessary

  • Lack of capacity and support for individual projects

    Consider folding your own project into someone elses, in a way that you can share outcomes - i.e Maria makes a documentary video on how to set up Kei’s Open Tech School

  • Inability to effectively onboard people in a prolonged process

    Use this as a direct ask and understand your responsibility in maintaining a relationship and showing love and respect to the people you’re working with.

  • Not enough people using the space outside of scheduled events

    Create and team and this will solve itself overnight

  • Distributed workload for the same tasks

    Look at the Job descriptions other unMonasterians have outlined, could a job be shared across projects?

Now where do we recruit from?

  • EdgeRyders community - comment, if you can take a role.
  • Matera - now individual unMonasterians have a framework and direct ask, if wanted to go there, we could establish a week long effort focused on a recruitment drive.
  • Where else???

Desired Outcomes for Everything Above:

  • Create equal partners in projects who can feel ownership over projects and continue them once individual leaves
  • More successful projects
  • Greater collaboration
  • Realistic model for transition to people in Matera running the unMonastery beyond May.

This was actually one of the most effective things I ever did in the run up to unMonastery Matera had I not done it  (see here), I would have definitely drowned in work but is something I’d forgotten as a reliable tool for project development.

Next Step:

What’s our next step other than just going out and finding people? Do we bundle this as a call for participation, too formal? Do we ping all our existing networks? Do we approach existing organisations in Matera for support?


Structure and leadership

Makes sense. Openness is not lack of direction. Falkvinge put it simply and elegantly in Swarmwise: leadership in a network is exerted by standing up and saying “I want to accomplish [some realistic, measurable objective], as an intermediate step towards [some epic goal], therefore I will now start doing [some activity, that ostensibly gets you there]. You all can help by doing [some tasks]. Who’s in?” He repeats several times that you should never, ever allow the swarm to discuss its purpose. If people don’t like the purpose of your swarm, thay can and should go and form another swarm around something they like.

Without having reflected too much on it, I would definitely make this a formal call, with its own URL and all. Communication advantages are clear. Maybe you want to consider if the job metaphor is the right one – monastic life provides its own set of metaphors that might be richer.

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Maybe you want to consider if the job metaphor is the right one – monastic life provides its own set of metaphors that might be richer.  

Valuable work Ben – but I drag in Alberto’s comment because as I wrote in my post-LOTE#3 post after my visit to our neighbouring monastery that so dominates our view – the medium of the unMo is not work but ecstacy.  The mind-numbing labour of monks and nuns was to convert their sleep deprivation into prayer, faith, service and ultimately miracles.

If you boil down Swarmwise’s measurable objective goals even further to the culture qualities of performing our actions, this includes the creation of yet another good dinner and good jokes and pleasurable togetherness with strangers as key core sources of our rescillience and reproductivity. This kind of micro step-by-step analysis of our efforts has been mentioned for some time, but the effort to articulate them was dismissed at the time as too time consuming  – now, not having these ‘certified slogans’ we are engaging in some frustrating arm flapping.  We wouldn’t have had some of the expressions of ingrained helpness, had each individual managed to set themselves the task to expand their base of Italian by two all purpose phrases a day…

We have been torn into several different directions by rather monumental concrete measurable tasks: the kitchen, the website, the opening ceremony, a functional open studio exchange space. This is inevitable…  it also a cause of tunnel vision.  As we finally lift our heads it is now to compose an honourable exit strategy.  This is humiliating, but has always part of the four-month prototype package…

None of the concretely measurables have been my core area of concern (my project); my project has been survival, bridging, meditating, and dropping the odd (wise or surly) comment. These shall likely remain my main efforts.

Upon occasion I am dusted off and trotted out in one of my metaphorical public demonstrations.

I can ask myself if they will grow in scope or shrivel to the immaterial.  In either event, they still represent the distillation process of “Mining the Metaphor”.  I will continue my subjective documentation - it seems at least one or two people read them.

Is there more use for me closer to the interface of community interaction ? – I shall continue my own fieldwork with my contacts and hope to leave some residue from this interaction.   There seems much more for me to immediately to chew upon in collaboration with Katilin’s Archeological Forgery Studio.  The creation of meaningful ritual is highly dependent upon common understandings as to its usefulness.  Until the community reaches this point, it is bad manners to shove it down their throats. At the current moment there is a certain foment of resistance (documented in “The Healing Arts”) – until it ‘matures’, I have to protect myself from the pain…

unGuide unLimited

So, I made a popplet with the collaboration needs (and facts) for unGuide. 

I am new to Popplet, so have no idea how to make the bubbles not to be all named after me - maybe collaborators? Is everyone on Popplet? Can I invite you all as collaborators and we can build a huge mega popplet to include all the collaboration network? On the other hand, base line is, it is all my responsibility, so just as well be all assigned to me. I digress.

It is fairly straightforward how it is colour coded, but I write it down: 

green: unMonastery projects, the collaboration has been discussed/started, with the exception of the Open Tech School, hence the question mark (Kei, is this a possibility?)

pink: I think me working on this can be useful for other people, (basically, this is what I plan to do that may be useful for others)

blue: collaborations with non-unMonks, already discussed (but not materialised)

red: these all need to be figured out

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Two birds, one love

I’ve been thinking about how to do this effectively. It’s really a series of mini crowdfunding campaigns you want to build and run. The call for collaboration/community support for each projects needs to be clear, engaging and credible. Much like the scripted  mini-presentation for each project at Next. So my suggestion would be to get each unMonasterian to prepare their presentation (and video) according to this template next week.

The prospect of a public presentation is probably what is required for unMonasterians to summon up the energy to communicate with clarity and purpose about what they need help with. And what they can offer in return (dinners, looking at people’s cvs, helping people set up websites, training them in the unMonastery methodology, english lessosn…whatever)

I think this is a crucial step.