The Edgeryders Research Network: where we are and how we are scaling

blog

#1

Back in 2012, we watched in amazement as the original Edgeryders experiment unfolded, and a global community came together to share experiences and hacks to survive and thrive as the Great Recession ravaged the world. Every day we marveled at the courage, ingenuity and generosity of peer-to-peer communities, all the more impressive as world leaders and business seemed incapable of envisioning a way forward. We were in love with these people, and with their – our – collective intelligence.

So we started a company to fund the infrastructure to keep the community together, and to grow it. It was our way to contribute. Soon, organizations with interesting problems started showing up at our door. What are the emergent trends in social innovation in country X? What do young people in country Y really want? What is going to be the next social shift? And just like that, we were in business. We had connected this massive, hackerish, anarchic, radical, “distributed think tank” with established institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, and UNESCO.

As the community grew and the company developed, however, we felt the need for more sophisticated tools to harvest the wealth of ideas, perspective and intelligence. We were just scratching the surface – and, frankly, the sheer numbers of contributors and of their contributions was starting to overwhelm us. We could only do well on the market because the competition sets a low bar.

We felt a need to go deeper. In collective intelligence, new ideas and models emerge. But we individual humans are not good at perceiving emergence. We think in stories; someone makes a witty remark that triggers an “aha” moment, and that remark stays with us. Our cognitive processes zoom right in on it, tuning out the richness of alternative perspective and ideas and reducing a rich array of position to a few soundbites. To keep our own cognitive biases in check, we needed a solid methodology, that ensures reproducibility of results even with qualitative analysis.

We turned to research. Our first research project, called OpenCare, started in 2016. It allowed us to develop a method based on a combination of ethnography and network science that is, as far as we know, unique. Implementing it required building our own tools: software to implement ethnographic coding directly on the Edgeryders platform and to induce and analyze, from the platform database, what we call semantic social networks. This intellectual journey also led to forging alliances, even friendships, with other researchers, notably the network science group at Bordeaux University, led by the wonderful Guy Melançon (@melancon on the platform).

Since the experience had been so positive, in late 2017 we decided to set up a workgroup dedicated to research in Edgeryders. The idea was to systematically scout for opportunities to improve our understanding of collective intelligence, our techniques for evoking it and our tools for analyzing its outcomes. Ideally, we would do this by choosing as case studies urgent issues that the Edgeryders community at large care about.

In so doing, we reasoned, we would hit several birds with one stone. We would, of course, become better at picking the collective brain for information and insight – and this would make us better at consulting, which has so far been our main revenue stream. We would create opportunities for passionate, skillful members of our community to be paid to have a go at fixing problems they care about (improving citizen science, fighting climate change, making sense of the rise of populism in Europe…). And we would create a stream of revenue for Edgeryders as a company, with long project cycles (2-3 years per project) that allow fairly long-range planning. The rewards were large enough to merit an investment. As research director, I accepted responsibility for it. Then, we recruited Anique Yael Vered (@anique.yael on the platform), and put her in charge of implementing this strategy, and if possible to improve upon it.

One year on, the results are in, and they are encouraging. We decided to focus our effort on a campaign to bring semantic social network analysis to the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research program. We positioned ourselves as a hardworking, loyal, ambitious junior partner, with undisputed leadership on a new and exciting research method, SSNA itself. In the spring of 2018, we presented nine proposals: two of them were successful, a third one passed the first stage of evaluation and is still in the race. Our success rate is 25%, almost double the average of 13%. The two successful proposals are worth a total of eight million euro; Edgeryders’s own budget runs to 1.3 million. Both projects will start in January 2019 and run to the end of 2021. They will leave Edgeryders profoundly changed – much better equipped to harness collective intelligence in the service of our community, our clients, and humanity at large. Not bad for our first year.

And it’s not just these projects, either. We have put ourselves on the map of European research; acquired confidence and a better sense of how to build proposals; acquired new partners, some of them strategic. We built up the administrative plumbing to participate in EU-funded research (legal and financial validation). And critically, we re-involved many a “brilliant misfit” from the Edgeryders community in meaningful, paid work, which is, ultimately, our mission.

So, here’s what’s going to happen. We are making the workgroup on research permanent, and scaling it up. We are calling it the Edgeryders Research Network. As every key piece of Edgeryders, we are making it a public good. Collective intelligence is not just something we use to do research “out there”: it’s how we operate at home. Openness and treating the Research Network’s assets as public goods available to everyone are our chosen path to scaling. So, if you, too, are riding the edge of change, and if you have research interests but no academic affiliation to pursue them, come talk to us. Chances are, we might be able to help, collaborate or even act as the store front for your project.


Hello, Edgeryders!
#2

Thank very much for the historical perspective on Edgeryders. It is very enlightening and should be considered for addition on your website under “background” or “history” for future and present potential Edgeryders.


#3

A fine summary @alberto, and no doubt a proud moment for those Edgeryders that have been a part of this mycelium’s magic.

Indeed this bottom line is what seems to be opening fresh collaboration spaces across system change more and more. It continues to amaze me how much we are already in the midst of profound structural change. What I’m learning is how important interfaces are between established institutions and autonomous reproduction. This is an edge our movement operates on. This is the strategy behind the Edgeryders Research Network and that of our allies. This is the martial art I commit to.

For those of you interested in thinking through how we operationalise this scaling, please let us know and follow in particular the Horizon2020 threads as right now we are working between
a) how to prepare for processes and teams involved in Horizon2020 projects twice the size than any Edgeryders’ predecessor
b) while safeguarding Edgeryders’ DNA - such as project autonomy
c) and continuing to establish the Research Network as a key player in EU research and innovation projects through new proposals for 2019.

Another focus perhaps of interest is how the Research Network can collaborate with other Edgeryders’ initiatives, such as the Culture Squad, Particip.io and Open Village. Interweaving Edgeryders’ network flows is one of the most generative mechanisms I’ve seen out there for individual and collective fulfilment.

YES. Flashback to some earlier conversations on strategic mapping and the philosophies of scaling [quote=“anique.yael, post:19, topic:7958”]
Some members, are interested in how we co-create a healthy and open research community beyond silos of specific projects. My own research for example, explores processes and practices in collective thinking-making-living for resilient and autonomous livelihoods. Earlier in the year, @asimong and I had a conversation to begin exploring how the Edgeryders research network might scale - the conversation suspended itself in the wave of H2020 proposals and I’d like to open it up again here and now. It’s crux is how we conduct research as a commons. This compliments existing Edgeryders approaches around open knowledge and data, and of course mobilising across our collective intelligence through knowledge sharing and ethnography.
[/quote]

At the Edgeryders’ team retreat in May, the phrase an autonomous alternative to institutional research came up in one of our workshopping sessions and it happened to stick with many of us. Indeed this is one of the shining lights of why I think what we, our partners and our allies are doing is significant. Knowledge has become so commodified that we are called to reimagine what it even is, and what it can do.

So here is to our collective intelligence.


#4

Hi! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience, it seems absolutely fascinating. We are currently rebuilding our community structure. We are just in the beginning of the research and I would like to ask what are the three best advices that you would give to someone literally at the edge of change? Also is there any possibility to learn more about the 9 proposals?

Thank you in advance,
Dorka


#5

Hello @ClimateKICAlumni, nice to meet you! I understand we are already in dialogue (via Giulio and Michelle), and we will certainly be happy to tell you more about the proposals. One is outlined here.

With OpenCare, we simply published online the whole proposal, with an open license. In this case, I am not sure consortium coordinators will agree to be so open, though we will ask.


#6

Thank you Alberto, looking forward to hear more from you :slight_smile:


#7

Ping @anique.yael[quote=“alberto, post:5, topic:9116”]
With OpenCare, we simply published online the whole proposal, with an open license. In this case, I am not sure consortium coordinators will agree to be so open, though we will ask.
[/quote]


#8

Yes noted. I’ll be flagging with the new consortia as CAs and GAs are signed.


#9

Hi there Edgeryders,
I haven’t been saying anything for a while but I am glad that you are still alive - and more alive than ever it seems! Good to see that the project is thriving!
I have completed my PhD in Nov 2016 and now - aside from teaching and creative work - trying to get some research going (funded). It isn’t easy. I have dared, having a PhD from Art School, to apply for research funding in the field of Psychology ( I actually do have a research group in the field and a supervisor but that doesn’t help). - Don’t even try that!- The silo thinkers will tell you to stop talking even before you have even opened your mouth.
So it’s good to see that you are doing research at Edgeryders, too.
I have always thought that I can learn a lot from your approach, well, that’s what has drawn me to you in the first place.
OK, so let’s see if my project will find some input from here. Where would be the best place to post it?

Hugs, Thomas


#10

Thomas :slight_smile:

@anique.yael is in charge of developing the network – she might be thinking of a process for doing that. I guess a good start would be to write somewhere what your project is about, what work you have already done (if any) and what pieces of the puzzle you already have (if any). Partners? A call you want to apply to?


#11

Thanks, Alberto @alberto and Hi Anique @anique.yael, a brief description of my project can be downloaded here
The aim of my research is to build a storytelling database that can be used for narrative therapy and for strenghtening resilience.
The phase I am in is looking for partners and for funding. So far, I have the University of Lisbon- dept. of Human Kinetics on board and the Storycenter in Berkeley, USA. I applied for a Horizon 2020 research call, but it was rejected. I am looking now for more stakeholders to make a more compelling pitch and see if there are more fitting calls.


#12

Hi @thomasviscom the project certainly sounds interesting and relevant. I’m always open to discussing potential partnerships. How about we have a call about it in the next couple of weeks?

Please email me directly on anique.yael@edgeryders.eu to arrange. Looking forward to talking more


#13

Hi @anique.yael, thanks for the reply. I will e-mail you and we can skype or face time later this week.


#14

Late to the party, as I haven’t been reading the updates here for a while. That is most excellent news. Well done and many congratulations to all involved!


#15

Way to go, @ton. Ad maiora.