These are the main themes concerning stewardship that I came accross so far (prior to digging in with Open Ethnographer):
- Nation states fail to take care of various assets, from public spaces and places in cities to digital data. Privatization is also not an option seen as solution, as it creates oligarchy.
- The best solution is stewardship by communities coming to the forefront, when assets are not owned by anyone for individualistic purposes, but just being taken care of, collectively.
- Stewardship can be a personal life choice, when a person devotes their life to fixing various problems in a community. Also, communities can be seen as stewards as well.
- Community (as a gathering, as a feeling, as a platform) is the core pillar for stewardship concept, as it was reflected in the Lote4 discussions.
- It can also be said that stewardship is about making things work and about improving community living. If community is understood as a platform, it should not be just a platform, it needs to serve people.
- Sharing economy is a start, but communities should look beyond that and share other assets, such as ideas, resources, etc. Money is just one of a means to compensate for one's work.
- Communication is vital, between peers, between communities, on politics and policy level. People need to be dependent on each other.
- Stewardship is about freedom. Freedom of assets, freedom of people. No one can force someone to become a steward. It's a free decision.
- Stewardship is a daily work and requires a lot of commitment. Stewards should be careful not to overwork themselves and not to burn out.
- Process of stewardship is as important as outcomes are, and inclusion is the key.
Emerging new themes from stewardship:
- The future of health and social care in the hands of hackers. Governments are at odds when it comes to making honest projections for societal well-being, in times of ageing populations and shrinking state budgets. Care systems are increasingly deemed unable to cater to the needs of tomorrow’s elderly populations, many of whom are today’s unemployed, migrants, or poor. At Edgeryders after Lote4, we’re starting to envision a system of care by a community of hackers, armed with cheap, open source tools, which would gather most promising bottom up solutions such as new types of care homes as intergenerational co-living spaces, open medical technologies as alternatives to the Internet of Things and more that can be the focus of future prototypes, with development amplified by Open Ethnographer.
- Building capacity and resilience in stewardship livelihoods. In several sessions at LOTE the stewards’ precarious condition was explored, particularly since most truly innovative projects are low resourced and voluntary, with small groups shouldering a great size of the effort (see examples). The risks are manifold for achieving impact, from mismanaging expectations or resources (not enough eyeballs), to loss of reliability (achieving growth by compromising) or even burnouts (‘temporary ownership is an aspect of precarity’, notices one of the stewards). These all reproduce the same inequalities which stewarding is trying to address by increasing use value: inequalities in access, in consumption, in relative gains and so on. Who is caring for the stewards? Who else can and should act as carrier for the learnings? What can we learn from open hardware/software projects combating scarcity (‘so hard to do that without ending up homeless eating nothing but beans’, says an Edgeryder)? These are but some of the deeper questions we could begin to address with our approach of network engagement and Open Ethnographer.
- Market and engagement failures in the sharing economy. The boundaries between community sharing and commercial sharing are blurred, as shown by the experience of the industry titans AirBnb or Uber. As an example of stewardship, the sharing economy is indeed creating social benefits, but its transactions go beyond cooperation and the staggering amount of personal data collected on platforms is powerful and to an extent threatening. Can newer collaborative environments, like swarm economies or non-monetary ones come up with fairer social contracts for their communities? How to use the Internet as a platform enabling a fairer distribution of rewards for not just the enablers, but also for all contributors?