The unMonasterians Cookbook: recipes for bridging the gap between making a living and making meaning

the love of a book

We want to use the LOTE3 for creating content for our very own P2P Guide handbook.  The aim is to help one another make a living in ways that allow us to negotiate a different relationship to the dominant paradigm concerning the value of work and it’s nature. The book will offer inspiration, information, strategies, actionables and instructibles for:

  1. paying the rent
  2. influencing who you are in the eyes of others
  3. finding reasons to get out of bed

Those of us who have been discussing this idea in different Edgeryders threads think this is the most helpful content to produce together  for, and with, our peers all over the world. But this extends further than static information. What we have to offer is being creative about harnessing peer support, building resources and collaborations to help one another live and work outside the empoyment paradigm.


The idea for the unMonastery came out of a conversation a small number of us had at the last Living on the Edge event. What started out as a session about alternative ways to fundraise for meaningful projects turned into a much deeper discussion.  At some point in the conversation we realised that perhaps we were looking in the wrong direction.

We realised that perhaps the real question was not how we can find ways to chase money to support our experimental responses to economic, ecological and political crises. Rather the interesting question was how could the people in that room, experiment with new ways of living our own individual lives together, to support one anothers work? And what kind of an infrastructure would we need to build to support these experiments? Assuming that we would never have access to public funding or commercial investment?

The unMonastery is the first of these experiments. Rather than decide everything in advance we just decided to go ahead collaborate in making it happen, trusting ourselves and one another to be creative enough to figure things out together along the way. Thanks to the huge efforts of a small number of people with bursts of support from many more people, the unMonastery has gone from idea to prototype in less than one year.  At some point along the way the public administration of Matera, the City hosting the first prototype, got involved and offered  the space even putting money into renovating it. But what kickstarted it was us just deciding to go ahead and realise it together.

We are documenting the work of making it happen here, but at some point in the process someone came up with the idea that we should synthesise this into a how-to guide so others elsewhere could set up other unMonasteries where they are needed.

And it got me thinking, In which other new ways could we support one another to be able to do meaningful work while making a living? What questions could we ask and then flip into totally unexpected  solutions together? And could the challenge of collaboratively producing a practically useful and inspiring book be a good context within which to coordinate our experiments and motivate us to document them for one another?

In two weeks, over 100 community members will be gathering at lote3 at the unMonastery in Matera. The aim of the event is to help one another skill up and build capacity to get better and better at moving from talk to action in devising creative responses to economic, ecological and political crises.

I am personally very interested in this question: How can those currently having a hard time in the labour market help each other to generate revenue and meaningful work through networks?

So my quest is experimenting with new ways  of generating revenue through self-organising swarms and free floating collaborations now that we have a corporate shell we can use.

Want to help? Ask a question you want to answer through the book!

Those of coordinating the collaborative production of this book will use your questions  as a basis for structuring the book. And if with your help we will design a format for documentation from the event sessions so they feed into it!

So tell us:  What is your question? And which of the tracks/ session proposals matches it the closest?

Post your answers in the comments below, or tweet them using #unmonbook.

Crowdsource proposals?

Personally I like this project proposal (more than the other one). Very relevant for our peers. Yet, when it’s about finding ideas for research etc. projects we can do in a potential future collaboration, why not crowdsource them from the community? There might be many more interesting ideas out there …

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Not surprised…

since I’m evolving the original idea as the feedback drops in. I agree with you, we had a community call this morning where we made some progress on how to go about doing this. which is why I have struck through my original comment below. Update:

  1. Rather than a static resource it would be useful to be able to follow progress of an initiative over time, a timeline of what happened when from idea to successful implementation
  2. This requires us to come up with easy and fun ways to continuously document our work on initiatives we take on together as result of \#LOTE, a kind of diary sthat starts, rather than ends with #LOTE3
  3. Its different when you are staying in touch with people you like and care about, rather than some random service. So we discussed using sms or twitter for these updates. Also the context where they are aggregared needs to make it clear that what we post are thoughts and works in progress, not finished posts to be published publicly. 

Someone mentioned a secure messenging plugin for wordpress. I recommend checking out and for secure messenging services and email respectively. They are not out yet and lote3 is in two weeks, so what else could we do in the meanwhile?

we just need to find a good setup so that once the conversation starts rolling we can harness it into the actual production. Also since we are interfacing with institutions we need to always mind the bridging effort which believe me is considerable. We need to propose research that increase legibilility and defensibility of edgeryders projects in the eyes of the institutional players with which they want to interact. Too much freedom and you get really bad content imho.

Here i am trying to formulate a challenge which is  actionable because it is boundedn. Now what we need in here is the process of crowdfunding and that also influences how we think about the book

A template for planning crowdfunding campaigns 

How do we Mutually Develop a Space that Sustains us?

Let me first give some context.

By Mutual Development, I mean working together as equals to evolve something better for everybody. Not just those lucky enough to have been born to into relative affluence (at least from the Global Perspective).

A Space that Sustains us, applies to our Maslovian needs. A space that provides us with food, shelter, security, emotional and intellectual sustainance.

These are the key questions I’m trying to address through action and reflection at present. So far I’ve managed to create a rather fun, and interesting lifestyle for myself - I’m facilitating a Felucca Festival in Aswan through which I hope to build a space where I can live for 3 months of the year. What I need is to find how to extend this to allow others to be free, and develop in the long term a space that sustains.

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Blog based Project Space

I’ve been thinking that this subject touches not only on documentation for preservation of knowledge but also on the space in which we collaborate AND what and how/what information is presented to the outside world to communicate our values: community, professionalism, etc.

This sketch can be implemented using nothing more then basic blogging (with the chronological time reversed from past to present):

Every entry is a blog post.

Taxonomies can be created to give structure and context. I’ve drawn in two samples:

  1. Phases - from inception to a living project (each post generally be assigned to only one phase).
  2. Activities - depicting well ... types of activities (each post can be assigned to numerous activities).

These taxonomies can be used to filter and focus on things that a reader may find relevant. For example clicking on “Milestones” will “filter” the view and leave only posts that were marked as milestones … giving an overview-at-a-glance of the project over time. Similarly one could filter out all funding related activities, etc.

Depending on how this is technically implemented - the taxonomies may be valuable in navigating information in all the project work-spaces. So a reader could focus on all funding activities across EdgeRyders projects - getting a macro view of that topic.

I’ve suggested the use of icons (in the wireframe colored boxes) to provide visual communications which makes it easy to scan the timeline and fin items of interest … though implementing that may go beyond default blogging implementation.

Good :slight_smile:

Definitely an interesting proposal for a redesign of the project overview page for single projects, and potentially also the list of all the projects.

It also offers a way for redesigning and generalizing the current use of taxonomies in groups, which is currently just the “LOTE3 Activity Reference” as used here in the Making LOTE3 group. So maybe for implementing this, starting with just one taxonomy (the “Activities” one) is a good idea.

The thing that I don’t know yet how to implement correctly is if and how to make filtering by taxonomy terms across projects possible. As seen from the “Making LOTE3” example above, groups should be able to have their own taxonomy terms. To combine this with site-wide terms, we could:

  1. Have two taxonomies: one per-group taxonomy managed via og_vocab and one normal site-wide one. This introduces some redundancy though.
  2. Have only per-group taxonomies and no site-wide taxonomy at all. Means it's impossible to filter across projects by activity.
  3. Have one site-wide taxonomy with multiple levels of hierachy. Site-wide taxonomy entries are at the first level, per-group entries at lower levels for making the first-level entries more specific. Then to each group, only the taxonomy terms applicable for this group would be presented. This can be implemented with either the reference_option_limit module (how-to) or the og_taxonomoy_filter module (how-to). Both solutions seem to be low-maturity though, and group admins could not add their own taxonomy terms easily (hopefully in contrast to og_vocab).

Seems like I would prefer the first solution as the cleanest implementation from a tech point of view, despite the redundancy between per-group and sitewide taxonomies. Opinions? If you want to proceed with that, I could install the og_vocab module for you so you can try if it works for your purposes.

Another issue is how to actually extend the current functionality of the og_group_browsing widget that is used as the start page for groups now (as is the default in Drupal Commons, which we use). To keep future maintenance efforts low, we should try to not replace or fork this module. Instead we can add a so-called panel above this widget’s post list, showing lists of posts according to the taxonomy filtering. But that’s redundant and confusing :frowning: There’s a feature request for adding taxonomy filtering to the existing widget, and this would be the clean solution for the longer-term at least.


I can’t say much about the implementation since I know nothing about the internals of the platform.

I would like to give the taxonomy questions a non-technical perspective:

  1. Ready-made and shared taxonomies unburden a project from having to establish its own taxonomy.
  2. Ready-made and shared taxonomies are one way to carry knowledge from one project to another.
  3. Ready-made and shared taxonomies may provided valuable insight in the future in numeours contexts (think: an overview of EdgeRyders fund-raising capabilities over a period fo 5 years).
  4. Ready-made and shared taxonomies make it more inviting for an outsider to become an observer - once you have taken in a taxonomy in one project it becomes a tool for you to navigate other projects.

Regarding “Groups should be able to have their own taxonomy terms”:

  1. I can see that there may be different types of projects with different taxonomy needs (for example: software development projects may have different actions than community-eco-farm project or unMonastery projects) that justify "separate taxonomies". However they may also have shared activities.
  2. On the back-end (or wherever publishing content takes place) having a shared taxonomy may be a more demanding in terms of user-experience, but on the viewing front end (where I believe user experience is more critical) every project can present only the activities that were used inside it - essentially hiding taxonomy items that are not relevant to it.
  3. So I agree that groups should be able to have their taxonomy terms but I have a feeling they should all belong to the same global taxonomy.

If I understood correctly the options you presented - my vote would probably go with option (3) - but without hierarchy. I would go for two taxonomies or more (I gave two just as an example) depending on how we want to organize/access/present the knowledge we accumulate.

How to make the transition?

This is a topic I am very interested in as I believe ER has what it takes to create the appropriate environment. I’ll intentionally be avoiding going into details on what is such environment as I feel there is already a consensus/common ground.

I can’t say “I am having a bad time in the labour market”, however I know I would be a much happier individual if I could apply my knowledge and energy into what really matters: social development. As far as my understanding goes, projects of this sort include what Nadia stated above: finding “creative responses to economic, ecological and political crises”.

That said, something that worries me is how do I or any given ER willing to take this life-journey, loose traditional market labour habits to undertake these new dynamics and lifestyle.

Here’s a simple analogy I’d like to use to illustrate this question. A year ago two friends of mine moved from Lisbon to the countryside in Portugal with the objective of being self-sustainable. After ongoing research and practice they started using permaculture techniques, substituting pharmaceutical for natural medicine, hand-crafting leather goods and tribal instruments to sell in festivals, etc.

My point is that this was a process they started years ago! In order to reach our ERs goal, “harnessing peer support, building resources and collaborations to help one another live and work outside the employment paradigm”, one needs to change many market labour habits on the way…

Where to start?


There’s a lot I can say about this … but one thing in particularly shimmered for me as I read your comment.

I think that a first personal shift to make is one where you have space to give. No one is going to pay you/me/us to make this transition … and that’s probably a good thing - because “paying for” is one of the things we are transitioning away from. You are going to have to give this to yourself … and we are going to have to give this to each other. We may be able to generate value along the way (financial or other) that will sustain us and and support us in this transition … but it is up to you/me/us to create it.

Looking back at my journey I felt I’ve done a kind of Ikido move with life. Instead of fighting and struggling (another paradigm to move away from) to get to where I thought (yet another tricky paradigm) I wanted to be I surrendered to what was available to me. Instead of trying to change the world to fit my life I changed my life to fit my world. Instead of looking for a way to make money to live the live I was immersed in I have moved into a life where money plays a much smaller part. I have become “rich” by adjusting to my environment. It has been at least (if not more) about surrendering to that which is, as it was about creating new things.

This has put me in a place where I have space and time to dedicate to other things I care about. For example, to partaking in this dialogue (and others like it) and travelling to Italy to meet.

I have watched my relatively poor neighbors (Romanian villagers) and from them I learned a practical aspect of giving: it is easier to give something you have a lot of … from a place of abundance. So the question is how to move into a place abundance from which you can easily give. That, I believe, is a key for us to be able to collaborate and work together towards higher goals.

Does that make any sense?

walking away from the king

I was just reminded of this video:

that’s what I did, it sounds like that’s what your Portugese friend did.

you can’t work yourself out of the old story, that IS the old story

Multiplicity of different approaches and different entry points

Hi Tiago,

I think Ronen’s approach is one of many pieces that complement each other in an infrastructure supportive of life and work outside the employment paradigm.  Another aspect I think is that you do need a functioning interface with the mainstream that empowers individuals who want to support transformation to be able to do so without shouldering too much risk. Because if the threshold towards contributing towards change is too high, the rational response on an individual level is to stay away from it.

One of the things I really appreciate from my recent South Africa trip is the shift in perspective ignited by being in a context where most of the people who would be paying us to do stuff, wish to engage and generate mutual value with are in situations where being able to get online is a challenge.  Or even getting to a workshop (mobility in SA is expensive and hard to coordinate if you don’t have a car or enough money). Especially because there is an explosion of creativity in terms of work being done to overcome these challenges in the context of getting revenue-generating local businesses up and running in South Africa and elsewhere. There is a lot of space for transnational p2p collaboration which is currently not being paid much attention to.

The other is that after months of interacting with many different people who could really use help with getting different things done and have access to resources to pay for it I realise that there are several gaps which require lots of creativity, and peer to peer collaboration to bridge.

I just got back from a long conversation with a friend who has built a company which like Edgeryders aims to, sells creative consultancy hours organisations. His company has built a crowdfunding and match-funding platform through which public money for culture is allocated in a more democratic way: if you manage to get people to put their own money into your cultural project, then you get public funding that matches the amount you managed to raise on your own. He also does workshops, training etc and his clients are mainly public sector organisations.  So he has a lot of first hand experience relevant to what we are trying to build.

Yesterday he asked for feedback regarding their new corporate website. On looking at it I realised it suffers from the same issue many people trying to navigate the labour market outside the employment paradigm have with their outward communication: it isn’t built in a way that guides the curious visitor through a conversion process at the end of which is a door to us. Between the time they first come into contact with information from us and the time they step through the door, they should know what they need to do, how and whom they need to get on board to become a paying client to us. To be effective this conversion process should engage and motivate the person within the client organisation to do much of the homework involved in the sales process: it should feel like we are empowering and supporting them to build their own initiative or career through us. They should feel like they too are Edgeryders, or could be through us.

For me that is the part that is missing from  all our communication. We assume people are confident, capable, knowledgable, creative enough to be able to identify and take the appropriate next steps needed from reading information about us, to a contract being signed sealed and delivered to us. Some things we discussed today:

  • Few people have meta-level understanding of how their organisations work, ie. what things need to be aligned and how to motivate people to make the necessary decisions in order for resources to be made accessible: key administrative processes and constraints, navigating internal politics, timely windows of opportunity internal and external
  • A big part of the sales process is about removing fear by minimising perceived risk associated with making decisions needed at each step of the way: signalling legitimacy, legibility and defensibility
    • Bottom up: numbers and reach, social media presence/mention and visualisation of networks, visual affilitation in peoples web spaces
    • Top down: association with power, instituional legitimacy (reports, participantion in boards, partnerships etc), visibility in events and mainstream media
  • Another part is understanding incentive structures: what will make this person and others they need to get on board winners, and how do we build a knowledge base over time about this? How do we give them the sense that we know a lot more about the space they are operating in that they do? Here an idea was something called the grey blog, posts about the daily lives and concerns of people in postitions relevant to the people we want to engage.
  • A final part is providing them with windows of opportunity: A lot of making deals happen is a question of timing. We need to make it easy for people to stay in the loop and be informed of opportunities relevant to them. Here a syndicated newsletter is one tool for doing this, but can we be creative in terms of having the people who get this information also contributing towards building it? And in turn sending windows of opportunities our way?

So could we experiment with a format for interactive communication that guides a visitor to a website, and helps them create conditions to be able to become a client? Could we try this with Edgeryders?

Interested in hearing thoughts about this…

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I agree with you Nadia. My personal choices are just that … I offer them as example not as global truth.

However I believe that “walking away from the king” can be viewed as a more global truth. I believe that anyone who hires EdgeRyders will ultimately experience some kind of repurposing - and int that in doing so will inevitable be joining this movement of moving away from being in servitude towards the powers that be to being in servitude of a higher cause. David Korten mentions that for “walking away from the king” to be effective we need to walk away together … and that is quite a challenge.

I believe we have to experiment with how we communicate with our potential clients. My understanding is that if we don’t, we may be compromising our own future (at least as EdgeRyders). I view our purpose (as EdgeRyders) is to create an interface between the edge and the mainstream … to process/filter/digest the edge into a form that can be made available to the mainstream.

The more time I spend here at EdgeRyders the more I am getting a sense of flow rather than containment. I meet more people I’d like to engage with here but here is not where I would engage with them. I am leaning towards embracing this quality or at least letting it inform us in how to shape EdgeRyders. I have a feeling it would be more valuable for us to enable flow from the edge to the mainstream then to be vested in becoming the source of the flow. We are not the edge, we are a channel to and from it.

Transformative Literacy

I just lectured on societal transformation a couple of weeks ago and have come across two modells that might be of interest to the cook book: 1) Transformative Literacy (including technological, economical, insitutional, cultural dimension) and 2) Four Levels of Self-Interpretation (including collective self-interpretation, reflexive self-perception, social insitutions and practices and pre-reflexive self/habitus). I could imagine that a combination of both models translated into a language that everyone can easily understand could offer an entrance to communication, engagement and transfer. It could be a mapping process where your position yourself/your project and will be able to point out a future focus as well). At the moment all of the material is in German - if you think that this little blurb here sounds intersting I could compile a translation of the presentation, something that we could play with, something that could be used/worked on at LOTE as well.