The unMonastery admits the first unMonasterians – and is accepting new ones!

Big news from the unMonastery front: applications for residencies in the world’s first unMonastery in Matera have been re-opened. Following the interest prompted by Living On The Edge 3, a new deadline has been set for the submission of the residency proposals. The proposals for the residencies can be sent from 3 December 2013 up to 20 December 2013. The assessment will be completed by 15 January 2014. To apply, read the call and complete the online application form. You may also want to read the unMonasterian’s expectation management primer, to get an idea of what is waiting for you, as an unMonasterian, in Matera. 

The selection panel has already accepted several unMonasterians. Those were the ones who sent the strongest applications, expected to make significant contributions towards solving the Matera unMonastery challenges. Those who were not selected are encouraged to re-apply: the new call is also for them, to give them a chance to rethink and improve their projects.

The first unMonasterians and their projects are, in random order (drum roll):

  • [Cristiano Siri]: perfecting the interface between the city and its unMonastery.
  • Marco [mstn] Stenico: a web-based system to display information about Basilicata's public transport in real time.
  • Francesco [immaginoteca] Cingolani: "a social database of unused spaces".
  • [elf Pavlik]: crafting together a community managed and owned wireless mesh network.
  • Marc Schneider: an open-source system to drive solar panels.
  • [Rita O]rlando: designing the objects needed for unMonastic life. 
  • [Kathleen]: The Living Well – Bringing generations together to learn, share, play, take action and be present.
  • Francesco Pellegrino: re-engineering Matera's water cycle for urban farming. 
  • and let's not forget the unAbbott [Ben] Vickers!

These eight wonderful people (not counting Ben) have applied for 25 months of residencies of the 40 available in total. We count on the second run of applicants to fill the remaining 15. Congratulations to them, good luck to the next applicants and long live the unMonastery!



AWESOME! This is great news. Congratulations to all of you and welcome to Matera in just about 2 months!

The first unMonastarians: is this public and official or should we wait a bit before going social?


Share away. :slight_smile:


Congrats at the first unMonasterians! :slight_smile:

Joining forces and multiplying the effect

Hi [phm] and welcome here too, I thought it might be easier to move conversation from email onto the platform.

Reading your introduction in the Beautiful Wiki Community Dojo just makes me think how closely the idea is aligned to the unMonastery: it starts with the need to work with like minded people, build an intentional community, and anchor it in real life problem solving… To quote you:

I look at the world and it saddens me that there is so much injustice, oppression, suffering, greed, stupidity and violence. I’d like to see humans doing a better job of things/society/politics. One of the projects I want to work on with others is improving this situation. So as above, I think the most efficient way for me to work on this problem is in a real-life community.

Starting a community and getting our own space is also probably a good step towards fixing some of these problems. It gives us the control to experiment with new types of society/economy/politics. It gives us our own little world/space where we can try the things we want with minimal interference from pre-existing powers. If we can build something there that we think is an improvement, others will look at us and see that our ways are better, then they can try the same things.

I am always surprised to learn about similar initiatives who could benefit a lot from the model [Ben] and others here are prototyping. And how joining forces could help many more of us realise what we dream about. Look, I’ve just looked up the first post ever introducing the unMonastery, back when it was only a group idea born out of the needs you’ve identified yourself, the difference being that they’ve been open to the idea of working with the establishment:

everyone felt that they knew of places around Europe with serious structural problems, which were often the same - things such as underused building stock combined with homelessness; a feeling of community breakdown and lack of rootedness; high levels of youth unemployment; low levels of computer literacy, meaning low take-up of low-cost technical solutions to social problems; lack of socially-conscious arts infrastructure. at the same time, we each felt that we had a set of skills that were under-used, or which we could put to use in a socially-conscious way.

the solution: decide on city that needs help with those sorts of problems. talk to local authorities and city leaders. persuade them to give us a space to use, as a co-operative live/work space, for at least a year. we move there as a small-ish group. we work, alongside local residents, to help the community adapt in a positive way, using the specialist skills that we would bring. (read more)

Maybe you’d like to consider applying for the unMonastery? Or visit ? Another thing is that the unMonastery is open to being borrowed, replicated, re-mixed by whomever wishes to do so. So if these guys are achieving good results you can use that to back up your own proposal  :)

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intentional communities

Yep. Same wavelength.

And I think (I hope) we are going to see an explosion of this type of thing in the near future. Once the first groups start to show that it is really feasible, and document the process, more and more people will get the inspiration and nerve to try it. Looking back, people will wonder why the revolution didn’t happen sooner. ‘It was so simple. We just got together and lived the way we wanted to live’.

But why now? Haven’t people always had this dream? Of course it’s not a new idea; there have been hippie communes, kibbutzism, squatted social centres, etc. So why now? Why no explosion before? I guess it’s some magical point where all the right things have come of age: The internet, social media, hackspaces/maker culture, 3D printers,  DIY bio, hydro/aquaponics, bitcoins… etc

unMonastery has a lot in common with our thinking.

As I see it, the differences are:

  1. We want the long term future to be secure from the start. Borrowing a space for a year is really cool, but I’d be even happier if we owned the land. (And I’m confident that we can find the money to do this). In any scenario where we don’t own the land/space, I’d want a solid plan for keeping the community together if we had to give up the land/space. I’d hope that the core of the community would intend to stay together long-term.

I wouldn’t say I was closed to the idea of ‘working with the establishment’, just wary. I see anything that takes power from ‘our’ hands as a risk.

  1. I wouldn’t put so much emphasise on helping the local community. The goal is “make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone”. (which may involve helping/interacting with the locals or it may not).

Personally I think our best shot at this is to begin by making/acquiring a lot of money by using our brainpower. If we do not become the next google/facebook/microsoft, I’ll think we have failed. (I mean become that big/successful. I don’t mean we want to copy anything else about them). (Others I’ve been talking to say we can change the world without money, but I struggle to imagine a situation where you offer an altruist 4 billion BTC and they don’t bite your hand off saying ‘yes! I could do a lot of good with that!’ and instead say ‘nah, we don’t really need it, we can do everything with the power of love’ or whatever). However, if we fail to make this amount of money, I won’t give up hope, and I’ll try the other ways, but I don’t want to fail.

  1. Higher priority on farming / sustainability / self sufficiency.

Probably similar to Antwerp Collective - (we’re already talking with Dante).

Anyone else we should be talking to? I’d also stress that all the things I’ve written are general feelings. I’m very open to people trying to change my mind about anything. (And if I find myself traveling; I’d love to visit Matera. But for the meantime, unfortunately we will have to make do with the internet :-/

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Short Thoughts

Same wavelength for sure.

Some thoughts on difference, I could write a very long response but unfortunately I’m bit overstretched, where are you based? would love to meet up!

  1. Land ownership: I believe the only way this can possibly work is with real asset transfer of property to the community, this though is a difficult argument to make - unMonastery is a strange, untested idea and at this stage is a prototype. Despite the clarity and logic of the project to like minded individuals such as those found here and other communities similar to EdgeRyders, mainstream institutions have seen many projects fail - who’s to say ours won’t?

The point at which you own the land, is the point at which the weight of responsibility multiplies, significantly - we’ve seen from any number of projects, city plans and well intentioned community planning that things get tricky and complicated on the ground. I’m thinking of things on the scale of modernist housing projects, which we’re now witnessing the fallout of utopian’s best intentions.

In this moment we’re working through certain compromises, there’s a signifcant shift in power taking place globally, but who ‘wins’ is entirely undetermined, broadly speaking the actors are institutions (i.e the state), the free market and a growing networked society. Each of these players has a very real stake in the assets that require societal shift on the scale we think is coming. Unless you want to fight over property relations, in a very ugly way, then you need to establish a way of working that is better and creates greater meaning for all parties; but that is also accountable. The scale of meeting such a balance is pretty high. unMonastery is transitionary, it’s an experiment to begin to map out how some of this might work and share those learnings. In the UK land ownership hasn’t really changed for thousands of years, who can say if we’re be successful in a way that is replicatable across borders. Despite these odds, I do think we’re better placed in history than we have been for a very long time to make a move like this.

  1. Money, in my experience everything breaks when money gets involved, the work and companies bred from the California Idealogy are a good case in point - things like The Whole Earth catalog gave rise and had a heavy influence on companies like Google and Apple, however their ability to realise and implement those early intentions has seen to be shortcoming in the face of enormous wealth and shareholder influence.

unMonastery for me is not a utopian project designed to solve the woes of the world, it operates at the scale of the invention of the fire hydrant, it’s designed to put out fires in the present moment, so that others can begin to build foundations and infrastructure for doing the next bit, a safe space for problem solving - who knows though, unMonastery or other projects like it might birth a project capable of making major impact on global problems but that shouldn’t be the aim at the outset, at least not in the first 10 years of the project plan, otherwise we’re likely to be jaded and alienated by our failures, not recognises our success (however incremental), unable to reiterate in the face of change/crisis and at worst rehash the communes of the 60; giving rise to the next silicon valley, for the benefit of the few who were involved in cryptocurrency, the sharing economy and hacker culture, whilst all other facets of society fall off the edge of a cliff - we’d like to do one part really well and then decide collectively what the next step is.

These are just my thoughts and feelings, they don’t necessary reflect the overall intentions of all those involved but I figured it’d be useful to expand on some of the points set out. Very open to learning from your intepretations and own projects :slight_smile:


I am even less representative of the community as [Ben], but I subscribe to this word for word:

unMonastery for me is not a utopian project designed to solve the woes of the world, it operates at the scale of the invention of the fire hydrant. 

Making fire hydrants is the kind of contribution I can reasonably commit to making. Building the next Google – frankly, that’s out of my league. But I will cheer you guys on from the fire-hydrant manufacturing facility on the sidelines!

a little faith

Out of your league? Yes. Out of our league? Nope. How did google start? Just a couple of smart guys with a neat idea. Do we have any smart people? Yes. Can we make useful things? Yes. Can we leverage that power to “make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone”?

Sure. Why not?

On randomness, decentralization and community

Well, [phm], I think you forgot one ingredient of the Google story: they drew the lucky number. Any initiative’s a priori outcome is a random variable. The realization of that random variable can be very far off its expected value, way into the tails of its probability distribution. 90s dotcomland was a world with fat tailed probability distributions; you would expect to fail, but could score really, really big. An implication of this is that you can’t make the next Google by volition: you can only be angle for the big break and be ready if you get it. Another implication is that it is a good idea to have a plan B.

On top of this, our decentralized approach has the advantage that we don’t have to agree to work together (for network values of “together”). What matters to you what my ambitions are, as long as I help building the unMonastery? You are welcome (encouraged, in fact) to fit it into your own scheme. I’d rather spend time building it rather than trying to align ambitions.

So, you might wonder, why am I diverting (quite literally) time from unMonastery building to this debate? Because I think in terms of community. Community is the only ace up our sleeve – everybody else has got large orgs, big money, government power etc. In those terms, telling people anything not resulting in building the next Google is a failure is a really bad idea: it sets the bar impossibly high for most people (though I salute your upbeat attitude!). So I came out of the woodworks to vouch for fire hydrant building to be a worthy goal in and of itself, in case someone out there was getting anxiety. I had no intention to dampen your ambitions – and I could not do it even if I tried!

High jumping

I won’t comment on ‘fat tailed probability distributions’. I don’t need to sell the secret sauce to most hackers. Enough of them already believe in it. (Look at how the Amiga computer was developed, look at Xerox parc, look at open source, etc).

Backup plans B C D … Z are good. I hope we will anticipate all scenarios and have a plan for everything. (Or a ‘play be ear’ plan plan).

The minimum goal will be to get cool people living together, and give them the freedom to work on fixing the world. If that doesn’t happen, or falls apart, then the project will have been a catastrophic failure. (This applies to unMon too, right?). The next question that comes to my mind is: ‘How much further can we go?’. At the end of the scale we have… (…next Google… ending suffering… utopia…). So yeah, I try to push things as far as they will go.

“In those terms, telling people anything not resulting in building the next Google is a failure is a really bad idea: it sets the bar impossibly high for most people”

Ahhh. I didn’t mean/say ‘anything that doesn’t become the next Google is a failure’. What I wanted to express was that in my personal thoughts, if the project I’m involved in doesn’t become the next Google, then I’ll be disappointed. Because I believe that we have the potential to do that. (Even if I were ‘setting the bar impossibly high’ for ‘most people’, I guess it might be a good thing, and I guess it doesn’t do any harm cos: (1) The bar IS high. Right? Everybody wants to fix all the problems in the world, and the world is massive. (2) How many ERs are going to think ‘This is too hard, I won’t even try to jump?’ or ‘I’ll never be able to jump as high as that, so I won’t bother jumping at all’? None, I should hope!).

(I also have a feeling that generally people aren’t as ambitious as they should be. There is sometimes a mind set that says we can’t ‘compete’ with big business and governments, but we can. If mind set causes anyone not to fulfil their potential - that’s bad. We can avoid it by setting the bar impossibly high. The sky is the limit. Of course (as I think you’re trying to point out), the danger here is that people might get disheartened even if they do something awesome but realise that the bar is still much higher. I think we solve this by saying to them: ‘Wow, you did something amazing! Now see if you can go higher!?’. And also point out that if one is trying to jump over a bar that might result in injury or the risk of total failure is very high, then it’s better to do something that you’re more confident is achievable.

I should also say that ‘being the next Google’ is not the only thing is about. Others in the group will say ‘that’s not important to me’ and stress other aspects of the project. If you like the BWCD Intentional farming community stuff, but you’re not into the ‘be the next Google’ thing, my friend Spencer is the guy to talk to. (He is a good balance for me :slight_smile:

“Community is the only ace up our sleeve”

I’d expand this by saying our big advantage is that we care deeply about what we’re doing. Any system fuelled by greed or self interest can’t generate the same degree of passion as people fuelled by love. (I have a theory that the smarter you get the more likely you are to be altruistic. So the good guys will always win, cos they’re smarter (by smarter I’m talking more about ‘enlightened’ rather than ‘raw intelligence/brain power’). But…! We probably shouldn’t bother going into that kind of philosophy here!)

“So I came out of the woodworks to vouch for fire hydrant building to be a worthy goal in and of itself, in case someone out there was getting anxiety.”

Cool. I think unMon is awesome. It’s an amazing achievement just to get as far as you have done so far, and I hope (and expect it will) go on to accomplish all the things you hope for. I didn’t mean for anyone to think that I was devaluing the role of unMon. I can’t stress enough how much I love (and value) that stuff like this is going on, and how much in awe I am of everyone involved.

Godspeed muMon! (Hyperion joke).

shoot for the moon

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So it’s true to say that the scale/ambition I’m thinking of is much greater than unMonastery. I guess that means more ways to fail, but I’m still optimistic. Many people will say that what I want is ‘just a pipe dream’, ‘it’s too ambitious’, ‘it will never work’. But I keep asking myself: ‘Why can’t we do this? What’s stopping us?’, and I don’t find any good reasons. I can imagine a ton of ways it could go wrong, sure, but I think we’re smart enough to anticipate and deal with everything. At least we’re smart enough to think we have a good chance, and that it’s worth a shot.

I’m in the UK. No plans to visit Matera at the moment, but who knows. If you’d like to VOIP chat any time, no doubt that would be useful for me. But I’m also happy with text. (a combination is good).

“I believe the only way this can possibly work is with real asset transfer of property to the community,”

I guess that would be ideal. Is it really so hard to set up? On the other hand, I come from more of an anarchist background. If I trust the person that owns the land, and they give their word that they’re in it for the long term, then I’d be happy with that.

“mainstream institutions have seen many projects fail - who’s to say ours won’t?”

Interestingly I think we are immune to a lot of weaknesses that conventional organisations have. The reason I’m optimistic is because we’re so different from anything ‘mainstream’. People will ‘work’ for us because they care. They’ll be doing what they love with people they love for people they love. So we avoid a ton of problems like ‘profit motive’… workers feeling disenfranchised, etc. To see it working in the real world look at Mondragon ( ,

“The point at which you own the land, is the point at which the weight of responsibility multiplies, significantly”

Why? I feel we have a massive responsibility to do good, that dwarfs anything else. Owning land is pretty meaningless to me (properly is theft, we are all stewards of spaceship earth, blah blah). Owning is just convenient cos certain groups with power think it’s important. If I could squat and get away with it without the state bothering me, I would.

“Money, in my experience everything breaks when money gets involved”

But why should it? You think if we became rich we’d become corrupt and stop caring about helping people? I don’t think we would. Money is also pretty meaningless to me, just a means to an end. I have no desire for anything lavish. The only things that can make me happy are good friends, basic food/shelter, and time to study.

I don’t think there is any reason money should go hand in hand with “shareholder influence”. Obviously if evil, greedy people have any power in your group, then bad things are likely to happen. But the problem here is evil greedy people, not money. Money is just a convenient way to swap power and get things done. I guess it can tempt bad things, and long term we will probably get rid of it (replace with reputations/energy/gift economy, or whatever). But short term, I see no reason why we can’t use it to get the things we want.

“unMonastery for me is not a utopian project designed to solve the woes of the world, it operates at the scale of the invention of the fire hydrant, it’s designed to put out fires in the present moment, so that others can begin to build foundations and infrastructure for doing the next bit”

Right. unMonastery is really cool, and it’s a good step, but I keep asking myself ‘why should we limit our ambitions?’. If I thought we had no chance of fixing everything, I’d probably focus on something smaller, and say ‘oh well, every little helps’. But I think we do have a chance to do something massive. So why not shoot for it?


Congratulations to everyone who has been involved in this project.My involvment on planning and brain storming sessions both online and AFK have been thoroughly enjoyable and productive and rewarding. UnMon has come a long way in such a short amount of time. Not in part by a great deal of effort from friends , comrades & fellow Edgeryders.

Congratulations are also in order to the first unMonasterians who will be embarking on wild and worthwhile adventure and of course be proverbial labrats at the same time. The willingness to self experiment is one of the great strengths of Edgeryders as a community.

I encourage everyone to read by Adrian Hon, in particular the chapters on Rechartered Cities, Amplified Teams, and The Braid Collective.

We should begin to think about what’s next!?


Well done to everyone who will be the path finders for the first iteration of the unMonastery, This is a great example of a project continuously in co-design!

Rien à voir…

Seems like a very insignificant comment I’m going to leave after all the mindful conversation which has been going on above, but I wanted to invite the first selected unMonasterians to have a talk with Nathan Schneider… if they want.

You will read more about it here: a U.S. based journalist who wants to ask some questions to all the people involved in the unMonastery. He finds it fascinating and I was hoping that you guys would all be willing to tell us more about the projects and so on.

If so, could you write out how to get in touch with you below the post? Would be grand!

Models for living

Have been following these threads. Thought I would weigh in.

This project will be a failure if it does not include community particpation. The local community is the most important aspect of making change in the world. Example is FOOD. What is the TERRIOR of the local area. What have locals been doing with Food, Animals and DIY technology. Another thing is if this groups intentions are to create the next google they are again missing the mark! This project must help the local community become more resilant and self reliant. Lets remember where the Slow Food Movement came from? Anyone?


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The project this page is about is unMonastery. The project which I have talked about ‘becoming the next Google’ (in the thread above) is a different thing:

“Another thing is if this groups intentions are to create the next google they are again missing the mark! This project must help the local community become more resilant and self reliant.”

I agree that these things are important. But I am not suggesting that ‘becoming the next Google’ is the ultimate goal. It is just a means to an end. The ultimate goal is indeed the stuff you’re talking about. But tell me how one might accomplish those things? If you had the resources of Google, would it not make it a lot easier for you to accomplish those things?

I think unMonastery IS very focused on helping the local community along the lines you’ve mentioned (Maybe even exclusively focused on that?). But I will leave it to unMonasterians to talk to you about their intentions.

Clarity is Power

PHM. Means to an end.  Google or google type business is not a means to an end. Its old school thinking. Sure the project could use some capital. But this will come if the intentions and the focus of this group is more than just a means to an end. How about a means to a beganinng? Whats needed most in the world is not another Google or Facebook or anyother get rich dotcom scheme! A vision is needed. Thomas Berry in The Great Work would be one example. Its not about money!  How things can be accomplished is through IDEAS that again are about a local food and local economy movement. Just feel if that those who go to Matera should really think big and spread there wings and fly but keep in mind the EGO of GREED. Just my two cents. No wrong or right here just the thought that bigger vision is needed more than ever on this planet.

PEace Bruce

“Its old school thinking.”

From my post above: “(I mean become that big/successful. I don’t mean we want to copy anything else about them).”


This project will be a failure if it does not inclued community participation. The local community is the most important aspect of making change in the world.

I couldn’t agree more with this. I really believe that the strength of the unMonastery (in Matera more than ever) is to encourage a different approach to changemaking and problem solving. In the South of Italy there is this thick tendency to expect that things have to changed by others, namely by public administration or the ones in power. Our only duty as citizens is to vote - and to complain. Of course, I am generalizing, but there is this paradox: on one side, we have no trust in the ones in power and have very little consideration of their skills and their capacities of doing good, on the other we are delegating to the elected ones our ability to change. Another problem is that a whole generation is missing: maybe I am wrong, but I do think that change is something in which youngsters have more of an interest in than people which are over 50.

This said, the unMonastery in Matera can develop a sustainability model which relies on gift, barter and in-kind services flowing in from the local community if the unMonastarians manage to develop meaningful relationships with the surroundings.

[BraveNewEarth], you were mentioning food: there is so much that has been going on. The neighbour of the unMonastery, Mimi Coviello, has been doing quite a lot of stuff in the field. Also, the Fucine dell’Eco - in the building right across the road - are hosting regularly a DIY market.

The more this project goes on, the more I believe that some collateral human resources are needed: a facilitator which is available for unMonastarians, on which they can rely on if they need to be connected - especially in the beginning - for linking their projects and their needs to local resources; some external figures which drop in every once in a while and check if everything is going on well, maybe can support with creative approaches.

Doing the unMonastery in Matera is someting that can give a lot of meaning to the commitment: there is a lot of need to recieve inspiration, hope and desire for change in our community. However, there is an inevitable skepticism linked to the language used (it would be great to do some work on local dialect and see how we can re-word the unMonastery with local expressions), the fact that people are coming from abroad to “solve our problems”, but that is only normal. The important thing is to stay focused, determined and not let the doubts sabot the whole process: yes, there are problems, yes, this can be a failure, yes, once this rolls out into reality it’s going to be confronted to very simple problems which may make us loose the general vision… but we have a great opportunity to try out something which is similar to other stuff, but has actually never been done before.