unMonastery Matera: Global Strategy Summit #2



Today we had our second significant Global Strategy Summit at the unMonastery - in order to assess how the overall project is going, focus on what we need to pivot on and reenergise our approach.

The last post I made on EdgeRyders was focused on solving the issue of capacity by establishing well defined Collaborator Roles - whilst this has moved forward somewhat, it’s not enough. I want to register now for the Book of Mistakes a fundamental flaw in the unMonastery prototype - so that it is not repeated in future iterations. One project per a person is a bad idea.

The unMonastery was in many ways intended to be a place where a group worked together collectively to solve problems and in doing so build a new way of working - which drew from the tradition of past monastic orders. Framing the call of applicants around the idea of individual experts, with individual work, is a total anathema to healthy and productive collaboration. As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted concern with individual objectives, a logistical strain and a sense that any time spent working together is damaging and restricts ones own project.

It would be good to discuss alternatives for future iterations on this thread but it’s important to say this wasn’t the sole concern of our meeting. Instead the specific concern here is to extend the project and to prove value in our work by the end of May - for 2 reasons, firstly if those here don’t now act to ensure others can enjoy the same experience of the unMonastery, it might be considered as little more than holiday for hackers. And secondly, more fundamentally, any kind of failure in Matera will cast a long lasting shadow on the potential for others projects like the unMonastery to succeed here.

So with this said, here’s the overview produced prior to the meeting and an initial set of outcomes.


Initial Draft of Stakeholder Interests:

  • MT2019
    • Desire to act at policy making level
    • Desire to establish a neutral space
    • Improving Communication with the city
    • Creating an international dimension to the bid
    • Creating a social innovation dimension to the bid
    • The future of the building itself
    • Addressing the Challenges
  • EdgeRyders
    • Good communication and involvement of people remotely
    • Create a successful pilot project for ‘Proof of Concept’  
    • Generate discussion and content for the platform
    • Bring more people to EdgeRyders
  • City of Matera
    • Improve the city
    • Create a space for children and intergenerational dialogue/activity
    • Upskilling
    • Connecting citizens to a global dialogue
    • Established a shared space
    • Platform for discussing burning issues

  1. Issues
    1. Lack of Capacity - Collaborator Roles - ‘Experts’ from Outside
    2. Time - Less than 2 months
    3. Proving Value
    4. Planning that goes into extension
    5. Communication (is a mess)
  2. Extending unMonastery Objectives (Rough Sketch)
    1. Ensure Additional Funds
      1. Establish Budget / Figure out how much we have saved
      2. Build relationship with Joseph Grima
    2. Secure 6 funded unMonasterians (3 Local / 3 International)
    3. Create 3 Partnerships with Matera based Organisations - that ensures active use and co-ownership of the space.   
    4. Solve 11 Challenges
    5. Full transition at the end of the year to citizenry of Matera
  3. Objectives Now - How do we get there? (Initial Suggestions)
    1. Merge Individual Projects and create taskforces/subgroups focused on a set of (relatively) well defined goals and milestones - COLLABORATE!
      1. The growing map of Matera
      2. Open Tech School
      3. Big festival at the end of May
      4. What else? (3 MAX?)
        1. Code for All
    2. Zero in on a single area in Matera, focus attention and energy here so to ensure impact is visible, measurable and realistic, use as model to expand throughout the city.
    3. Establish a schedule for between now and end of May (with room to breathe).
    4. Quotas (e.g number of people to meet, onboard, etc) or state specific commitments that individuals feel accountable for.
    5. Rules (e.g certain amount of time spent outside of the building)
  4. The Report
    1. What’s missing?
    2. Schedule for filling in content
    3. Uploading to EdgeRyders
  5. Planning
    1. With all this taken into account what is the structure of planning on weekly basis?


I’ve captured what I could and hope others will follow up with their own outcomes - points above in the initial overview are broadly accepted as common objectives.

Extending unMonastery Objectives and Objectives Now:

(by the second session, this became group under 3 categories)

Initial Sustainability Plan, Split into 4 Tiers (Ben, Rita and Lois Leading) - Working board

  1. The Report (1st Draft Friday)
  2. The Projections (1st Iteration Monday)
  3. The Budget (1st Iteration done)
  4. The Model / unMonastery in-a-box (End of May)


Assess economic value of the services and work produced, with the aim to dwarf the cost of the overall project. Actively engage public in assessing whether they think something is value for money - spent or built collaboratively. Seek clear exchanges of in-kind support.

External Communication (Ksenia Leading)

  • Establish Communication Strategy (1st Iteration Monday)
  • Presence; Zen Like Delivery, set an example of work not dictated by chaos and deadlines, present ourselves in this way at all times.
  • unMonastery Daily Diary
  • Tie Content and Documentation directly to specific Challenges
  • Tell powerful stories; lose the excel spreadsheet of the mind.
  • Centre communication around making visible the ability to bring people together

Integrated Communication, Actionables

  • Identify Potential Partners
  • Establish a focus group for sceptics to assess unMonastery
  • Identify ‘Natural Supporters’ - Understand ‘Internal Client’
  • Identify Specific Neighbourhood
  • Establish (bi-)weekly dinner with MT2019


  • General agreement to merge projects, 3 core projects yet to be defined, in this moment appears to be; Open Tech School (Led by Kei), May Festival (Led by Marc and David), Cultural Commoning Organsation focused on Tourism (Led by Maria).
  • Damiano to create stream of translators for the unMonastery
  • Speculative Criteria for assessing feasibility of group projects

Definition of Participants.


Core Projects Follow up



Tons of sense

This makes loads of sense to me, @Ben, thanks for the insights.

I would be interested in contributing to the Sustainability Plan somewhat. One thing I could help with is setting up a sort of hackathon themed on sustainability accounting/planning. The last but one time I was at the unMonastery, we had an impromptu session on that with you, @David Bovill and @elf Pavlik, which I ended up enjoying quite a lot. Who would have known accounting could be enjoyable? The output of such a hackathon would be to produce a template for making a sustainability plan, which is something edgeryders (== people in the Edgeryders community) and Edgeryders (== Edgeryders LBG the company) are going to use a lot in the coming years.


Hack the Accounting! :wink:

I remember a day or two before my departure seeing @Ben juggling financial data inside of his spreadsheets. On one side it looked bit confusing, very unlikely someone else could easily help with tracking finances this way and even less take it over compleatly (in case Ben falls in love and goes offline for a honey moon (nicer image then ‘getting hit by a bus’ often used in agile development))

Another big issue I see with using such spreadsheets, relates to limitations they have in dealing with real wold assets. For example it comes very easy to put there “budget for travel: 200euro”, but much hader to capture the acctuall need: "elf needs to get to Graz Apr 8th the latest, we need transportation, options include car rideshare, train ticket, bus ticket, gliders ticket, hitchhiking buddy with confidence in this region, he doesn’t travel by jetplane or teleport (@Cristiano Siri ;)

IMO those spreadsheets may strongly promote tendency to staying stuck in accounting around money. One can think: “We need 200euro for elf’s travel” so now we need to look for someone to give us this money (virtual asset). While with using some more multidimentional accounting, and having clarity what we really need in terms of real world assets. I also don’t see spreadsheets integrating with interfaces where people can offer help with securing those assets. We looked at interoperable systems for sharing accomodations, food and mobility during first OuiShare Labs Camp in Paris, @Nadia participated in it first day :slight_smile:

I better get to the point … I suggest focusing on developing open source software for next generation accounting. Something with expressivnes and flexibility to support multiple ways of accounting at the same time. One of those ways of course could take advantage of Makerfox / Economy App @Matthias. While writing application for 2014 Bucminster Fuller Challenge I had chance to think back again to the Bar Camp session in Strasbourg where unMonastery vision started to crystalize. We were talking about funding and grants but then opened conversation to in-kind donations and started looking at what it takes in terms of real world assets to run all those projects. I really hope that at least some of us can keep pushing this direction and help with avaiding falling back into money based planing! What I see as middle way approach, in the spirit of what we wrote in Hacking Grant Competitions to Award Communities, we all can still keep available some monetary pool and use it all together as a fallback for situations where finding alternative means of securing particualr asset turns out to hard.

Possibly we could cooperate on it with Code for All network. I already annonced plans for starting CfA brigade in unMonastery:Matera, we had online call with Jacopo and Alessio who explore two different approaches to Code for Italy. Next week I plan to meet with friends from Open Knowledge Fundation in Berlin who go full power with Code for Germany.

In long term such development would also contribute to possibility of people choosing to offer moneyless taxes, I would much more prefer that instead of people in Matera pay taxes in euros to city administration, and then unMonastery:Matera gets some of those euros from city administration and goes again to people in Matera to buy food from them LOL :wink: Imagine if people could donate food directly to unMonastery and then have it accounted as alternative to taxes way of contributing to The Commons! Of course I don’t see this pattern specific to Matera, we could just explore it there, co-develop digital tools supporting it and everyone could reuse it all around the globe :slight_smile:


But keeping a unit of value

Now that you mentioned us, I might contribute the perspective as informed by the Makerfox / Economy App design. (BTW, if you haven’t already, try it out at makerfox.com. It’s all up and running, just looking a bit rough (beta phase still) – next thing is, I have to rework and extend the service catalogue.)

“While with using some more multidimentional accounting, and having clarity what we really need in terms of real world assets. I also don’t see spreadsheets integrating with interfaces where people can offer help with securing those assets.”

Even while using cash money, the step of acquiring assets for the value symbolized by money is not captured by the spreadsheets. But rather by project and task management, and it is a complex task by itself – think of stuff like some rare spare parts that are hard to find at all. Looking at it the other way, abstraction by using the concept of “value” allows to solve one part of the problem without having to care for other parts. It also allows more flexible contributions (say, a donation of 5.50 EUR contributing to a purchase of a laptop). Both is true for moneyless economy as well – which is why we retained the concept of “value” with a numeraire in Makerfox / Economy App. There’s a new feature in the pipeline (not visible publicly so far) that allows “wiring” such value to other members as a payment, just that the payment will both be sent and received in products and services that add up to the specified value, not by handing over money symbols (cash money). This would allow people to support unMonastery by donating such value (say, 25 EUR a month) by doing completely unrelated work (say, in one month one hour of language course teaching and the equivalent of 0.7 hand-woven socks). Network bartering converts it to something that unMonastery ordered (say, again some video subtitling, resp. a part of that job).


origins of data

Very cool @Matthias as next step i would see making it possible to self-host Get/Give lists. For example unMonastery:Matera would keep such list on http://matera.unmonastery.org/en/pages/wishlist and then services like Makerfox could find possible matches… TIP: Good Relations and Schema.org

How do you deal with multilingual aspect? How we can ask for ‘carpool’ in english and other person can find it as ‘passaggi auto’ (or sth.) in italian? TIP: The Product Types Ontology / eg. Carpool search: ‘Translation(s)’

I also don’t see way in Makerfox of asking for something which no one else have offered yet. From my experience seeing someone asking for something can help another person to realize possibility of offering it… Small experiment, try to recall names of 100 movies that you have seen… for most people it comes much easier to see list of 1000 movies and just recognize ~all of those they have seen!

When it comes to unit of value I don’t mind looking at it in a way: “How much we think we would need to pay if we wanted to secure this asset through purchase using euros”, analyzing past spendings we could come up with, to some extent, relevant numbers for what we ask for :slight_smile:

Since we offer everyting in unMonastery as gift one can still play with assigning numbers to what we offer, but everyone can still access all our services freely no matter all those numbers!


Numeraire, still

From a value theory point of view the use of a numeraire is the weak point of the whole Makerfox operation. It feels like a hack, with no mathematical underpinning – @Matthias and I have gone into this discussion before. And yet, I personally have not been able to come up with anything better. Multidimensional accounting just seems too complex for the bandwidth of a normal person! So, in the course of this discussion, we dreamed up three extensions to network barter that might be conducive to encouraging more collaboration: gifts; one-side-contingent barter (I do X for you now, you put Y on the network in return conditional on some event); and intertemporal allocation (I can exchange present goods/services with future ones). As soon as Mtt’s posse is ready for it, we’ll deploy this as an experiment on Edgeryders.

I am curious: @elf Pavlik, do you think this is enough of a step forward to consider using it? Or is multidimensional accounting in physical goods/services the minimum acceptable configuration?


Subjective value with a numeraire

I guess the “hackish” nature of using a numeraire is that it forces an objective standard of “market value” on everyone: a price tag which is used by both seller and buyer when a transaction is made. This misses out on the fact that goods and services can have differing, subjective values for seller and buyer.

To fix this shortcoming (while also keeping the measure-of-value numeraire that we need for automatic trade finding), we once had this idea: avoid public prices altogether, and instead let every user use their own, internal numeraire. For example for my offers, I would decide to use one common thing (“hours of programming”) or maybe even my own phantasy unit as a measure of value, and then gauge both my (hidden) bid prices for my orders and my (also hidden) offer prices with this unit.

Say I have offers A and B for 10 and 20 units respectively, and orders Y and Z where I bid 5 and 10 units, respectively. This allows the algorithm to come up with a deal where I give away 2 * A + 1 * B and get 4 * Y + 2 * Z, as I subjectively value both sides of the deal at 40 units. Means I’m happy with such a deal. That can be determined without ever comparing my units with those of other users, means these are indeed purely subjective values. It can lead to funny exchanges, for example involving collectibles or spare parts that can have a high subjective value.

This seems to solve the “using money as a unit of value” hack. In the end, we did decide against implementing it in Makerfox so far because it is a new concept, while users are already accustomed to how money works. There are enough obstacles to user adoption, and we did not want to add one more … . But who knows, once network bartering is mainstream, there will surely be another startup trying subjective valuation :slight_smile:

On another note, the three extensions that you mentioned (and other ideas that users will have) can be handled by the upcoming “barter value payments” feature:

  • For gifts, make a wire payment in barter value.
  • For one-side-contingent barter, provide your product or service now, and the other party promises to send you a wire payment in barter value later if some event happens.
  • For intertemporal allocation, provide your product or service now (without waiting for a deal first), and the other party sends you a wire payment of barter value right away. Since this can only be executed if it fits into network barter deals, it's effectively a compensation with the future products and services of the other party. The seller has some limited guarantee that the compensation will arrive, since a payment can not be canceled even if not yet transacted. The transaction can happen in several steps (since value is arbitrarily subdividable) and takes as much time as needed to make it happen (can be weeks, months, years even – and in that way, the payment feature also provides a "store of value" using P2P credits).


Quick Response

@elf Pavlik the current approach to accounting is intended as a baseline requirement for the funds we’re using and it’s certainly not a fun project for me, although I am appreciating the pressure to get better at accounting. The complexity mainly comes in the existing setup because of the many requirements and changes individuals have made/requested throughout the course of the project. For example, having spreadsheets that show the % of the cost as it relates to the overall funds (as they change overtime), for all objects/equipment we consider spending the additional funds on. Also being able to monitor funds when people are shifting their months and travel around.

I’ve tried to minimise complexity to the best of my ability but it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand by anyone who invests an hour in looking over the sheets, certainly @ArthurD had no problems.

I fully support you looking into expanding out the work on the assest/sustainability plan - you’ll see I created a trello board for housing some of that work. Let me know how you progress and how I can help, whatever you do though, please don’t rearrange or edit any of the existing spreadsheet, that would make me very sad ^__~