Update on teams for POPREBEL and NGI Forward

This post in hashtags:


Considering how things unfolded in the riot channel last Thursday and Friday regarding teams on the upcoming Horizon2020 research projects, and based on additional factors that have been requiring attention, this is an update on the teams and project management for POPREBEL and NGI Forward.

While I’d like to share more on the place of collaborative leadership in Edgeryders right now, I’m going to leave that to another post in motion and will keep this one brief to tend to some things raised by others. What’s more there has been plenty of energy given to keeping this an inclusive and considerate process – from the initial invitations for people to put their hands up for roles prior to and after our wins, to inviting feedback in this post on teams in August, to personal meetings with all relevant team members.

Lesson one: Who does the work doesn’t necessarily call the shots

There is a key lesson in how project preparation has occurred to date. While Edgeryders stands by the principle of who does the work calls the shots, there has been a handicap in organisational and team building preparations for these projects that has caused some confusion for many of us. Namely that in this instance, I am not necessarily calling the shots. While @alberto and I collaboratively brought these projects in and I am responsible for their delivery, based on the model we wrote into the proposals and the scale of their implementation, I do not have complete freedom as other project leads may. Indeed there is an interdependence of leadership roles on these projects, so let’s get clear on them.

Clarification one: who is leading what on EU research projects beginning in 2019

  • @alberto is LSIGN which means that he is legally responsible for these projects. This means that I run key factors and decisions by him, and document them for the Board - example: the POPREBEL Grant Agreement in the company workspace. This extends to @alberto’s vision and leadership in the Research Network, and as a researcher in these projects (see below)
  • I am written as project lead into the GAs. This means that I am the contact for the Commission, the Coordinator and our partners on these projects and I am responsible for their delivery and our corresponding reputation. This role includes strategic positioning and stakeholder relations for the Research Network, as well as working between the consortium and @nadia on communications. I will also be collaborating with partners on 1-2 tasks in other work packages in NGI Forward - namely WP1: Topic Identification and WP3 Policy Lab.
  • I will be bringing in a project coordinator to drive project management. Under my supervision, they will be taking care of administration and finance, travel, some reporting and other components depending on the person that comes on board. More on this shortly.
  • Team leaders have been written into the proposals as responsible for the five key tasks in the main Edgeryders work package. I have shared this model many times but to clarify it is made up of 1. community management + 2. engagement + 3. ethnography + 4. network data analysis + 5. tech support (+ 6. project management and reporting). These tasks were written based on the proven method from the past and the experience of those that have done it to get us here. As mentioned elsewhere on numerous occasions, team leaders for the tasks have autonomy in how they strategise and implement their delivery. Me and my team are here as an interface with the consortium and to support delivery. It is expected key decisions are shared with all team leaders at the bi-weekly standups as per the Edgeryders Events calendar, and that planning is kept open for all other teams to follow.
  • @noemi and @johncoate are leading community management on both projects. As I’ve been told, @noemi will focus on POPREBEL and @johncoate on NGI Forward, but they will share trainings and mentorship to their team of community managers. We expect new multilingual community managers on both projects.
  • @nadia is leading outreach and engagement on both projects. This includes 12 onboarding workshops for each project, and will involve close collaboration on communications, which is currently being lead by the project Coordinators and has certain constraints and sensitivities (as per the engagement specs being posted next). @nadia will likely be recruiting a team to support in the engagement - such as for the outreach events in target communities. We have agreed in distinguishing between engagement to bring people into the conversation - @nadia, and stakeholder relations involved in Research Network development - myself.
  • @amelia is leading ethnography on both projects. This includes multilingual and multimedia ethnography training and working with a team. @amelia has already been active in documenting lessons from past projects, and her intention in how to manage her team, towards strong delivery.
  • @alberto is leading network and data analysis. @hugi has been engaged by @alberto to fix bugs in the Graphryder interface. Otherwise, at this stage I believe he won’t be building a team but please feel free to clarify @alberto.
  • @matthias is leading the technical development of the platform for both projects and thankfully also internal procedures to support smooth planning and reporting.
  • The impact summit is written into separate work packages in both POPREBEL and NGI Forward, and is being delivered with partners. Normally sitting under engagement, this has been a deliverable that has evolved in these proposals. In POPREBEL it is actually lead by UCL with our creative direction. In NGI Forward it is lead by us but as the closing summit of a series in the project it will be lead in collaboration with NESTA and Rob van Kranenburg. I had discussed @natalia_skoczylas being given the opportunity to take the lead on the impact summit for POPREBEL, and @hugi getting to lead on NGI Forward. I stand by my belief that these two team members are the best people for these roles. That being said, the first conversation was had when @nadia was on leave, and the second after several suggestions that @nadia be approached directly to discuss collaborating on engagement, and was had with a commitment to tending to people’s needs.
  • The community journalism programme is also sitting between community management and engagement tasks. Both team leaders see it as being more pertinent to their strategies to lead. It was written into the proposals as being lead by @johncoate however I think it important we find a way where everyone can feel comfortable with how it unfolds and feeds into their own strategies.
  • To get clear on leadership and roll out for both the impact summits and community journalism programme I propose we have a call with @nadia, @noemi @johncoate @natalia_skoczylas and @hugi. I suggest this happens once the project starts so we can keep pre-project work to an minimum. However if someone would like it to happen earlier and to lead convening this call, please go ahead.

Acknowledging each of our value, acknowledging each of our visions, I suggest we focus on the strength of our collective muscle; trusting in each other’s visions and our capacity to deliver them, trusting each other to know every individual’s value, and trusting each other to listen when we we need to call in support.

Clarification two: new models in 2019 Horizon2020 proposals and beyond

The proposal writing of NGI Forward has set a precedent in moving beyond the aforementioned model. In it I was able to weave Edgeryders into almost all work packages to become the second biggest partner after NESTA. I did that based on the Edgeryders’ communities’ interests and expertise, as well as based on my own professional background and research field.

I would like to again openly invite those interested to share with me your interests, your visions and how we can weave those into new proposals.

For example, I’m working with @hugi to gauge if a call in the NGI initiative closing in March is fitting for Particip.io to start moving into the Research Network’s activities in H2020. And I intend to write myself more roles in proposals that fit with my own research to eventually move beyond supervising project management. Please speak up as to how you’d like to evolve your role and/or participation in potential research projects in the future.

collaborative leadership

As mentioned, I’ll be writing more on collaborative leadership moving forward however I’d like to share some parting thoughts. One of the things that first drew me into Edgeryders was how well it sees the place of unusual suspects in system change. How well it brings different kinds of knowledge together to mobilise hardcore stuff. And yet I think we are on a new learning edge in terms of how to adapt our offering to our growing teams. As the Edgeryders Research Network begins to collaborate with more partners and bring in new team members, I’m hearing the call for us to pay more attention to how we can foster an environment that enables everyone to thrive. Where we can see beyond the sticky stuff of collaborating without hierarchies and let the magic we’re doing lead the way. Would love to hear what you think requires tending also, and how we can weave it in as things kick off.

“Collaboration is an idea that is unconsciously attached to the mechanistic world in which many parts are assembled to create function. But in living systems, collaboration is much more than each doing their part. Collaboration is the readiness to show up and do what needs to be done, in improvisation and mutual learning…" Nora Bateson, Liminal Leadership

If you come across any funding opportunity about physical infrastructure for basic needs, esp. in so-called developing areas, please let me know :slight_smile:

(For me, “is it about hardware?” became a good proxy to decide if something can improve the planet we live on. While everything that consists entirely of words, software and meetings, on the other hand, may have good intentions but lacks any power or influence to change things around. Until the revolution, of course. So we’ll have to wait …)

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Thank you @anique.yael for this very clear and structured post. It makes it much easier to get an overview of the situation.

I agree with this, and am content with waiting until early 2019.

Hear, hear.

I’ve been thinking about this too, and in fact I’m working on some ideas that I will present soon. One of my current fields of inquiry is how Enspiral are structured. Let’s bring our findings and thinking together

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Thanks too from me for this post. It does bring up some questions, such as from whom are you hearing the call? What are the things that we should pay more attention to that helps everyone thrive? And what is at least some of the subtext that is driving this? I think we get into a bit of a conundrum here because we have a reluctance to work some things out here online. But maybe then, they don’t get worked out much at all? It’s hard for me to tell because I’m so far away.

I do support that we talk more about these roles and how we are going to succeed at everything we have promised.


I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

Also I don’t think that Edgeryders is without its own version of hierarchy and I don’t think it even seeks that. At the same time, in other aspects it is more flat and less hierarchical such as an openness to all comers and a way of bringing people into to whatever level of peerage seems appropriate. But in my 3 yrs here I don’t recall much talk about eliminating hierarchies as a group goal.

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Yeah… I had a hard time reading between a project update and personal conclusions :frowning:
@anique.yael your lesson one reads like a personal take and I would signal this as such. It is a key lesson for you and your right to an opinion, but it can be misleading for whoever reads and is not closely involved with the team. I would very much appreciate an effort to signal this, and give it an appropriate space with disclaimers.

Otherwise thanks for the post, team leadership allocation is clear.
The community journalism program and impact conference will definitely be sorted out as we will work together as always, and make decisions when time comes. Let’s not get stuck in the impossibility of making premature decisions. We have worked together before in different permutations. These are not new teams even though we are talking some slightly scaled versions of everything. The intersection between engagement and community management works fine and natural since we trust each other :slight_smile:

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Hello all, I would like to point out to some parts of the post I see as factually incorrect. If we are to have documentation about leadership, let’s make it right. Additionally, I want to answer the question that Anique asks me about “forming a team”.

1. The following statement does not match with what I know

Let’s see.

  • The Edgeryders company, with a board vote in summer 2017, decided to put up some money and some of my (unpaid) time to set up the Edgeryders Research Network. The network is supposed to make money by doing research, but it has additional strategic imperatives. One is connecting the outliers (“people on the edge”) to the center of our societal governance (large orgs like the European Commission). Another is create meaningful work opportunities for people in the community. These imperatives are Edgeryders (and myself in particular) calling the shots, on the basis that it and I did the work of creating and maintaining the RezNet.

  • The research network hub, @anique.yael and myself, after talking to many people in the community and outside of it, made the final call about which calls to invest in (“invest”: spend time and money building consortia and writing proposals), and then spent our own time doing it. We did not ask for the board’s permission, nor should we have done so, because “all the intentionality is at the level of the projects”. So, we did the work and called the shots. We are continuing to do so in the 2019 campaign.

  • In that phase (early 2018), we asked some people, called “team leaders” in the post, to commit to certain KPIs (“if we get you 15K for engagement, can you get me 350 participants?”). This was necessary, because quantitative indicators are a requirement of writing H2020 proposals. Team leaders are, as Anique writes, people who have built up experience doing this kind of thing. The deal is: they take responsibility for delivering on those targets and those budgets (they "do the work); in return, they get to choose how to allocate the budgets, who to hire etc. (they call the shots).

So, it seems to me that the situation Anique describes is one where who does the work does, indeed, call the shots. However: [quote=“anique.yael, post:1, topic:9203”]
in this instance, I am not necessarily calling the shots

This is true. But this is because (1) Anique did not do “the work” but an (important) part of it; but more importantly, because she has already moved into delivery. She is taking overall responsibility for the delivery, which means she gets to decide how we report, what internal deadlines we should meet so that the deadlines contained in the Grant Agreements are not compromised etc. But she has no jurisdiction over how we (team leaders) do what we do (and vice versa).

2. The word “responsibilities” needs disambiguating

Anique’s text does not distinguish between two kinds of responsibilities. They may be clear to her, but if you are not familiar with EU research you might get confused. For example:

This is not correct. LSIGN is a role assigned to me within the EC’s Research Participants Portal. All it means is that I am authorized to digitally sign the grant agreement on behalf of the grant’s beneficiary, Edgeryders OÜ. But the legal responsibility for delivering the project stays with Edgeryders, and the people called on to answer if Edgeryders fails spectacularly, or misuses funds, are its directors.

If you are curious as to why the Participants Portal uses such confusing terminology, read the paragraph below the two horizontal lines. Warning: it’s not very interesting.

The Portal automates and rationalizes a lot of the paperwork around assigning and monitoring research grants, like for example, digitally signing grant agreements. To do this, it has a system of roles. Any legal entity can have (and normally does have) multiple users connected to it (we have three: Anique, Noemi and myself). Every legal entity must have at least one user with a role called LEAR, which stands for “Legal Entity Appointed Representative”. Both @noemi and I are LEARs for Edgeryders. The LEARs have the power to assign other roles, such as LSIGN, to other users in the same legal entity. The role of LEAR is given to a user by the portal’s admins, upon reception of (paper) letters of appointment signed by directors, proof of ID, and legal documents proving that, indeed, Edgeryders does have directors with the same names as the people signing those letters of appointment.

So, the Commission knows that Edgeryders directors made me a LEAR; and they know that I made then myself LSIGN; and they can see that I digitally sign the agreement. So they can go up the chain of responsibilities: the signature was made by the LSIGN, who was empowered to do so by the LEAR, who was appointed by the directors, who are ultimately legally responsible for delivering the project. This whole charade is a system to pin the legal responsibility for anything done on the portal to the people whom company law says are responsible for what Edgeryders does: its directors. That’s where the buck stops, as it should.

This is true. However, these are all internally assigned responsibilities. If any of the people mentioned in the post should decide to drop out, join a Zen monastery and never get involved with research again, that would not be a problem for the Commission, regardless of what is written in the grant agreements. The beneficiary of the grants is not a collection of physical persons, but a legal entity, Edgeryders OÜ. As long as it delivers good quality research and does good, timely reporting, projects go on as planned. In principle we could replace the whole team (and I have been in projects where some partners did just that). The reason why we care so much about the team is internal. Anique and I reasoned that there was no way that the two of us could oversee projects this big. So we decentralized them, by breaking up delivery into functions (engagement, community management etc.) and asked people with the most experience to take responsibility for them.

3. Am I forming a data analysis team?

Not right now, but there might be one at some point down the line. The data analysis we committed to doing is something I can do myself, and am very much looking forward to doing some actual data science after all this proposal writing and conference calls partaking. Also, I have no budget besides what I allocated as my own salary, so any extra person coming on board has to be paid by me foregoing part of my income. This is, however, not out of the question, especially if we get more research projects in the coming years.

What I am forming is the digital ethnography skunkworks. I did allocate part of my budget to giving a small contract to Sander to get this done. I plan to fundraise somehow to build the DES up into a small but mean corner of Edgeryders where we do “blue sky” thinking and prototyping on integrating complex systems modelling with social science. @hugi and @amelia (hopefully) will be involved in this, and maybe others.

  1. Work package structure is unimportant

The division into functions, each attended by a team, is correct, but work packages have got nothing to do with it. Here’s why. EC funded research projects are traditionally divided into Work Packages (WPs). These are “units of work”, themselves divided into tasks. They are essentially a narrative tool: you use them to build a high-level description of a project. I personally do not think they are particularly effective even as a narrative tool, unless the project is “waterfall”. Waterfall projects are now considered outdated and frowned upon. With our proposals, we have tried to think instead in layers. For example OpenCare:

When we wrote the OpenCare proposal (spring 2015), we dominated it: we did 90% of the proposal writing, had the science lead and were originally the consortium leader. Each of those functions was written into its own work package, where it got integrated with the homologous functions carried out by other partners. Edgeryders had person-months and budget in all work packages.

In the 2018 campaign, Anique and I took a different strategy. Instead of starting our own consortia, we joined existing ones, proposing everything we do in the concentrated form of one work package. What ended up happening is that we had to “blend in” a bit better with other WPs. This is a result of our success at establishing ourselves as a hard-working, dependable, intelligent partner. As the company’s “face” in those relationship, Anique gets a big part of the credit for that. But that does not mean we do different things: what we do is still going to fall under those six headings, and then the six team leaders are still going to take responsibility for them. Or not: for example, we could have written in the proposal something wildly different, say “fly fishing expeditions for environmental education”. That does not fall under any of the headings, so we would have had to look for someone else to take on that responsibility (while still in the phase of proposal writing, hopefully).

I have been encouraging Anique to write herself into the proposals as a researcher, or facilitator, or whatever else she likes to do. As long as this helps the proposals, I think this would be a great idea. Of course, then she would have to take that responsibility in delivery too.


I can see a consistent logic in both the posts of you and @anique.yael – and largely it’s different words for the same content: that there are certain restrictions about who gets to decide what. The difference can only be that each of you understands that saying about work and shots differently, so one argues that it applies and one that it does not. It would not hurt to either define this saying precisely or choose a precise one.

If you want examples why I think that it’s confusing in its current form:

[quote=“alberto, post:8, topic:9203”]

This is true. But this is because (1) Anique did not do “the work” but an (important) part of it; …[/quote]

(emphasis mine)

So it should be “Who did the work calls the shots” or maybe “Who does the work will call the shots”? With work being here what, “the work to bring in a project”?

Or, an alternative understanding based on this:

That would imply that the “work and shots” thing only applies at project level before winning the project, as in “Who works to bring in a project gets to define the project”? That would be the most clear version to me.

Once it comes to project delivery, IMHO the better paradigm would be that of a well-oiled machine. And that also applies to project management and team leaders – at this stage, there are no significant degrees of freedom left.

I think there is also a recognition, perhaps a respect for, and a deference to, work that has come before. This is certainly true for me. I give a lot of deference to the founders of this org because of all that groundwork that made it possible for me to even be here with you all. That groundwork took skill and judgement and good navigation. I have those qualities myself, but have only brought to this party a portion of that, especially compared to the work done before I arrived, and even since I got here.

So nobody is exactly calling shots for me in these more vague areas, but I factor it into everything I do in the ER space. At least so far…

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Well, of course. :slight_smile: And above company governance you have the law, and above the law you have the constitution, and above the constitution you have physics.

Maybe it would be clearer if we intended project management as just another function, as indeed Anique does: [quote=“anique.yael, post:1, topic:9203”]
it is made up of 1. community management + 2. engagement + 3. ethnography + 4. network data analysis + 5. tech support (+ 6. project management and reporting).

All of these functions have a team leader: 1. Noemi/John, 2. Nadia, 3. Amelia, 4. Alberto, 5. Matthias, 6. Anique. Each team decides how to do its thing, because WDTWCTS, but not what others do, because WDTWCTS.

I also want to clarify that this characterizes what we do in projects, regardless of work package structure. This is not clear in either Anique’s original post or my own; I will now add a section 4 to mine.

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An important discussion and thank you for your input and clarifications. Accuracy is vital. Different perspectives are real. I think there is significant feedback here in terms of potential differences in collaboration styles, and perhaps even approaches to operationalising decentralised change.

Indeed I’ve just come off a long call with @johncoate about much of this. For now I don’t have the capacity to rehash what we covered but seeing this conversation is moving it seems important to make one clarification.

It seems @alberto you and I have very different perspectives on NGI Forward. Acknowledging that you and I worked very closely on the whole 2018 proposal campaign and that our contributions to the proposals were based on your writing, I stewarded our inclusion in NGI Forward. As you know from our conversations along the way, and would have seen when you reviewed the proposal, I extended our work in the project beyond the typical work package model to include us in a number of additional tasks - such as the NGI Visions book which I’d been dialoguing around with the Coordinator almost every consortium call. In addition to a strategic tactic for Edgeryders, this was based on my own background and research interests. Acknowledging certain miscalculations on my part, it seems that one of the challenges we have in this current situation is the blurriness in a number of these tasks. I am not yet sure how to go about resolving this. From the above it seems you are saying that these additional tasks should be taken care of by those team leaders whose work most closely fits. Is that correct?

For now, may I finish by sharing my ongoing respect to the work of the founders and other collaborators that have got us here. It is unfortunate if it ever comes across differently. Throughout this whole process I have internally and externally acknowledged you, from advocating for the value of this work in the relationship building and proposal writing to honouring your work in posts planning how to scale. I do not think I need to apologise for being a leader in my own right and I think that one of the most significant opportunities Edgeryders has is supporting people to collectively shine. Of course the configurations to do so are not set in stone and I believe we know well how one person’s thriving can look very different to another. The key is to find mutual support in doing so. If that means adapting my role I am very open to that, and suggest any further conversations on such a topic be taken to the Company workspace or in real life.

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No, not necessarily. In my “fly fishing” example (stolen from Alberto Rey) I tried to make a hypothetical case for an activity that none of the extant team leaders would know how to do. In that case, as the proposal gets written, we would look for someone who can do that and negotiate KPIs with that person (“Alberto, can you do three expeditions, with 15 children each, for 5K EUR?”).

What I am saying is that we should attempt to maximize synergies between activities, rather than dividing them up. Sometimes, of course, total separation will make sense. We did not have to this explicitly for the SSNA package because we relied on previous experience dating back to 2012, and so we (including team leaders in “we”) already knew how these activities feed into each other. For example, I might organize small online seminars to share SSNA results, and ask Nadia and Noemi to push it out to the community and do some follow-up to encourage people to give us feedback.

How do we maximize synergies? I am not sure, it’s an open question. The first thing that comes to mind is calling up team leaders and asking the question. “Partner X asks if we can do anything about environmental education, any idea?” Or, if you and I already had something in mind: “We agreed with partner X that we could do something about environmental education that would help their work. We were thinking about involving Alberto Rey and his fly fishing thing. What do you think?” This would be the point where people would come up with ideas, their proposed role in them (that could also be: no ideas, no role, total separation is fine, go ahead with it any way you want). In the case of the impact conference, its impact in term of everything we do is significant, and so it makes even more sense at least to run it past people. “Blurriness” is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate, unless the project gets schizophrenic. We can manage it, more or less, by dialogue plus do-ocracy, aka “collective intelligence”.

For the record: I do not think you, @anique.yael, or anyone else, did anything fundamentally “wrong”. This is one of these things that we never had to think about before as we worked as a smaller team made tight by years of working together. We might even not need any specific process to deal with this stuff, just a bit of common sense and an attention to minimize drama. But, since you approach this from a documentation angle, I am now trying to make all implicit things explicit.

What do you mean by that? Does it mean change ourselves into something more decentralized? Or does it mean any kind of change, but that it can come from anywhere, rather than being central? Or something else?