When you decentralize your event, the community cancels it themselves

Particiaptory events have been a big part of my life for quite some time. For years, I have been deeply involved in The Borderland, which is now dealing with what to do about Covid-19. We strictly don’t have to cancel yet. In contrast to other events, we don’t have any running costs and our community is quite used to dealing with uncertainty – in 2018 we relocated the entire event in just 6 weeks after losing our location.

The Borderland is a lot more decentralized in its governance than the other events. I spoke about this at length at CCCamp last year. What is interesting is to see how things play out in a crisis like this.

  1. On February 29th, @brooks is still hoping that the event will happen but raises the issue that it will be a very different year with an increased need for hygiene awareness.

  2. During the discussion on March 1st, it becomes evident that things are getting worse quickly and that we don’t really know what the force majeure policy is, so the thread is forked. This thread goes on while the crisis is unfolding and is the only place in which the Borderland as an organization is doing its sensemaking, and doing it transparently.

  3. On March 29th, the treasurer Jonas starts gathering advice on a proposal to stop all spending until April 30th, as to not spend money that we may want to use for reimbursements.

  4. As other events cancel, the Borderland takes its time. There is no need to rush as there are no running costs and no contracts are signed until the end of April. On March 30th the chair of the board, Diana, makes a post to make clear the discussions on the board. She makes it clear that at this point, the board is not going to step in to make decisions, and that it’s up to the community to use the decision-making protocols in place to do so.

  5. Community member Nicolas takes the torch and puts together a proposal to cancel. This develops into a discussion on how we can cancel and still facilitate activities in 2020 that “keep the lights on” and make proverbial lemonade.

I find all of this interesting as a data point on how a decentralized community can handle a crisis, so I thought I would share it.

I’m sure there are a lot of interesting examples now of how grassroots orgs are dealing with disruption. I would be willing to bet that while the value provided by these grassroots orgs is enormous, they are relying a lot less on bailouts and more on a built-in resilience in the face of uncertainty.


Also, I just love this comment by Max:

Whatever happens I feel confident the ever-mutating hydra of chaos magic that is the borderland will float along the path of most resistance to allocate randomness in the least pareto efficient way. I think we can get up to a lot of shenanigans in local settings. Letting all the creativity ground itself might plant seeds to strengthen the local communities all over the nordics for a long time to come as well.


Suddenly, the most popular option for what to do with the money is to buy land. An interesting proposition, as we theoretically have around 500k EUR to spend, and there will be a lot of options on the market in a recession, as well as opportunities for inexpensive loans. A 500k downpayment for land in Sweden or Denmark is a good enough sum to at least take seriously. That sort of hack should be up the alley of @matthias and @alberto.


I can’t help but wonder with the onset of this virus and how it is shutting everything down which in turn is making the air and water a lot cleaner, if this isn’t Gaia fighting back. In the USA the old saying is, “nature bats last.” So buying land doesn’t seem so crazy. My advice: own and control your own water source.

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Luckily, Sweden has more than 97,500 fresh water lakes larger than 2 acres, and plenty of groundwater. Unless you are in some very weird anomaly of a place, water is not an issue.

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I resonate with this also.

However, being strategic on ‘what land’ is a good question.

Will the community be able to figure that out also in a collective effort?

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