What we learned about community engagement at Masters of Networks

“Human behavior being highly complex and unpredictable, we are still a long way from learning what is shaping any person’s ability to contribute in a community. What’s pretty clear to me, having worked closely with Edgeryders and confirmed more of own intuitions, is that online community management is crucial and pays off when working for social change”

The Masters of Networks (#MoN3) event some Edgeryders attended this week in Rome re-asserted how empowering it is to have full, collective access to the data we are producing. Read Noemi’s full report here.

Could bottom-up citizen science projects challenge authority of orthodox science through community-led investigations? 

“New approaches to research investigation are looking to go beyond blanket objectivity to include experiential knowledge and local contexts. Dan McQuillan looks at the counter-cultural roots of the citizen science movement where activists strove to put science at the service of the people. He argues the current field of citizen science could catalyse something equally new by explicitly questioning the hegemony of orthodox science.”

Read the full post and decide for yourself here.

Money, society and gaps – an introvert’s view

“There are a few other things that strike me about this situation of having to get together with people. One is rather tangential and follows a fascinating discussion I recently had with artist Giles Lane about a trip he made to Papua New Ginuea to work on story collection with locals there. He told me that the social interaction was so intense it took a long time to decompress afterwards, that it changed how he viewed our everyday activities back home because it showed the complexities of emotional and pragmatic interactions when all aspects your everyday life depends heavily on others with whom you have an unformalised, emotional relationship. For myself I found my understanding of our social interactions was most changed after a trip to Cuba – but for me I saw social interactions being used as a means to press for exchange of things of value.”

Read Kat’s reflections after LOTE4 here.

No pensions, no profits, no security. How do we hack our way through old age?

“But you are now 96 years old and your robotic care assistant accidentally sucked up your dentures into the #opensource vacuum cleaner because the IoT fridge and stove were chatting away and inadvertently knocked the robot offline.”

We’re still laughing (nervously) at this post laying out what we have to look forward to in our glorious old age. Unless we build viable alternatives, that is 🙂

How to build a revenue stream to support your activities – part 1

People like us need to be free, want to contribute to different projects, want to be able to influence and take ownership of processes, want to share… So how do you set up an environment that allows value creation and its distribution but feels like a network and is build on openness, transparency, decentralized processes?

I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time. In many senses Edgeryders, the community and social enterprise I co-founded is an experiment in open and decentralised organisation structures. Part of this work involves exploring how we can support one another in building revenue streams to finance meaningful and important work, even if it does not follow market logic. So I am running an experimental course on how networks can do this. You can read more about it and join here.

Ethiocracy: Love, land and peace

A big part of my family is Ethiopian. This is also the main reason I packed my bags and headed off to Addis Ababa

… to participate in my beautiful cousins’ weddings.

My cousin made clear I was expected to show up in a Habesha Kemis. So on arrival I headed off to Shiro Meda to find a tailor.

The wedding itself was a ball. With our family being spread across the globe it is rare for so many of us to be in one place at the same time. I really appreciated being able to spend time together in celebration of the most important element of a happy life… love.

On the ride to venue where we would dance and try to keep the groom from picking up the bride (yes, literally- tradition), we came into the topic of religion.

I was asked about my religious beliefs which struck me as quite an odd question. .

… Until I found myself in the middle of a massive Timket (Epiphany) procession in a different part of the country a week later.

The same thing happened on numerous occasions in different parts of the country.

Religion is a big deal in Ethiopia. So is peace.

So Ethiopia is home to oh about 200 ethnic groups and around 80 languages. However diverse I knew the country was, in my mind always was associated with Christianity and Judaism… a long history that began over 2000 years ago. The Hebrew influence and identity is pretty clear when you wander around Gondar and Lalibela. Especially if you dig into historical information about different dynasties that ruled and shaped Ethiopia throughout the centuries.

So I was surprised to learn just how large a proportion of the population the Muslim minority is. Almost 40 percent, if I’m not mistaken. And that the one jew in the Bet-Israel village is the guy running the museum frequented by tourists on pilgrimages. Where is everyone?! Oh yeah. Pretty much everyone was evacuated to Israel after the massive drought in the 80s.

I feel a link to this diaspora, all diaspora really. There is something those of us born with feet in many worlds discover sooner or later. That we are not one or the other, but something else.. ours are third, remix, cultures. Religion is one of those sensitive areas we have to develop mechanisms for navigating.

Within my family there are ties to several mega-cities of Africa and Asia where more than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, and around sixty percent of the world’s 2 billion Christians, live. I was born and have lived in different parts of a Western liberal Europe not sure how to deal with growing tensions between different social groups.

Here and there, what we think of as religious and or ethnic conflicts are often intimately tied to underlying conflicts over resources like land or water.

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa and the pressure on land has often been put forward as an important factor in the 1994 genocide. I cannot remember where I heard that in the case of Rwanda there were more intra-ethnic murders than between different ethnic groups… the genocide was partially fueled by the need to free up resources. If memory serves me, they had a system ( currently being reformed) in which all land would be passed on to the first son. Which left a class of landless, disenfranchised young men with no hope of accessing a brighter economic future unless some of that land could be freed up…

Israel and Palestine is another example. At the source of this conflict, according to Bo Rothstein, lies mixing of religious rhetoric with what is essentially a fight over assets. He claims that you would create the foundation for lasting peace by focusing on resolving the land/economic disputes with compromises for everyone (Swedish article): http://www.svd.se/…/markavtal-kan-stoppa-valdet_3777014

Other examples of legacy injustice include (thanks @Jaycousins ):

Egypt – land is divided amongst all children so within a couple of generations everyone has a tiny patch they can’t profit from – the result is illegally constructed tower blocks on most of the rare and fertile land in Egypt and a lot of in-family tensions.

Likewise In England or any other Western Country, the peasantry had their inheritance stolen out from under them long before the lords and merchants started robbing foreign soil.

… There is much to be learned from Ethiopian history about the importance of tackling inequalities in distribution of property and use rights for building lasting peace. Especially in societies where formal property laws and customary property rights arrangements exist in parallel. I believe some of those lessons are also relevant in societies where land rights are secure but ownership of property is highly concentrated.

Fixing legacy injustice: Reforming dysfunctional property laws and peace between ethnic groups

Justice is a prerequisite for peace. While the murderous authoritarian regime known as the Derg got a lot of things wrong, they did push through land right reforms.

Prior to the civil war against the old feudal order (Haile Selassie, also known as Ras Tefari), the Muslim population was excluded from being able to access land as they were passed along hereditary lines. So your family had to own land in order for you to have hope of owning land. This was the Ristegna system.

Then there was the Gultegna, the nobility, which were granted the right to a fat chunk of the surplus from the land tended by farmers. Basically a rentier class that contributed little or nothing to the development of the country and life of their fellow Ethiopians.

Both were upended by the revolution and land redistributed and finally nationalised. Why?

One of the persistent calls for social justice in the revolution, also during the Derg period, was “land to the tiller”. All the different interest groups got behind this reform as a fundamental requirement. The military dictators could not back out on this demand as they would loose legitimacy amongst the soldiers, many of whom hailed from the southern parts of the country where the problems of unfair distribution of land was particularly strong for historical reasons.

There are still problems, and new ones. Ethiopia is also undeniably doing a lot better than many of the other countries in the region- my impression was that there is a fundamental belief that things are improving, also for those at the wrong end of the power spectrum. Clearly the picture painted depends on who you ask but I could see for myself that e.g. infrastructure is much better in many parts of the country than it used to be.

Most of all people are very aware of how fragile and important peace is. The story of a popular revolution co-opted by a military regime that then did its best to murder an entire generation is still fresh in the collective memory. I am reminded of this every time I hear any talk of revolution: the move towards a western style liberal democracy is not one that Ethiopians I spoke to value highly. Rather, it is economic rights and development that seem to be at the heart of their concerns.

If we are to achieve peace at home, we need to think about how we tackle legacy injustices against people in different parts of a globalised world. The central pillar is property law and ownership. As Ethiopians learned, it makes sense to start there and not let up till an acceptable solution is reached.

There will be losers. However if they are taking up so much space that it threatens the ability of others to survive. Well, they… all of us, may end up losing a lot more than a little excess capacity.


This post was originally published on the Edgeryders blog.




It is not at the centre where most exciting things happen.

We’re continually being bombarded with suggestions about what we might do (go jet skiing, study in Colorado, visit the Maldives or see the Pyramids). We’re always hearing of the amazing things friends have done or are going to do: ‘there was this great bar we all went to …’; ‘she’s getting married in a little country church, then we’re having a picnic…’; ‘the sun was glinting on Sydney Harbour…’ There are endless hints of the allure of life in other places: an article about family-friendly restaurants in Brooklyn, a crime novel set in Trieste, the departure board at the airport with its list of places only a plane trip away: Moscow, Bangkok, Addis Ababa… The modern world makes sure we know at all times just how much we’re missing. It is a culture in which intense and painful doses of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are almost inevitable.

Read the full post here.

UnMonasterians at Transmediale: what happened?

The Summit was a trilogy: a gathering at an apartment complete with BioHack Lab, a public programme in the foyer of Transmediale and an offline network intended to connect both sites and disseminate the release of The unMonastery BIOS. In the nights leading up to Transmediale we hosted a series of Open Dinners at our apartment, tackling subjects from Precarious Labour, Universal Basic Income through to Open Funerals; a new format for laying dead projects to rest

Learn more about what happened when some unMonasterians set camp in Berlin for Transmediale as told by Ben, Kei and Katalin here.

Playing politics: how to get open source and peer production on the agenda?

There is no way a meeting headed by the European Commission can conclude that the European social model based on full employment, trade unionization, private capitalism and hierarchy is broken. How to insert open source and peer production in the European political debate?

After a recent meeting in Brussels on Digitial Social Innovation in Europe, some of us are building a shared agenda around decentralisation and distributed architectures, starting with poking holes into our own assumptions here.