It’s been two weeks without an update from my side, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened. On the contrary. I broke my neck in a mountain biking accident, but DevSurplus wednesdays continued none the less. Being stuck at home with a neck brace brought many things: peace, friends, knowledge, realizations, and a healthy drive to do something good.
So we had a different session two weeks ago. No solutions, just observations. And the most pervasive realization that came is this: we are with too small a group to start something sustainable. So we decided we should first of all organize a special event at my house with just the right invitation to bring in the people that we want to stick afterwards.
So for last wednesday we brought in Chemel, who just organized a big event on ‘persuasion’, to bring his ideas and tools to the table. We started creating an overview of all the deliverables necessary for the event, and started harvesting email lists and organizations we want to target. We finally started digging around, and did some real research. And guess what? We found another running initiative that’s already gotten traction and uses the same principles and ideas: 8 hours overtime for a good cause. It sports to be an “open source, closed wallet, bottom up event”. Awesome!
For a moment I thought we could join them since they already had so many people and sponsors. But then I saw it’s only one event per year. I bet there are many souls wanting to follow up on their efforts, and not just leave it at that one event. A good chance that some, or many of them will want to to join us, right?
I am still crafting that special invitation that has the right words, intentions, energy, seriousness and lightness. That attracts those who understand, and those who rely on their intuition and know it’s coming. Even tho we can’t give all the details up front. One thing is certain tho, or more than one: We will have dinner, we will listen to inspiring stories, and we will have talks and start working. Interweave that with special and esotheric moments like meditating and dancing, and I bet most people will want to stay over for a night or two 😉
Last night was again a productive night.
More people tried to come, and eventually didn’t, but that’s a good sign. We’re buzzing.
Who did show up, was Wessel, our local guerilla entertainment hero wanting to make the world even more beautiful, fun and caring.
Wessel is always very straight forward and started his own investigation as to why he would commit himself to what we’re trying to accomplish. Of course we first had to tell him our vision and personal story to enable him to do so. He quickly understood all about it, and gave us many examples of empowering and inspiring initiatives in the world and around us that we should look at. I tried to show him that to maintain our drive and power, and thus become sustainable as a growing community, I strongly believe that DevSurplus should limit it’s operations to the local community first of all. To protect all this good energy from leaking away too easily. So I kept reminding him of the importance of the “human” principle, which to me stands for working together in real life, on a regular basis, and embedded in the lives that we live.
Of course we were again discussing the disruptive power of money, and how DevSurplus should have a model that withstands the obvious transformation into a business. The pay-it-forward principle should be a key principle in our operation, as it is more likely to inspire, foster and attract altruism than a money ‘tainted’ business trying to facilitate good causes. Again, money is not dirty, and very necessary to pay for costs. We also see individuals getting paid jobs through our matchmaking events, but that’s just wonderful! We strongly propose healthy self support principles, to make room for working together towards a sustainable future, less dependent on material desires.
After refining our visions and principles we decided we should consolidate these into an intuitive body of information to be presented to newcomers (online, offline). So we don’t waste too much time renegotiating and discussing our foundation. We talked about an “evergrowing community blob of values and principles”. Mind the word “evergrowing”, which implies infuse of fresh visions and values of course, but also the weight of us united as one.
After so much talking our energy was almost depleted, but we got a new spark from suggesting to start our first real project next week. To start prototyping as early as possible and to show our operation. We decided to see what we can contribute to minimizing the plastic waste, and the growth of sustainable awareness in Lombok, Utrecht.
Our first wednesday night meeting was very inspiring and brought a lot of insights. After having answered the question “Why are we here?”, which led to different but alike motivations, the following question arose:
“Is DevSurplus a place for everybody who feels invited to contribute? In other words: is there only place for digital development? Or also for other disciplines of work?”
We agreed that we somehow should cater to those who feel the calling to join, but also agreed to see DevSurplus as the cockpit / headquarters where all hands on work is identified for those wanting to take ownership. DevSurplus will function as the brains of the community, starting up projects and collaborations, and functioning as their backbone. We will host open spaces, and might do hackathons, but we expect those taking ownership of projects to take their required actions to the streets and into their own homes/workspaces.
We then kicked off with a little brainstorm around the concept of a hypothetical “local” project, to see if we can further clarify the DevSurplus process. Arlo asked what we could do for the “soup for homeless people” project, which was discontinued at some point.
“Should we go to the initiators of the project? And if they wouldn’t support it any more, would we do it ourselves?”
Here we agreed that whatever we do, we have to put any projects purpose above those who want to carry it, so it would supercede anybody’s ego. And that involves inviting anybody who might be interested to become a potential project co-owner. Including those attempting anything alike, be it in the past or in the future. Always try to expand the group to increase the potential for success.
“And what if a project would generate money? Is that allowed? How do we deal with that?”
This topic had us hooked for long time. We felt that if we don’t clearly have an answer, or a philosophy to deal with these questions, we might get overtaken by individuals trying to see DevSurplus as a way to generate income.
The current paradigm with regards to money involvement in do-good organisations might be summed up as this: “It is ok to make money off idealistic endeavours, because it might help the sustainability, and might lead to efficiency in the process.”
But we saw that this type of reasoning was born from a non-sustainable system of expansion and economics. We felt we needed a paradigm shift.
“What if we can enforce another payment model, like the pay it forward principle? Where each person or entity uses their skills and strengths to reciprocate any help given by DevSurplus?”
Models like these are coming into fashion more and more. Gifting circles ask participants to step into the circle with one or more qualities/services they are willing to offer to those in need within the circle, and to take this philosophy with them once they leave.
Wouldn’t it be very clear and inspiring to all involved with DevSurplus that we work from this pay it forward perspective? But not only that. Whatever originated from DevSurplus, will be kept in a digital paper trail because we use a method called “harvesting”. And everything generated within the DevSurplus sphere is testimony and evidence to our philosophy. This could guarantee avoidance of abuse.
We do understand that times might come when side projects are started by individuals to generate income for themselves, but we have no objection to that. As long as they do so outside of DevSurplus, and respect our philosophy. Abuse of our resources or open source initiatives will be dealt with by the tribe of elders, and might lead to exposure and discussion in on- or offline media.
“But what about donations and such? We will make costs when organising events.”
Surely we must be able to accept donations, but only if they are used to cover expenses, or to kickstart projects. But the latter would be decided by DevSurplus as a whole, so no single person or interest group would have access to or claim funds without backing.
We understand that this grey area is in need of specification, be it in principles or down right rules. We are of course open to suggestions.
“And who decides what is a good project or organisation?”
We understood that matters such as these can be discussed by a group within DevSurplus best described as a “tribe of elders”. And, as with any group within DevSurplus, those who feel a calling to contribute can join.
That kind of sums it up, but for those still reading and interested in the ‘spelling’ part, please contact Arlo, as he was strongly advocating the correct use of spelling throughout our process 😉
To start preparing for our first event that will happen end of year, beginning 2015, we will be meeting every wednesday at my house. I will cook a vegan meal to be served at 7pm, and the session will be between 8-10pm. We will use group facilitation tools and techniques to make efficient use of our time.