Connecting Communities IRL – monthly meetings

The events are held
on the 8th of every month
at 6pm until 8/9pm
at the Redmond Community Centre (Kayani Avenue, Woodberry Down, N4 2HF​) in Manor House, London

The Redmond Centre have been amazingly supportive of the Commons Platform, giving us space for our 2-day Global Sprint workshops in May, and we are so grateful to be able to use the beautiful space in the heart of one of London’s most diverse areas, to connect with the local community and all of the great events that happen there.

Depending on which day of the week the 8th falls on, we could find ourselves making and sharing food with the Tuesday supper club or Friday’s Red Moon Roots community dinners made from surplus food, or Rubbing shoulders with Monday’s knit and natter club.

They also have a community garden and community fridge which are really inspiring, and one of the themes will be around food.

For those people who aren’t in London; if you want to create something similar where you live to get people involved – then get in touch with us and we’ll help you figure out how!

Annual update & next steps

Dear all

It’s now a year since we started planning our first Commons Platform workshop with Andy Paice facilitating, and a lot has happened since!

We have had workshops on defining and visioning the platform, the aims or ‘compelling story’; our values; project planning; community building; creating a culture of safety, consent, accessibility and inclusion; interoperable/scalable/decentralised/secure tech; communicating the vision, and the Mozilla Global Sprint where we identified the important features and prototyped the platform whilst having community brunch and dinner together.

It has been a truly awe-inspiring process and we have been blown away every time by how very diverse people have joined in and collaborated together with so much creativity, generosity and warmth. I often find I am still processing some of the outcomes and people’s individual and collective contributions months later as I begin to understand them in more expanded ways. It has been such a learning and growth process in trusting everyone to bring so much more than I could ever think of myself.

It might seem as if we have been a bit quiet since then so I’d like to let you know what we have been up to since, how we have consolidated all of the outcomes and where are we are heading next.

What we have realised is that a very large proportion of what we have developed so far has been the tools for what we are calling ‘creating the conditions for collaboration’, and creating genuinely diverse, safe, inclusive, accessible spaces.

We are realising that this, in combination with the values, gives us a way of working that is congruent with, or in integrity with, the aims of the platform. It’s like the DNA in the seed which can then grow to create the whole organism. (You might have noticed I love metaphors of patterns that occur in nature.)

Which brings me to what next: Many of you have signed up for our other workshops. We still fully intend to do those workshops, but rather than following a linear pattern we now think it is possible to allow those workshops to develop in a semi-autonomous, more decentralised, self-organising way, so that they can happen in parallel and therefore more quickly.

Essentially, we think we have got to a point where the values, aims, culture and ways of working, community agreements and conflict resolution, security etc are established enough that we can communicate them to any groups who wish to work on those themes, and so that those groups have the tools to create parts of the platform that fit together with everything else by having the same DNA built in.

So, rather than focusing purely on scheduling the next workshops, we are now focusing on creating a website with a kind of forum where people can join groups to work together on the next steps, share progress back to the main group, share news and resources and co-ordinate events etc.

This will also solve an additional problem: our Facebook group (No offence to anyone, it’s a lovely group!) We haven’t focused on making it a central hub for all of the activity because a) Facebook isn’t particularly well designed for that and most importantly b) so many of the people in our network are not on Facebook. Therefore I always have a kind of uneasy feeling as I know that about one third to a half of all the people I want to speak to are not able to be a part of the conversations here, and inclusion/accessibility are very important to the values.

NB we tried doing things like creating Loomio groups, Whatsapp/Signal groups etc but people are often not keen to join a new platform and it’s just not quite as friendly as a forum, and also I just think it would be nice for everyone to join something that is the Commons Platform itself and be part of the construction of it to meet the needs of us as a group

So here’s the plan: Let’s build a quick website with a forum/bulletin board or whatever else works best to help us to co-ordinate and then we can all start finding, joining and creating groups together. We can build in the ways of working into the groups and documentation, and then everyone can find each other with similar interests for some really great conversations and collaborations.

For example, there are lots of community builders and activists here with a wealth of experience in creating resilient sustainable communities and movements; there are many independent media organisations in the group who want to design a better way of interacting with media and content online; there are lots of people looking at alternative economies who could talk about the kind of economic systems we could have on the platform; there are peace-builders, conflict transformation, restorative justice and NonViolent Communication practitioners who I would love to introduce to each other to look at how we deal with any conflict that arises within the platform; there are Crypto specialists, decentralised web people, people who have knowledge about the kind of legal structure, governance and commons stewardship that can help to make the platform work sustainably, and so many others who could form groups to make the platform into something that really works to meet the needs not met by current platforms.

You – yes all of you – are truly amazing and I know that if everyone could find their people you could all start to build incredible things. One of our 7 values is that all people and contributions are valued, and we want to make it easier for everyone to make those contributions in whatever form.

We will start contacting people this week to develop this forum, and create the documentation that will make it work. Please comment below if you would like to help.

Then the next big event on the horizon is Mozfest at the end of October. We would love to have a beautiful, functioning, easy to use website by then which we can present so that more people can join, create a profile, sign up to the values, be welcomed by the community, have an onboarding process, and join groups, share resources, events, news etc and start to build more functionality into the platform itself. (Such as creating an independent media platform, decentralised library, or skill-sharing, or whatever else people want to create that is congruent with the values and aims of the platform.)

Steven Gunner has offered to help facilitate a design workshop on the 15-16 September – but it’s more than just design. It’s a place for anyone and everyone to come together to define our community identity so that all of our values, ways of working, inclusivity, accessibility and conditions for collaboration can permeate through the design, look and feel, and language of everything we create.

Oh, also look out for information about our Commons Platform IRL events that will be taking place on a monthly basis starting in September. These will be places to come together as a community in Manor House in London, open to everyone in the local community, to share ideas, updates, food and drink, and start to do the things in real life that the platform will facilitate online.
We are thinking that people might bring books to swap, skills to share, things to repair etc.

I look forward to seeing lots of you soon.

As always, we will try to make all events accessible, but if you cannot be physically here in London we will try to include you somehow online, and also you could think about creating your own events where you are.

Do get in touch if you would like to talk about how to do this.

Much love

Updates – May 2018

Hi everyone

Firstly, a big welcome to some more amazing humans who have joined over the last couple of weeks. As always I am blown away by the, well, amazingness! of everyone and the range of skills from designers and filmmakers to Commons experts (I feel like there should be a nice egalitarian term for that but don’t know what it is. Commoners?) software engineers, spiritual teachers… and those are just the ones I know about. There are a few people I haven’t had any contact with yet so please do send me a message or comment below if you would like to say hi and have a chat.

I am enjoying the synchronicity that Lloyd Davis posted a link today to an MA course on Design for Cultural Commons run by Torange Khonsari, who has also just joined this group. It really makes me feel that between us we can build this platform and that as a collective we have what we need and are growing organically in the right direction all the time.

We have enough people now that we can start to create smaller groups and start moving forward the different aspects of the platform side-by-side (e.g. groups on Tech, Commons, Privacy & Security, Alternative Economics, Design, Community, Peace-building, Independent Media etc…) I’ll be thinking about how best to do that this week, and how to include people.

This next couple of weeks will be a time of reflection and consolidation, and also of communicating where we have got to so far which has been hard to do with so much work involved in organising the Global Sprint (which for those of you who don’t know was on the 10th and 11th May, where at least 45 of us met for 2 days of workshops and community to work towards developing a prototype of the platform.) Please let me know if you would like to help with this consolidation process over the next couple of weeks.
I am aware that there is lots of exciting news that is not so visible at the moment, and that we also need a way of storing and organising information, research, people & skills that is accessible but that does not compromise anyone’s privacy.

A couple of updates:

  1. Mozilla sent information about the Commons Platform to the University of Glasgow AHRC Digital Transformations, who invited us to speak at Furtherfield Commons on the 8th May, which was nice, and will lead to more conversations in future.
  2. For those who are interested, we will be interviewing Carne Ross on 4th June about his thoughts on decentralised ways of organising society and how this fits with the Commons Platform. Let me know if you have anything you want me to ask! (Many of you may know of him from this BBC video)
  3. I am planning to record more conversations with people to share thoughts about the platform from many different angles over the next couple of months, as it is a great way to communicate about the platform and its aims through video/podcasts etc. (I have notebooks stuffed full of notes from amazing conversations I have had with all kinds of people over the last year or so – from academics to economists, policy-makers etc, and I would love to be able to share that with people more easily in future.) Let me know if you want to be in one!
  4. GDPR: the new laws on data are coming into force tomorrow, 25th May. As Kade Morton pointed out, it would be good to have a clear policy on how we use people’s data, especially moving forwards. Anyone want to help with drawing it up? 

That’s all for now.

An article about us by Mozilla

Social Media, Decentralized

A spotlight on the Commons Platform, a 2018 Global Sprint participant

It’s been a rough several months for the world’s dominant social media platforms. The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal was followed by a bruising congressional testimony for Mark Zuckerberg. And Twitter’s Jack Dorsey admitted earlier this year that abuse and harassment are overwhelming the platform.

As a result, users, policymakers and activists are abuzz about potential solutions. And while many talk of regulation, Sophie Varlow and Nick Wood suggest a different approach: introducing a new product from scratch, with radically different principles.

“You can’t change things by pushing against them,” Varlow says. “You need to build a new model.”

Contributors to the Commons Platform mull ideas. Photo via Rikki / @indyrikki

Varlow and Wood are the UK-based community organizers behind the Commons Platform, a nascent social media platform with core values like privacy and decentralization. The Commons Platform is participating in Mozilla’s Global Sprint, an annual, distributed hackathon taking place May 10 and 11. They’ll be working from the Redmond Community Centre in London.

Varlow and Wood began thinking about the Commons Platform long before Facebook and Twitter’s latest episodes. The idea came not from specific incidents, but larger, systemic problems with today’s social media ecosystem. Like “the impacts of not having consent within tech,” Varlow explains. “Or not owning our own data. These relate to structural inequalities within society.”

“We’ve been talking about these things for years,” Varlow adds.

So how is the Commons Platform different than the status quo? “One of the central differences is that everyone would own their own data,” Wood explains. Further, the platform itself would be owned by its members. Varlow likens it to public land: “No part of it can ever be owned by any individual or group in perpetuity.”

Contributors to the Commons Platform mull ideas. Photo via Rikki / @indyrikki

She adds: “Because it is not driven by the attention economy, advertising, and data revenue, people are not encouraged to spend time scrolling. They can curate their content to find the things that are interesting to them and connect to people, issues, and organisations that they care about quickly.”

Privacy features will be baked in from the start. And the Commons Platform is meant for communities, not just individuals. Groups will visit to organize, openly share software, and collaborate on solutions, the duo says. Developers won’t need permission to add or edit software. “We’re putting power back in the hands of communities, so they can create solutions that make their lives better,” Varlow notes.

Currently, Varlow, Wood and collaborators are finalizing the project’s values, aims, culture and ways of working. During the Global Sprint, they’re planning to work with like-minded designers and developers to take the next step forward: “The website, the technical infrastructure, the community standards,” Varlow explains.

But the Commons Platform welcomes more than just technical volunteers — any potential user or community is welcome to share feedback and ideas and co-create the platform. “We try to break down barriers between experts and nonexperts, users and developers,” Varlow says. “After all, we want to build a more equal society.”

Learn more about the Commons Platform. Learn more about the Global Sprint