OPEN 2019: Catalysing collaboration at scale

The OPEN 2019 Community Gathering took place on the 27th and 28th of June in the event space at Tech City College. We changed the venue shortly before the event to support the boycott of the University of London in solidarity with their workers as The Open Co-op community came together to tackle the calling question:

How can we support each other to take more effective action to catalyse the collaborative, regenerative economy?

OPEN 2019 happened mainly offline in a series of talks and workshops and we also heard from Paul Mason on Beyond Carbon and Capitalism – the Role of the State?

The video below is a recording of a webinar we held to explore catalysing collaboration at scale. The webinar covers the ideas behind The DNA of Collaboration and Harmonious Working Patterns to explore we might help all the people, communities and organisations working on creating a new, decentralised, regenerative economy collaborate better to produce more impact.


The chat transcript is below the video – there are some valuable links to other articles on catalysing collaboration and related subjects.

Notes from the chat during the discussion:

16:47:37 Nenad Maljković : Interesting article in this context (4 minute read), for later, of course 🙂
16:52:47 Trevor: Economies of scale and division of labour
Nenad Maljković : This makes very much sense from the permaculture (and living systeems) point of view! 🙂
16:57:37 From vivian : To me it sounds more like an argument for free markets, coming from the right of the political spectrum. the first is all about lots of autonomous utility-maximising agents (in an economic jungle) with no overall purpose
16:57:55 From vivian : Some of the interactions in a forest are pretty brutal!
16:59:13 From Nenad Maljković : Any group of humans is complex, adaptive system.
16:59:43 From vivian : Yes but many groups have a “purpose” and can plan together. That’s inherent in a democracy
17:00:53 From Dil Green : Forest participants and humans are different – because humans will always have some conceptually stated purpose (unless they are a zen master).
17:01:01 From Nenad Maljković : Vision, purpose… obsolete in groups that collaborate based on intrinsic values (first hand experience with transition town initiatives on the ground – they don’t waste time on defining purpose or vision 🙂
17:01:55 From Dil Green : For me, forests are fine (great!) in and of themselves – because the participants don’t have conceptual approaches.
17:02:40 From Nenad Maljković : For me (with permaculture glasses on) there is coordination >>> cooperation >>> collaboration succesion 🙂
17:02:51 From vivian : For me, defining purpose and vision are the most powerful democratic things to do in an organisation. In my experience, in groups where there is nothing like this going on, there’s usually one person or a small group in charge. Others might accept this for a time but it usually breaks down/
17:02:54 From Dil Green : It’s when humans try to act like forests that things get strange – because concepts cannot capture complexity – and complex relationships are what makes forests capable of building carrying capacity.
17:04:34 From Nenad Maljković : @vivian: group / team / organisatiom / network / “platform” / “ecosystem”… all are human systems, but different.
17:08:29 From Nenad Maljković : Oh… that’s not “community”… 🙂
17:09:11 From Ben Roberts : Re “Telegram hell:” “The small group is the unit of transformation” Peter Block
17:09:24 From Dil Green : @Nathan blockchain people obvs didn’t read the ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ in time…
17:09:58 From Dil Green : @ben nice distillation.
17:10:58 From Dil Green : Drawing appropriate boundaries and understanding that boundaries are spaces of exchange rather than barriers seems key.
17:15:40 From Nathan to All Panelists : @dil Actually at the meeting I was describing they were referencing “The Tyranny of Structureless” to describe their condition.
17:15:47 From Nathan to All Panelists : 🙂
17:16:03 From Ben Roberts : If we were sitting together, Matthew wouldn’t be on his phone like that!
17:16:17 From Nenad Maljković : Of course not – any mediated communication is 2nd grade communication… or worse 🙂
17:16:40 From Ben Roberts : And I wouldn’t also be working on a Google doc. 😉
17:17:06 From Nenad Maljković : Focus Ben, focus! 😉 😀
17:17:13 From Simon to All Panelists : You think so ! ?
17:17:18 From Dil Green :
17:17:24 From Nathan to All Panelists : At the very least distract yourself with FLO software!
17:18:13 From Oliver Sylvester-Bradley : Harmonious Working Patterns:
17:19:03 From vivian : @Indra I like your analysis of how people interact with ideologies and the connection you make with concepts of identity. In the present political situation we have a classic case study of how people with insecure identities cleave to apparently powerful “ready-made” ones which are really crude vehicles for manipulation and control.
17:20:21 From Nenad Maljković : Hear, hear… (coming from an oralist)
17:20:50 From vivian : Arguably many externally-defined forms of identity (countries, brands for example) fall to a greater or lesser extent into this category.
17:21:31 From Dil Green : @Vivian Agreed
17:21:44 From Nenad Maljković : By the way, some good practical tips on… collaboration… here (there’s also part 2):
17:22:06 From Nathan to All Panelists : I love that article, @Nanad. Thanks for sharing it.
17:22:06 From Dil Green : @Nenad – great stuff.
17:22:33 From Nathan to All Panelists : A corollary of mine:
17:22:49 From Oliver Sylvester-Bradley : Thanks!
17:22:58 From Nathan to All Panelists : Sorry
17:23:19 From Dil Green : Rich and Nat capture something that panellists here are not talking about – which is scale. ‘How many people in the group?’ ‘What is the right size of group for this intent?” seem to me to be very important early questions.
17:25:38 From Nenad Maljković : What Matthew describes is how things work anyway… 🙂 We are all associated – as individuals – with more then one “organisation”, etc.
17:26:50 From Dil Green : @Nen – I think he is saying that the protocols for collaboration in those forms of org are over-conditioned by the learned cultural modes of top-down hierarchy.
17:27:06 From Oliver Sylvester-Bradley : Cohesion – steer towards average position of neighbours
Separation – avoid crowding neighbours
Alignment – steer towards average heading of neighbours
17:27:13 From Oliver Sylvester-Bradley :
17:27:23 From Simon to All Panelists : Is this aimed at corporations . . . who pay fat consultancy fees?. Personally can’t we just close them down?
17:27:37 From Ben Roberts : Never mind the GHG emissions associated with in-person meetings!
17:27:40 From Oliver Sylvester-Bradley : lol!
17:28:31 From Nenad Maljković : Extroverts and introverts keep their differences on video too 🙂
17:28:56 From vivian : @laura vulnerability is strength! (although I’m conscious I’m just sending text messages and you’re the one on the video! 🙂 )
17:30:04 From Ben Roberts : So interesting to hear Laura say she “hates video.” The three ways of connecting–in-person, live virtual (video/audio), and asynch/text– each have benefits and limits, and each appeal/repel different people in different ways. Deep collaboration will leverage all three and have them synergize in ways we are still just starting to figure out.
17:30:21 From Ben Roberts : Yay NEC!
17:33:56 From Nathan to All Panelists : Thank you Laura for sharing that.
17:34:59 From Nenad Maljković : If viewer is focused enough on video listening can be as good – it’s a skill to acquire, in my experience.
17:35:20 From Laura James : Great point Indra about tech privilege. Virtual environments, especially without video, can be empowering for people with disabilities whose voices are not heard in the same way in face to face meetings. For scale we need to centre inclusivity
17:35:25 From Nenad Maljković : Live video is not the same thing as watching TV 🙂
17:35:29 From Nathan to All Panelists : One board I’m on requires members to stay unmuted on calls to enforce attention.
17:37:59 From Nenad Maljković : @laura: yes, fully agree + what Ben Roberts wrote above: “The three ways of connecting–in-person, live virtual (video/audio), and asynch/text– each have benefits and limits, and each appeal/repel different people in different ways. Deep collaboration will leverage all three and have them synergize in ways we are still just starting to figure out.”
17:41:34 From Nenad Maljković : Voting is out of date. We use consent decision-making (not even consensus, that’s also out of date).
17:44:57 From Nenad Maljković : Re. foking in collaboration – doable even without devices! 🙂
17:45:57 From Dil Green : imho democratic tools have appropriate and inappropriate contexts. So that voting can have its place (a quick workplace decision among 50 people as to a wildcat strike), consensus can have its place (a group of three choosing where to go for a meal), deliberative democracy… and so on.
17:49:40 From Nenad Maljković : @laura: thanks for sharing this, very useful! 🙂
17:50:49 From Matthew Schutte : Gregory Bateson’s critique of Conscious Purpose:
17:50:50 From Matthew Schutte :
17:51:49 From Matthew Schutte : And published yesterday: Gregory’s daughter, Nora Bateson’s article on “Tasting Textures of Communication in Warm Data”
17:51:49 From Matthew Schutte :
17:53:54 From Matthew Schutte : Nora’s wonderful recent 8 minute video that touches on the challenge that humanity faces today and the different ways of THINKING that may be required to actually surface solutions:
17:53:55 From Matthew Schutte :
17:55:20 From Nathan : Join us later!
17:57:49 From Wes, Somerset UK to All Panelists : Really great session, thank you everyone! 🙂
17:59:13 From Dil Green : These ‘names’ are nicely captured by the concept of ‘patterns’ – identified recurring conditions in complex systems which are recognisable – although each instance is unique (in space and time), we can nevertheless useful name them.
17:59:49 From Ben Roberts : I’m not with you fully, @matthew. Sure, you can note how any boundary is permeable, or even arbitrary. And yet collectives DO exist in nature and are essential building blocks for its complex capacities for collaboration.
17:59:57 From Dil Green : Pattern languages allow us to trace systems of relationship between patterns that embody the complexity of the interactions.
18:00:13 From Simon to All Panelists : Interesting that Oliver insisted that everyone start by explaining ‘how they make a living’, & that Matthew lived in his car. Progress will be made when we don’t have to make these ridiculous choices. What will that take?
18:00:28 From Ben Roberts : It’s not just about giving something a “name.”
18:02:11 From Dil Green : @ben agreed – understanding a pattern and being able safely to interact with it design it requires a great deal of investigation, learning, documenting, mapping connections to larger and smaller contexts…
18:06:08 From Nenad Maljković : “Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”
– Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language, 1977
18:07:00 From Nenad Maljković : Might work in similar way in social systems… I think.
18:07:47 From Dil Green : Thank you Nenad! Chris alexander student/practitioner here.
18:08:38 From Ben Roberts : Here’s a pattern language for group engagement that I love to use in various ways:
18:09:00 From Dil Green : I am working on building pattern language authoring tools for all sorts of domains.
18:09:47 From Ben Roberts : There’s a new pattern language for “Wise Democracy” too:
18:10:58 From Dil Green : know the group works one, but nice to have this democracy one. Thanks
18:11:08 From Matthew Schutte : An interesting blogpost on Dyads and Triads (similar to some of Josh’s comments) by the co-creator of SSL the most widely used security protocol on earth:
18:11:08 From Matthew Schutte :
18:11:14 From Ben Roberts : One of its categories is Collaboration
18:11:29 From Ben Roberts : I can speak to one version of an answer to Nenad
18:12:11 From Ben Roberts : Cooperation is another C word to include
18:16:52 From Ben Roberts : I can also answer Nenad’s question re the various C-words with a story about what we’ve learned in the Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory
18:20:13 From Nenad Maljković to All Panelists : Maybe give Ben a chance to answer my question? 🙂
18:20:14 From Matthew Schutte : Yes! We need to give ourselves and one another AUTHORIZATION to show up as full humans — with the complexity of other contexts — not just as our “role” in the organization!
18:20:53 From Matthew Schutte : Nora Bateson has designed a wonderful process called a WARM DATA LAB to foster this kind of experience — and result in transformative shifts.
18:21:57 From Ben Roberts : I’m eager to try a warm data lab with Nora using Zoom (and maybe some asynch tools and perhaps even a network of in-person groups too).
18:22:28 From Matthew Schutte : Nora spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco yesterday. That recording should be on NPR radio stations around the US (and elsewhere soon) and will probably be available online in the next few days:
18:22:29 From Matthew Schutte :
18:25:10 From Dil Green : Ben this is fascinating – thank you.
18:26:10 From Nenad Maljković : Thank you Ben! 🙂
18:26:14 From Dil Green : Is this documented / described anywhere?
18:26:25 From Indra : share your links Ben?
18:26:25 From Ben Roberts :
18:26:27 From vivian : Thank you Oli!
18:26:32 From Dil Green : thanks!
18:26:51 From Nenad Maljković : Thank you all + Oliver and Dil 🙂
18:27:04 From Trevor : Thanks everyone!

1 thought on “OPEN 2019: Catalysing collaboration at scale”

  1. Hi Oli
    A great session thank you!

    It is important to think of this topic in the abstract. But at this point of time it’s important to deal in the concrete. I think Matthew nailed it with ‘what are you trying to do? What are the grammars?’ And you addressed this in one context when you talked about github.

    Another rapidly emerging context is XR. Many groups of people around the country coming together – with each group composed of many people with different positions on how important is the issue, how soon should we target zero-carbon, will I participate in direct action, ….. all leading on to what will we do together as a group, and with other groups locally, and nationally and internationally? That’s the context. So what grammars will emerge? We need to wait and watch, and offer grammars and their solutions.

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