A trickle becomes a river
Reflections about a nascent movement, from Better Work Together
Last March I was sitting at the dinner table in Wellington with Susan and Anthony, two fellow members of the New Zealand-based collective Enspiral. “We are starting a book project to share stories and learnings from 8 years of building Enspiral with the world,” they said. “Do you want to join as a co-author, along with 10 other members?”
As a more recent Enspiral member based in Europe, they asked me to write about the larger landscape I saw a network such as Enspiral being part of. I had gotten to know this space quite well and from a different perspective, by being in the midst of the global Ouishare community since 2012. I liked the prompt, and said yes.
A global movement with no name
My essay in Better Work Together, Welcome to the age of participation, puts forward a question: are organizations like Enspiral and Ouishare isolated phenomena, or are they part of a larger, emerging movement? If this is a movement, what are its characteristics? What are the key themes and commonalities? Who is part of it? What could be its’ impact on the world?
In reflecting on my experiences over the past 8 years in various countries, communities and (many) gatherings, the conclusion I reach is no — these are not isolated phenomena. They are part of a growing movement. This left me with a challenge: how do I describe a movement that my intuition tells me exists, but that has no name or quantitative measure? In my essay, I put words to my experiences to draw out the common patterns and themes I can see.
There is a movement on the rise that it is leveraging the power of community, networks, and participation to work on systemic challenges.
Here is how I describe this global movement: a movement that it is leveraging technology and the power of community to connect local and global action and form networks to work on systemic challenges. This not only exists conceptually, but is a tangible reality with a growing number of projects scattered across the globe. The organizations that are part of it come from a broad range of sectors — from environment, to agriculture, to education, to health, to business, to politics. This diversity makes it harder for them to recognize each other. Yet, while their areas of work may differ, their modes of operating are similar. They are aware that their work is a contribution — not a complete solution — to the challenge they aim to solve, and that it is a piece in a much larger puzzle (of global wicked problems).
To understand the facets of this movement more clearly, I identified five main fields (not the only ones) it spans across:
- The Sharing & Collaborative Economy
- Circular Economy & Ecological Activism
- Social Entrepreneurship & Impact
- Open Source & Decentralization
- Digital Nomadism & Freelancer collectives
As broad and different as these fields may seem, many of the people and organizations working in them share an ethos, a culture, and many common values. In my essay I paint a colorful picture of this culture and those who are championing it.
Its’ stars are not famous figureheads, but the communities as a whole.
Here is a snapshot of some of the organizations I alone have encountered throughout my work, whom I see as part of this culture (and which are mentioned as examples in the book):
Amanitas Collective, B-Corp, Civic Wise, Commons Network, Edmund Hillary Fellowship, Fab City, Holochain, Impact Hub Network, MakeSense, Malt, Open Collective, Open Food Network, Ouishare, Platform Coop, P2P Foundation, Remotive, Scuttlebut, Shareable, Transition Towns Network, Wemind, Zero Waste Europe Network.
And there are so many more.
Moving from connecting to collective action
This movement has matured a lot since I entered it in 2011, from a fuzzy niche to gradually becoming more defined. The level of connections between the people and organizations within this ecosystem has been increasing, but that is just the first step.
We can all be different and united in action.
Cross-community initiatives like Neotribes, Human Networks, and Dgov Foundation are demonstrating the value of working beyond your own community and networking the networks. Now it’s time we use the fabric we have been weaving between us to move from connecting to collective action. If this movement is to achieve the impact the world needs right now, we need to recognize: we can all be different while united in action.
Read the full essay in Enspiral’s first book, Better Work Together!
Better Work Together reflects on 7+ years of learnings from the Enspiral community through short essays, practical guides, toolkits and personal reflections. It covers different facets of the future of work, including self management, collective structures, cultural processes and tools to deliver a global perspective on how embracing new ways of working together can transform how we do businesses — with practical examples from real world learning.
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Follow the organizations mentioned above on Medium: OpenCollective Holochain Design OpenFoodFrance B Corporation B Lab UK BCorpSpain Remotive Malt Shareable TransitionTown Media Fab City Global Initiative Impact Hub makesense
Thank you Kate Beecroft for the edits and Joshua Vial for the title inspiration!