OuiShare: an ongoing experiment – takeaways from summit #2 in Roma

At the OuiShare summit#2 in Rome 40 connectors from all over Europe came together to catch up and build the future of OuiShare. Here are some outcomes from a great weekend of hard work and fun.  

In mid-November, less than one year after OuiShare’s official birth (first birthday coming soon… stay tuned!) and after a great first edition in Paris, our second European summit in Rome took place at CoWo360. 40 connectors from all over Europe took part in two days of intense workshops to build OuiShare’s future together and work on ongoing and upcoming projects.

What follows is an – incomplete for sure – summary of what we experienced in five statements made by the group.

Openness and transparency are our core values

In one of our workshops, every participant was asked to write down a set of keywords to answer 3 questions:

  • What do you like most about OuiShare?
  • What would you like to change about OuiShare?
  • What are the values that should guide our action?

OuiShare Summit Roma - by Stefano Borghi

The one-hour brainstorming that followed showed us how diverse the cultures, influences and motivations are among the OuiShare connectors. Not surprisingly, “openness” and “transparency” stood out strongly as values that should guide our actions that everyone felt were important.

By openness we mean openness of processes as well as culture, both internally and externally. As for transparency, or even “radical transparency”, as it was mentioned, it was seen as an instrument for making the OuiShare movement inclusive: “we can talk to everybody as long as we communicate.”

Other similar values strongly expressed by the connectors were “independence”, “sincerity” and “diversity.” Among the other keywords submitted, some were more focused on the “action” side: OuiShare should aim at building the “commons” and, foremost, having “impact” (“just fucking do it” appears to be one of OuiShare’s mottos, with MPRL – see below). This is not only an expression of impatience or pragmatism. “Let’s focus on the action and impact, because we can’t and we don’t want to judge people’s motivations.”

Even if our mission statement is still to be specified – and will probably remain in a constant state of evolution – this is a new step. OuiShare is beginning to position itself within the collaborative economy landscape, as a neutral player that especially supports open-source approaches.

There is no unique model for OuiShare local communities: each of them is creating its own

Meet People in Real Life (MPRL) has been one of OuiShare’s very few guidelines from the very beginning. This is the strength of OuiShare both at a global (summits are a good example!) as well as local level.

“How to build a community locally” was a recurring question at this summit and was also the topic of a workshop session about the role of connectors. What came first was that there is not a single (success) story to replicate. Each city comes with a very different context in regard to the size, entrepreneurial activity, activism tradition, laws, students presence, …

Some of the 15 OuiShare local groups also cover whole regions instead of cities, simply because it makes more sense for planning activities. Community needs and aspirations also vary strongly, along with those of the connector(s) involved, who often have a full-time job, but may want to create his or her own financially sustainable activity.

OuiShare Summit Roma - by Dimitri Tzortzis

Sharing knowledge and experiences with other local hubs is extremely valuable for all connectors. Some basic guidelines (from a “what not to do” list to an actionable toolkit for new connectors) can easily be outlined as far as trust and delegation remain the basic principles.

That’s why we like to say that OuiShare does not grow but distributes itself.

OuiShare is an ongoing experiment

Flexibility and feedback culture were also among particularly valued principles. For the connectors, this simply means “allowing OuiShare to evolve” and “the right to experiment.” This is about allowing constructive criticism as well as experimentation.

OuiShare Summit Roma

This was also the conclusion of several workshop sessions: when talking about business models, organisation tools or new features for the online magazine, we often agreed on the fact that the answers to our questions do not yet exist. We have to experiment and try out new ideas as we go. That is how we will learn, and may be the only way we will be able to build consensus.

This is the message from the connectors to the broader OuiShare community:

We might make some mistakes along the road. It’s okay – tell us when we are!

OuiShare is an experiment, as all adventures are. This is why it could also be the object of research itself: how does the community grow, share and build knowledge as well as interact with other networks while having fun and inspiring its members?

OuiShare must mature as an organisation

Business and financial issues were also core topics of discussion at this summit, with no less than 4 sessions on business models and funding opportunities. Since there are a dozen people giving half or all of their time to OuiShare without receiving any monetary reward at the moment, it is absolutely necessary for OuiShare to find a way to sustainably finance itself.

OuiShare Summit Roma

Everyone agreed that OuiShare should explore and unite a large variety of funding options (including self-funding from the members of the community) to be able to remain as independent as possible. This hybrid economic model would include sponsorships (mostly for events), donations, grants and providing services.

In the next few months, OuiShare will approach foundations and public funds as well as possible, given our young age. OuiShare is already engaging in business opportunities such as consulting, organizing events or workshops and conducting research. These activities need to be leveraged and expanded.

Several options for doing this will be experimented, from developing a service offer within the OuiShare non-profit, to encouraging connectors to build their own as free-lancers, giving back a share of their revenues with the community. We should also learn from other organisations’ experiments, such as the P2P Foundation, Las Indias, the Open Knowledge Foundation or the Mozilla Foundation.

Getting organized also means connecting more eagerly and efficiently with other networks. Cooperations with communities from the collaborative economy such as MeshLabs or Shareable are to be sustained and expanded. Relationships to other related networks should not be neglected, especially in the field of research and open science. In the latter, our work begins with identifying and connecting with the important actors in the field and finding out how we could collaborate with them on conducting research.

2013 is going to be big!

OuiShare Summit Roma - by Dimitri Tzortzis

Since the beginning of 2012 OuiShare has primarily engaged in two types of activities: Connecting people through online groups and offline events – more than 40 in less than a year – all over Europe.

Secondly, the online magazine has been growing amazingly since the launch of last June, with 120+ articles published in French, English and Spanish and 20K+ unique visitors monthly. We expect it to continue growing in 2013 given the extensive media coverage OuiShare and the collaborative economy in general have been receiveing during the past few months in Europe and especially in Spain and France.

Lots of new projects were also born and designed during the summit. The “Do-Tank” workshop alone produced a whole bunch of stimulating ideas, from creating a time-bank within the community to developing a mobility app. Each of these ideas will become a project if a there is a team interested in working on it and if someone wants to take the lead.

Many highlights are already planned for early next year: We hope to launch a version 2 of in the next few months, OuiShare is launching new event formats and communities in South America and – most excitingly – we will be kicking off a very special festival for early 2013 soon. Stay tuned for more.

Big thank you to our sponsors Lisa Gansky & Mesh Labs and Bedycasa for making this great event possible!

You can find the whole program and all outcomes of the summit in this document and gladly contribute to the productions.

Photo credits: Dimitri Tzortzis CC BY-SA – Summit Album  / Stefano Borghi – Summit Album / Screen and productions shots: Leila Pais de Miranda