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Lost in Transition? Finding the theme for OuiShare Fest 2015

The third OuiShare Fest is in the making. Taking place from May 20-22 in Paris, the Leitmotiv of next year’s festival will be Lost in transition? Francesca and Diana tell us what’s behind this theme and why the Fest team chose it.

When we sat down a few weeks ago in Paris for a brainstorm session about the theme for next year’s OuiShare Fest, little did we know we were about to embark on a long journey full of heated discussions, questions and, most unexpectedly, enlightening insights about ourselves and what we identify with.

This brainstorm session was not unprepared: as a basis for our discussion, we had already put pages of ideas in a google doc, along with our fellow Connectors from around the world. Although chaotic, the notes showed that we were all thinking in a similar direction: we knew we wanted a theme that would bring up the tremendous challenges 21st century society faces, while pointing towards how we can overcome them, and this by going far beyond the topic of the Collaborative Economy. It also must speak to a highly diverse audience, equally applying to people working as freelancers, as in startups, government, corporations, NGOs and universities. We just needed to find the right phrase to put on it.

The second we heard “Lost in Transition” (thanks, Ben), we immediately fell in love with it, as well as our coworking buddies at Mutinerie  – but it turns out not everyone did. After submitting the idea to the other Connectors and dear advisors in our Facebook discussion group, we were surprised at the resistance our suggestion met with. Before we knew, we found ourselves in the middle of an enormous discussion thread with over 60 passionate comments (not a rare case).

While I share the concern that “lost” can be concerning, here’s where we are. LOST.” –  Simone Cicero*

Interestingly, this process made us realize how different people’s associations with the word “lost” are. While many were dissatisfied with its negative connotation, an astonishing number of people said they perceived being lost as something positive. Over a 2 month period we talked to dozens of people and couldn’t help noticing: there seemed to be strong generational and geographical divergence in how “lost in transition” was perceived.  We realized we had unexpectedly stumbled upon a tension between different mindsets, a tension that demonstrated the profound divergence in European vs. North American perception of the image of being “lost”. We also had the feeling that the difference in attitude was somewhat generational, with Millennials seeming to have less hope for a bright future than Gen X and previous generations.

Thus, although many may prefer seeing things in a more positive light, we had to admit to ourselves that pointing out the harsh realities was a role we wanted to play. Taking a critical stance is a crucial part of our DNA, because we believe that the ability to shed light on what is flawed is what enables you to overcome challenges and find solutions for the future. Let’s be honest: aren’t we all a little lost yet too scared to admit it?

In its beginnings, the collaborative economy inspired hope and purpose: in the middle of what seemed like an endless turmoil, the emergence of new models and practices connecting peers appeared as a bright light in the middle of a dark forest. Described as sharing, collaborative, P2P or contributive, these models seemed to point towards a path that would lead us to more sustainable, fair and human-centered forms of social organization.

It is a kind of exodus or voyage of necessity, but not from one land to another like great migrations of the past, but from one system to another” Neal Gorenflo*

Of course, things never quite happen as you expect them to. There have been countless debates about what these various projects and practices mean and what types of models we should praise. Some poster children of the “sharing” economy have become billion dollar companies, while others have fallen into oblivion. The pioneers of the collaborative economy face many complex issues, from regulation, to financing, to organization in times of environmental, economic and societal uncertainty.

After relentless criticism over the past months, no one seems to quite understand yet whether the collaborative economy can really bring upon the long cherished change we seek. Nor what it means to be a “success” in the Collaborative Economy. This general sense of perplexity and uncertainty in our community as well as the larger public is what we call “lost”. What we thought was a certainty turned into a big question mark: where are we going? Will collaborative models take us there? Which ones? Are the new concepts we put so our hope on flawed after all? Could the collaborative economy end up creating a more unequal society?

One thing is sure: we are in the middle of an important transition that we need to understand to be able to take action and steer in the direction we want to go in. The Collaborative Economy is entering a “critical” phase, in which it is being put to the test. This is good news though, because it shows that the concept is no longer in its infancy. Being lost does not mean that we should give up our hope for a happy ending, but that the happy ending depends on us.

We need to tell good stories. But I think that at this point it might be a good time for a story that is a bit more “serious” – Juho Makkonen*

In the end we decided that the ambiguity of “lost” as well as the resistance we met was all the more a reason to chose it. We wanted a theme that creates debate, even makes people feel a little uncomfortable, by waking us up to the reality that is out there. Only in doing so can we step out of our selves, ask the tough questions and find solutions together.

Next May, entrepreneurs and social innovators, non-profit and business leaders, grassroots activists and public officials are gathering in Paris with us for OuiShare Fest  to ask these questions together and look for possible answers. They are coming to debate, build and co-create the transition to a collaborative society. Will you join us?

We hope you will and get your ticket at ouisharefest.com

This article was co-written by Diana Filippova (OSFest Program) and Francesca Pick (OSFest Chair).

extracts from a Facebook discussion

More information about the event

Our first speakers

Want to find out more about last years edition?

See the 2014 event report or watch these speaker interviews.

You would like to get involved?

There are many ways to do so! Submit your session ideas for the program to our call for proposals. Or become part of the Fest team and offer your skills as a volunteer! Applications will open in January.

The third round of the OuiShare Awards will also be opening for applications at the beginning of 2015.