Knowledge can’t be summed, maybe multiplied.
It’s an ontological matter, probably even a geometrical one. Maybe we could represent knowledge as a force. A vector inside a space. Definitely, two different types of knowledge can’t just be cumulated one on another. Their interaction is different. They multiply, build a surface, define a new space.
Telling you about XYZ means, in fact, telling you about a space, a new space.
This space got filled up by a hundred people for twelve days, letting them inhabit it in order to be defined, through a multitude of eyes, words and actions.
It’s been - as well - a social experiment.
The main goal of the three workshop was that of co-designing identity (x), tools (y) and processes (z) of what, starting this October, will be the Open Source School, through the development of a series of output that will be presented in this report.
Meanwhile, we had a second goal in mind: creating a condition of osmosis for teachers and participants, both in terms of (technical and theoretical) competencies and in merely human terms. This experiment was also a testing environment for the SOS team, foreseeing the upcoming complexity that is waiting for us from now on. We decided to tell you this story with different types of tools: pictures, texts, videos, links; involving and connecting other perspectives than ours, like those of Salvatore Zingale (one of the teachers) and Paolo Musano (one of the participants).
The "ex ante" teaching guidelines
Before the workshops we thought about possible mutual relationships with the several actors who dwell in our School’s same territory, Bari’s old town. Such relationships have actually been explored and developed by the same participants, throughout the workshops, leading to the birth of processes and services that emerged spontaneously, pulled by actual needs.
Two examples above all: our relationship with the Civic Museum, which allowed our participants to use an additional space (with aircon) as study room, and miss Nunzia, famous neighborhood hero producing industrial amounts of fresh pasta, who helped prepare food for the participants with a symbolic contribution.
Both of these services were made possible by the participants’ work, whom after spotting the needs and analyzing the context and its variables, could set up and managed relationships aiming for fair transactions. This allowed SOS to prototype bottom-up processes and dynamics, in preparation for a stable work in the same territory starting next October.
The first step of the X lab was analyzing and studying the pre-existing material produced by SOS, particularly project abstract, business model and statute.
We then moved to identify a series of keywords representing in different ways one of more characterizing aspects of the SOS project. Such words were then gathered according to some meaning associations, and some design concepts were identified across those clusters:
Multiverse, Anti-fragility, Open Work and Freak (o anche Chimera). From then, we started an iconographic research aimed to synthesize the minimal element of the identity system. Once the system was identified - composed by the four words “ la / scuola / open / source “ always set at the corners of any space, was conceived through a performance “the open source manifesto”.
Through this experience, held during the Open Day, we could test the behaviors of a large group of people, even just those passing by Ferrarese Square, who were asked to fill the “empty space” with some spots, to be painted with analogical tools as pens, markers, poster paint and so on.
Starting from that moment, the X participants split in three groups: identity system, website and publishing. Whilst the publishing team started developing the needed tools, methods and technologies needed for publishing, the web team started designing the content architecture and the platform’s user experience, and the third group began to define the basic alphabet of the identity system elements, first working on a three “fluo” colors-based chromatic palette, then on an open source typographic font, HK GROTESK, chosen after a vivid discussion, under the condition of modifying some of its elements. Editing the font had a double goal: fixing the letters needing some sort of intervention, and inserting some “different” elements that could make the font more coherent with SOS’ values and vision. Some punk and some constructivist elements were therefore added, leading to the birth of the FREAK GROTESK.
Starting from this (glyph proportions, contrast ration, curves morphology), a grid for the subsequent pictogram set was designed, and some first items were designed for this new iconographic system. Finally, an algorithm was defined to elaborate the “stains” that will be part of the identity system. Thanks to such algorithm, we could design and develop a processing software that manages such stains and their genesis with some parameters.
We could therefore design a three-level system:
(1) An institutional one, where the identity is represented by the sole four words disposed at the corners of the space;
(2) A promotional one, which also uses the stain - in its infinite possible setups - as an identity element;
(3) An open, non regulated one.
Starting from this three-way separation, while the publishing and web teams were finalizing the digital and communication tools design, both in terms of processes and form, the third group designed all of the letterheads: business cards, business paper, flags, poster templates, signals, merchandising.
The workshop ended with a second performance: manufacturing a hundred branded shoppers, with the institutional identity printed through serigraphy, letting visitors fill the rest of the space with any design they preferred, to test the open and non-regulated format.
This last performance was useful to both explore the new identity system’s possibilities and to pass from our old identity system, based on concept of piracy, to the new one, leveraging on the four identified keywords: freak, anti-fragility, multiverse and open work.
Y – During the first days each teacher, tutor and participant introduced himself to others, both as an individual and as a professional. All resulting information has been translated into keywords that – outlined – gave birth to a list of interests, passions and all the skills at the table.
Since the third day, the group started to study the needs of each lab and to understand which tools to adopt to facilitate its development.
Cardboard dividers were designed to improve the acoustics of Spazio Murat, the place here most of the job has been carried out. Also, a small digital fabrication and fast prototyping lab was set up.
Teachers, tutors and participants fulfilled a server based on the open source operating system Linux, essentials for implementation of most of the shared services and for the database collection.
A fundamental step was to ask the participants themselves what they were enjoying and what they didn’t like. They came out with several useful and important considerations, including the need for a concrete DOING; many of them poked around in the other groups and came back more cohesives to Y, some moved to Z with the Cooperative Market, others went back and forth to and from X and Z in order to report Y progresses.
Once all labs were equipped with the necessary tools to deal with the most operational phase of the lab and after they understood X and Z directions, participants splitted into subgroups according to their individual skills and willingness. Two macrogroups were formed: Internet of Things (IOT) and microservices.
In the IOT group it was immediately studied a map of the interactions that will exist between the School and its stakeholders, to envision and define all the possible implementable technologies. It was decided to design and build prototypes of the key elements of an IOT network, vital to manage and benefit from services, to interconnect things and people and to collect and release data.
In terms of internal communication and information exchange, it was decided to use Slack, an open-source, multiplatform tool, with a browser version and an app for all mobile devices. We chose it because it turned out to be very easy to install and use, also for unexperienced users.
Both OwnCloud documents and a repository for GitLab code sharing were defined and installed on server and platform.
After fews discussions on the analytical tools, it was felt the need to develop some practical tools useful to extract information from the various social network used. In particular, they started to work on a Slack bot able to make surveys and to collect information without encroaching too much on the lives of participants.
In the group formed to discuss OPEN DATA the key topics that most guided our conversations and decisions have been:
Data keeping, Data ownership, Sharing tools, Analysis tools, Privacy and type of data to be collected.
One of the points was the accuracy of data collection, another of what kind of data they were talking about, yet of the rightness of collecting personal data or to oblige people to share their personal data in order to join the School. Obviously a dilemma or – better – the evolution of a problem merged.
Using the programmable electronic board Raspberry Pi they build the IOT network hub able to manage data generated by sensors, actuators and people as well. Besides it being the interaction knot between them, the hub is at the same time a bridge for the server created during the first days.
The Server is in turn connected to a database and can be accessed by users of the services through the internet.
This group also developed a Moteino based device – hub of the IOT network – which sends data wirelessly. During the Open Day it has been useful to make visitors express their vote on the success of the event. It is designed to be installed in every room of the School and can be implemented with any kind of sensor.
Again thanks to Moteino and RF-ID technology, an access management and monitoring tool for all of the School’s users was developed and connected with IOT, the database, the app and the whole management software itself.
The Microservices team worked around designing a management software, developing a mobile app prototype and an ideas market.
Together with X lab, the website functionalities were as well defined.
Starting from identifying the basic needs of each stakeholder and the available technologies, a modular, “microservices”-based system was defined. Each microservice is focused around providing and managing a specific information.
Access to microservices is made possible by a mobile app and a modular-interface management system, where each module allows to access one or more services. For example, the courses list is provided by a microservice, whereas knowing who is attending what course is possible thanks to a module connecting the information provided by two microservices: people and courses.
After having defined the software’s potential attributes, such data was analysed to reach precise and unambiguous meanings, so to defuse potential conceptual conflicts. Different use cases were then simulated through a role play. We split in groups of students, teachers and administrator, defined each one’s needs and translated them into functions, re-ordered in clusters.
The cooperative market team immediately reached a liquid form and, with time developed relationships with both Y participants - with regards to developing the ideas market - related section of the management software - and with Z people, with regards to governance issues.
We had, in parallel, a theoretical part on cooperation and free work on defining the determining elements of what we had in mind as a cooperative market. Before thinking about an alternative currency system, we asked ourselves what kind of dynamics would regulate the market and what kind of conflict-resolution frameworks could be utilized whenever the first contrasts would arise.
After raising everyone’s awareness on the governance issue, the workshop indeed moved from Y to Z to work around the “governance process” topic together with the rest of participants and tutors/teachers.
The final output is an ideas market based on Open Space Technology and a dynamic, modular and anti-fragile governance, based on a strong respect of diversities.
In short, two status are imagined: the role status (teacher, staff, etc.) and the participant status, which can easily be swapped and are anyways dynamic. The output of any sort of voting process should be used in a proportional way: the cost of investing in minorities is in fact representing an investment.
The method refers to the eight principles isolated from the Nobel Prize recipient Elinor Ostrom for no centralized governance.
Initially, participants were split into subgroups to read, analyze and discuss the project abstract, the business plan and the SOS Company Statute. The discussion was aimed to synthesize a set of keywords. At the end of the day each subgroup presented the results of their work in plenary session. The keywords clustering led to the identification of some macro-themes: community, open source, leadership, school, processes, locality, innovation, economy. After this phase participants have been working to distil groups of keywords describing SOS, through the use of three different methods: dialogue, clustering and division into groups. The groups of words served for the elaboration of six different propositions or statements, that could represent the principles underlying La Scuola Open Source.
During this phase, some conflict-triggering questions emerged: for example, the term "process" has been seen as too vague, or the "Open Source" expression, it has been observed, is presented as a concept strongly associated with technology. Hence a series of questions: "How does the experience borrowed from X, XY and XYZ applies to the whole School?"; "What are the ethical implications of the School?"; "What are the sources of income of the School?"; "What if someone wants to reproduce SOS in another city?".
At the end of the third day, participants reshuffled the initial teams into four new working groups:
Z1: they carried the work on the statements testing them on people – both inside and outside the School – with the aim of creating proto-personas;
Z2: they analyzed the systems and processes that emerged during the first few days, proceeding with the abstraction of models;
Z3: they were involved in the part related to the relations within the subgroups and labs (X, Y, Z), through actions aimed at solving integration problems;
Z4: they worked to mediate between all the groups, so that the information could be effective and efficient, working so that all participants were enrolled in the communication channels to ensure that the tools were accessible.
This division was also suggested by the need to increase cooperation and interconnection among the three XYZ tables, which led part of Z subgroups to consider the entire XYZ experience like a meta-model of the School.
It was about one third of the lab when a part of the Z2 group met with a group of the Y lab to talk and discuss how the processes of SOS, once identified and mapped, could become "containers" of data. The first part of the meeting was focused on an overview on data, their use in today's society and the usefulness of making displayable and accessible the results of data processing. The second part of the meeting was focused to monitor and structure two macro-processes: Governance and Education.
In the middle of the labs one of the Z tutors (supported by a certified facilitator) led a "Lego serious play” session which involved 28 participants (on a total of 60 from the three labs) to help them formalize in an alternative way many ideas that emerged during the first week and to bring back the groups on a common ground. The "serious play" was held in two parts: (a) reflecting on some technical learning mode (play a model, follow instructions, experimenting, improvising) and the construction process of the La Scuola Open Source (use of analogies to represent one or more processes of the school individually, introducing in turn their work; working in teams to synthesize together the shared processes).
Simultaneously another Z subgroup was involved in mapping the knowledge flows that connect the school the with all the internally and externally involved players. The reported output was extremely useful to have a complete conceptual map of how knowledge is transmitted in the school, as a point of reflection on the organizational models and to represent the processes and dynamics of SOS.
At the end of the first week it was noted that working in a shared mode without all team members knowing each other could represents a critical issue. For this reason there have been cases of frustration that could be envisioned as "frictions" against those modalities that many had never used before.
At the beginning of the second week, as expected, two new teachers joined the lab.
They proposed a very defined structure that helped to give some objective references to those who needed it. A precise working schedule was defined, allowing for deeper focus and longer resting times. The teachers also proposed to change the group structure, identifying new working themes and new connections.
If in the previous week participants worked hard to deconstruct preconceived notions of what a school is and should be – starting from the analysis of lexical terms usually used to represent educational and training activities, from the beginning of the second week they started a building operation. For this to happen, first we had to face the challenge that not all Z participants had gotten to know each-other deeply, yet: therefore, we had all groups presenting their work to the rest of the participants; more-over, some afternoon time was dedicated to a session of synthetic self-presentations (basing on the Pecha Kucha format), so that everyone could get more acquainted with the others and tell their own interests, the skills that they intended to share and the reasons that had led them to participate to the co-design of the School.
As a result, the subgroups were reorganized into six new working groups and participants recombined into mixed groups for knowledge, skills and interests. The issues identified during the morning of Monday were in turn divided into four new macro-areas: teaching/research; measurement/evaluation; community/access; governance.
Starting Tuesday, the groups started working on the processes concepts for La Scuola Open Source. The new groups identified, discussed and decided the macro-issues they wanted to work on for the rest of the week; later – after breaking down each issue - they discussed on what they would like to focus in particular, to try to get to a concrete results by the end of the workshop. To help them in this process of reconstruction, realization and co-design, tutors and teachers proposed to approach the problem from a service design point of view. The reflection shifted from the analysis of the processes to a detailed and concrete design of the SOS as a service delivery, moving the focus on the experience of the user that will benefit from it. By following this path they reached some actual prototypes that allowed them to identify possible problems and open points of the SOS structure.
For the design of the School as a service, a Service Blueprint approach was used. In order to develop such blueprint, the groups went through three phases: storyboard, role-playing, customer journey definition.
During phase one, teams dealt with a storyboard, trying to define the service delivery experience by telling a story.
In phase two, going deeper into service design, groups challenged themselves with a role-playing session. Each of the groups “staged” the concept they were working on. This allowed an entertaining sharing moment with all the other teams, which contributed with constructive feedback that allowed further adjustments on the concept.
The last phase was about service alignment and fine-tuning through different approaches. Starting from their storyboards and the collected feedback, each team re-discussed, analyzed and re-designed their concepts, detailing them in a blueprint or a prototype (as, for example, an Open Night organized on Thursday to assess the interaction with the community), moving from concept to action. This last phase allowed each group to get ready for their final presentation, spotting open points and complexities.
The final presentations were in fact used with the precise intent of exposing the critical points that emerged during the two weeks to all the other participants. Each group, during the presentation, not only presented their target service via blueprint or prototype, but even set up specific questions to address, fueling a continuous effort of reflection to keep on improving the proposed services.
Throughout Z, the teacher’s and tutor’s role was that of following and facilitating the whole design process, whilst still leaving full decision making and creative autonomy to the teams. Teachers in particular had the job of reconnecting all of the concepts into a system reflecting the Open Source School’s macro-themes.
Viewing the school as an ecosystem allowed us to highlight and discuss, in the second week, the different points of view on processes, identify the less developed areas and spot the elements requiring a greater effort. Participants responded to every stimula, coming out with eight different processes that are well aligned with the values and topics identified during week 1.
All in all, the Z groups had a very complex challenge ahead. They had to face a challenging design task, that of designing processes, managing a high level of complexity and uncertainty. The Z groups designed services, not physical but systemic objects, targeting both local and global perspectives. They imagined services that could be completely innovative but still well connected and integrated with the community and its social context. They focused on designing the new experiences the School could offer and produce.
They designed many of them, according to their diverse competencies and passions. They interacted with their possible stakeholders and with various communication channels, designing an Open Source School in a perfect dialogic relationship with its territory and its initial intentions.
What was made by the Z groups is a proposal of a service model and a structure for the School that allow a complete openness both towards the external (companies, universities) and towards itself (in the school / teachers / students and in the teaching-related proposals), without forgetting about control topics (governance) and evaluation issues (sustainability).
Z’s work provided a detailed and caring map of topics representing the School’s “ideal”, a map that we wish could direct us and inspire us on the next strategic decisions and the project’s scalability.
As Bertram Niessen (CheFare scientific director and XYZ teacher) said during one of the labs’ talks, innovation processes produce four different types of value: economic, social, cultural and symbolic. These four types are interconnected. It is therefore possible to transform a specific capital type into one or several other types. We’ve acted agreeing to these principles, trying to use XYZ to exploit the available economic capital (part of the CheFare grant’s money), the social capital (the relationships gathered through the years through the X and XY Labs and each of us founders’ previous work) and the cultural capital (all the skills and experiences we developed through our lives). What we’ve done is complex and hard to represent.
For sure, involving this many people, each of whom carrier of many different competencies, generated a knowledge osmosis. Starting from that osmosis, which we can consider as humus, other dynamics sprouted: we got to know each-other, we shared our experiences, we challenged ourselves doing practical things together (one of the best ways for humans to build relationship), we imagined possibilities of working together, now and in the future. This generates much more than a mere transfer of knowledge. Particularly, the empathic and passionate context, intertwined with a beautiful setting - the Old Town of Bari, Puglia, Southern Italy - activated a mythopoetic process, thus adding to the symbolic capital’s value.
Therefore, starting from a (not only) economic investment, we generated an increase in the other three types: social (relationships), cultural (competencies) and symbolic (reputation / common feeling). With time, when one of those capitals increase, the others tend to do the same. That’s the meaning of our operation, especially inside a specific frame, according to which, quoting Kevin Lynch in ‘The Image of the City’: “there is no final result, only a continuous succession of phases”. And if this holds true for cities, which are the result of individuals’ social interaction, maybe it is even more valid for the reality we all, together, produce.
XYZ Labs received 199 applications with 60 available participation slots.
93 percent of those attending XYZ (teachers, tutors, participants, staff), graded the quality of their experience with 8/10 or more.
51 percent of those attending XYZ (teachers, tutors, participants, staff) graded the quality of their experience with 10/10.
94 percent of those attending XYZ (teachers, tutors, participants, staff) answered with 8/10 or more the question “would you attend another event organized by The Open Source School?”.
Il 66 percent of those attending XYZ (teachers, tutors, participants, staff) answered with 10/10 the question “would you attend another event organized by The Open Source School?”.
Based on data provided by participants on the expenses they’ve incurred in during XYZ, in 12 days the local community received around 35,000€ against an investment of around 20,000€.
Here are the main weaknesses / critical points highlighted by the participants:
→ Lack of partnerships for food, accommodation and transportation discounts
→ Wifi internet connection
→ Air conditioning
→ Lack of spaces and time for decompression and contamination after workshop hours
→ Tendency not to follow the scheduled times due to the amount and complexity of all the activities
→ Warm-up between teachers and tutors before the workshops start
Here are the main strengths / opportunities spotted by the participants:
→ Ability to build bridges
→ Push to go beyond one’s limits
→ Radical approach
→ High-level, internationally renown teachers and tutors
→ Mutual contamination
→ Ongoing external communication
→ Freedom given to self-generating processes
→ Ethnic Food partnership
Here are some sentences describing the participants’ perception:
→ Collectivity, strong bonds, people osmosis
→ A school where you learn to learn from one-another
→ Ferment of vitality and willingness to change perspective. Gathering space for minds and bodies who want to try to provide (others and themselves) a future worth living
→ SOS is a dynamic platform, where groups and subgroups grow continuously to pursue shared goals. A place for experiments, adventures and discoveries, a safe harbour to build new ways to see the world
→ A place of freedom and educational and cultural independence. Aggregator of knowledges, experiences and visions
→ A necessary effort to understand and change our future
→ It’s the possibility to rethink a common as school, built by and for its participants and the community in which it will flourish
→ The Open Source Schools is not filling a bucket, but lighting up a fire
→ A school where you get your hands dirty to learn to express and express yourself, a place where to exchange and multiply tools and knowledge
→ A shared space where the most diverse people in terms of age, knowledge and lifestyle meet up to grow together
→ The Open Source School is a fantastic promise that needs to be kept
→ SOS forces the future into the present: it sets free
→ It’s the place where it’s possible to remain utopian, while keeping the feet in the mud
→ A powder keg of ideas we need to blow up
From September 9 to 11 we will be in Milano's Triennale, hosted by Touchpoint.
We will tell SOS’ story and present XYZ’s results, opening up for conversation with a national and international audience. We will then work, together with the community that XYZ gathered, to finalize some outputs, as the website, the management software, the access system and the data gathering process, so that we can start working, as planned, in October.
We will also work on some grants application to finance more research and teaching activities, purchase materials and engage precious people and skills with our project. Over the next months, we will finally design the SOS space, setting up the first machinery and organizing it in a way that it can welcome what was designed during the three workshops.
We will plan the first teaching and research activities, which will run until December, we will apply for NIDI, a grant by Regione Puglia, we will start a tutoring program for those among the XYZ participants (not only them) would like to apply to PIN (another grant by Regione Puglia targeting young people with projects around social, technological or cultural innovation). We will keep on building our network, connecting different pieces of this new world, constantly looking to generate value for our target community and our territory, on many levels: Bari’s Old Town, Puglia, the Mediterranean region, European Union.