Starting a Learning Tribe

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Lillailler »

Just thinking out loud, it's much easier to take over an existing community and redirect it than to create a new one from scratch. You could maybe join your local Toastmasters with a few friends, and make all your speeches "How to"s for Renaissance Man skills, coach the existing membership to share their skills, recruit new people who want to share their skills and learn new ones, and so on. Well, maybe. Something like that.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by bigato »

I can make soap and I can fight ;)

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Fun idea! I think a format that might work would be a mix of traditional Boy or Girl Scout meetings with the processional dinner or pilgrimage.

This very good book explains how to do adult version of Girl Scout meetings with badges awarded for completion of basic skill sets. ... Can_Do_It_

Since location and transportation would also be an issue for ERE members (who are also generally not most easily herded types) and some skills demonstrations might require specific tools or environment, it might work better as growing establishment of seasonal rotation of visitations to "expert sites." For instance, ffj could always offer a Knots and Woodworking weekend in early May in his neck of the woods, and Seppia could always offer Cooking and Cuisine in late February, and I could do Urban Permaculture or Book Scouting in mid September, and SClass could do Tech Repair in late November, and Ego could do Bike Maintenance and Touring in early June etc. etc. (not volunteering anyone-just brainstorming with examples inclusive of best time of year to visit various realms-lol) Then if current resident expert doesn't want to present that topic anymore, somebody else could pick up the same TRADITIONAL* seasonal slot or a new expertise could be presented with that seasonal slot, while other seasonal slots remained the same. By this means, overall sense of novelty within continuity could be maintained.

The badge or point system could include different levels of mastery within each skill set so that it would make sense for an individual to choose to attend same pilgrimage site every year if it is nearby or convenient, but maybe only attend other pilgrimage sites once or not at all if distant. Attending a Skill Session Visitation Site as a novice could require some small fee or contribution, but anybody willing/able to offer up a Skill Session at their location would be able to attend all other Skill Sessions gratis that year, or something like that based on seniority, skill and total resource contributions. What would be really cool would be initial contributions based on the model of each person bringing one stone with which to build a wall, rather than cash contributions. Or something along the lines of how rural doctors would sometimes be paid with eggs or similar. For instance, if the skill was Ice Fishing and Filet Knife Use, all participants would have to pay for their own license, but the Expert might choose to keep the bulk of all novice participant's catch.

So, not everybody would show up for every session, but the extra perks (maybe stuff like provision of basic overnight accommodations) that would come with accumulation of points would encourage more attendance increasingly at every level of specific and/or overall mastery.

*Social groups require traditions and rituals.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Sclass »

chenda wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:10 pm
My first thought is couldn't these skills be learnt off you tube ?
Good point. If it could be done with YouTube that would be more efficient. Yet some things need to be done hands on with a coach looking over your shoulder. Also, learning from a video is a skill. Just like learning from a book is a skill. Not everyone can do that I notice.

Recently while showing a kid how to clean carburetor jets on a lawnmower. I don’t think I effectively transferred the skill because the teenager just “didn’t get it.” YouTube has tons of videos showing this but it’s another thing actually being able to acquire skill from a video.

That being said I’ve not posted the dozen or more fixes I’ve done in the in the fixit log in recent months because I rationalize that the same thing is on YouTube.

I guess there is some utility in showing people something is possible. Reminds me I should post something up I just learned.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Quadalupe »

The main differende wrt watching on YouTube is the community feeling you get by interacting in a thread, meetup or hangouts. For example, on the forums there is a very friendly social atmosphere, while at the same time they are beating state of the art result by cooperating.

I guess to tackle the freeloader problem, you could ask participants to share their ‘homework’ results from the last lesson. That way you ensure everyone is committed and participating.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by plantingourpennies »

Love it! Reminiscent of Ben Franklin's Junto group.

1. We're very, very close to doing this online because of the variety of skills on the forum. Pick a thread like Ego's something for nothing, S-class's repair, or Animal's hunting threads and let 6 students try to put those skills into practice over a set timeline (a month or so) with the guidance of the instructor. Keep it to one skill at a time and iterate from there.

2. I don't see YT as a competitor to this at all. The community and pedagogy aspects are completely different.
Sclass wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 6:18 am
That being said I’ve not posted the dozen or more fixes I’ve done in the in the fixit log in recent months because I rationalize that the same thing is on YouTube.

I guess there is some utility in showing people something is possible. Reminds me I should post something up I just learned.
Bad rationalization-I'd much rather read your thread than watch a YT vid.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Jin+Guice »

I really like this idea, but I'm not sure how to overcome the distance problem. I think 7w5 has the best suggestion so far, but it'd disadvantage those who can't or don't want to travel. I also think it should be designed to eliminate the mandatory participation. There needs to be some repercussion for saying you're going to an event and not showing up and definitely for saying you'll host an event and cancelling, but I don't think going to one event should necessitate going to the next. There should also be some way to limit participation to only those who are truly interested but I don't think everyone should have to present.

I strongly prefer learning from a mentor or in a small hands-on class to youtube or reading about doing.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by jacob »

Thanks for all the feedback. I'll try to answer/build upon it some more:

I'm definitely intending for this to be in-person. An important goal (for me) is to establish the tribal aspect by which I mean ongoing dependable relations that go beyond the "two-body" construct. What I have in mind here is what I guess is similar to a lodge or Franklin's Junto group that @plantingourpennies mentioned. It seems rather common for erudites to have established such "societies" in the past.

I think it's only partially possible to achieve this online. The ERE forums are to some degree tribal in the sense that I feel that the core members are a tribe. The number of active members is small enough not to exceed the Dunbar number and I think we all have some idea of what each other are doing. Witness, for example, what happens when a regular contributor disappears and how people are asking into them.

OTOH, I also think the online model is limited in the same sense that everything online is limited. There's more to life than what can be experienced via a screen. Using the internet to connect is somewhat fragmented, e.g. we use youtube for instructions, a blog for ideas, a forum thread to ask/answer questions, ... What's lacking is the synergy between all those lines and that is left up to ourselves to figure out. And I don't think that is a particularly effective way to go. Compare the value of an online degree to a degree from a physical college. One thing the former lacks is the personal network built at the latter.

I suspect commercial makerspaces have the same issue. My impression is that they come without the network or the shared mission. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but the main reason I could see in going to one is if I have a specific project or skill to learn, that is, I have a known-unknown. As noted, with limited imagination, my vision in that regard does not go beyond 3D printing a pencil holder.

I'm interested in the polymath/renaissenceman aspect of it. Insofar ERE overlaps with FIRE and other stuff, I'm not that interested in the FIRE aspects of it. Thus while I think there's a greater than average chance of recruiting systems-thinking polymaths within the ERE forums, I don't think ERE (extreme-FIRE) is a sufficient nor a required condition. Not really looking structure this around FIRE as such.

I suppose some travel could be involved, but isn't it better to form local groups instead. If density is a serious problem, maybe form a local chapter of 1-3 people.

Thanks to the feedback I see a few ways to do this now. Whatever way chosen must ensure some kind of buy-in/commitment.

1) The expert/noob model would model the Junto or what c_L suggested in that there's only one of each type selected, e.g. one metal worker, one mechanical engineer, one gardener, ... And then presumably presentations and workshops would follow. This would put a lot of the workload on the presenter.

2) The enthusiast model (think motorcycle restoration club) which I favor along the lines of what @Ego and @Toska2 proposed in which a project is chosen and then everybody helps each other finish it by a certain date. This also implies sharing your homework (H/T @Quadalupe) The trick here is to pick a project that is not too easy and not too hard.

I think in either case a limited number of members is optimal for practical and social reasons. A good number is somewhere between 7 and 12 simply because 7 people and their individual doings is just about the upper limit of what anyone person can keep track of and 12 is about what can fit into a standard living room before group coherence breaks down.

If going with (2) then continued membership of the group could be contingent on finishing the project at hand. A side-effect/consequence is that this select for "finishers" and committed people. People who loose interest would drop out. New people would be recruited. Eventually, there would be an incentive to stay in. Think English football league. Group members would help each other stay in.

Perhaps local chapters could meet centrally at the "final project" day if necessary.

The next project would be picked along the lines of interest and specifics would be determined by whatever group member is the most "expert" on the given choice.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by bigato »

There is so much to say about the way you guys are going about this idea, that I don't even know where to begin. And most of it is not good. I'll probably try to elaborate better on this in the future, but for now I'd just like to say that all this talk about commiting sounds too much like work. You guys are trying basically to structure friendship relations in a way that takes out the inerent human unreliability out of the picture, which I don't think have a lot of chance to work. Because yes, friendship is what glues people together in a tribe. With all these rules, you are likely to attract the kind of people who would thrive doing something like a phd project. Which is fine if that is your ultimate goal, but on the other side you would also be loosing a whole spectrum of people which don't fit into that mindset and ironically would have the most unknown unknowns to contribute to you guys. Thing is, in order to stumble unto the unknown unknowns, you have to open space for the chaos, that is where you find some of the most interesting insights that you had no idea ever existed. Those people who tend to be flaky and unreliable sometimes are the ones who add more on this front.

The best place to meet polymaths that I know about in real life is the polyglots club's meetings. You basically have a fixed place in your city where people gather weekly at the same hour. No reservation, no entrance fee, no barrier of entry, no rules, no penalties. People just show up and talk in several languages. Nowadays I don't care much about the language learning that is the central focus of the meetings, but I still go to expose myself to knowing different and smart people. It is not perfect, it is not always filled with only interesting people, but it is the most successful way to meet interesting people that I know of. That format could have something for you guys to think about.

Other than that, yours is too generic of a proposal in it's basically just "let's gather to learn stuff together", that is generic enough to not attract many people. On the other side, you are starting to lay down some very specific rules that are even more likely to disinterest people. I think it is much more likely to be a successful venture if you just give up the generic abstract approach and just start a specific project. Which project will be should depend, in my opinion, primarily in having at least one or two known reliable and interested people to get the thing going. People are much more likely to go to something that is already happening. Invite some people in person, some people you already know. For example, I want to practice bjj but don't want to deal with the bullshit of traditional gyms. Because I am already a brown belt, I can just start my own training. I know a friend who is very reliable and interested. We may start training and stablishing a schedule and rythm. Once that is done, I know of at least two other people who would be very interested. If we are successful at stablishing a regular three or four people training going, I could at some point start looking around for more people. Maybe advertise in some circles of friends. I don't want it to get big anyway. I may let anyone come by, have a look, watch a training, talk to me, and then we see if we are a good match. I actually did this very thing in the past when I was living in a small city where there was no bjj classes available. It doesn't matter much if a percentage of the people are flaky. As long as I have at least one or two very reliable people, the thing will get going.

I used the bjj just as an example, of course. But out of these people that would be interested in bjj, one of them could teach car mechanics, for example. He is an expert in restoration. He could teach the rest of us, we could start this project on the side one day of the week maybe. In the past when I taught bjj, I made a friend who was a very good house builder. He did some work for me, and I helped with something. There was this other guy who was a good friend and interested in bjj, but never had time to train. He was a successful organic farmer and often I'd go to his place to talk and help him with the work while talking. He would get my free work, I'd get some free learning, and we would talk about life and finances. At some point he needed a builder for a house he would build. There was that friend of mine. My then wife became friends with his mother and they would bake together. You see a pattern forming? I just need to put these people in contact and then the "learning tribe" get going. I think it is more a question of building the right circle of friends than anything else. Having filters to the kind of people you want to spend more time with. Putting artificial rules to it will go counter to the end goal.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by daylen »

@Jacob Better start building a temple on top of a real mountain. :P

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by ffj »


You make some good points. I think Jacob is coming from the position that participants need to bring something to the table, either at a particular event or the next one, and not just consume. He can correct me if I am wrong. The problem lies in trying to create something and keep it organic. Too many rules and you ruin any kind of spontaneity.

It seems to me an honor based program would probably work with a couple of very simple rules: everyone is welcome with the expectation of paying it forward, which could involve really creative ways to show appreciation for someone willing to invest their time and skill towards others or the program itself. I keep thinking of events where over time unwritten rules develop that everybody just follows out of respect for the event with no heavy-handed expectations. There are "rules" but it is more of an ethos.

Anyway, I would be willing to lend a few of my talents to the cause if people are interested. Carpentry, woodworking, rope work, firefighting, first aid, gardening, etc. are where the majority of my skills are based.

I would also propose a group project of building an electric bicycle.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by JamesR »

Have you considered a once-a-year week-long tribal event?

I'm sure enough regulars would be willing to travel once a year, or once every couple years, for an intensive ERE camp experience perhaps.

Everybody can camp out in tents on a farm and work on a variety of projects and learn stuff together perhaps?

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I am currently most interested in learning about hunting and fishing and how to fix the electronics on an assisted lift armchair that has gone crazy dangerous, somehow morphing itself into an injured old person catapult.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Dream of Freedom »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:46 am
somehow morphing itself into an injured old person catapult.
Sounds like something Jason would use to hunt squirrels.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Jin+Guice »

In some ways what you're trying to do is something very similar to starting a band. If this is any guide, the best way to acquire members is to find the people you want, tell them why your project is exciting and then ask them to join. It is important to know whether you want a "band member" (stable musicians where everyone is "in the band," more commitment, less flexibility) or a "rotating cast" (several musicians for each instrument or core members + additional instruments not necessary for performance, less commitment, more flexibility) approach.

There are several assumptions musicians hold about joining bands that would be useful for you to have. If you join a band you are expected to show up to rehearsals and gigs if you agree to them. You are expected to do the requisite homework and always bring everything you have to offer to performances. You will not be asked to join the band if 1) you do not have unique skills that they need and 2) you cannot use your unique skills to compliment everyone else's unique skills. Unfortunately, I don't know how to foster this, it's an implicit part of the culture of being a musician.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I suspect commercial makerspaces have the same issue. My impression is that they come without the network or the shared mission. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but the main reason I could see in going to one is if I have a specific project or skill to learn, that is, I have a known-unknown. As noted, with limited imagination, my vision in that regard does not go beyond 3D printing a pencil holder.
The makerspace I am familiar with does have a lot of people who work by themselves doing what you are describing. It also seems to have a core group of people who are there to hang out with other like-minded people and not necessarily to always be working on a particular project. The hangout people would probably be your people. The makerspace also has a monthly meeting where members can volunteer to show whatever they have been working on (not necessarily to teach a skill, though this does happen) that sounds like what you are talking about doing.

As someone who has run a monthly meeting group that was dependent on its members to give lecture-type instructional presentations, I will give a warning. It can be difficult to recruit people to do this, and it is possible to eventually run out of topics (though my group was a narrower niche than what you are talking about). I like the idea of having the your group also work on projects together.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by theanimal »

There's a folk school here that functions as essentially what you are describing. There are classes on building cabins with logs, birchbark canoes the traditional way, woodworking, whittling, medical, forging/blacksmithing, dancing, storytelling, canning, gardening, fishing and more. You do have to pay for the classes but they are reasonably priced for the most part. It may be worthwhile to see if there is something like that in the area.

Otherwise I think some type of annual/semi-annual retreat could fulfill what you're looking for. It would at least serve to draw in more from this board than something on a more regular basis. It could be the ERE version of Coachella. 3-5 days somewhere learning and building projects as suggested in this thread and elsewhere on the forum. That'd be fun.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by TheRedHare »

I'm all for having local/regional ERE meetups. I think regional would be more successful since the ERE community can be rather sparse. We could do monthly meetups that last a weekend. We could mix up the skills based on the environment that the community live in too. For instance, the chapter that lives in colder regions could talk more about fighting the cold/snow...where as that wouldn't be as useful in the south. Or for those that live in the city (like me) we could exchange smart shopping skills (city prices are higher), navigating a city (people that live in the same city could exchange there go-to spots to buy stuff or other recommendations.)

When you say something like Tribe, I imagine each tribe being based off of geographic location.

Youtube videos aren't a bad thing, but it really depends on what you're trying to learn. Somethings are easier to learn by doing and by trial and error versus something that is more conceptional.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by vexed87 »

+1 bigto's last post.
Rendering lard -> Making soap from scratch
Smelting waste metal -> Aluminum cast
Complete bicycle teardowns and reassemble -> Hacking bicycles
Soil mixing, composting, indoor gardening
How to fix broken tech and flip it on ebay
Changing oil and rotating tires -> Replacing brake pads
This sounds like the sort of thing that would go down well with a Rob Hopkins style transition towns group. Did you get a copy of Lean Logic yet jacob? It has heaps on community building.
I'm sort of trying to replicate the structure of a lodge (I'm not a member of a lodge) where they have rituals that require too much effort for the posers ... but I'm not sure what it should be for something like this.
This basically mirrors my reaction to the recent-ish discussion on religion in my journal!

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Jean »

It looks like a delocalised Amish community to me (purpose, non reliance on ununderstood technology, community). Why not joining one? Maybe the religious part is just a way for them to filter out posers?

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