Starting a Learning Tribe

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jacob
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Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by jacob » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:36 pm

This is something I've been thinking about starting for some time now, but I'm not sure how to go about it, so I'm crowdsourcing for input.

The preliminary idea would be that a bunch of people (the tribe) meet regularly (~monthly) to learn something. The format of the meeting would be that a participant with experience would show the others the ropes. This could include a presentation, a demonstration, and perhaps some project if possible. Next time, it would be someone else in some other place. Naturally, it would be possible to making "continuing series" that build upon previous "lessons".

Of things I could imagine:
  • 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
My primary concern would be flaking or only showing up once or whenever interested... and also that things could turn into just "hanging-out"(*). IOW, failing to build momentum insofar the project is uninspiring to its participants. I am perhaps asking too much, but I'm basically seeking committed people because I think this will work proportionally to people's open-mindedness [e.g. a willingness to suffer through a line dancing session---I use this as an example of the worst thing I can imagine doing---out of respect for the system] and desire to make this a priority. Basically a willingness to give the idea of a "learning tribe" a chance.

(*) ERE meetups in general have been of the hanging-out variety. What I'm exploring here are meetups that focus on finishing a particular project.

If any of the above sounds highfalutin, what I'm really talking about is just a "study group for all things of potential practical [renaissance man] relevance" and the main question is how to arrange for this?

I imagine starting with a small local group (sourced here on the forum) of founding members. Each member should have something to contribute (as defined above). Perhaps we can finish with a potluck but unlike regular ERE meetups, the goal is to "get something done". Also, it will be hosted at the member's/presenter's home or wherever is appropriate (e.g. sailing would take place on the water).

I suspect it's a good idea to make it somewhat exclusive/harder to "get in" to avoid people showing up once or whenever it's convenient according to their schedule. I don't want this to be a "consumable experience" where people pick and choose passively. Rather I'm thinking that it should be a collaborative learning experience where someone has something to teach/show and others want to learn.

As such, maybe invite-only for new members [by existing members] might be the way to go?! In particular, maybe it should be required for new members to teach/demonstrate something on their first meetup. However, while I think it's good to somehow set a barrier on entry, I'm not sure whether this is the best approach. 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.

So my question is: Can this be done? Is it viable?

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by ZAFCorrection » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:46 pm

At first glance, it sounds a lot like a more hands-on journal club, and in my experience, only the freak-of-nature fourth-year who is still trying to find more projects to take on actually likes journal club. Maybe that is a lot of people in the ERE demographic.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by prognastat » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:51 pm

I like the idea, but are you talking about meeting online or in person(sounds like the latter). If it's in person do we have a large enough community to make it sustainable or even have enough momentum to start? For example there is no way for me to make it to Chicago or most of the US due to lack of funds/transportation. Given the small group and being spread out across the world there would need to be an effective way of getting in non-ERE people early on to build momentum.

As for requiring contribution up front though it may be useful to weed out some people it's also going to mean people that might just have started on the path of renaissance man are demotivated as they might not have anything to contribute yet, but much they could learn and in turn pass on this information down the line.

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by ZAFCorrection » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:02 pm

As a big believer in the idea of using long cons for pointless or unexpected ends (The Prestige, amirite? I've been inceptioned), have you thought about starting a cult (only 75% joking). People usually show up every day and you can get them to do weird shit if you give them some spiritual mumbo jumbo that adds meaning to their lives. Instead of deriving sexual favors or money, the secret purpose could be developing a community of people with Renaissance man skills, at least with regard to butter making, tax optimization, etc. They still derive their life's purpose from following you.
Last edited by ZAFCorrection on Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Dream of Freedom
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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Dream of Freedom » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:05 pm

How about a private YouTube channel. Only people who are sent the url can see the video. People would be required to participate in the comments or they would not get the next url.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by chenda » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:10 pm

My first thought is couldn't these skills be learnt off you tube ?

jacob
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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by jacob » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:14 pm

ZAFCorrection wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:46 pm
At first glance, it sounds a lot like a more hands-on journal club, and in my experience, only the freak-of-nature fourth-year who is still trying to find more projects to take on actually likes journal club.
*Ouch* Point well taken, figuratively. I used to hate journal clubs (of the mandatory kind) because I thought they were always taking away time/energy from my own projects/actual research efforts as opposed to the made-up seminars about random topics that nobody cared about.

I could see this risking the same problem.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by daylen » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:15 pm

How about an ERE Olympic Games Week.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Stahlmann » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:26 pm

try joining local "hacker's space" (yes, full membership costs) or visit some "Repair Cafee" event and... try to hijack people to your cult's meeting :D

wrt my last (infamous) topic, I was thinking about the same as you stated here (but on much smaller scale and without such serious background/ideology), unofortuantely I know I'm bad with people and my skillset is very limited atm. the other problem is venue.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by luxagraf » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:13 pm

Sounds like a Maker space kind of thing, but private and making things of real value rather than molded plastic crap.

I'd be into that, except for the whole live in an RV traveling around thing, which makes meeting up complicated. But if I were in the neighborhood...

This reminds me a little of the green wizards thing that spun off of John Michael Greer's book of the same name, might be worth looking into what they're done and how they've organized. I don't know that they meet up in real life much, but in terms of propagating these sort of ERE-type skills, they may have some experience worth learning from*. http://greenwizards.com/

* disclaimer: they could be nuts, I have never participated in any way shape or form

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:17 pm

Start an underground fight club first, then recruit members from that? Making soap might be a nice activity.

Seriously, Meetup is a good way to manage something like this and recruit members but it has a monthly fee and I don't think you can exclude anyone. You can charge to participate though.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by jacob » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:58 pm

@GdP - Ha! Fightclub was actually something I had in mind when figuring out the rule that "if this is you first time, you have to present a skill".

@luxagraf - Once again, I find myself behind the curve. Reason I'm posting today is that I'm reading Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization who suggested something similar to [maker spaces] back in 1999.

@Stahlmann - Yes, but it's my impression that maker spaces are more of a consumer approach rather than a community. I might be wrong, but seeking out such a space is definitely my plan B.

So overall, rather than starting the ERE variant of where I seek to go, it might be better to join an existing structure.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Ego » Fri Apr 12, 2019 3:05 pm

I love the idea. There are plenty of people doing individual skills (maker space stuff) but nobody is focusing on Renaissance man skills and how they fit into the web of goals. For the first few years it would take someone (Jacob) to introduce the speaker(s) at each event and explain the reasons behind learning a wide variety of skills. Kind of like Stuart Brand does at Long Now.

Every time I read Sclass's Fixit log I want to propose a Fixit competition/cooperative where someone buys a lot of broken tech (like a particular model of kindle with dead batteries or broken screens) and each of the participants fixes and resells one within a specified time. Everyone helps each other with the fixing and debugging. At the end the costs are paid off, the profit is pooled and the group moves up the food chain to a bigger item to repair.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by ZAFCorrection » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:30 pm

People go to journal club because they want to graduate and it is either a program requirement or they they risk pissing off a committee member by not going. They go to fight club because they are desperately sick of the emasculated consumer culture. They go to AA meetings by court order or they or their families really want them to stop drinking. People who regularly show up to meetings and actually participate are either compelled by some recognized authority or strongly believe in the mission.

Since the ERE mafia is not going to start breaking legs for Renaissance Man Meeting truancy, a mission needs to be preached that is palatable enough for a decent number of people in one area to feel motivated to show up regularly. Otherwise, the idea is predicated on a large number of people who often can't even follow through individually on a new year's resolution to cook more or lose 10 pounds.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by luxagraf » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:48 pm

jacob wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:58 pm
So overall, rather than starting the ERE variant of where I seek to go, it might be better to join an existing structure.
I don't think I'd go that far. I've been to a couple maker spaces and they're not really group learning, more mentor/trainee sort of things, but then I'm sure they vary by location and people involved. But yeah, they're definitely more consumer-oriented, DIY consumer, but definitely not in the ERE realm at all (again, in my limited experience). I think there's probably practical things to learn. For example, I could never pin down how the Maker space I went to had a building full of novice makers, an impressive array of power tools AND (I presume) insurance to make it happen. It would probably be good to join something, learn from its successes/mistakes and then do the ERE version.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:10 pm

This would probably work best if you structured it in line with "networking groups". Back in my sales days, strong networking groups were sought after. Each person in the group offered a particular service (ie Ins, Banking, Real Estate, etc), and only one of each type was allowed in the group. It was by invite, then group interview, and most had a reasonably restrictive upfront fee, to further ensure commitment. In the business sense, being part of a good group could literally make or break a career.

Obviously things would be a bit different, but I think this is the general structure that would make such a group successful. The point being you want to create demand for group entrance to keep it strong. That means starting with strong core members with very "in demand" skills to teach. The problem, of course, being finding enough people locally to start.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by ffj » Fri Apr 12, 2019 9:25 pm

How would you get people together when the majority don't live in the same place? And if you want reciprocity wouldn't that require quite a bit of travel?

I like the idea especially for meet ups. I think it would be quite enjoyable to meet other people while engaging in meaningful activity and not suffer through awkward silence as a bunch of INTJ's look at their hands trying to think of something to say. :)

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Toska2 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:25 pm

Create-a-thon.(youtube on hard mode)

Pick something, get a group to do it.

I chose 10 people to try to make a wood lathe out of wood. Or can the entirety of garden crops. Butcher pigs and have a roast with brewed beer.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by Toska2 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:31 pm

We have 18th century tools (hatchets) & 20th century technology (aluminum casting). We lost the 19th century technology that bridge the gap. No steam engine, no sterling engine, no water powered sawmills.

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Re: Starting a Learning Tribe

Post by sky » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:58 pm

Perhaps find an unused band shell or picnic shelter at a park and assign four people to speak for 15 minutes each on a subject of interest (TedTalk style) and then mix with cookies and tea. Perhaps one could lead a discussion and comment period after the speaker presentations.

The venue could also be a community garden, if gardening were the theme, or a boondock camp if nomadics were the theme.

It could be more of an event organization activity with some thought given to the types of subjects of discussion and presentation. The theme of the events and the purpose/focus of the group would become clear to the attendees by the presentation subjects rather than by naming some type of issue or political movement (for example, Transition Towns).

With regard to increasing participation and buy in, a role has to be created for members. A responsibility or task that challenges them and which gives them status upon successful completion. This is difficult because different people have different skills and interest. Collaboration can be difficult or even maddening. The role could be an activity such as making soap so everyone can take home a cup or two to try. Or it might be a number of people writing a one page description of how to do various tasks, with the result being a handbook of how to's, recipes or statements of wisdom. These are examples. The point is that giving people tasks is the best way to create a group with a focus/purpose.

The idea is good even if only to break the isolation that many feel.

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