Network of social innovators

agile city unmonastery

unMonastery is a growing international network of social innovators who’s ambition is to empower and develop active citizenship.

unMonastery describes itself as a ‘social clinic for the future’ and has been developed by progressive collective EdgeRyders. Established to address modern societal failures such as empty space, unemployment and depleting social services, it aspires to recreate the best social functions of a traditional monastery:

– collective purpose

– deep relationships

– a reduced need to generate personal income

– a commitment to the community


Pilot Project: UnMonastery Matera.

unMonastery started in 2014 in southern Italy in Matera; a cave dwelling city and UNESCO world heritage site with an active history of monasteries. This pilot was born out of a Council of Europe and European Commission research group and led by EdgeRyders, it’s also been developed in partnership with Matera 2019  – candidate for European City of Culture 2019.

This 6 month prototype saw radical approaches to social innovation and collaboration. Creating an environment that was both a co-living and co-working the team of international hackers, activists and radical thinkers came together to help understand the local issues and set out to address them. The pilot was designed around ancient monastic principles and heavily influenced by modern approaches such as hackerspaces and co-creation / co-learning principles. Understanding the need for digital tools and new ways of doing this pilot combined an open and outfacing approach, championing learning for all and was committed to developing new skills within the community.

Embedding themselves within Matera; getting to know the community, absorbing the social movements, understanding its history and wider context the team set to address what the community deemed to be the most pressing social issues. These were; the lack of schedule for public transport, no signposting of cultural activities and minimal new digital skills within the community. So the unMonastery team developed and delivered the following:

– Mapping the Commons – a mapping of Matera’s cultural assets

– unTransit – real time updates on the transport throughout Matera

– coder dojo – a workshop training local how to code

unMonastery saw these as small, specific steps to empowering the locals and breaking the existing dependency chains.

Another output from this pilot is ‘The Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions’, or more affectionately know as The Book of Mistakes. Seen here, this captures every element of learning from the team. Laid bare for all to see. For the greater good. Learning that has wider impact than those directly involved and which can be adapted to other contexts and projects.

A card deck or ‘method kit’ was also produced to outline the approach taken, and to enable the project to nurture ideas beyond its pilot phase.

The ideas, planning, management and process existed in communal digital platforms such as Google Drive and Trello. So anyone at anytime from anywhere could have access and could contribute.

Ultimately, the project wanted to foster a mindset and appetite to engage. To be more proactive and self-reliant with the ambition that “hackers and Materans discover and explore new paths to make the city more participative, open and resilient to future crisis.”


This video of Ben Vickers from unMonastery offers insights into where the project came from and how their approach to develop a physical space could support their ambitions for this to deliver social change.