A space to share, cooperate and collaborate

Seth Godin has shared some lessons from his Alternative MBA.

Has it really been six months? Apparently so. The Alternative MBA was a six month, free, unpaid, learning exercise based out of Seth’s office in New York City.

It’s amazing to look back over the last six months and consider what I’ve done since I applied and was not accepted for the program. I almost got married in Belize. I spent 3 months touring the United States. I learned to ride and bought a motorcycle. I rode from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and up to Vancouver. I put in motion my retirement which will come into effect at the end of this month.

When I sum it up like that, it seems like a busy half year. It doesn’t feel busy though, as I look back on it. It feels like the normal passage of time. Things happen, we go places, we do things. Life continues to roll onwards.

In reading about the Alternative MBA I’m reminded of a dream. The dream of a collaborative working space shared with co-collaborators. The dream of assembling a team of inspiring people to simply collaborate and see what comes of it. I am considering how I might create that environment in my retirement.

I’ve spent most of the last 3.5 years in the developing world. A lot of time in Thailand, time in South Africa, Mexico and a host of other places. Having spent the last 4 or 5 months in the first world, and 6 months last year in Australia, I’m reminded of our greatest luxury: time. Above all else, I believe, first world residents have the luxury of free time.

I recently discovered the work of Clay Shirky and his recent book Here Comes Everybody. I read a bit of Clay’s writing on the Here Comes Everybody Blog. Clay talks about the free time that was created after the second world war when, for the first time, people began to work only 5 days a week.

However, I think the free time we enjoy in the first world is more than just 2 weekend days per week. We have choices which are simply not available to our developing world neighbours. We can choose to opt out. We can choose to live very inexpensively and support ourselves working only a few hours per week. The average person can probably work for one or two months and live the rest of the year on that money if they are careful.

Then there’s the wealth that parents, friends and other family afford us. The security that they provide. So many people find ways to take time out and create or build something they believe in. Support comes in so many forms. Government or other funding for goodwill causes. Private funding to start businesses. Free accommodation related to spiritual practises. Unemployment benefit. The list goes on and on.

As I travel and meet people who are choosing to opt out, I have an appreciation for how truly fortunate we are. The very option to not work is something most of the world’s population cannot possibly consider. It is both beyond their world view, their idea of what is possible, and beyond their financial means.

So here we are, first world citizens, blessed with abundance. An abundance of opportunity. Most importantly, I think, the opportunity to work little and have significant amounts of free time to pursue whatever aims we choose. I have chosen that path, I have chosen to give up work entirely in order to free my time completely from that constraint. I will, in a few short weeks, be at complete liberty to do whatever I please with my time.

Given this newfound and precious freedom, what will I choose to do? I am currently uncertain. There are a few ideas floating around. Some more nebulous than others.

One such idea is to create a collaborative work space. A working collective. An event, for a time, in a place, where people may choose to come and collaborate. What might these people do? I’m not sure it really matters. I think there can be huge merit in simply putting people together under a framework of mutual cooperation and support. An agreement to be helpful and supportive of each other’s work, and collaborate where appropriate.

Part of me wonders if this collaboration need be in a physical space. Could we build a collective electronically, over the wires? At this point in evolution, I think there is still great value in person to person contact. I believe there is significant merit in being able to walk over to another person and ask them for their help. To look into another person’s eyes and offer help if they might need it. I feel like a physical space for collaboration will greatly enhance the opportunities to create actual collaboration and cooperation.

What would be the point of such a space? What is the aim of the idea? I’m not sure it needs an aim or a point. I think in the spirit of an unconference Open Space Technology it might be hugely powerful to simply choose a location, a general topic, and let the magic unfold by itself.

I postulate that a topic like “fostering cooperation and collaboration” might be sufficient to inspire and motivate people. Such a broadly defined mission would allow for any number of projects to arise from the spirit of cooperation.

What next? I have registered the domain name cogawa.org. I was looking for names around sharing. A Swahili dictionary told me that gawa is the Swahili work for share. Cogawa came from that, as in to coshare. Co for cooperate, collaborate, and all sorts of other cogoodness.

On that domain I installed buddyPress, an open source social network. I’m creating a vision for what Cogawa might become. At the moment it is simply an idea to connect people who share a vision around sharing, cooperating and collaborating. Perhaps a physical collective location will serve that aim.

In addition to the domain and buddyPress I have now created a google group. An open platform where people may discuss, via web or email. Perhaps soon via wave. 🙂

I think the next step for this idea is to discuss it. To put the concept out there and invite potential participants to share their feedback. Would you be interested in spending time in a space with other people interested in facilitating sharing, cooperation and collaboration? Do you know people who might be inspired by these ideals? I will send this message to some people I know who might be interested and see what comes of it.

Now it is an idea, perhaps through sharing, cooperation and collaboration it may become a physical reality. I warmly invite you to participate in creating that reality.

There’s still time…

… to apply for the alternative MBA. Applications due tomorrow (Sunday). I’ve just sent Seth my application. It’s done. It’s in. I can probably still make changes, I guess Seth won’t see it until Monday morning. But I won’t, it’s done. Now time will tell.

If I’m accepted, awesome, 6 months in New York working with a group of amazing people. If Seth doesn’t think I’m the right person for the program, equally awesome, I’ll be spending the next 6 months in Latin America. I really can’t lose. 🙂

Have a smile…

I’m applying, are you?

I have written my application for Seth Godin’s alternative MBA program. Are you going to apply? This is a game changing opportunity, I’d warmly encourage you to consider it. The deadline is the 14th of December, so there’s still a little time (at the time of writing!).

I’d like to ask for your help. There is a section at the top of my application called Friends and Family. I’d love your input there. If you think I’d be right for the program, or not. Please be radically honest, say exactly what you think. I will leave all comments un-edited (I may delete obvious spam).

I’ve emailed my nearest and dearest, I hope some of them will be able to help.

Seriously, think about applying for this program. Where will you be in 6 months time? Significantly forward from here? If not, this could be a wonderful opportunity. The higher the calibre of people on the program the better. 🙂