SupporTED Application

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Marcin is applying for the [SupporTED Collaboratorium]

Here is his applicatio, submitted 1/30/12:

In what work are you currently engaged?

I am developing the Global Village Construction Set - an open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts. This is a large, complex, multidisciplinary project, where the deliverable is blueprints. My goal is to finish the 50 machines ( beta release status) by Dec. 21, 2012.

How do you envision your work having influence or making an impact in the world? The impact is lowering the barriers to entry in manufacturing, building, farming, and other enterprises. We are beginning to see replication of our machines by independent people – who are building homes, starting businesses, and building a village. For example - Manuel Antonio Aguilar, another TED Fellow - will be using our open source tractor, CEB press, and sawmill to build a village for displaced natives in Guatemala. I expect about 100 replications this year before replication goes viral worldwide. Many people talk about applications in the third world. I personally see the greater potential in reinventing the community-based solution of re-localized production – bringing wealth back to communities – or bringing production back to the USA (or any country). My TED Talk was featured at #6 in Best of TED for 2011 by the Huffington Post – so the idea is gaining traction especially in the scenario of a failing economy.

My larger vision is more extensive. I envision the work contributing to the creation of an open source economy - a distributive economy which optimizes not only production, but distribution. An open source economy is based on collaborative design of open source products and productive enterprises, such that competitive waste is eliminated and best practice becomes universally accessible. This is part of creating Industry 2.0 – a system where a global repository of design is freely downloadable via the internet to feed local production capacity.

What are the challenges you are facing? Please address those challenges that show up repeatedly, new challenges that are showing up as you move into unchartered territory, and current obstacles that might be slowing down movement into new to the mix. What additional specific experience, skills, talents, and specialties are you willing to share with the TED Fellows at the SupporTED Collaboratorium?

The main challenge is project scaling. We have secured $1/2M for first quarter fo 2012, so funding is not particularly an issue. I am currently managing 12 projects, but the quality of outcomes depends on taking our project management to the next level. This is particularly challenging because we are an open source project – with a combination of paid people and many volunteers. Moreover, we not only design the tools, but dogfood them through the creation of a real community that uses these tools – in order to provide immediate feedback on the usefulness/feasibility of the tools. Our goal is very ambitious: to demonstrate that a community of about 200 people on 200 acres can achieve a modern standard of living – at 2 hours of work per day – as a means of achieving the autonomy that allows the participant to pursue mastery consistent with their higher purpose. Ie, we would like to reinvent civilization, approaching this issue through material production as the basis. The particular skills that need to be improved on our team are primarily project management infrastructure of a complex, dynamic project – involving on-site work and remote collaboration. This involves recruiting and vetting the necessary development team. We are interested in developing a general methodology for a self-funding, open source, product development enterprise that can change the world by making open product design the new norm – not the exception.

The specific skills that I would like to contribute is systems thinking related to eco-industry or material production, opens source economic development, and the development of economies from scratch. In particular, I have strong product design skills based in lifetime design, modularity, and disassembly. I am an interdisciplinarian who likes to examine problems from all their dimensions.

If you had the opportunity to gain any skill, resource, or capacity in order to bring your work vision to a fuller or quicker fruition, what would it be?

The skill that I would like to master is the management of complex, nonlinear projects – particularly in the streamlined process of recruiting – including identifying, vetting, and absorbing new talent.

What aspect of question #3 could a team of mentors and coaches help you with that you have not been able to accomplish or achieve up to now?

The particular aspect of scaling that I have not been able to accomplish until now is an effective process for recruiting talent on demand. We have attracted many contributors - essentially passively from people contacting us - but we have been able to attract only a few excellent performers. I would like to streamline the recruiting process to one that produces a higher portion of exceptional candidates – by following a well-defined process. Completing the cycle to the point of us being able to attract – on demand - just about any new, high quality contributor - is our next step. The potential is great, as our project is currently on the world stage – plus we have a message that many people find important – so we should be able to recruit talent on demand. In an ideal world, what type of experts or resource people would be on your team?

In an ideal world, I would have an amazing talent recruiting strategist – someone who can help me shape a robust recruiting strategy. Recruiting refers to the 350 or so people that we need to prototype/document – plus the site director to manage our facility, and other people on the team.

Second on my mentor team would be someone who can help me manage a large, complex, nonlinear project. I would also like to have somebody savvy in organizational structuring – especially if they have experience with open source projects.

 If you are given that team, which specific endeavors, skills, areas of focus, or goals would you have them work on in a day? Please name three.

If I had the dream team for a day – I would have them work on coaching me to identify a process for recruiting to leverage our high visibility and ethical approach. We would like to strike a good balance between volunteers and paid people – considering both timing and budget issues. I would like to focus on what structure/process would be necessary for our organization to recruit effectively through existing networks and personal contacts – as opposed to formal recruiting sites.

Second, I would like to have the team help me identify my blind spots in my overall management strategy and organizational infrastructure.

The specific goal for the day could be to write down a step-by-step process that can be used by our in-house recruiter, or which can be used to find that recruiter.

Regarding the situation(s) you want to work on, what have you already tried? What specific barriers are you facing?

I have already tried using my own contacts to find people – via my own networks. This is working well, especially because many people are already contacting me. However, the main barrier is that so few people have the necessary, generalist skill set to take on leadership positions. This means that I end up spending too much time training people, and I am thus looking for more appropriate people. I need to find a better recruitment process that is able to make a better assessment on what candidates will really work well.

Regarding general project management, I have already tried project management software such as HighRise, Pivotal Tracker, and CiviCRM – but the main barrier is having the required time to manage these platforms. I am simply understaffed, and I end up doing too much of the work myself.

Another specific barrier is that the project is changing dynamically – which puts a higher demand for rapid learning on its participants. We are a dynamic learning organization. Constant reevaluation is needed – with the present evolution needed is that of creating a proper project managemetn/recruiting infrastructure. Dynamic change is a good thing – but it does mean additional effort is required.