09 Community means co-ownership

Socialising has been cemented into the culture of the Gatherings. One of the most significant moments in this process happened in Toronto when Sean Bonner, whose fellowship revolved around the environmental monitoring and open data project Safecast, introduced a game called “Werewolf” after dinner one night. This subsequently grew into a ritual played out at every Gathering.

Werewolf is a simple game. A moderator secretly assigns roles to people sitting in a circle; one card and you’re a villager, another and you’re a werewolf. Over rounds of negotiation, discussion, and outright lying, the villagers try to discover the werewolves, and the werewolves try to eat the villagers.

The specifics of the game don’t really matter. (But you should try it. It’s fun.) What matters in the context of the Gathering is that it provides a recurring communal experience, supports spectators and side conversations, and is easy to walk into. People can choose to participate as much or as little as they like. It also provides an outlet for competition, keeping that further from the work. Most importantly, this was the first time a fellow had created and held a space without prompting from the Foundation – reflecting the commitment to no hierarchy and demonstrating that the Gathering was about collaboration.

Werewolf was the first of many events that have become a mainstay of the Gathering, and it is an example of how we are more than just colleagues. Social change is exhausting and isolating, and often there is little reward. Building memories together is a critical act of support in those moments of connection.

Establishing a community with expected norms, well-understood roles and responsibilities, and true agency for all removes egos and builds bonds. If done well, the difference between the engineers of a community and its citizens will be blurry. If done very well, the difference becomes meaningless. If, over many years, each community member is equally part of the co-creation process, then who are the engineers and who are the citizens?