Edgeryders of the Storm

“Come together. Inspire one another. Help each other. Peer2peer.” That is the goal of a brand new innovative joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Commission called ‘Edgeryders’.

The impetus is on Europe’s young citizens to grasp and influence their own future, taking a greater share of social responsibility in the process.

Recently, we had the great fortune to meet Nadia El-Imam, one of the driving forces behind ‘Edgeryders’, when she was visiting Budapest.

Very quickly we got talking about the project and Nadia started by telling us how unusual an idea ‘Edgeryders’ is.

She said: “While nothing is ever really original I know of only three previous relevant online projects (Kublai, Superstruct and Urgent Evoke) somewhat in the policy space but they are quite different. Different objectives, contexts, participants and results. As far as I know Edgeryders is unique and the first project of its kind inEurope.”

So, a unique and innovative approach, but what was going to separate ‘Edgeryders’ from the many other youth networking projects taking place across Europe? Nadia’s answer was short but assertive.

She insisted: “I think the mix of people, the quality of the conversation (it’s focused on real issues and solution-oriented) and the ties to the institutions.”

In addition to this, after we expressed some curiosity, Nadia explained why this would appeal to an individual, and what he or she would yield from participating.

Nadia outlined: “In Edgeryders we place a lot of focus on connecting people with one another and helping us come out of our shells and interact around questions we all care about. Like how to make a living with dignity, how to learn the skills we need to lead happy lives, how to build healthy relationships with others and ourselves etc.”

She continued, mentioning the work of her colleagues Vinay, Andres and Noemi: “Engaging in Edgeryders, really participating, is about slow and reflective communication and interaction, and it seems we are managing to create an environment where people really are sharing knowledge and experiences, and even collaborating. And this happens through the kinds of conversations sparked by Vinay’s reflections on precarity or Andres’s call for a single open data license in the EU or Noemi’s interview with activists in Romania and many, many more. The big goal of Edgeryders is to build and nurture this environment of trust. And we, everyone, especially the community, are succeeding.”

‘Edgeryders’ is something which intends to embrace a youth culture in Europe and beyond which, according to Nadia, is carrying a dynamic purpose and enthusiasm.

She continued: “This is arguably the most creative, entrepreneurial, generous and open generation ever- with the desire to help, or at least not harm others, being a strong motivational driver in how we chose to lead our lives. I´m quite new to the space but my perception is that at least in some of the policy literature I have come across, policy seems to address the young as a collection of categories of problems to be solved by institutions.”

Nadia was relentlessly positive about the project’s rapid rise to popularity and when asked what would encourage more people to get involved she simply said “The other Edgeryders!” before adding “all the inspiring stories from people who really are just like you, people who do really incredible things with small means.”

After only five months, the project has already gathered around 600 participants and “buzzing and healthy” community with over 100 conversations ongoing.

Following the year of protest that was 2011, we asked Nadia if ‘Edgeryders’ would be a network in which such actions could be organized and thrive.

She cited some specific examples of what some ‘Edgeryders’ had already been working together to combat: “People are connecting and talking about their experiences, whether it’s protesting against ACTA on the streets of Romania and France or coordinating resistance to the Mafia in Southern Italy. People are exchanging strategies for peacefully affecting changes that they want to see.”

The project has attracted a diverse range of participants from all corners of the world, covering every continent. With projects and organizations joining the Edgeryders from Afghanistan to Chile, from Kenya to Canada, it may have European roots but its outreach is already global.

And this diversity is, according to Nadia, a great strength of the Edgeryders: “There is no average Edgeryder- it´s really the most diverse range of people I have come across in one space. And it´s something I really love about it. We do have certain things in common though like the friendliness, generosity and curiosity.”

Looking to the future, the Edgeryders aims to grow and grow to benefit as many young, aspiring and inspiring people as possible.

She surmised: “It’s word of mouth really. Or word of facebook or twitter! People talk or write about it and tell their friends. We are also presenting the project and its results at meetings where community members actively participate.”

If you are curious about joining the Edgeryders, we warmly encourage you to check out their website http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/group/welcome-group and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Edgeryders