Hi all! In the past few months, there has been a lot of excitement and momentum building around the Junto concept, which has been great, and expanded all of our views of where it could go. I just wanted to take the time to reclarify the philosophy, definition, and components of Junto, so that we know what steps can be carried out to bring the vision closer to a reality. Thanks again for everyone’s involvement in this collective learning and building process!

junto :: philosophy

For far too long, information and knowledge have been locked inside silos, repeated across disciplinary fields, differentiated by jargon but not substance, then lost and rediscovered, repackaged, reworded, and resold, over….and over….and over.

We are at a critical point in human history, where as a globally interdependent society, we must learn how to lower these barriers, share information, collaborate, and cocreate value in new ways. The solutions to many of our problems are already out there, but it’s still not obvious how to find the information and people who have them.

The Web is a medium to make this possible, and while there are many theories about how open design, open innovation, and public knowledge sharing can work for mutual benefit, there are still only a handful of powerful examples.

How do we go from theory to practice, and amplify the power of networks?

We just have to start experimenting and see what works. A growing intentional community of thinkers, artists, designers, and change agents is gathering around the idea that we can’t do it alone, and we’re all in this together.

So let’s start playing.

junto :: what it is

Junto is an environment for open discussion, combined with a public backchannel. it’s not about being a platform – it’s more of a meme and a mindset of collaboration and cooperation. Junto was a club started by Benjamin Franklin for mutual exchange of knowledge and information and personal and business development. When I proposed the concept of Junto, it was in that spirit that the community of people who believe “we can’t do it alone” would model the behavior online of what generative dialogue and open innovation looks like.

That was the very simple initial concept.

There are many parallel initiatives that can evolve and emerge from this, one of the most immediate being an opportunity for individuals to start juntos in their local communities. Inspired by Open Space Technology and World Cafe formats, we hope to demonstrate what effective collaboration looks like, so we can all learn, empower ourselves, and then implement those techniques at our local levels to get things done.

junto :: components

livestreaming video – my initial proposal was to host a dialogue, meaning 2 people. the idea evolved to include a format for group dialogues as well, so we’re thinking there should be no more than 4-5 people in the video discussion during any one session. an additional option would allow other potential participants to be able to enter a “waiting area,” and enter the conversation when one of the other participants exits.

multiple spaces – the environment allows for unlimited discussions that could be occurring in parallel. there will be a directory available, searchable as a calendar and also by keyword, so that you are able to see what live conversations around a specific topic are in progress at the moment, as well as what conversations are upcoming.

2 types of discussion – the host/facilitator can select one of 2 types of discussion to have – freeform or structured.

  • freeform format – there is no time limit, it is just open-ended; good for brainstorming, idea generation, and hashing out perspectives and clarifying an issue
  • structured format – this version is constrained, and intended to actually produce some type of “product” or piece of knowledge or task or actionable step at the end; the conversation has a limit of 20 minutes, and at the end a text box must be filled in that summarizes the takeaway of the discussion. this box will have a limited amount of characters that are able to be entered, which encourages the participants to be clear, concise, and to the point.

shared document – an area for participants to co-create text documents

shared whiteboard – an area for participants to co-create drawings

concept mapping – each conversation will have a mapper who is documenting the conversation on a concept map. the reason for using a concept map instead of just a word document is that complex issues often have many interrelated components and branches, and a concept map allows for visual representation of this. each “node” of information on the concept map can contain other metadata, which can be accessed by double-clicking on it, and another box of information will pop-up. that box could contain information like keywords, links to more in-depth info around the topic, names of people associated with the topic, etc.

public backchannel – as this is intended to be a public discussion, there should be an ability for an unlimited public backchannel. there would be a textbox available for the backchannel to enter in their comments or suggestions so that they are able to contribute to this generative discussion. the participants can join the backchannel directly through the site when they click on a conversation, or they can be imported in from twitter.

conversations viewable from multiple locations – i’m not sure of the feasibility of this, but it occurred to me that it would be interesting to be able to import a junto directly onto your blog, website, or facebook page, effectively allowing you to host a conversation from your own space.

user profiles – participants can list their topic areas of interest, areas of expertise, and keywords for conversations they would like to participate in. they are also able to list what they can bring to the table in terms of an open collaboration process. meaning, they define the types of roles they feel best suited for, in order to be easily found and approached to join a discussion or project. users are able to create synapses to each other and build out their social network, as well as define the relationship to those people. the user’s network can then be viewed as a data visualization, and filtered by different criteria (keyword, role, location, etc.)

ranking participation in discussions – in addition to having a text box to fill out at the end of a discussion, users will also be able to evaluate each other on their effectiveness at engaging in collaborative, cooperative dialogue. the point of a junto is to be productive, and so behavior and participation that moves the conversation in that direction is rewarded. participants who are argumentative for the sake of arguing, disrespectful, or unable to support their arguments productively will not be ranked as highly. the public backchannel also has the ability to rank participants. these rankings will show up on the users’ profiles as a way for everyone to begin to establish a metric for evaluating each other’s expertise or value to a generative conversation.

hosting – i am looking for suggestions of what the community thinks about this.


That’s the overview! Please share any feedback you have, and share this with developers who may be interested in helping with this project. Thanks.