Our Deepest Need: Invention Coaches

When I began Public Invention six years ago on my 50th birthday, I wanted to create a movement. Creating the non-profit also called Public Invention was a tool for doing that, but I always imagined it would be much smaller than a global movement to create open source hardware inventions by “Inventing in the public, for the Public.” It has turned out to be even smaller than that!

Although we have done some great work, Public Invention is not growing quickly. We are organized around open-source projects of intellectual interest and humanitarian value, and try to recruit teams to work on these projects. Some of the projects were created by me, but some were proposed by others, or even started as independent projects and absorbed into Public Invention. In general, we try to pay for all the tooling and equipment expenses of an invention team, so that the inventors don’t have to pay anything out of pocket, even though they are not compensated.

We have, in fact, had good luck recruiting Public Inventors. But in order to scale up, we need to recruit what we call “Invention Coaches”. You could use different words, like Project Manager or Team Lead or Technical Lead. Projects don’t run themselves. They require leaders. Ideally a leader has technical skills as well as being able to manage and motivate a team; but perhaps any two of those three essentials is enough. Leading a team takes commitment, dedication, and a willingness to work through technical and personnel failures. But more than these, it takes time. At least six hours a week is the rule of thumb we use.

The world is full of beautiful, intelligent people who believe in the core principles of Public Invention. Not all of them are leaders. The ones that are leaders are all highly in demand in the job market. Very few people have the discipline to meet all of their commitments and have six hours a week left over. The number of people who have the time, the character, and the skill all at the same time is a small fraction of the population. Only a small fraction of that fraction are willing to do it for zero pay and gold stars, which is all Public Invention can offer today.

But I know such people are out there. This little article is an attempt to reach you. Maybe you are a young person who is a gifted leader. Maybe, like me, you are a mature person on the downhill side of your career or semi-retired or “funemployed”. Maybe you are already running a project that aligns with our principles and think being a part of Public Invention could help your project along.

If you can manage, motivate, or technically guide a team (pick two), can dedicate six hours a week to leading a team without pay, and are motivated by a sincere desire make all of us healthier, wealthier, and happier, then please contact me and let’s schedule a meeting: read.robert@pubinv.org

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