Deep Dive | A Day in the Life of POC21

Ophelia Noor


Living on love, fresh air & Open Source

What does a typical day at POC21 feel like?

6am-8am The awakening

Surrounded by open fields and forests, the Castle of Millemont slowly wakes up, amidst the morning mist. In the Orangerie, transformed into a kitchen and refectory, a team of volunteers is preparing the 8AM breafast.

Cutting bread, arranging jams, butter, honey and cereals, and most of all, making a huge pot of coffee, to sustain between 80 and 100 people, all living on the premises of POC21. In the meanwhile, in the Castle itself, Anja coordinates the morning yoga practice, open to all.



Behind the Castle, the showers adjoining the encampment are already all occupied. These showers where all built by the POC21 teams during the first week of settling in, the five shower «cubicles» are in fact separated by thick plastic sheets, in a small wooden building. Outside the entrance, a wooden terrace enables the participants to leave their shoes and dry their towels. Inside, water taps are cut out in hosepipes, and the bathroom sink is built with a plastic canvas that runs from on end of the structure to the other, next to a wooden shelf holding shampoo and soap. POC21 provides soap, toothpaste and soap to all attendants, they are biodegradable and come as solid blocks, without any packaging, and all come Ludvina de Pachamamaï, a local producer, who combines essential oils and cold saponification. Since the Castle isn’t connected to the global sewage system, the POC21 teams have taken their responsibilities to reduce their impact on the environment.


DIY shower room

Back in the Orangerie, the breakfast is served, and people start eating around 7h30AM, sitting quietly under the great arches of the main room, or outside on the sunny lawn. Each meal is a precious time for conversation between attendants coming from countries all over the world, some are already friends, other have briefly met on Open Source events like OSCE Days, the FabLab Festival in Toulouse, Ouishare Fest, Helsinki’s Pelaton Summer Camp, etc.

9am-10am The CHECK-IN


In the Lounge, the main room of the Castle, the first meeting of the morning is presided by Dominik Wind, from the german team Open State. This is the check-in, where the general news of the camp are shared and where organizers check on the morale of the different teams, each day’s program is announced and the week’s objectives are set, between keynotes, workshops and visiting mentors. Each one of the attendant can set his name of the week’s board, divided between the five daily tasks that every camper must collaborate to, at one point or another, from the kitchen to the night watch.




This mobile wooden board is divided into five tasks, that anyone can attend to, on a specific day, by writing his name on a post-it, and pasting on a day’s case. Toilet Care is a camp’s favorite at POC21 : a 4 people team goes on to empty the dry toilets several time a day, to add to the compost. « You will have a lot of fun » warns Justyna, one of the first team mate to have experienced this shift.

Kitchen Clean is two person’s job, to clean the huge stewpots and cutlery used in the kitchen for lunch and diner.

Cooking Heroes asks 6 people to back up Line, Poc21’s very own Chef. This is the longest task, a 4 hours shift before lunch at 1PM, and likewise before the 8PM diner.

Garbage Crew is the duo that takes care of all the various recycling bins in the Castle and the encampment.

Night Guardians: almost an heroic task, two people take a turn of duty from 1am to 3H30am and two others relieve them until 6am. A guardian’s log is put at their disposal, to write down the tale of their night watch, the position of the constellations, the concertos of the crickets, their haikus and epiphanies.


Dominik Wind from Open State, sitting by the collective tasks board

10am-1pm back to work


The teams from the various projects, the volunteers, the mentors and the organizers spread out toward the different spaces of the Castle : in the Orangerie to prepare the meals of the day, in the coworking space of the castle for most of the project teams, on the field for the crew of the POC21 magazine, in the offices for some organizers from OuiShare and OpenState.



During a single day, all the teams go through various phases : brainstorming sessions to enhance their concept and design, personalized sessions with visiting mentors, or workshops with the Autodesk team which will introduce them to their 3D modeling software. Paul Sohi, a British product designer and evangelist at Autodesk has taken residency in the castle for 5 weeks of POC21.

At 28, with a degree in architecture, and speaking French fluently, Paul is accompanied by two colleagues to organize 3D modeling workshops and advise each team on the management of its project : « Beyond the common denominator that is Open Source, the goal is to bring each designer into making it simple to understand, explain and easy to use. Otherwise, it’s almost a guaranteed failure. To make it a success, the user must understand what it is, and what it does right away. »


A 3D modeling class with Paul in the lounge of the great castle

The FabLab set in the Factory space is one of the key element of POC21. The ancient stables and cowsheds of the Castle were converted into this living laboratory during the very intense week of installation, where they were thoroughly cleared out and refitted by the staff’s teams.

Each stable is devoted to a different kind of craftsmanship : computer-aided design and fabrication, electronics, woodwork and metallurgy. Under the care of Damien Arlettaz, the FabManager, with the help of contributors and volunteers, some of the teams gather in these spaces to build and enhance their prototypes, while other still build on the run small infrastructures needed by the community, like an additional dry-toilet.


In the all-female logistic team, Julie, Claudine, Hind, Donatienne and Maïwenn share the responsibilities according to their availability, and organize the crews of volunteers, bustling with activity from morning to dusk, They’re there to pick up the newcomers at the Garancières-La-Queue train station, to buy the groceries for the coming days, distributing sleeping bags and Soul Bottles, accounting for all the arrivals and departures from the castle, managing the stocks and keeping the budget tight.

Among the other activities of the days, workshops and meetings are open to the different projects teams, with mentors and facilitators : about Open Source documentation processes, on FabLabs and distributed distribution, serious gaming with cards dealing aspects of Global Warming, 3D modeling classes, workshop on open business models and circular economy, keynotes as well with such guests as Michel Bauwens, on peer-to-peer economy.



Brainstorming in the Castle’s coworking space


The Bicitractor team (J.P on the left and Matthieu on right) discussing design with a mentor from Autodesk



1pm in the kitchen, under the sun



In the Orangerie, the kitchen team has to feed between 80 and 100 people depending on the day, and lunch’s preparation starts at 10am sharp. If the weather allows it, tables and benches are set in the Orangerie’s lawn, in front of the small Castle. Dishes are mainly vegetarian, meat when present is clearly labelled so that two lines may form. Adjustments are made as well for vegans and those who are gluten-intolerant.

Starters, dishes and desserts. Tomatoes, feta, avocados, bulgur, rice, lentils, omelette, peaches, raspberries and dairies, all in abundance.

If groceries are bought at small local producers, yoghurts, meat, cereals and cookies are provided by Phenix, an association who gathers unsold items from the nearby supermarkets. This is all part of the « zero-waste » policy put in action by Flore Berlingen, president of Zero Waste France, and followed day by day by Léana.


The Orangerie


A vegan plate (blue) and a meat-friendly plate (pink)

2pm-6pm back to work (take two)


Resuming the morning’s activities. Tomàs Diez, who directs Barcelona’s FabLab, is spending a few days at POC21 to support the projects.


Conversations take from Yannick from the VeloM2 team, to Trystan from the Open Energy Monitor team, with thoughts of possible synergies and integration to Barcelona’s own Smart Citizen Kit. He had already met another Tristan, from the AKER team, in Barcelona for Fab10 and their project, the Open Source Beehive.


Wednesday was dedicated to the confrontation of each single project to a multidisciplinary team of designers, communicators, developers, engineers, makers, architects and entrepreneurs. The goal ? To define and refine a clear strategy for each of the project, even if it needed to question and break down every aspect of its design, communication, UX and production.


On the previous day, Simon Kliepe, designer and artistic director of the Open State Team, co-founder of PC21, had warned everyone : « in a single hour of meeting, we will push you out of your comfort zone, you will have to convince us of the strengths of your project.”

Justyna Swat from OuiShare added : “this first week’s goal is to help them clarify their own vision, to make sure they truly answer to the problematics of energetic durability, and help them transform this vision into a functionnal prototype, open and accessible to all.


Mauricio from FairCap pitches his project to the mentors

Tomàs Diez was among them. With his peers, he examined the FairCap and SunZilla projects, and talked with 9 out 12 of the teams over the course of 3 days. “I feel I could transmit a clear vision of the many challenges that await them, in a straightforward and efficient way. The idea is not for them to do as they please, but to challenge their own invention and reach out this objective in only 5 weeks.”


Tomàs Diez, on the right, with Yannick from VeloM2

On the Factory side, the teams from Quatorze (a collective of architects), Jerry-Do-It-Together (a small Open Source server and recycled computer), and other volunteers like Kim, a german student, work on the wood, metal and computer-aided workshops. Clément Chadeyron, from Jerry D.I.T., a regular at the FacLab of Gennevilliers, and the founder of the LimouziLab FabLab, is taking care of the Computer Aided Design and Fabrication workshop, with his tool of predilection, the laser cutter, appreciating the performances of the latest model lended by Trotec.

With the Jerry D.I.T team, Romain Chanut and Justine Hennequin have helped build small Jerry servers during the installation week, to answer the many needs of WiFi connexion on the domain of Millemont. Among the others machines, a bunch of Ultimakers 3D printers, and the “Rolls Royce” of the tracers from Roland, a huge machine sitting on the end of the lab, that will help printing the banners for the final POC21 exhibition on Sep. 19 & 20. Some of the machines were lended by sponsors, but not only : Quatorze has brought its own (and gigantic) CNC digital milling machine, that will cut through wood as well as metal.


Clément Chadeyron in front of the CFAO workshop

As courageous volunteers empty the dry toilets for the well-being of the community and the good health of the plants, the kitchen team is preparing a delicious meal for the evening. On the lawn a volleyball game sponteanously begins. It’s 6pm and time to unwind for a moment, chilling on the Orangerie’s lawn, or on the other side of the Castle, by the campfire and its ring of wooden deckchairs. As some sit on bean bags of the Lounge space and dive into passionate conversations, others seize the chance to take a shower, and others still work tirelessly in the coworking space.

Romain and Clément have started the construction of the 1st geodeisc dome on thursday. Each and everyone comes to lend a hand, but at different time of the day, on the lawn of the “small” Castle.


Collective construction of the first geodesic dome

7pm-8pm Check-out and co-living




Evening pow-wow


On the Orangerie’s lawn, Dominik, who will be the master of ceremony of such gatherings in the five coming weeks, is calling everyone to join the bench circle. Welcome to the check-out session.

How did your day go ? Is there an experience you want to share with the community ? Here complaints and appraisals are put in the open. Calls for assistance, found objects, questions and queries are shared with the community. This is the time and place for newcomers to introduce themselves, and for everyone to claim their shifts for the week, there is always room on the Toilet Care and the Night Guardians’ team. Who will volunteers ? Goodwill makes the POC21 go round.

The evenings are free, except when a special guests presents a keynote : Michel Bauwens, the peer-to-peer economy theorician spent a few days on the camp, and Bruce Sterling, journalist and famous sci-fi writer will visit POC21 on the second week.


The check-out is one of those precious moment when anyone can come up with an activity, suggest informal meetings, or make alterations to the general program proposed by OpenState and OuiShare. Each one listens closely to the others, waiting for one’s turn to speak, the circle applauds by waving their hands and asks for silence by raising the arm, an efficient and beautiful group language.

Living in community is one of the most important underlying challenges at POC21. Living together, doing together, without a rigid hierarchy, demands constant work and adjustments. Each one must take its responsibilites as an actor of this co-living. For the camp to come to fruition these everyday shared tasks are vital, this is how people get to know and trust and listen to each other, giving a hand, taking initiatives, creating moments of well-being, music and party, taking of each other, anchors the projects in simple humanity.

During a check-out night, Milena, from the Belgian team of VeloM2 proposed to projects tackling the energy topic to join forces so as to cowork on a unique electronic model that would help them all, thus avoiding many overlaps.

The strength of all those 12 projects is also their ability to complement each other.


Reminding some rules for a peaceful community life




Dinner is served ! The main language spoken at POC21 is English. Participants come from all around the world, with a majority of French and German. People come from Italy, Spain, New Zealand, America, Denmark, Belgium, etc. Conversations are rife, everyone is grabbing his fork and knife, debating while waiting in line behind the cantine improvised night after night. Starter, main dish, dessert. Each one is cleaning his dishes, and throwing out the waste in the adequate trash bin, washing up everything with sponge and green dishwashing soap in a first tray,then rincing it up in a second tray. This system had been entirely built with upcycled materials during the first week by teams of POC21, and in particular by Gregory Joya, one of the architect of the Bellastock collective who is laos getting his hands dirty. That current tray system lets you litteraly save liters of water. A dishwashing machine for a family of 4 to 6 people consumes 25 to 40 liter of water by cycle.The trays built at POC 21 consume 60L of water per meal for 100 people.

9pm-1am working, relaxing, debating




The night is falling down the Castle of Millemonts. Participants are splitting into small groups. Those who go back to the coworking area to work, those who take a beer and go sip it around the campfire listening to electronic music, while others others go on discussing at the Orangerie with a glass of wine or a tisane. On that first Wednesday night, at 11pm, a so called “mindfuck” session was being organised in the Lounge. About 30 people gathered on bean bags and couches, sitting in circles on pillows in the night shadow to discuss about their vision and the issues faced beyond POC21:

“how can I become more than a drop of water in the ocean?”, “our world is complex: we cannot solve climate change by merely building another new technology…” “It is a question of political and economic system” « There is inconsistency in the world »; “how can we communicate properly to the outside what is happening here at POC21” ; “DIY? collaborative economy? In Brazil, it is a vital need for many people. They practice everyday without putting a name on it.” ; “this session is interesting, but talking too much does not make us move forward. We need to “make stuff” and talk only about what we do, not about what we think” ; “ how can we spread the word about what we do beyong our camp here in Millemonts?”; “a life is not enough to do everything. Then what is the right scale?”; “whatever the scale, you need to do, build, make and accept that your invention can sometime slip from your control, because it is lifespan is limited. You have only five weeks to complete your proof of concept”; « Measure the ripples not the splash » ; “in the end, maybe our true impact will be to have built an army of changemakers”.


Lindy-Hop dance classes in the large castle

Another evening, the Lounge gives way to Lindy-Hop classes, offered by Cassandra Team Own Food, an improvised Youtube session with Paul and Bilal, a celebration around the new wooden dome built with the collective team Quatorze and a Michel Bauwens’s conference, without the fire, but in the cozy atmosphere of the Lounge.

1am-6am The night watch



it is now 1am, the Night Guardians are starting to tour around the Castle of Millemonts, and will be able to tell about it in their record book, in one word, one drawing, one dream, one observation: “A tiny cloud of smoke above the camp fire. It’s almost dead so the flames are probably not willing to guide us through the night. Nevermind, the night guardians will have your back safe tonight, their heads fulll of warm burning branches.

written, PHOTOGRAPHED & Edited by Ophelia Noor, translated into english by noam assayag