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  • noahchonlee

What Is a Zuzalu Style Event?

Updated: Apr 4

From Mar 25 to May 25 of 2023, the first Zuzalu style event gathered 200 residents in Montenegro in Europe. Since this inciting gathering, the movement has ballooned within a year to perhaps twenty groups running their own Zuzalu style events. Here is a timeline of upcoming Zuzalu style events: https://nsforum.net/post/kjzl6cwe1jw1460o8i9ds4x7q408kel6ad2ldc1w3qi0xg9pm8k1di1n95lsh6s

Aspects of The First Zuzalu

- Co-created schedule Anyone accepted to the Zuzalu event could access the shared calendar and post an event. During the weekdays, all participants co-created the schedule. Weekends were reserved for the conference organizers to schedule. In this way, it was an "un-campus" experience where anyone could be a teacher to anyone else. The events ranged from technical workshops to research presentations, healthy activities like hikes, cold plunges, and fun community gatherings such as a tea ceremony. In my time there I hosted/co-hosted: jiu jitsu classes, a salsa dance party, acroyoga class, flow arts workshop, intro to parkour, a sunset fire spinning party on the beach, a talk on decentralized AI, crowdfunded prizes for public goods talk, sociocracy for a network state alliance talk, a panel on digital tribes, and probably other things I can't remember.


Some of the crew for my intro to parkour class


One of the jiu jitsu classes


Acroyoga 101 We used zuzalu.city for this and other groups have used https://app.sola.day/ which I would recommend and lemonade.social is building up their event capabilities, as well


A screenshot from the public calendar for MuBuenos pop up village which is ongoing


- Curation (the referral system)


There were around 8 core organizers who each invited around 15 people as residents. Each resident could invite 2 guests. There was also an application form from which some residents were chosen. The track leads for the various conferences also had a say in choosing attendees and speakers. Guests could stay as long as they wanted but needed to pay weekly to extend and would not have accommodation reserved for them the same way as residents.

The core organizers being chosen was somewhat a matter of who happened to hear about this at the right time to get involved, although some people kept volunteering during the event became important to the overall process through their efforts. There were a couple attendees who were asked to leave, one for saying comments that some women found offensive, the other I can't remember why, but nothing too serious that I'm aware of and the atmosphere was generally quite welcoming.


- Coliving

At any given time, around 150 long-term residents stayed in the village where the entire town was rented out for Zuzalu. This matches "Dunbar's number" which is the theoretical number of people a human can maintain a relationship with at once.


People formed "grouphouses" by gathering with perhaps 2-10 housemates in the various apartments.

I think an important difference between "residencies" and this is the focus on holistic well-being including physical, mental, career-wise, and community.

I absolutely loved my housemates and enjoyed our movie nights and we still send messages to each other and run into each other at web3 events around the world.


- Coworking


There was a single large, quiet co-working space and many people also worked from the restaurants and in the apartments. The main co-working space was also used during a couple hackathons which coincided with the topic track of certain weeks, such as the public goods week hackathon where my team won a prize for building a web3 version of Kickstarter which I later added as part of viaPrize. These pictures are from a hackathon presentation in the geodesic dome where most of the talks were held:


- Topic tracks Each week there was a different innovative topic such as a longevity/biotech week, AI week, a ZK cryptography week, a public goods week, a network states week, a coordi-nations week, and a sunrise week for community fun and optimism about the future. In this way, there was a cycle of new guests, speakers, and topics. Each weekend of that week there was a conference of that topic with its own conference lead(s). Guests coming for the conference were welcome to join earlier in the week to meet one another. The various other Zuzalu inspired pop up villages have followed this formatting although Zanzalu in Zanzibar is instead planning to have one particular day a week to focus on a particular topic. For example, Monday would be "charter cities" day and Tuesday would be "web3 day." Mission During Zuzalu, I and a few others co-hosted a gathering where we asked 10 different questions to a crowd that we split up into many small discussion groups. The Zuzalu organizing team received the answers and refined the input into this: Zuzalu is on a mission to foster a global network of communities to advance humanity by creating playgrounds at the intersection of free and open technology, health, science and social innovation

Values: Authentic Kindness, Mutual Respect, Personal Growth, Freedom


Other intriguing aspects: A few different boats became group houses


Some friends saw a stray puppy get hit by a car and took care of him while all four of his broken legs recovered. He was named "Zuzu." He eventually found him a home in California.



Zuzalu as a Movement

The question of what Zuzalu is remains open. Perhaps Zuzalu is a movement where anyone who believes in the mission statement and values can be a part of it. Perhaps Zuzalu is a network of pop up village communities who support one another. Certainly, the first Zuzalu gathering in Montenegro helped pioneer the social tool of pop up villages, which I describe below.


Here is my one sentence definition of a Zuzalu style event: A futurist oriented coliving and coworking gathering that experiments with new lifestyles and social structures


These events have mostly consisted of pop up villages which I define as:

A temporary gathering of 100-200 residents who colive with a cocreated schedule and cowork on meaningful projects



The definition might be remembered with the "4 Cs" of Zuzalu: co-creation, coliving, coworking, and curation. Thus far these Zuzalu inspired pop up villages have been 2-8 weeks in duration. 5 have occurred/are ongoing: ShanHaiWoo, MuChiangMai, Wamotopia, Vitalia, and MuBuenos


There are 6 if you include Zuconnect which lasted 2 weeks, but the short time frame and planned out schedule made it feel like it wasn't the same sort of "co-created" schedule where any participant could add an event. It seemed more like a long-form well curated conference which in my view is different than a pop up village. I think the same was true for Edge City Denver which was another amazing community gathering/conference that was only one week (although they had one "unconference" day.)

After Zuconnect and the many discussions and disagreements about the potential future for Zuzalu, Vitalik Buterin who was the initial person who pulled people together for Zuzalu Montenegro sent a message to the community recommending that we decentralize Zuzalu. Since then, around 20 groups I am aware of have been assembling Zuzalu style pop up villages around the world. Within the first year and a half since the initial Zuzalu, there will have been a Zuzalu inspired event on every single continent. India may have one by the end of this year, as well.

At a pop up village organizer gathering I hosted in the d/acc house during EthDenver there were 13 different groups represented: 3 in Latin America

2 in North America

2 in Africa (3 if you include ZuAfrique but I consider that a residency not a pop up village because it is smaller than Dunbar number sized)

2 in Europe

3 in East Asia (4 if you include The Archipelago, but that doesn't have one core team)

1 in Oceania


For the Middle East, Zuconnect already happened in Turkey and I wonder if someone will make a pop up village in the region in the future.

Demographics The various events have primarily catered to digital nomads who work in innovative tech fields, especially in web3 and particularly the Ethereum ecosystem. A wave of people mostly from North America and Europe have gathered in developing countries for these events. This can make logistical sense in terms of lower cost and the capacity to have an impact working with more flexible governments. When scouting for the next Zuzalu before the movement decentralized, I developed this guideline which included avoiding EU and North America for events simply because of how difficult it is for visas for people from developing countries to be able to join. Of course, a flock of people from other countries arriving to an area raises risks of colonialism and disconnection with locals, and I have seen a range in how well this has been done. Digitalia however is the one pop up village I know of that is most locally led. It is organized by Italians and it seems likely it will be mostly focused on Italians, which shows this can be localized process. Can anyone host a pop up village? My dream is that Zuzalu style events shift from being things that people see on the news as something that rich people do to instead becoming something where anyone would turn to their friend and say, "hey, why don't we do something like that?" In those efforts I, Eva, and Chance intend to write up an open source guide crowdsourcing knowledge from the various groups on how to organize your own pop up village. From a budget perspective, I am inspired by ShanHaiWoo, the first ever Zuzalu inspired pop up village that gathered over 100 people in China with a budget of around $20,000.

And Wamotopia which had 0 budget and did not have any central organizing team but still brought together interesting groups in Thailand by choosing a city and a date range then encouraging people to gather at cafes and apartments and such. (Wamo 1 in China occurred before Zuzalu Montenegro, but Wamotopia as the second iteration brought in inspirations from Zuzalu.)


I think there is a "d/acc" (decentralization/democracy accelerated) philosophy amongst all of the pop up villages where we celebrate pluralism, participation, and diversity. They all serve different purposes and I'm glad they are so different from each other. My role

I am trying to see this movement from all directions and connect the various groups to learn from one another.

I joined for all of the Zuzalu inspired events thus far except for ShanHaiWoo.

I organized a side event hackathon at MuChiangMai Visited Wamotopia as a guest and hosted one discussion about how to support a local kids' shelter Was an organizer of a conference/track at Vitalia Organized location scouting presentations at Zuconnect Joined Edge City Denver as an attendee I am now migrating gradually eastward visiting the various Zuzalu style events this year. I will next be at Mubuenos, then MuAccra, then helping organize Zanzalu in Zanzibar, likely joining the Switzerland governance one, and welcoming groups to join for The Archipelago in Thailand. For 2025 I am also considering organizing a Dweb pop up village in Ecuador, perhaps one in Bhutan, Sri Lanka is intriguing, and I think the long-term future for Zanzibar is bounding with potential. Note that these events have often been referred to as "pop up cities" but based on this conversation I have shifted to saying pop up villages: https://x.com/noahchonlee/status/1761073526088278431?s=20


Pop up villages within a pop up city I also think there is a potential for multiple pop up villages to gather together as neighbors to form a pop up city, which is the intention for The Archipelago in Thailand. Imagine if you could eat breakfast at the AI pop up village and then walk down the street to attend a workshop in the regenerative villages community and then join a basketball game with the ZK cryptography village? Each community has their own governance, ways to choose leaders, cultural practices, methods of managing their treasury, and beyond. Each one is an experiment, and imagine how much we as a network might learn from one another as we iterate on these gatherings? Want to try out a new way to vote on leaders? Think people should only receive incomes based on quadratic voting? Want to try out universal basic income or a new decentralized digital identity tool? Want to find a crew to do a new diet and run a study on it? Pop up villages are a way to gather people who are open to innovation with a set time frame to learn from an experiment. This is a way to test out new socio-economic and political structures, new ways to organize communities and society, and new tools and new lifestyles. Personally, I've found them to be great ways to incubate my crowdfunded prize project viaPrize because I can hear the feedback from users who I am living alongside. I would love for there to be a process for these groups to set hypotheses before a gathering, means of measurement for during the gathering, and then open source reports on their findings after the gathering to a larger network. To have a place to post these, we put out a crowdfunded prize on viaPrize to build The Network Society Forum that a developer in Nigeria and a dev in the USA won by working together: nsforum.net The Archipelago concept seemed like an excellent way to kickstart more connection, interwoven learnings, and cross-pollination of experiences amongst the groups in this movement, and perhaps will be the first of a new kind of Zuzalu gathering.


Zuzalu style pop up city:

A temporary gathering of multiple Zuzalu style pop up villages who cross-coordinate to support one another in their shared goals And of course there's the possibility, what if we just remove "pop-up" from the name?


Permanent settlements?


An intriguing aspect of Vitalia is it narrowed down from a full pop up village of around 150 residents and at the end shifted to 40 residents engaged in a more VC oriented "accelerator/incubator" of new companies. It could also be seen as seeding a permanent city because there is the possibility that participants become full-time residents by buying the newly constructed apartments in Prospera charter city. Vitalia also had several families with kids who joined and a fair amount of seniors. I look forward to a multi-generational future of families supporting each other as they form intentional communities.


I think there is a future in which we remove "pop-up" and simply become Zuzalu villages, cities, and confederations in an entire Zuzalu civilization. I know friends who have seeded grouphouses in SF by organizing a conference on a certain topic such as climate tech then gathering a certain percentage of attendees who wish to form a long-term house. We could imagine that pop-up villages could be used in a similar way to seed permanent communities. A Potential Future For Zuzalu

I could see a future where these groups organize into various confederations who agree on certain manifestos/social contracts. I think there is a potential future in which we: Have various Zuzalu gatherings/communities around the world each with their own themes and missions and culture. People test out living with these various groups and choose which one to join as a long-term intentional community. This is a "nomad/dating" phase. Confederations form composed of networks of certain villages who agree on a manifesto/social contract. A network of groups in the movement share learnings and support one another and form an entire new mode of civilization that reflects our evolutionary heritage of living in tribes while focusing on how to iterate towards a better future. The position of Zuzalu in history

Part of why Zuzalu style events are so appealing is the way they focus on shared living amongst a group of around 150 people. This reflects our evolutionary heritage. In the start of our species, we all lived in small tribes, and we are the same psychological and physical beings who are designed for community/family centered lives with a physically active lifestyle. Many of our lifestyles and forms of gathering have dissonance between the way we were designed and the way we try to force ourselves to live. This results in physical issues, an epidemic of loneliness, and financial and ecological waste due to individualistic consumption rather than communal sharing. Alternatively, when we have a tight-knit group who we share in life with everything feels radically different and it just seems... right. This is my view based on experiences living with indigenous communities in the Amazon Jungle, hippie communes, the Marine Corps, tech hackerhouses, and pop up villages. Life is better with an aligned community with decentralized, participatory governance where your voice can make a difference. This can be seen on a macro scale:

D/acc in the past The system for the USA was based on the Native American confederation of the Haudenosaunee where local villages sent representatives to cross-coordinate. This decentralization to more local polities became the dominant form of government across the world and replaced the prior wave of centralized empires and led to a wave of democracy across the earth. This trend has reversed in the last few years where democracy as of 2022 is no longer the most common form of government, so we need to rediscover the importance of this in a new way. D/acc in the present In Syria, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria grew as people opted in to join their local neighborhoods to make communal decisions in a "democratic confederalist" movement. The area has become twice as wealthy as the rest of Syria and has far better human rights than surrounding areas. D/acc in the future I believe Zuzalu may become an example to humanity of how decentralization, democracy, localism, participatory governance, civil societies, and a focus on community is not only something that revolutionized the past or is improving lives for people in Syria but is also a path forward for the world. I believe we can reshape the future of civilization in which we have communities where we feel we belong, are better able to take care of one another and spend time on that which we find meaningful. I think the key aspects are: Opt-in Dunbar sized communities Confederations of value aligned communities Concentric levels of organization A focus on open-source iterative experiments A potential definition for Zuzalu may become:

A civilization of opt-in Dunbar sized communities who organize into iterative co-created experiments


Maybe Zuzalu becomes this or maybe something else does.


For me, this is a future that I am building towards and Zuzalu is one of the inspirations. This is the form of society that I am looking forward to building and want to live in: a Dunbarian civilization, a place where we all have a community where we feel we belong.


I believe this may offer an answer the question, "how do we scale up society while staying connected with our own community?" Or more personally, "how do I find a better way to live so I feel healthier, more fulfilled, and connected with people around me?"


For further ideas on this I have written:

A financial system for localized sovereign wealth funds

An idea for a Zuzalu/network society confederation described briefly in The Archipelago post

D/acc as a philosophy and how people made better lives in Syria through democratic confederalism


I plan to write:

An overview of Zuzalu groups

A deep dive into the various pop up village groups

An intro to techno-tribalism

"The Experiment State" short story

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