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RICBrochure In Natural English
A short summary of the whole booklet and of the four basic characteristics of regional information coaching.
Globalisation does not mean the end of regional economies; but it drastically changes the need for adaptive intelligence and cohesion.
To meet the challenge of globalisation, a new style of education is needed, one that puts the entrepreneurial, self-directed and co-operative individual at the centre of its work. This educational system is very different from traditional approaches, yet has its some roots in tradition. There are at least seven criteria, which mark the differences.
Regional governments and development alliances increasingly perceive education as the primary engine driving development activities. The realisation of the proposed learner-centric framework means placing a high priority on the regional agenda and the initiation of intensive co-operation between traditionally separated sectors, including a new approach to collaboration between educational institutions themselves.
Schools, higher education institutions and adult education are equally important in creating an active interest in regional rebuilding and can be orchestrated in new ways. Access to global resources gives them increased capabilities.
[yellow] "Life Long Learning" is not a modern prison sentence, but in our context calls for a venue for education through social interaction. This ideal venue is a mixture of a library, internet cafe, and social meeting place. Basically it is a place where we come to find creative possibilities which arise from living together within a community. Such venues are crucial for knowledge-based development and therefore a matter of public interest. %
[yellow] The Internet is a largely untapped resource. It is very easy to be distracted by the wealth of information, and needs more focused dedication to be empowering. Discovering and mapping the internet for educational needs brings about mixed results: on one hand there is a lot of content to be used, on the other it needs effort to make coherent sense of it all. Specialised service providers can add strength and value to the online world, but unless they have a very big marketing capability they are mostly found by chance. %
(Good example: http://www.about.com)
[yellow] Internet coaching is a new profession that we suggest as a backbone for the educational framework we would like to emerge. The main skills and abilities required in the profession will not be based on a greater knowledge than the learner, but more on an ability to facilitate new opportunities by helping learners to develop their own personal knowledge networks. %
[yellow] At the heart of regional information coaching is the support of active entrepreneurial people. This is not necessarily about economy, it could be social ventures, cultural initiatives etc. ? Individuals can make a difference, and their role is even more important the more peripheral the region is. But each individual can only be as strong as the recognition and understanding of the environment in which the individual operates. %
[yellow] In our quest to improve what we are doin,g we discover the potential of communicating with people globally about our local issues. The use of online tools; venues and services is evolving; social computing is on the rise; new and more sophisticated tools are appearing every day. (Actual examples: Talking Communities, iVisit, open space online....). Regional Information Coaching also enables us to make the best use of these tools. %
[yellow] Archives online interactions can be very useful for all participants; this requires extra work and organisation in order for it to become a long-lasting useful source for everybody. Using the net as notebook, manual, memory, as expression of collective mind, is at the heart of recent success stories that derive their style of work from the Open Source movement. (Good example: Wikipedia) %
Global connections enable us to act better in our local environment. The goal of Regional Information Coaching is the empowered individual in the local community, being able to "link" into its own personal support system.
This little booklet is written to help convince regional governments, actors and decision makers to make their investment in the future not only in traditional education, but also in new forms of education that are very cost effective.
The proposed Regional Information Coaching (RIC) (which is one of the outcomes of the ERDE learning partnership) is clearly an educational profession, but it is part of a "paradigm shift" in education. More than ever before the learner is at the centre of the educational process, and is even initiator of this process by his or her questions.
Increasingly, innovative models in education focus more on support systems for self-directed learners and less on prefabricated knowledge that has just to be "mediated" from teacher to student. RIC is designed to serve and foster those needs, and though we are far from having designed a curriculum, we invite actors and institutions around Europe to create this new and exciting profession with us. In this booklet we offer the foundations and a rough sketch for this building process.
Learner-centeredness is the first essential of RIC. The guideline for the educational process is the practical problem that the learner brings (or task based learning). The coach is basically a connector to resources and specialises in the nature of informational resources which can be helpful in the solution of a local problem. These can be "global" resources, but very often can also be forgotten or undiscovered local ones that can be retrieved with the help of new media. This is the core of the profession, and knowledge of the Internet and the way it can be used for learning and communicating is the prime feature.
The function of connector nevertheless includes also the initiation of local knowledge exchange, grouping of learners, facilitation of common enterprises, co-operations, co-operatives, complementary activities and of course, global networking. But it is up to the learners which connections they make use of.
The second essential of Regional Information Coaching is that it is designed, like the traditional education system, as an issue of public concern and support. This implies that this learning activity, at least at the startup leve,l should be free to the learner at the point of delivery. It could be publicly funded to support the emergence of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activities of all kinds, including the emergence of social entrepreneurs (a concept which is still not widely recognized).
The third essential of Regional Information Coaching is that, even if the boundaries in which regional solutions can be found are flexible, RIC is definitely a regional activity. RIC could function on the level of a village or small town, like a librarian, but it also could function in the context of a region.
The fourth essential of RIC is that it builds on a culture of co-operation and free content. Regional Information Coaches (RICs) are people who mediate the creation of workgroups and learner-groups between regions, to empower and facilitate their local learners. The more open content available, the more ordered and structured by thorough investigation, the easier the work of the Regional Information Coach. In fact RICs should also part of a network of their own, whilst they are facilitating local networking.
The last decades have seen an unprecedented concentration of economic activities and population into metropolitan areas; globalisation seems synonymous with global urbanisation. This is a worldwide trend, but it has had deep effects on Europe. Industries cluster together to be close to suppliers and distribution channels and deliver just in time.
A highly complex logistical network requires proximity to highways and the ability to fix any problem within minutes.
Regional and rural environments seem to be the losers in this type of development. People with qualifications keep being attracted by the urban areas, local industries have died in many regions, and we still see the breakdown of local supply systems in many places: Post offices, stores and inns closing in rural villages, state and service institutions no longer provide universal services. This has had a deep effect on the quality of life in rural areas and has the potential to initiate an uncontrollable downward spiral.
However, there is evidence to show that this not necessarily the case. It happens mainly where a region is either passively complying to market forces or has unsuccessfully tried to directly compete with more highly developed urban regions, using inappropriate methods and goals to be the focus of economic activities.
However, when rural regions become aware of their localised skills, abilities and resources, if they are able to act appropriately, they can reverse the downward spiral and initiate resilient, sustainable development. This brochure holds true for many regional cases, and even urban circumstances. it is, however, written with rural areas in mind, and areas which may differ widely in many aspects, but share some general characteristics.
Rural areas in general hold fewer actors than urban areas, thus there is a need to avoid overspecialisation, have a more informal set of roles, and a system of economic exchange built on stable and mutual relations. Rural areas in general tend to have less physical proximity to the so-called space of flows (a term coined by Manuel Castells) which connects the economic centres of this world; thus they have a better chance to maintain or at least accentuate regional economic (and ecological) cycles. Rural areas tend to have an abundance of natural resources in their landscape, whose symbiosis with human activities create specific characteristics of a region and its socio-cultural habitat. These characteristics offer a lot of opportunities, even (paradoxically) in times of globalisation.
The chance to foster a more balanced type of development compared to metropolitan centres, one that is not necessarily forced by the speed of global market developments but rather the result of the synchronous growth of all internal factors. The chance to make use of the deeply decentralising and sophisticated trends of new technologies in automation and information communications. By doing so not be the last of yesteryear, but the first of tomorrow. The chance to live a self-determined lifestyle and to strive for a holistic identity. All these factors lead to a new regional challenge. The regional system of tomorrow will not be determined by the agricultural needs of a feudal centre, nor by becoming an early industrial beacon. It will not be shaped primarily by outside needs, and neither will it come about by some predetermined course of action. It not happen at all if it is not able to actively re-invent itself. It needs active action and intervention, not only from a few, but rather by many regional actors. This again requires a fundamental new role for knowledge and information, and for activities that help to foster a high level of knowledge.
Seeing education as primary resource of regional development is a relatively new approach and comes with a caveat. Not every type of education is equally suitable to achieve this goal. Sometimes, inviting highly specialised and formalised educational institutions into a region is equivalent to building a catapult that eventually drives these skilled young people outside the region where they can maybe find suitable jobs.
What we are suggesting in our context is rather the opposite; we are suggesting a type of education that enables people to stay within the region, to find and build opportunities there and to use existing resources and opportunities, which may differ from situation to situation, creatively. This creativity might include the formation of groups, networks etc. Rather than the traditional style of standardised education, a new style of education is needed that puts the entrepreneurial, self-directed and co-operative individual at the centre of its work and enables those individuals to build chains of value creation.
This educational system, as we perceive it, differs from traditional approaches, yet has its some roots in tradition. It enables people and communities to respond to changes and opportunities better, adapt to technological developments and learn to find working solutions by process of negotiation. We are pretty positive that regional entities will see the value of supporting the emergence of such a system and the transformation of educational institutions of every kind towards this new framework.
a) Self-Learning instead of Directed Learning
The first and strongest quality of the framework is the self-directedness of the learner. Rather than knowing all the solutions in a time of tremendous change and reorganisation of society, the educational system is set up to give learners the best possible support by putting the right questions and helping the learner to find the best answers themselves. This involves a process of self-evaluation, but also a realistic approach to what we need to know in a certain situation.
b) Goals and Portfolios instead of Curricula and Tests
This style of education is not based on fixed curricula, but neither is it unstructured. The learner him/herself sets the goals, and the task of the institution is rather to support her/him to truly achieve them. Instead of being part of a fixed class or course, the learner is encouraged to choose the best ways to achieve the set goal. Often it might be helpful to get in touch with experts who help her/him find out what is needed in terms of knowledge, skills and relations to really arrive there. Testing these abilities will be important, but equally important will be the building of a personal portfolio of achievements.
c) Coaches and Resource People instead of Teachers
A new set of roles is required from educators. Instead of the simple process of information transfer onto the learner, the educator is rather trying to help the learner fulfil their own personal goals; this implies encouraging the learner to perceive that her/his self-unfolding is only possible under assenting societal conditions. The learner might in some way want assurance that his/her goal is or will be in some way income generating, valuable to others, or in other ways providing beneficial progress and the ability to sustain it. The function of the educator is to avoid unnecessary waste of energy, provide access to critical resources and people, and be helpful in mediating relations. Thus the educator is the mediator between individuals with growing abilities to define their own goals and the common desire that these goals add to the wellbeing of communities and regions.
d) Repositories instead of Canons
Scientific approaches (which influence largely traditional educational content) often come from top down perspectives. They often lack the complexity of real-life situations. A repository of good practises is very often more suitable to the needs of people forced to make practical decisions, and to work together with actors with different backgrounds.
e) Education on Demand instead of Education on Command
The phrase lifelong learning might not be the most suitable description for the educational system that we have in mind. This phrase was coined by an environment built around a dramatic increase in job insecurity. This is, however, less true for a regional system which tends to be built on stable and growing relations between actors. Instead of ubiquitous pedagogisation and behaviour modification, the educational approach that we propose can rather be called education on demand. It means ensuring the availability of resources and of course also the means of creating awareness that these resources are there. However, there is a sharp distinction between a system that sanctions non-learning behaviour and a system which simply lives by the positive motivation of those who achieve improvements. We might prefer the term education on demand for this, expressing a greater trust in the learner.
f) Education in Real Life rather than Education in Schools.
The real venue of any learning success is not the educational place, but the real world. A lot of educational institutions have tried to reinvent themselves based on this premise. One example is the idea of our Swiss partner Thomas Diener to have young people try out a variety of professions and not just consider this a decision phase, but an enrichment phase. (Job Navigation). It should be obvious that this educational transformation can only be achieved, if the approach is largely shared also by actors outside the educational community.
Whilst in most cases we might still be looking in vain for the single educational institution that is sensitive to and responsive to the regional educational challenge, we increasingly find traces of awareness in many institutions that are stakeholders in regional development. The idea of RIC emerged out of the empirical data of often very diverse institutions working in similar directions and very often merging or creating spin-offs to work into the direction of Regional Education Systems.
a) Everything seemed to start with a seemingly less prominent and underfunded institution, In interviews with librarians - especially of small community libraries - we found out that there was a general feeling of growing irrelevance: sitting there and waiting for people to come for books, seemed the path to complete obsolescence. Some of the librarians we met changed their mindset and became more actively "marketing" the value of their work for the community. They figured out that they have to be in real service to the community to survive. One way to achieve this was to open up the library to become a meeting place, a Caf, a discussion and encounter place - another way was to provide internet access.
In these examples across Europe, the books became secondary, but not unimportant. Adalbert Melichar of the Fischamend community library in Lower Austria expressed the surprisingly warm acceptance of the new role from various parts of the community. "Even the members of the city council embraced our meeting place; they came over from the town hall to make a clear distinction: there they quarrel, here they learn".
Negotiating with the public administration made it possible in some cases that libraries could even be open at evening hours when the regular city hall offices were closed. Thus the library became part of a transforming process; it became more than just a place to look for books, it became an information hub and a place of education and encounter for the whole community. The Public Library of Saalfelden in Salzburg/Austria has turned into a community education centre, by merging the catholic parish library with the railroad trade unions library as a first step, then seeking proximity with institutions of adult education.
Library usage has significantly increased since, the programs of the library being fine-tuned with the educational offering of the centre. The library has partly turned into a media support centre for the processes of education, but this led to multiplier effects of all kinds.
b) This type of development can also start from completely different institutions. Again in Lower Austria, but geographically far away, a regional development agency was developing old iron forge places for tourism. In the course of events, it became increasingly clear that local knowledge had to be documented and made available to really create an authentic base for tourism. Allthough the agency was largely a civil society initiative, it managed to persuade all 26 local governments to join and support its association. Today, a large amount of local knowledge and oral history is recorded, Educational activities based on this collection of data and streams are starting.
c) Of course there also can very easily be initiatives coming out of the mainstream education system if some leaders within those institutions are fired and inspired enough to go beyond the framework which is provided by the codes of specialisation. The elementary school Maria Laach in Austrias Wachau/Jauerling Region is conceptualized by its director, Michael Nader, as the "heart of the community". One of the many practical actions taken by this internationally renowned yet tiny school(even educators from China visited this place as one of what they consider best practises while it is relatively unknown in Austria) is the continuous programme of visits by all the children to one family after the other. "People do hardly talk to each other any more, some are farmers and most others commute, so our task is to reintegrate the community" says Michael Nader.
The Polish Gymnasium of Malechowo, one of our partners in the ERDE project, is not only taking an unusual approach to prepare for the knowledge economy by fostering creative abilities of children with circus arts, but also providing internet access and consulting for the people of the village in the afternoon.
d) Another example, again seemingly coming from a completely different angle, happened in the Styrian village of Kirchbach. A group of young people in a village who all had their professional activities elsewhere were confronted with the fact that an old courthouse building of relatively big dimensions was for sale. They bought the courthouse, applying their synergies and capacities to the project, each one with their core competence. From the beginning, the former courthouse and now "culture and business centre" was designed to be more than an "office building". It offered multipurpose education rooms with videoconferencing capabilities, and very soon the university of Graz became aware that this was one of the best places to deliver its public lectures via videoconferencing. The "Monday academy" was promoted by the entrepreneurial group and was so successful that of all five locations where the videoconference transmission was received, Kirchbach had the highest frequency of visitors.
Work, education and social cohesion used to be separate domains of human life, organised by distinctive life periods and in separate institutional and spatial settings. With the advent of the information society and information-based economies, the sharp distinctions between workplace, educational place and place of social gathering disappear. In fact each of these functions is increasingly connected to the others and their interplay and combination in spatial and organisational terms might soon become an essential part of successful regional development.
It is a good thing to have Internet at home, but even those who do (and that is still widely a minority in rural areas of Europe) enjoy the synergies that can emerge when human encounter and internet access are merged. The interplay of two media can achieve results beyond the effects of each single one. Therefore the benefits of Public Internet Access Points (PIAPs), as these places of access and learning are often called, are manifold: -
a) enabling people who are underrepresented on the Internet to get access - e.g., the elderly, or disadvantaged youth.
b) providing workspace away from home for locals, business travellers and tourists alike
c) having fast, efficient and expensive technologies at hand that would not be available at home, like videoconferencing etc.
d) bringing people together for group learning
e) becoming a hub for the design of common projects, for development work, for support questions
We have seen in previous chapters that many institutions can fulfil the need of such a place that combines global knowledge access and local learning. Of course, it often makes no sense to have several places of that kind in a small community. Yet approaches to fulfil the need for such a place can be satisfied by many different institutions, as we saw in the earlier chapter on cross sector work.
The negotiations between those institutions achieve the best results when they lead to the emergence of a "neutral" place, one that is not dominated by a group view or any particular interests. The One Village Foundation (an NGO that is active in fighting AIDS in Africa and is building largely on information based strategies) has assigned the name "Unity Center" to such PIAPs and it seems to be an apt one. A divided community is crippled in its abilities to form fresh and productive alliances to answer the daily challenges of needs, threats and opportunities in the global and local fields of activities.
Overcoming that digital divide means acknowledging that the function of the place is multidimensional. It is "neutral" also in the sense that it can become many things temporarily - branch office of a bank to explain telebanking, gathering place of a citizen group learning about how to work effectively against a dangerous development project, expansion of a remote university delivering a lecture with questions and answers, The internet makes it possible to retrieve all information needed to fulfil each functions, but there are many design implications to be considered.
In their Paper "Less Cyber, More Caf - Design Implications for Easing the Digital Divide with Locally Social Cyber Cafes" Tony Salvador, John Sherry1 and Alvaro Urrutia argue that such places of learning and access yet have roots in diverse local, regional and national traditions which must be taken into consideration. Internet access points still deliver in quite uniform ways and there is lot of evolutionary potential in them: "As a simple example, place to play games that require two people with two separate simultaneous inputs to the computer were not available. Perhaps smaller screens with clever input devices on table tops such that a couple can sit more comfortably with a coffee and a dessert (popular in Seoul and Brazil) while engaging in a lightweight diversion would be valuable.
Alternatively, kids in a small village might be better able to play a game together with multiple inputs and one larger screen. A few adults might gather together at various times in the day to learn about a new farming technique of particular interest to local towns or villages (the video for which was downloaded asynchronously overnight). Additionally, the screen might also serve special events, such as "movie night" or more generally as a mini-cinema at appropriate times. Or, we imagined a projected image of a crossword puzzle on the wall of a caf in Portland, Oregon, with a few specially tailored input devices that would permit people to causally make a contribution to the puzzle without disrupting the social nature of the place.
Of course, these sorts of usages suggest modifications of basic technologies, which is of course the point, to imagine how technologies have to be recombined, improved or even invented." ( http://www.ms.lt/en/consideringothers/LessCyberMoreCafe.html)
In our context we constantly need to improve the equilibrium of a place in which people can just "drop in" and a place where there is a schedule or program set; a place which is privately owned and run and a place which fulfils community functions; a place which offers human support through information coaching and a place where people can be self-directed and self guided in their activities.
We can find these places inside and outside the traditional educational institutions; in schools and in social organisations, regional development agencies and libraries, in telecentres and cultural houses. We can see that they offer leisure activities as well as learning activities, professional support as well as cultural and traditional functions. Internally, they might well be segmented: in sections that are more for public use and in sections that allow professional use on site.
We might see them not only acting as distribution centres, but also as documentation centres, documenting local knowledge, accommodating information brokers, virtual librarians and other professions which go beyond information coaching; or we might see them as outlets, slim and efficient, which change their face like a chameleon to bring a broad range of services to a smaller location.
Whatever the case may be, these places may be best built on a mix of public and business functions and thus being able to sustain themselves. The professional context of Regional Information coaches should include the knowledge and the skills to successfully maintain such places of learning and access.
Whilst it is favourable or even necessary that RICs have a physical location and centre, the support they bring can also happen over distances within a region - bridged by telecommunication or even physical travel. It should not be neccessary for a farmer in a remote mountain location to travel physically to the Regional Information Centre to receive advice on how to navigate the internet or to search for useful information. However,l the location of a centre has a very important symbolic value; information is not "placeless", it serves as glue and fuel to make the region work better. It gets more and more complex, it is the self-reflection of the physical circumstance and indicates what is missing and what is needed, what is available and what could be done.
In the decade since its public acceptance, the Internet - today almost synonymous with the World Wide Web - has undoubtedly become the largest body of information mankind has ever created. A large amount of traditional media content has been transferred to the Web, whilst a lot of content was created in an unprecedented co-authorship of millions of people. Many of these people rely on each other and cross-link their content to the contents of others. Thus a brain-like structure evolves, which organizes information rather in free-floating chunks that are bound together by flexible structures of association.
This brain-like structure offers several advantages simultaneously, making it superior to previous media:-
a) content is available in digital form which makes it fluid through many lines of transportation; it can be obtained on demand in real time online from every point in the world and can be cross referenced and combined in flexible ways. The digital form supports multimedia output and therefore new unprecedented modalities of knowledge.
b) authorship can be fragmentary, cooperative and contextual, which eliminates redundancy and saves enormous time for mental work. Writing, publishing and reading can happen within seconds, as can annotation and feedback. Large groups of people can start endeavours of any kind.
Beside the technical standards, no agreement has been reached on what would be the purpose of content brought to the web; mechanisms to determine goal, quality, reliability and validity of content are developing as evolutionary as the content itself. Maybe some older systems of classification and organisation of knowledge will prove themselves in new ways or become obsolete; it is too early to tell.
With the advent of Wikipedia, a first successful approach to create a socio-technical agreement and framework for the creation, evaluation and presentation of information has established itself. With such revolutionary breakthroughs at hand, the question is not if the internet is going to change society, the way we think, the way we work, and of course the way we learn. The question is rather why those changes did and do not happen much faster, in the light of the possibilities at hand.
The answer lies in the time it takes for society to adapt to technical progress and have it adapt to its needs, in the cultural lag that make old ways and institutions persist (sometimes even seemingly empowered by new technological abilities), and in the time it takes for the right social innovations to emerge. One decade is nothing in the face of history, and yet we see now the slow emergence of networking entities that break the barriers of traditional institutions.
Networking entities are organisations without clear geographical or spatial boundaries, often even crossing cultural, political and religious borders. They are focussed on themes and tasks rather than administrative borders. Often they even distribute their production worldwide and develop a common cultural backbone. Networking entities can be born by the collaboration of formerly separated institutions that complement each other.
For example, a virtual library system is replacing the old distinction between national libraries, public libraries and scientific libraries in Denmark. Scientific societies and online academic journals gain new relevance as the place of research and discussion, evolving into virtual universities.
(to be completed with further examples)
... short topology of sources...
Regional Information Coaches are not just experts in knowledge sources and the way to asses them; they also put learning processes in the framework of personal and group interactions, facilitating local partnerships of any kind, matching competence and innovation in an arena of shared resources and real abilities.
Space is the framework for human activities, and innovation and creativity can enrich and intensify space and so that rural areas can become more attractive and viable. The role of information coaching is to constantly foster the spirit of curiosity and desire to improve.
The village as the typical form of rural community could in this way become a living laboratory which constantly demands improvements, experiments, and adjustments. In a way, the village itself becomes the physical facility of learning.
In the new regional education systems there is room for many professions such as: - information brokers who actively research and "package" content for clients - information managers who act on behalf of an institution or group and improve the flow of information between people - development agents who support people who are pursuing projects with practical connections and advisors who bundle the activities of people into plans and schemes.
The amount of specialisation between these roles differs with the size and the resources of the regional education system.
One might argue that with the advent of search engines like Google, with the availability of all those networking entities and support mechanisms described in the previous chapter the role of a person whose primary function is to actively support self-learners is of minor importance.
There are great self-learn tools on the internet, there is a host of support and guidance available, but all these carry with them the tendency to disrupt and devaluate personal encounters.
(Functions of Coaching:
- help us understand the range of possible strategies to achieve a goal
- help us to find shortcuts and make us aware of blindness and blockage
- mediating us with people who could leverage our goals
- facilitating group learning)
Coaches are not mentors, or at least they try to avoid the idea that they can become a professional guide for their student. Often the student is more knowledgeable than the coach, but the coach might be helpful in finding a real mentor. Those mentors might be physically far away, but finding a mentor is one of the best methods to learn.
Regional Information Coaching is primarily targeted at people who want to activate their knowledge in the context of a regional system. This can mean many things: for example, somebody who wants to start a business in renewable energy could use the Regional Information Coaching service to look for locally applicable ways to produce photovoltaics or for methods of composting biomass. He or she could also look for ways to connect with other actors in the region who want to sell or dispose of biomass, provided there are tools to find those actors. The creation of these tools is not the responsibility of RICs, but facilitating access and usage is.
Some activities in this field can help to finance RIC. For example, a regional firm could decide that it is better to have their own people solve a problem instead of buying in expensive consultants. The RIC would then become the facilitator of specialised self-learning activities, which would be funded by the firm. What keeps the identity of RIC clear and linked to public affairs is that the process is connected with the interest to promote the development of a region.
There is an increasing perception of the paradox that competitiveness is increasingly dependant on the ability to form alliances, develop standards, clusters, networks, shared visions. Never before in economic history have global attempts to manage strategic product chains rather than simple products led to comparable megafusions, be it in the media, banking, car, tourism or any other industry.
So why should the same not hold true for SMEs, villages, local circles and also regions? There is an increasing awareness of interdependency forced by the power of competition, and new cooperation is sought simply as a means of survival. For example, whole regions are selling their tourist offerings "all inclusive" now.
The goal for regional education systems - like the one RIC is a part of - therefore must be to enable actors to discover the hidden resources that they might constitute for each other, which includes slight behaviour modifications and a new move towards accountability and mutual support. "Taking the wall away between two rooms doubles the size of the house" was the revolutionary discovery of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The same might hold true for the self-perception of actors in a regional environment.
If we acknowledge the leverage potentials of proximity and synergy of processes in terms of the reduction of energy use, waste of time and material, transportation and human stress, we must also acknowledge that the discovery and the realisations of these local potentials is much more knowledge-intensive than traditional linear-production. The work of forerunners like John Todds "Living Machines" has shown that in order to generate a really functioning cycle of resource renewal, we need to increase the number of involved processes and "nodes".
The emergence of such "Living Systems" leads to increasing complexity on one side, which begets miniaturisation on the other side (Paolo Soleri). The increasing role of automation in the shaping of human environments does not reduce the need for human work, but transforms it into conceptualisation integration work. The conditions of every process in short, middle and long terms need to be overviewed. While the number of processes increases in arithmetic scale, the interdependencies between these processes grow in geometric scale.
Therefore, not only the knowledge-intensity, but also the interdependence and the very definition of entrepreneurial activities changes in the regional context. There is an increasing portion of consideration for the growth of others in each commercial activity.
However, the notion of being an entrepreneur is much wider than just people working for money; people increasing social capital of the community or region should be supported as "social entrepreneurs" by regional information coaches. For example, people who want to support youth activities, to find ways to make the young people stay and invest their energy locally, should be considered as social entrepreneurs. The public support nature of RIC can help people to start activities and to design their activities for optimum coherence in regional systems - always keeping in mind that every new thing might seem disruptive at the beginning, but using this disruptiveness to start a cycle of thoughts about synergies.
A very crucial goal is to encourage actors not to mimic too much the success of others in their community, so that eventually there is too much supply for one particular resource and, as a result, scarcity of certain others. The decline of regional economic (and ecological) systems has strong causes in the development of monocultures! RICs must therefore encourage their target groups to be different and reinvent themselves, giving practical help and support to new and untried ways which should always complement existing processes. This is probably the most difficult part of the story, because available role models are an important factor in development.
Another crucial factor is to not limit support to people already embedded in institutional backgrounds. In fact, RIC is designed in a way to highly value "independent thinkers" and self-directed people, something which maybe was neglected in traditional educational systems.
Finally, RIC is also designed to keep a close link between knowledge building and practical implementation. The amount of global knowledge available is enormous and sometimes even discouraging. A close link to implementation is not only the best key for the selection of relevant knowledge, but also creates rapid feedback and interaction with knowledge providers and developers.
This is still sketchy and therefore prone to *Discussion
The maintenance of a knowledge base necessary to manage the increased material and technical complexity of future rural systems exceeds by far the capacities of any local or regional educational system. Therefore they need to tie into networks of support and share knowledge repositories.
We have already seen in previous chapters that such networks already exist in forms of virtual communities and networking entities , But we might see a completely different range of the development of these communities if they were based on the intentional collaboration of local institutions designed to work with and within networks.
Thematic Villages might join together in virtual competence centres Network Universities might work with regular outlets in small cities and villages Professional Alliances might form the modern equivalent of guilds by sharing know-how and tools (bring examples of successful virtual communities)
here is space for describing some tools to facilitate virtual communities as indicated in the TOC: The use of online tools; venues and services is evolving; social computing is on the rise; new and more sophisticated tools are appearing every day. (Actual examples: Talking Communities, iVisit, open space online....)
This may also lead to a changing role of the industrial megacentres of today: large cities with highly developed specialized institutions might turn into support hubs for not only their regional environment, but for special types of knowledge needed in rural areas worldwide.
The paradox may be that such strong central institutions could be rapidly developing to become providers of digitized content that can be realized in thousands of new forms elsewhere.
cultural institutions like museums, libraries and archives could create "virtual exhibitions" together to be presented on demand in local multimedia centres in possession of apt presentation equipment hospitals and health institutions could team up with regional doctors and health professionals to back them up with diagnostic and therapeutic abilities. (bring examples of successful networks)
(Describe the functions of RICs? in this context)
In todays online world, there are two different cultures of knowledge. They work on entirely different premises and with entirely different sets of rules.
One culture sees knowledge as an economic object, with an owner and with a price. Access to knowledge is granted on the base of fees and licenses. The justification for this model is that costs of authorship and distribution have to be covered.
The other culture sees knowledge as a participative resource, that has no real owner and that also cannot be really isolated in chunks. Knowledge is the result of peoples contributions, and it lives through peoples usage. In this view, knowledge lives best if it flows free as the air we breathe.
The first model has been facing serious threats with the advent of the internet. Not only has the Internet in conjunction with modern technology changed the nature of knowledge: It has become the real driving force of everything, embedded in electronic circuits and digital memory and manifesting itself directly in the execution of automated tasks. No, beyond that, knowledge has become fluid, ubiquitous and instant. In this objective and potential form it is available on demand wherever there is internet access. The Internet is a gigantic copy machine which allows for reproduction of knowledge at almost zero costs.
The two cultures have reacted entirely different to these fact :-
The first culture is increasingly seeking to erect moral and legal barriers against copying and distributing information and erecting an unprecedented system of rules of private intellectual property. The problem is that those pieces of knowledge are the most attractive and are most in demand, and this culture ends up irrevocably in the necessity to justify monopolies. "The market" becomes almost identical with the claims of the information rich and is a means to allow or disallow activities and to collect information revenues - a system which brings memories of a feudal past. It favours accumulation of wealth, centralisation and large administrative overheads and is, in our view less relevant and helpful for broad rural development. If rural areas want to develop in todays world they cannot do this on the basis of the requirement to constantly repay monetary debts and duties.
The second culture has completely yielded to the technological changes and possibilities, but erected a different set of rules that could manage the sustainability of knowledge creation and maintenance. We think that these rules are interesting to study and have deep consequences for the work of RICs. These rules are activating and fostering responsibility and creativity, and are a perfect match of an economy of circular self-feeding material streams in a regional system.
The rules have first been activated in the Free Software movement, and this is also relevant because the nature of knowledge and the nature of software are intrinsically linked. In the Free Software movement, the "source" of programs, the system of ideas and algorithms to drive a process intelligently written down in a high-level programming language that humans can understand, is not hidden from the public as is in the case with proprietary software. Rather the source is distributed with the granting of four essential freedoms:
Microsofts Steve Balmer has called this a "viral threat" to proprietary software and he is right. On the premises of these four freedoms embedded in the "General Public License", a body of information has been created that is beginning to outperform commercial information products not only in the software world. The General Public License and its less radical Open Source variants have inspired Creative Commons, a system of licenses allowing the sharing of information of any kind freely with others on the basis of recognized authorship.
Wikipedia has in a few years become the worlds largest encyclopedia, based on free contributions of thousands of authors.
The main challenges, in quality and sustainability of information, are met in new business models that avoid the proprietarisation of knowledge - one could compare these businesses to mills on a river that do not keep and sell the water, but just use its energy as a driver of business. Such businesses unfold in unprecedented ways. The most famous and yet most unrecognized example is Google: it uses and processes a good deal of all available information in the web freely and adds a service.
Even the basic service is free, but Google can become a clearing house of information brokering, targeted advertising and so on. In a world considering every published piece of information private property, a service like Google would be impossible.
Organizing regionally relevant knowledge in Open Source ways is the background in which we see the most efficient functions of Regional Information Coaches. "Build your mill on the floating rivers of knowledge and add value and energy to your local community".
This is in very vague form yet and prone to Discussion
Being empowered to master local development:
education leads to governance and more self-reliance
new role of civil society:
We have to get accustomed to the fact that people who live outside institutions might be part of a large support network; they might constitute an asset for local development not only through their own abilities, but also through the relations they have built up.
the goal of the sustainability negotiation game:
Author and architect Richard Levine has outlined, that at the core of every successful achievement of sustainability in regional development lies an ongoing process of negotiation. Whilst in traditional regional development this negotiation took place as a slow process of response and modification of decisions, the modern arena or regional actors would very much require the help of electronic negotiation technology. The main reasons for this are the speed of development and the complexity of the problems as well as the artificiality and unsustainability of the involved forces.
Such a "sustainability negotiation process" would ideally include simulation tools, so the anticipated results of actions and decisions could be experienced and allow constant re-negotiation. This would help to avoid irreversible mistakes and to find solutions where the pursuance of one interest does not harm other existing interests, and where there is synergetic potential to create win-win- situations. Sometimes the process might end up with the exclusion of certain interests in a particular local case. The groupware for this process does not yet exist.
(Describe the functions of RICs in this context)
(It is very important to show where we end up in RIC and that this increased ability for local self-determination is the very goal)
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