GIVE - Organisation, Mission and Method


GIVE (Globally Integrated Village Environment Research Lab) is an interdisciplinary research and development organisation based in Vienna, Austria.

GIVE is focussing on the interplay of spatial and social innovations linked to the effects and potentials of telecommunication, information and automation.

Our guiding hypothesis and research interest is on the assumption that new technologies will support social changes in the direction of decentralisation and "lean and green" human habitation, which we refer to as "Global Villages".

GIVE is still organized as a voluntary non-profit association under Austrian law, the official title being"GIVE Forschungsgesellschaft". Voluntary research is combined with research contracts for special projects and allows us to be flexible and innovative.


GIVE's work is targeted research that wants to accelerate the formation of coherent patterns in economy, law, spatial planning, architecture, technology, ecology and sociology that work together and facilitate a transition to a largely decentralized and empowered society. We are visionary and realistic at the same time. We examine and add one building block after another to a colourful and thriving, realistic image and reality of a "globe of villages".

Our research method is rooted in transdiciplinarity, which implies that we are always part of a multi - stakeholder process that agrees on common goals. Researchers are meant to be part of a bootstrap community, embedded in permanent dialogue about values, goals, trials, errors, successes, implications, decisions. The role of research is to feed unknown possibilities into the process, facilitate action and dialogue and document findings.

Global Villages

GIVE was designed around the perception of the emergence of Global Villages with the aim to help them find the best solutions for their internal and external organisation.

We define Global Villages as human settlements with an extraordinary emphasis on education and global learning to achieve higher degrees of local resilience, self-sufficiency and quality of life.

We therefore see communication technology as a means to enhance the ability of communities around the globe to expand and share their knowledge base for the improvement of whatever they choose as their values and goals in local development.

Power Shift

We are fully aware that our goal implies at the same time the enhancement and the reversal of globalisation, the leading megatrend of the last five hundred centuries.

As Marshall McLuhan has put it, globalisation pushed to its very extremes by powerful centers of production and control will reverse into an unprecedented renaissance of the local. Industry evolves into automation, linear exploitation is challenged by multipoint cooperation.

We anticipate a development away from resource grabbing to knowledge sharing. We want to foster the possible power shift towards local and regional self - determination and help to design it in a way that implies the rediscovery of commoning on a global scale. If knowledge is shared, the best use of material resources for all will follow.


We therefore study and support particular dynamics in seven fields:

  • Global political and societal developments fostering fractal decentralisation as a planetary political priority - allowing for better stewardship of our planet's resources for present and future generations.
  • Local education and research centers to motivate, integrate and support local actors in the improvement of their immediate surroundings - and their connectivity and resources.
  • Cyclical economies and ecologies based on abundant, renewable resources as the base for real autonomy, thriving and sustainability, including new technologies that allow for improvement of local cycles, spanning from energy to matter, preferably based on user led innovation and openness.
  • Global knowledge cooperation, preferably based on P2P schemes, like virtual universities, joint projects, research and development communities.
  • Successful cases of integral community development, internal governance, participation, coherence, external cooperation.
  • Architectural and spatial patterns (the "gestalt") that foster local life, support diversity and wholeness, and also deep health as the ultimate goal of Global Villages
  • Cultural, spiritual and psychological conditions and implications of a multiple - shell - world, spanning from local to global.
Our seven themes in detail:

(1) Global Villegiatura - Trans Market Economies

In a time when fewer and fewer productive industries supply the global markets with the full range of industrial basic goods, we have to understand that it is not feasible any more to make it the general rule of behaviour to export and sell values, lifestyles, commodities and ideologies to survive. We are far too many and too productive to do business as usual and waste our wealth in warfare economies. (We see the historical example of Venice which was a maritime trader nation, but vigourously engaged in land cultivation when it lost its sea power. The term "Villegiatura" was coined for the rediscovery of the hinterland, a cultural revolution into beauty and thriving cultural landscapes, and serves as a reference model for a global change nowadays.

Rather than the further growth of already unliveable cities, we foresee the emergence of more and more inside-looking communities, who - with the help of decentralizing technologies - build their own self-sustaining microcosms. They seek to combine the best and most apposite buildings blocks available in the shared knowledge and experiences of humanity across the continents and ages. This turns into new experience for others. A fractal, holotopic world is emerging within the broad planetary land mass, heralded by the solar revolution, with more and more places that become the passion of people because their potential goes far beyond traditional boundaries. Within the virtual presence of the whole world and their cascading "paying forward" support, each place can overcome many of its limitations by climate, geography and historical factors. Global cultures offer an incredible array of choices for different development models, allowing people to develop collective individualities. It is in the best interest of all to make this a universal and inclusive development pathway. By filling needs of others, we enhance their capacities to contribute.

GIVE is active in developing global politics towards this type of "cooperative - individualistic" community development. We even work with large towns and large institutions to fractalize within and also acknowledge the opportunity for "mothercities" and "hubs" to thrive on the support requirements for the Global Villegiatura. Like the personal computer grew individual capacities, the next stage of the prosumer revolution lies in delivering tools and services to improve community capacities.

(2) Global Village Learning Centers and Maker Spaces

Education is at the center of what we do, but it can be only defined meaningfully in a context of a community goal. On one side we study local education and resource centers with tools and content to join forces globally improving their local scope. On the other side these centers are also centers of community innovation, of meaningful encounters for locals and guests, they are places of self - definition and self - improvement.

We believe more and more technologies will increasingly mirror these values, allow us to turn the designs and schemes that we learned about and developed together in the "learning field" into tangible realities. Therefore it is important not to stay "bookworms", but to know how we do best combine the power of learning and making; how spaces that realize dreams look like; what is their possible scope.

GIVE is therefore studying the many ways to boost the potential of local learning institutions, teach people to become entrepreneurial and cooperative, reclaim the skills that their grandfathers and grandmothers still had - and combine this with the latest in automation and production technologies. We study urban and rural models of different scope and specialisation. We even study historical examples of study and realisation like monasteries and see what might be retrieved and reactualized from these forms of learning spaces.

(3) High Tech Ecologies and Upcycling Economies

The goodbye to warfare economies means an increasing turn to local cycles, which requires interdisciplinary work with those who study the human societies metabolism with nature. The Metabolism of Global Villages is a complex one, requiring hundreds and thousands of processes, requiring new inventions and technologies and the revival of old knowledge.

GIVE is very interested in cradle to cradle schemes, renewable resources and the possibility to create technologies that use non-toxic materials - that even become digested by the metabolism itself. We see natures cycles and nodes as a model for high technology, and we embrace the embedding of natural principles by sophisticated and complex human artefacts.

We distinguish Global Villages from the broader movement of Ecovillages by the simple notion that we might need more, not less technology to enable humans to fully cooperate with nature. GIVE aims at jointly with others creating innovation centers for advanced village technologies to be used appropriated to local cirumstances.

(4) Virtual University of the Villages and Open Source Culture

The networking of learning villages will eventually create wealth and growth superior to what the industrial age has delivered by the sheer multiplication and miniaturisation of productive capacities. In our view, it cannot be built on so-called intellectual property, but by a culture of sharing and joining pieces and bits of disrupted knowledge to integrated and holistic "pattern poems". Therefore our next research goal is to find out about effective knowledge cooperation.

GIVE has been a partner in calling for the first Village Innovation Talk, a virtual event simultaneously connecting six villages in 6 different states of 2 countries. We also initiated the first Vienna Open Source Hardware Summit in May 2013. We advocate shared tasks and division of specialised practise, when it comes to improvements and experiments. Villages can be theme villages and share their findings with others. Thus a virtual university of the villages will emerge, a shared learning platform that connects local learning places and will be their lifeblood.

(5) Community Observatory and Networking

The arrival of a new societal pattern never happens simultaneously; we see "islands of progress" where - mostly as a result of visionary individuals - social life starts to take a different direction. Today, we see the advent of Global Villages by many different types of local developments like Ecovillages, Cohousing, Coworking, Intergenerational Villages, Theme Villages, we see dedicated networks like Transition Towns and others emerging.

GIVE aims to build up a reference system of existing and planned projects, be it local or thematic, or at least have a good understanding of the best references available. We started a global community back in 1997 called the "Global Villages Network" that we want to become increasingly active in connecting good practises, developing strategic initiatives and publically advocating Global Villages ideas. The backbone is thorough research on the state of the Global Villegiatura.

(6) Community Architecture and Optimum Health

Maybe one of the greatest theoretical breakthroughs of our time is Christopher Alexanders "Pattern Language". Patterns are recursive structures that we use in everyday life and which support and enable the vitality of everything we do. Patterns are the obvious or less obvious solutions to problems - which can be researched, identified and taught. Patterns bridge theory and practise, they allow us to include non - experts in shaping our world. Patterns span from architecture to computing, and yet pattern theory is still at the beginnings.

GIVE uses pattern theory and methodology to organize knowledge and guide research. Whilst Alexander was referring to cities, we seek for optimun patterns of smaller forms of settlement. We seek for helpful and balancing patterns in the relationship of man and nature; we seek for empowering patterns in social life. We are convinced that there are universal laws of optimization and yet a large degree of human freedom and inventiveness at the same time. The ultimate purpose of our work on villages is in achieving health and happiness. We think that finding the organic relations between man and environment is the key to both.

(7) Acting locally, thinking globally

Organizing our life more centered about the local as the stage where the global just appears as mutual support (and not as an empire) will require a lot of changes in human behaviour and values; on the other side, it will give people an unprecedented freedom to shape particular value systems that only need to work in particular local settings. Instead of homogenous industrial societies we will find a very colorful diversity of lifestyles and an environment fostering inventiveness and creativity. Yet this cultural diversity is embedded in a system of relations and the tendency to even manage global commons by dedicated communities.

GIVE is seeking to find patterns that foster at the same time global intercultural cooperation and local cultural intensification. We are not only working with scientists, but also with artists and activists who express and enable these complementing requirements. We do assume there are cultural universals, seek them out and include them in our work.

History and achievements

In 1993, we arranged our first congress ("Global Village 93") at the Technical University of Vienna with the basic goal to introduce our ideas and create a forum for architects, planners, technicians, sociologists and politicians to discuss the new possibilities of telecommunication for community development.

This initiative was successful, it was recognized by governmental planning institutions and led to various follow-up activities. The results were published in the book "Wohnen und Arbeiten im Global Village" - "Living and Working in the Global Village" (partly German, partly English, Vienna 1994) ISBN 3854391285

In 1995, GIVE organized a congress together with the municipality of Vienna in the Viennese City Hall, called "Global Village 95". This congress tried to bridge between the views on urban and rural development. The manifold aspects on synergy and cooperation between city and village, the internal and external networking potential of cities as hubs of knowledge, economical and technological power were at the center of attention.

Cities who are supporting the "global villages" will probably be the winners of the 21st century economic struggle by expanding their economic reach in a sustainable way. Vienna at that time was keen to show its willingness to be at the leading edge of this development. The related exhibition "Global Village" was so successful that it was repeated five more times and attracted 35 000 visitors to the city hall in its best year!

In 1998, GIVE was the initiator of a cultural Austrian EU presidency event called "Cultural Heritage in the Global Village" (CULTH). We began to shift our focus from architectural designs to the necessity of providing world-class education and cultural participation in even the remotest villages. That requires a shift in the role of culture institutions.

In 2002, GIVE joined forces with ECOVAST the European Council of Villages and small towns, which led to fruitful cooperation. One of the issues was to reactivate dormant structures within regions (small towns and monasteries) which in former times were active cultural centers. The idea is to have these places support the intellectual renaissance of rural areas by becoming specialised educational hubs for the needs of the villages. We took part in 2 GRUNDTVIG Learning partnerships, ERDE and MIR.

In 2003, at the Blog Talk Conference in Vienna, a meeting between Franz Nahrada and Andrius Kulikauskas led to the fact that GIVE joined forces with the Minciu Sodas Network of independent thinkers and began to use several online tools.

In 2004, GIVE co-sponsored the 3rd international Oekonux Conference in Vienna, actively opening up to the emerging patterns of Open Source and Open Culture as backbones of village cooperation.

In 2005, GIVE joined forces with Frithjof Bergmann and the New Work movement, explicitly engaging in the renaissance of self-providing supported by efficient technologies to revolutionize village economics.

Over the following years, we started our pilot (see below) and also worked with the villages of Wildalpen and Neuberg. In 2007 GIVE's founder was commissioned to give a visionary speech at the European Broadband Conference to motivate people for rural opportunities and goals.

In 2011, we started Village Innovation Talks as a live format to connect village innovators around the globe and again called for a Global Villages Network.

These are some of the "layers" that we combine in our work and we seek for opportunities to apply this combination in local pilot cases all around the world.

First Pilot Case

In 2004, GIVE opened its first village office in Kirchbach/Styria, a village in which at least some actors are intentionally seeking to migrate their village towards a "global village". They revitalised an old courthouse, build in 1854, and made it a center for culture and business. Since this was an old administration building, it has spacious grounds allowing many public activities. The multifunctional education center allready hosted two remarkable Videoconference events, "Monday academy", the ring lecture of the University of Graz, and "Days of Utopia", a visionary event held together with the educational center in St.Arbogast near to lake Constance.

Out of this we developed "Video Bridge",a methodology of linking sustainable communities all over the world with the facilities to start synchronous telecooperation.

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