Global Villages Network
Global Villages Network is an initiative of the GIVE research association in Vienna.

The idea of the Global Villages Network is to bring together different people - architects, community activists, communication designers, administrators and politicians, researchers and experts in many fields - to promote the development of a new type of liveable habitat.

It is based on the belief that on one side the village is the most human and sustainable form of life, that it can help solve many societal problems otherwise neglected in an immediate, small, human scale.

It is also based on the belief that we need to reinvent the village and create global support systems to enable actors in villages to manage the challenges related to new opportunities provided by technology and our evolution in knowledge.

The Global Villages Network was formally founded at the 1997 Third International Global Village Symposium in Vienna, but neglected and dormant for a long time. Look at the founding declaration:

It was never totally abandoned and the personal relations grew with new events, and when Gleb Tyurin from Archangelsk asked to build up a supporting entity for a possible project in Russia, efforts were started to formally recreate it and fill it with life. For the moment we are using a Social Network on NING as a tool to bring people together.

Since 2012, we have started physical meetings. The next one will be in Vienna in May 2011.

Notes 2011 by Franz Nahrada

Global Villages is a network of people that think something called Global Villages is desireable and possible and they want to work for it.

Global Villages stems from the idea of a positive exchange of energy between the city and the village, the idea of a dyadic world where each side profits enormously from the counterpart. The core idea is promoting a new economic logic of extending or creating kinds of "household economies" to whole villages - and have those empowered villages cooperate globally.

The purpose of this global cooperation is primarily the improvement of a local cooperative lifebase.

The cities (=business worlds) role is to become support centers by providing tools and technologies of many kinds. Thus they thrive, although (or because) people have now the real option to emigrate from the cities.

Other than the current unilateral race for economic success on the world market that increasingly destroys the beauty and success of the human endavour as a whole, its a bilateral system of checks and balances. Its a choice, a real choice: between speed and slowness. between big and small. between aggressive and symbiotic. Slowly it will also mitigate the cities dominant role.

But overall, its one logical system of synergy that could work and transform the existing one. No revolution needed, just an effort of a foreseeing minority plus a clever deal with the powers to be to create extensions and adaptions to what we have now.

And we can start building these extensions today. We have tools and technology to make village life equivalent to cities, despite their big conceptual differences. Very little effort goes to the conceptualisation of this new cooperative village. We want to change that.

The change starts with the perception of possibilities, with education. Connecting villages to each other means establishing a new educational backbone. Everything starts by the perception of the potential which comes out of knowledge and its implantation in design. This is of course targeted knowledge, the knowledge to combine and weave our abilities into a beautiful local cycle of support, fueled by the worlds best answers to all the questions we have.

We have all the *tools* to make this happen, in particular deep ecological insight, flexible automation, new materials and incredible communication technology that allows for the sharing of any new discovery out of research and experimentation, thus making the villages a living global university of life.

We have all the *need* to make it happen, a global crisis of resources and procedures, a common feeling of an imminent collapse of the capital/power system that is simply deepened by procrastination and denial, by illusions, allegations and agressions, by spectacle and sensation, maybe also by intentional strategies of power elites, we simply dont know.

And we have the *scale* to make it happen: the village scale, the neighborhood scale, the community scale. We feel that a massive convergence of knowledge can allow us to transform microcosms of life into unprecedented completeness, wholeness, richness.

My intention is to build a movement.

A movement in the making

Yet I cant help but starting this report with mixed feelings; not only my personal situation, but also the situation of many friends - who are ready and willing to work towards a real solution along the principles outlined above - is far away from a state where we can reallize our dreams and show the potential of our ideas - even in a situation where path-dependence of mainstream economy, technology and habitat leads to more and more painful experiences. Neither do we see much success on the village scale compared to the possibilities we sense, anywhere in the world.

On the positive side, although still far from the mainstream, there has been a lot of convergence and coming together in this year: a new sense of belonging together resulted in the formation of broader movements, like the Commons movement and the Transition movement. They all share the same basic rationale that is also the lifeblood of the GlobalVillages idea: that we need to foster economic localisation and the better use of resources, reflecting on the multilateral, participative way of using and circulating and replenishing resources in the local arena - and building on cooperation rather than competition.

And then there are other movements that focus on the overcoming of the old economic structures: the New Work movement, the Zeitgeist movement, the ecovillage movement and so on.

But what about "Global Villages" in particular - as that very necessary "movement within the movements"? What about the fervent zeal to make the local environment aka villages more self-reliant, bright, intelligent, liveable by special emphasis on themes, networks, communication centres, experimentation, innovation, design? Going beyond all that existed and create really self-feeding, organic habitat? Showing that we can have the full life in an incredibly small place, making the planet a million times bigger just by that perspective? What about the potential to become a global brotherhood/sisterhood of true citizens of the world, simply seing a potential ultra - productive localisation as the ultimate global agenda - with new codes of global cooperation that do away with obsolete forms of "intellectual property" and therefore unfold an unforeseen productivity for all?

"We" - and that we *does* exist somehow - are convinced very much that this - and mostly this - is the true, peaceful and successful way to "outcooperate" the currently dominating mode of production.

But: can "we" find an "entry door to reality" that gives us the leverage to create strong centers and start a real movement? Will we finally find ourselves together via practical goals and a shared agenda, and when will that finally be?

There are some tiny sign of success, like the fact that Marcin Jakubowskis "Gobal Village Construction Set" has just made it to the top of MAKE magazines green products contest ( and there is some feeling in the air about the exciting interplay between global communication and increasing local abilities.

I was surprised how at the recent commons conference in Berlin, a spontaneous session about Global Villages attracted many visitors. Academic works are written about the idea. The term 'Global Village' has begun to shift its meaning (maybe also due to this continous work). and so on.

But nowhere, neither in media nor in politics, is this option yet visible nor taken really serious. People like Steward Brand can still call for the abolition of the village in the name of progress and be celebrated by TED; the mainstream still assumes a progressive 75%+ urbanisation in the next decades, while industrial land grabbing aggravates the situation in a deadly speed and leads to an ultimate enclosure of planetary dimension. A self fulfilling prophecy of enormous destructive dynamics is the challenge to be met; and the civil societies of the world have not even grasped what their cooperative power could create, if there was really a grassroots globalisation of the right kind going on, one that creates a cycle of empowerment around centers of self-reliance.

Notes 2010

After and through the workshop with Clear Village, it has become even more obvious to me that the GlobalVillagesNetwork makes a lot of sense. If you want to boil its meaning down to one sentence, and you have to explain it to somebody in less than 20 words, you could use the phrase:

"These are the people that seriously are going to debunk the 2050 myth".

You all know that in the official predictions 2050 is the year where not only half, but 75 % of the worlds population are predicted to live in cities.

This prediction sounds to me like if some observers would say in 2050 a comet will hit earth. It seems like inevitable fate that we simply have to adapt to. Whilst in terms of our manifold social crisis/es at least there is pretension of action, here there is a widespread acceptance of this strange fact that 75% of the global population would cluster together in 2% of the planets surface! Official UN position, scientific consensus, dot!

Why does almost no one dare to say that this is in itself another horrible prediction and forecast ruining the most essentials achievements of humanity? That this is a deep crisis and loss of landscape and humane environment? Why does no one point out that we have to introduce a set of measures of very complex dimensions to prevent this destruction of grown cultured landscape including existing and future man - nature relations, but this is by all means possible, considering our achievements in science, technology, culture and creativity?

This is basically what the Global Villages Network should stand for. At least it is created to network NOW all these brilliant people that know we cannot change the future by mere politics, but we have to combine politics with design. This design is complex, it has many dimensions. It is physical design of spaces, it is design of communication possibilities, of applications, of technologies, even and by far not least, it is social design. And the most important thing is: all these partial designs play into each other, they build on each other. Design is not possible without experiment, without local action. So we are not a networks of mere academics, we are scientist-artists.

Thats why we are here, thats why we seek to cluster. We have an important cause together, and its far beyond simply "preserving villages and rural areas". In fact you cannot preserve them without deeply change them, make them "competitive" (not what *they* think that means!) in terms of attraction and liveability with urban areas and their amenities. We want villages for everyone, not just for the diehards!

So the idea of this community is to create subdivisions for design and policy and arts and whatsoever - but be united in this important goal, being able to speak with one voice and no less than contribute the best it can to the ongoing efforts to change the path of civilisation. It is like a game with an almost impossible challenge - but with many many potential co-players.

We have to learn to play together and see that we have a lot of strength on our side if we have the right point at the right time made, by people that focus on them - but need to be in touch and recognize each other. I want this to be a network of excellence where people challenge each other on their fields of excellence - and I hope we will get there despite all the technical troubles (and personal time scarcity) that we are facing right now.

Notes 2009

GlobalVillages is an expression that some people "borrowed" (with expressed consent from Eric and Corinne McLuhan in 1998) from a very popular concept by MarshallMcLuhan.

We changed the notion, though. The McLuhans said this was fine because it was part of Marshalls Intention to show and play with this dialectic from virtual to real.

For us, "Global Villages" are real settlements, physical neighbourhoods, that meet the challenge and are based on the possibilities of todays global communication tools. Think of it as a village that suddenly, without growing physically, can meet the intellectual and cultural needs of urban people, because it has many functions which are "empowered" by networks. Be it education, work, healthcare,production, suddenly we do not have to leave the village to get a lot of things done. We can learn, work, play, socialise, communicate, improve, produce better in an interplay between decentralized living and global thinking and virtual meeting facilited by media.

Thus we can focus on improving physical quaity of the village itself and "use cyberspace to create sustainable living space", as was the motto of the Global Village Symposium in Vienna 1993, 1995 and 1997. We think that IT can be a catalyzer of ecologically sustainable lifestyles - and that together with this, IT could provide elements of empowerment, autonomy, improvement of quality of life, enhancing community and cooperation (based on Open Source).

The subject of GlobalVillages therefore is a specific form in which we will organize life and work tomorrow, empowered by global communication, new technologies and shared knowledge, centered around values as:

  • The natural rather than the artificial: the connection between humans and landscape, the cultivation and care of a ground that embodies human and cultural values as much as it preserves the integrity of vital biosystems through the stewardship of man. ("cultured landscape")
  • Informal rather than formal: Conviviality within a smaller community which we nowadays can choose and leave freely. Independent thinking might be a core value. "Big systems demand order, they have to rely on the thourough execution of a lot of intertwined rules. The inspired, the ones who have fantasy and creativity and talents tend to break these rules, that is simply part of their nature" (Frithjof Bergmann)
  • Cooperation rather than competition: a global cooperative economy and culture connecting those communities ("open source economy") We think that nowadays smaller communities benefit enormously from empowering and enabling global networks. ("empowered village"). We think that it is mainly this power of global associations of villages (aka association of regions) which can and will reverse the current trend towards the city and introduce this new synthesis between urban and rural.
here we can draw conclusions:

  • Global Villages are small in size and add "urban effect" by maintaining a "piazza" or "center" with lots of infrastructure and services for remote cooperation with other places. The most important element of this center is educational.
  • Global Villages are not primarily directed towards farming and growing, although this might be an important part. The life in Global Villages and their culture is centered on exchange of knowledge and improvements within the local habitat. Yet their emphasis on embeddedness with nature is bigger than, lets say, in a small city.
  • Global Villages have a "theme" in particular. They know they are not complete, they must work together, either with neighbouring villages or other places, and they take pride in the particular strength they can give to others. Their culture is built on openness.
In the long run, GlobalVillages are a pattern that claims to be a planetary solution. This network is a meeting place for those who want to pursue this solution together.

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