Comment Franz Nahrada: A very comprehensive Interview that appeared in REGNUM magazine on the16th of February 2009 and opened a discussion space that all members of this
network are called to contribute to. The title is overtly opimistic, the decision
has not really been made yet, and it is also not clear how much this network is able to really evolve into a supportive entity. Therefore I call it the "Archangelsk Challenge".
Archangelsk region will help Russia introduce new social technologies
Архангельская область может помочь России внедрять информационные т...
On February 12th, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke in the Kremlin
for broader application of information technologies in Russian life. He
said that progress is not possible without new information technologies,
neither in science nor in management. The primary tasks include
establishing e-government and fostering digital society. An IA REGNUM
correspondent discusses how to do this effectively with Franz Nahrada,
the leader of GLOBAL VILLAGES NETWORK, an international network of
experts and innovators. Franz Nahrada is joined by Gleb Tyurin, Director
of the Institute for Social and Humanistic Initiatives.
>REGNUM: Mr. Nahrada, we are glad to meet you again. Continuation of
our interview was postponed for more than two months. Why was that?
Franz Nahrada: Before our conversation, I wanted to get a reply from the
leadership of Archangelsk region in order to understand how Governor
Michalchuk is treating our proposals and what we can talk about.
>REGNUM: Did you hear from the governor of Archangelsk region?
Franz Nahrada: Yes, the answer has come. It was signed by Vice Governor
Mr. Sergey Molchansky. The letter informed about current work on
sustainable development of rural areas in Archangelsk region. It said
that the Administration of Archangelsk region is interested in
cooperation and is ready to support the undertakings which I wrote
about. In particular it was mentioned: "Let me assure you that we are
interested to develop rural territories and are ready to render support
in arranging this work in Archangelsk region".
>REGNUM: So we can conclude that Archangelsk region is ready to become
an international pilot project of rural development?
Franz Nahrada: As far as I understand that was exactly the meaning. So,
it seems that indeed there is a movement or interest to make Archangelsk
region an international focal point for innovative rural development.
While at the same time I would say that we have got only very
preliminary consent on what it means. We need to go on discussing and
formulating what can be done. I hope the Administration of Archangelsk
region will come forward with its own vision. I think that for the
beginning we need to create a joint understanding what is rural
development, what is it about, what kind of process is that.
REGNUM: Let's talk about that.
Franz Nahrada: Ok. I invited Gleb Tyurin, Director of the Institute for
Social and Humanistic Initiatives in Archangelsk to take part in our
conversation. He created that notable experience of rural development in
Archangelsk region. His books inspired many people in many countries. He
knows what is going on with rural development in Russia and he will
carry out practical work in Russian villages. Together it will be easier
for us to formulate practical approaches towards rural development.
We are talking about rural development, about development of a place.
There is a certain place, a certain territory, a village, settlement or
district. There is a village as a locality and it has to live, it has to
go on developing.
Importance of locality
REGNUM: Is it truly important? Do we need locality to go on living and
Franz Nahrada: It is extremely important. Locality is turning into the
omen or pivot of our time. Localities have to thrive (and local markets
have to develop) in order that regions might thrive. Modern crisis shows
it again with its inexorable logic. If most of the goods which are
consumed in your region are imported, and most of the goods you produce
are taken out, then recession in external markets will doubtless crash
production and consumption in your region. And this decline can be
catastrophic. At the same time, local markets which consume local goods
will become one of the main safety nets and universal economic chaos
will not affect you as it will others.
Gleb Tyurin: That's why a new movement around relocalization has been
growing in America for last years. It is a strategy focused on the local
production of food, energy and goods. Relocalization has the aim to
strengthen local markets, local self-governance and local culture. And
it works. They not only write about it in newspapers or websites.
Hundreds and thousands of small communities, counties put it into
practice. Millions of people are involved in this work. In a number of
countries they advocate that food should be brought from a distance of
not more than one hundred miles.
Franz Nahrada : The same approach can be seen in many countries: Canada,
Great Britain, Chile, Serbia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Kenya. A
movement for local development has appeared in many countries. People
have taken into consideration that they need to make their life more
local. I they want it to be safer and more successful. This does not
mean destruction of global (distant) links. It means that global links
have to acquire absolutely new meaning, a new sense. It means that we
need to build a new big world which is a union and coexistence of a big
number of small communities.
Gleb Tyurin: We can see it also in Russian reality. Today every
responsible politician (governor or mayor) is for enlarging the role of
local production, enlarging consumption of local products. For example,
Archangelsk Governor Michalchuk is standing strongly for that. The
significance of these efforts is growing.
Franz Nahrada: So, locality and local issues have again become political
agenda. One cannot not think about them, it is not possible not to work
with them. But we have to realize that development of local areas (and
rural areas in particular) is not an easy task. It needs a lot of
comprehensive changes, basic changes.
We can't achieve anything if we shall go on supporting the state of
things which existed before. We need to be realists. We can't rejuvenate
the local markets in the way they existed before. We can't maintain the
village in the way it existed before. If everything will remain just the
same as it used to be before, locality will not be able to resist the
huge flood of mass production since there is no systemic balance. Most
of the local production schemes are still archaic, not efficient, not
able to compete even locally. They need to be redesigned, built anew and
on new basis.
Gleb Tyurin: In previous decades, we lived in an industrial society
which was constantly enlarging production, destroying all these small
places, villages, small towns, and moving people to urban areas. Mass
production has become absolutely dominant. It has created mighty and
super-efficient infrastructures of promotion and distribution of goods:
malls and supermarkets in cities, rapid logistics, appealing
presentation. It therefore conquered all local markets, even the
smallest ones. Look at the shelves in any countryside shop in any
country. You will see that they are piled up with imported mass
products. They are usually not local.
Franz Nahrada: Rural areas have become areas of non-compatibility,
poverty. They have lost their own production facilities and markets and
can't even maintain their human resources, as the young generation
normally is leaving. So there seem to be no productive forces.
REGNUM: That's why the main questions are: How can we enlarge the
ability of rural areas to compete? How can we overcome rural poverty?
Gleb Tyurin: Maybe it is better instead to ask, How to make rural areas
rich? How to create a specific modern way of becoming rich? In order to
stop being poor, people in villages need to make new ways of creating
wealth and abundance the rationale of village life.
But what is wealth now? One of those famous modern thinkers, Roberta
Verzola from the Philippines, recently wrote that wealth is based on two
things: the ability of nature to reproduce itself (fertility) and the
infinite ingenuity of human knowledge, which is in fact based on the
sharing of information. We do have Nature. But knowledge (information)
is playing now the absolutely leading, revolutionary role.
Today, in every element of economic wealth, in successful commodities,
knowledge is occupying a very essential part, sometimes the main part.
For example, software is almost pure knowledge, pure information. It is
just digits which are arranged in a certain way and linked by the
capabilities of a computer.
Franz Nahrada: Knowledge has changed the world. Although many say we
live in a knowledge society, we don't estimate it properly in its sheer
dimension. It is snowballing with huge speed. It brings new changes
constantly. Change is the main feature of modernity. Modern development
is constant change based on knowledge growth. Not all information is
bringing development, but that which changes the way of using resources
and brings new possibilities. The most valuable information is
manifested in technological improvements. Modern abundance is based on
technologies and knowledge which allows us to use technologies.
That's why one more important question is: How to bring modern
technologies and possibilities to rural areas? How to open up a rural
economy of knowledge. Let's pay attention to the fact that the Russian
"Program 2020" puts knowledge economy promotion as the main priority and
asks what it means precisely for the village.
Gleb Tyurin: Up until now, the widespread usage of modern technologies
in rural localities was looked at as something totally impossible and
unreal, as there was almost a monopoly of urbanity. But let's not forget
one thing. Industrialization almost destroyed the charming ancient
traditional system of knowledge which allowed rural areas to live up
until the twentieth century. Peasants were part of nature and they knew
a lot about how to handle nature. This tacit knowledge has almost all
disappeared. No new knowledge system for rural localities appeared.
Moreover, the village was excluded from any system of accumulating and
leveraging information and knowledge. It was deprived of intellectual
Franz Nahrada: The world split into cities that were technocratic,
industrial and adaptive, and rural regions that were "lost in the past"
where people could "only twist cow's nails". The city was the only
environment where technologies could be leveraged and could thrive.
Cities dominated and like a vacuum cleaner swallowed, sucked out human
resources, destroying rural places. For decades and decades,
technological developments led only to village destruction.
Gleb Tyurin: But this all started to change. Further technological
development pulled apart the limits of reality, stepped outside of
cities, gave local places new possibilities. It started with the
promotion of new agricultural technologies of mass production
(agroindustrial production as it is called in Russian), which spread in
the south of Russia and in other parts of the country. But mass
production is not possible everywhere. What are we to do in other places?
We are talking about brand new possibilities which can be brought almost
to every one of these distant small settlements spread out far away..
REGNUM: Could you say more about these possibilities?
Franz Nahrada: They are in fact remarkable. There are plenty of them.
They can give new breath to localities. But not many people know about
them. And very few people can imagine how to use these possibilities.
Let's talk about some of them.
First. There are a number of new technologies which allow for local,
human-sized, and at the same time compatible production. The rapid
growth of digital technologies, and their application and combination
with other techniques have caused a brand new situation. They became at
the same time smaller in size, more productive and more accessible. They
don't require huge factories any more. A few people (or one person) can
produce them. The equipment can be moved and installed almost anywhere,
even in a remote village or in the middle of a forest. It makes for
small but efficient production. This equipment allows one to build a new
Gleb Tyurin: For example, there are new types of compact transportable
sawmills, which one can move to the forest and produce good quality
desks right there. Using modern sewing machines, one can make dozens of
complicated operations, including embroideries for t-shirts. We can
provide many such examples in various spheres of life (and we'll return
to that later).
Alas, these opportunities are mostly not taken advantage of at all, and
not because of lack of finances. The matter is lack of understanding,
lack of knowledge, lack of information. Often people don't know about
the opportunity. And even if somebody tells them about it, they do not
know how to take a step forward.
Many people can't even imagine it all. One can hear: "What kind of
technologies can be used in our reality? What you are talking about?"
Often local leaders think the same way.
Franz Nahrada: Besides that, there are new technological and marketing
opportunities for local food production. Certainly, it will not be able
to replace mass production, but local producers can find new niches, can
compete and develop. Local products do not contain all of these
colorings, chemical fertilizers and other artificial ingredients, which
in fact makes food dangerous and makes people in cities mad about it.
Gleb Tyurin: There is growing demand for ecological clean natural
(organic) food. In cities, people are ready to pay for natural organic
local products. This can be turned into an essential asset for locality.
And producers of different sizes can find niches here: from individuals
who produce something just for neighbors, farmers, cooperatives, up to
bigger producers. It can be kind of a movement in the line of ascent,
starting with small homestead private production and then moving to
different forms of cooperation. But it is important to create joint
interest in the place, to build a combination of private interests. It
is necessary to unite efforts in a way that enlarge forces and abilities.
The main task today is not to sell food to cities, but to revive local
markets. Food is often imported to many Russian rural areas. Aside from
food, we can also think about other small scale production. And here we
again need new technologies, including managerial and marketing
technologies. The majority of villagers do not understand how to promote
or advertise goods, how to set prices, how to diminish cost, etc.
REGNUM: But we need to admit that in many of our villages you can find
only elderly people. Who can bring changes and technologies to villages?
Franz Nahrada: Our time brings new possibilities of attracting people to
rural areas. Some of them sound very unusual. We could not even imagine
them until recently. Let's say there is a strata of people in cities who
might become rural inhabitants. For example, there is a "generation
which works at home". These people do not go to work (to an office),
they work at home, and send the results of their work to the customer by
way of the Internet. Among them we can find designers, engineers,
accountants, consultants, staff for call centers, and people working
with computer technologies. This list can be continued. These people
communicate with their customers and get their orders in other cities,
regions, countries, even continents. It is not necessary for them to
live in cities as they "do not work where they live". They can live
anywhere. Rural areas which want to develop can offer these people the
possibility of a comfortable life in a village, without noise, stress,
jams, in an ecological setting. These people can live as rural
inhabitants, yet earn as if they were city dwellers.
Gleb Tyurin: So rural areas could receive a slice of skilled people who
before lived only in cities. They can create economic symbioses with
farmers, buying services and food. These people can broaden local
capabilities and create new rural intellectual human resources. Even a
few new inhabitants who move from the city can open up brand new
But we also need to think how to bring back the young generation from
the villages which moved to the cities. It is possible. But to make it
happen one also needs to bring brand new technologies and build a new
REGNUM: But is it really possible that people will move to live in the
countryside? Is it a story from a fantasy novel?
Franz Nahrada: It is not a fantasy, it is coming true in many countries.
In some places, it is an usual story, and in some others it is just
starting. But it seems to be a growing tendency. Indeed, big cities are
very problematic places to live. Many more people could move to rural
areas, if they became microurban.
Gleb Tyurin: We can find such examples in Russia also. There is the
beginning of new colonization of the countryside and not only around
Petersburg and Moscow. I know a dozen of persons from Moscow who say
that they would like to move to any nice old village, as they are tired
of the city and its crazy ecology. And here is one more modern
development opportunity: development based on cultural heritage and
Our times have developed a desire for authentic local traditions, local
culture. Mass production homogenizes the planet. You can find the same
trading centers, fast food, advertising everywhere. That's why real
local flavor is bringing joy. It means a desire for keeping our
locality, for preserving local peculiarity. Those local areas which keep
the traditional local features have an essential asset for growth.
Traditional landscapes add additional value to an area. They can become
a background for specific landscape development and creating specific
surroundings where people from cities would move. They can form the
basis of one more important branch: rural tourism. This is a huge market
and can also bring development possibilities. Archangelsk region has
good perspectives in this direction. We have a large number of unique
Franz Nahrada: So, there are many different possibilities. They do
exist. But we need to mention that these possibilities will not appear
and will not take place by themselves. Special efforts, special programs
are needed in order to make it all happen. Special people are needed,
which will let it all be brought to reality. Everything starts with people.
REGNUM: I suppose that many our readers will say that it is all is very
doubtful. Many local inhabitants will hardly understand and accept these
kind of ideas.
Franz Nahrada: That's true. And that is the main limitation. One of the
main reasons why villages don't develop is that an absolute majority of
the population doesn't see any possibility. They exist in a mental space
which deprives them of any possibilities. Rural areas will not start to
develop suddenly by themselves. We need people who will initiate changes.
Gleb Tyurin: That's how it is. One of the main features of any rural
society is its lack of ability to change. It is not ready for changes.
It doesn't know how to create changes. As distinct from cities, where
people are used to life changing all the time, rural inhabitants are
used to live the same way year after year, decade after decade,
generation after generation. But today the ability to change is
absolutely crucial for survival.
Franz Nahrada: We need to develop this ability to change and create
positive changes, this ability to be modern. Moreover, only innovative
development will let rural areas stay alive. And we need special skills
which bring innovative development to locality. First of all, we need to
bring what in the Russian program 2020 (Putin's plan) is called the
innovative development of population .
REGNUM: But it's terribly hard. There are doubts if it is possible in
Franz Nahrada: I think that the experience of the Institute of Social
and Humanistic Initiatives created in Archangelsk region provides us
with the absolute evidence that even in the most remote and unfortunate
(almost destroyed) villages innovative behavior can be produced, and can
show very high efficiency and highest return. That's why this experience
is so attractive.
Gleb Tyurin: Development is not delivery of money, as some officials
think. Development is transmission of knowledge, know-how, skills, and
delivery of knowledge which fosters the innovative behavior of citizens
and community. That's what Putin and Medvedev designated as the
strategic priorities of the country. And it is evident that this
requires people who can work with that professionally, which is to say,
professional "developers" or development agents. This requires people
who can help to build development. Innovation, as I already mentioned,
should be brought, adopted, showed, explained. It should be supervised
and supported up to the moment when it becomes sustainable, unless
somebody can innovate directly in daily practice. It should then be
showed and promoted to others. And after that followers will appear.
Franz Nahrada: And today we have to speak about a new profession: local
development agents, who have special skills to come to any locality and
help people unleash innovative projects and build bridges into the
future. This profession is appearing at the same time in different
countries. It still doesn't have a settled name. In Hungary, it is
called mentors of the information society. In Austria, we call these
people regional information coaches. In some places, they are called
guides or trainers, facilitators, animators. But we know that their main
task is to help local inhabitants see new possibilities and make changes
step by step. We speak about Archangelsk region as a pilot area in rural
development as it has real assets for developing this new profession and
providing changes. It is a real asset of your region.
Gleb Tyurin: I think that our region could make its own essential
contribution into this program of innovative development.
REGNUM: Let me thank you for this conversation. It happens to be large
and not predictable. There are many more questions to ask. We did not
touch on them. So let's return to them later.
Franz Nahrada : With pleasure.