A Village University Primer
|by Franz Nahrada
1. The Virtual University of the Villages (abbreviated VUV) uses digital broadband technologies to create a new, flat educational infrastructure complementing traditional educational institutions. It is focused on informing and inspiring people in rural areas about local and regional opportunities for action, sourced in the common willingness to share knowledge between villages, communities,municipalities, regions.
2. This endavour could be characterized as a self help organisation (NGO, COOP, network) of municipalities and collaborating local initiatives, who have understood that education is the one most critical factor for the future of rural areas when it comes to the problems as well as when it comes to solutions.
3. The problematique does not confine itself to the mass exodus of young people towards the cities, but also includes an atmosphere of hopelessness, stagnation, mutual blockage and forced belief in traditional authorities among those who are forced or willing to stay.
4. The solution is grounded on the intentional and reciprocal sharing of practically proven knowledge between participating rural communities. But it also includes the intentional linking to other providers of knowledge and training. The goal is providing higher education and knowledge closely related to the fields of activities in the region. Thus VUV is also a chanel for vocational training, distance teaching universities etc.
5. Rural areas who do not have sustainability, resilience and circular economy at the very heart of all their endeavours will pays for it with their own demise.
6. Education provided by VUV must be to a very high degree a community building process; on one side it must foster encounter, agreement and practical implementation, on the other it must foster highly individualized profiles that complement each other in the provision of goods and services.
7. All of this is rooted in the specific nature of rural areas which leads to two main characteristics:
9. A symbolic picture of a local instance of VUV would look like this: a building with three floors. This does not describe the physical shape, but the functionalities and the dependencies.
10. In practical terms, the allocation of learning spaces will depend on particular local conditions - people in local communities will know best about their venues. Be it the school, becoming a grown-up school, be it a community centre, an inn, a fire brigade house or elsewhere: there is always a possibility.
For the first time, Broadband is available in more and more rural areas. With the advent of new generations of interconnected devices (5G), we will see a development that definitely will go beyond the traditional Phone - TV - Internet triade. For us, the most important aspect is real time, synchronous group communication in high quality. But the positive potential of technology does not end there. We hope to see more telecooperation than ever in the field of development and design, fostered by a generous Open Source culture. Village University is the first step to connected Virtual Maker Spaces, it will lead to a lot of productive investments allowing people to apply shared digital creativity.
Note: There is a special (older) text on Digital Creativity that explains the manifold potentials beyond "commodified information"
12. Der Austausch im "Erdgeschoß" setzt voraus, dass Themen und Schwerpunkte im Vorfeld geklärt werden. Es wird eine zentrale personelle und technische Infrastruktur brauchen, die mit der DorfUni mitwachsen kann. Aber es wird auch den Austausch der Bildungsverantwortlichen vor Ort untereinander bedürfen, damit ein Thema wirklich so aufbereitet werden kann, dass es authentisch, informativ und inspirativ für andere Orte wirken kann.
Laying the groundwork and foundation for the VUV by intercommunal agreement means that themes and focus must be subject to a common process of theme selection and clarification BEFORE the VUV can actually start. Also, we strongly recommend a kind of hub structure that cares for the communication before, during and after the process, provides technological assistance and help and grows with the endavour. It is crucial to present each and every subject in an authentic, informative and insprirational way.
a first glimpse from the forerunner projects:
a) Kirchbach Culture and Business center with Global Classroom (2004 - 2011)
b) Village Innovation Talk - December 2011
c) Grundtvig Workshop 2011