Regional Information Coaching / RIC-FAQ
We try to start from the observation that regional governments that want to invest in their future should invest in education. Regional Information Coaching is clearly an educational profession. But it is part of a "paradigm shift" in education: more than ever before the learner is at the center of the educational process, is even initiator of this process by his or her questions. Increasingly innovative models in education focus on support systems for self-directed learners and less on prefabricated knowledge that has just to be "mediated" from teacher to student.
Learner-centeredness is the first essential of RIC. The guideline for the educational process is the practical problem that the learner brings. The coach is basically connector to resources and specialised in the nature of global informational resources which can be helpful in the solution of a local problem. 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 inititiation of local exchange, grouping of learners, facilitation of common enterprises, cooperations, cooperatives, 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 its public service nature - that this learning activity at least at the startup level is not requiring fees or honoraria; it should be publicly funded to support the emergence of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activities of all kinds, especially social entrepreneurs. For example, somebody who wants to start a business in renewable energy could use the Regional Information Coaching to look for local ways to produce photovoltaics or for methods of composting biomass. But the notion of being entrepreneur (or "leader" as Andrius says) is much wider than just people working for money; also people increasing social capital of the community or region should be supported by regional information coaches. For example people that want to support youth activities, find ways to make the young people stay and invest their energy locally. So the RIC is an activity which is kept public in order to especially help people to start activities.
Some activities, however, can help 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, which could also 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.
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, like a librarian, but it also could function in the context of a region. While it is favorable that RIC has a physical location and center, the support can also happen over distances within a region bridged by telecommunication or even physical travel. It is not neccesary for a farmer in a remote mountain location to travel physically to the Regional Information Center to receive advices on how to navigate the internet on the search for useful information. Still the location of a center 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.
The fourth essential of RIC is that it builds on a culture of co-operation and free content. RICs are people who mediate the creation of workgroups and learngroups between regions, to empower and facilitate their local learners. The more open content available, the more orderered and structured by thorough investigation, the easier the work of the Regional Information Coach. In fact RICs are also part of a network of their own, while they are facilitating networking.
So this is the general background of RIC. It is condensed in the four essentials that Bernhard has quoted:
Bernhard has referred to similar professions who relate to RIC, but they are also clearly distinct. RIC is not a regional manager: the function of RIC is primarily giving access to information, not to formulate development plans. and so on. The village development or regeneration coach is primarily looking at the local resources, at the potential of people, while the RIC is looking primarily on the external knowledge resouces that might be useful to people. Librarians are dealing with books and giving advice on books, RIC are based on the Internet and on giving advice on strategies to solve information problems, get systematic knowledge, choose the most promising path etc.
So RIC is a clearly distinct profession which does not yet exist, but which could be in huge demand if its potential is recognized.
First because we think that only if we can create a standard, people will consider the profession. It would allow them to move and to have opportunities in more than one place. Second because we want interoperability and networking of local places of learning and access, and RIC can help facilitate that. The more RICs out there, the more efficient they can work.
A very good question! We have to bring various competences together in a faculty: - competences for content - competences for mediation of knowledge and culture - competence for technical tools to organise content - management competences.
When we did our "Global Village 2000" event in the Vienna city hall, we educated temporary Information Coaches by creating couples of content specialists (jobless medical doctors for example) and mediation specialists (people that guide lower-educated youngsters through museums). The result was amazing!! I think RICs have to bring with them some content competences (which limits somehow the personell for the profession), but we can re-assess with them the way content exists on the internet and the way it can be made useful for various categoiries of people.
In the light of the previous question I would say RICs should have academic and scientific background of some kind and the strong urge to make information and knowledge have impact in real life. These might be people who are finishing some higher education cycles in an urban environment and seek ways to find a job in their home region.
How long does it take, where does it take place and when does it end?
Does it end at all?
what is the formal qualification (degree?)
What is the relation theory and practise?
All these questions belong together. We have had a lot of time before ERDE to prepare a RIC course scheme, and I am glad we did not realize it. I think RICs should be able to build up their skills and proficiency in an extremely modular way, and as Andrius suggested it is a good idea to mix traditional courses with portfolio-style project work.
When I think of all that inevitably we end up with institutions who play a role in certification. My only hope is that this is as much decentralised as possible and RIC always keeps the balance between necessary standardisation and the fact that people and cultures are different.
RIC should be provided in form of modular courses at educational institutions and as field practica at places of learning and access (PLA). The courses would be paid for by the individual learners; but maybe there are even regional scholarships available. The more experience accumulated and the better the evaluation, the faster the field practica should become even a source of income for the learner.
Although one esential of RIC is the specialised knowledge aboot a region, which enable RIVs to do mediation and facilitation work, the occasional change of workplace would be a desireable feature for RICs, allowing transfer of experiences and good practices.
(from an email exchange in summe 2004)
Thank you Marcin for your clear and precise questions concerning Regional Information Coaching. Actually thats almost the beginning of an FAQ and I post my thoughts simultaniosly to ERDE and ERIC lists (and also after recent developments to globalvillages). Once again I also point to the mail from 18th of July which you refer to and which is the background for this; for everybodys comfort you will also find it again in the annex.
So please note that we intentionally suppose the conditions here as we find them in Austria - and we are open to modifications of the concept so it can become truly European/Global Regional Information Coaching. I am writing this to my best knowledge to summarize previous discussions - if there are different interpretations please dont hold back.
Marcin Jakubowski <firstname.lastname@example.org> on Montag, 2. August 2004 at 11:58 Uhr +0100 wrote:
>Ok. But tell me more about RIC. I am not clear as far as the physical >implementation. I can totally connect to the concept.
Thank you very much. That is the main thing. RIC attempts to be part of a new and open-source based structure in education. There is a lot of content out of the internet, but we need to make it available within our real and physical domains, turn knowledge into action and dreams into reality.
As stated in the letter below, RIC is a physical implementation in the sense that we prefer a physical location that serves as an incubator of local cooperation. 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.
RIC puts 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, innovation and creativity can enrich and densify space and so rural areas can become more attractive and liveworthy.
We imagine that a sort of "educational alliance" becomes the circle of leadership that drives local development. What were formerly separated schools, adult education centers, museums, archives, libraries etc. is becoming a meshwork of interrelated methods to foster memory and mind and imagination within a region.
As Adalbert Melichar has put it, the logic of local political instititutions is "running conflicts of interests". When the same people, e.g. of a community council. come to the community learning centers, they start to look for ways to possibly change interests and create win-win-situations.
>But how will the pairing of mentor-student occur?
The lead model is very much like a library. But in todays world, a library cannot just simply wait for readers; they have to be outreaching and tell people what they have to offer.
Many communities know that a librarian is a very valuable resource and they pay for librarians. People come and they find a local librarian who is often only a connection point to specialised libraries and experts.
Regional Information Coaching works in a similar way: the local "community communication and media center" or "access&learning center" offers counselling in Information needs. This offer might be more or less actively "marketed", but the important step is done by the student. The librarian is a "coach" who knows about ways to effectively use the Internet.
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.
There are many methods of learning. One might be to form "networks of leadership" of the kind that Andrius is suggesting, learn in virtual communities with likeminded people. Take part in Investigation of global networks, become connected to an "invisible support group" of many people that strengthen the student in the local purpose.
All that should be mediated by the coach, knowing that people with strong virtual support might be able to deliver more in real life. Open Source networks are ideal connectors for these kinds of activities. A good information coach knows about roles and methods of open source networks, and he or she spends a good deal of time in getting information about such networks.
The coach largely is a "matchmaker", not only between people in his or her own spatial arena, but also between global offerings and local needs.
>Will there be a physical facility?
I have expressed that I think its essential. We have examples that there are synergies between different forms of learning, so this lead us to the idea that it is good to have proximity between individualised, media based forms of learning and group based forms of learning.
Of course we still face the difficulty of overcoming being "bookworms". In the Global Village Concept, there is a "house of tools" in proximity to the "house of knowledge". Cross-connections between work on concepts and work on "realisations" is essential. So the consequence is: The village is a living laboratory which constantly demands for improvements, experiments, adjustments. In a way, the village itself is the physical facility of learning.
The role of information coaching is to constantly foster the spirit of curiousity and wish to improve. We have killed succesfully the spirit of learning by locking the learners to schools (no, I am not talking about the great Malechovo Gymnasium where they have opened the school to adults); now we have to reinstall the notion that living is basically learning. Marshall McLuhan has bluntly stated that in the age of automation learning is the most productive human activity, that it leads to constant improvements. I subscribe to this view and want to make it culturally dominant. The premise is that nothing is necessarily imperfect and that we always, in each domain of human life, can find ways to improve.
I add here that in Poland we have seen a school in a village focused around paper-making. RIC should be connected to local themes and activities, and turn knowledge into physical action. That is why the vision is coherent.
>What kind of infrastructure will be necessary?
A very good question. I try to structure the answer:
a) global Infrastructure - repositories of reproduceable content. For a long time this will mean that we need to "exploit" urban institutions which were in the business of connecting knowledge. We will have to reconceptualizte them so we will be more able to get things out of them, but for me rural development is unthinkeable without "mothercities" engaging in both intellectual and industrial spheres. The concept is to reverse the trend and have global village leaqders "use" the cities as repositories of human possibilities.
b) local infrastructure - methods of access and realisation.
again here its much more than the single person on a single computer. We will have single person computer interaction, but we will also have group interaction. One idea is the "sustainability negociation game" by Richard Levine (he is now active in the China project I mentioned in globalvillages) which is very much about testing and simulating activities in relationship to others.
In Kirchbach we were talking about a "flying classroom", a facility which enables a local group to "hook in" important events and converences somewhere else. This is not a Video conference in the traditional sense; its more doing the thing to TV that Skype does to telephone. We are talking about good internet connections here, but in many regions we have good internet connections now, at least if you can afford some basic costs. We canollow up the marginal Internet access problematique on this later, but I think its basically asynchronous connections where the incoming stream is larger than the outgoing one. We can use video projectors to "immerse" and a "cave" is not necessarily an expensive solution.
This is just one of the examples that we need to restructure the Human-Computer interface so it becomes a group-computer interface. Groups are not necessarily dumb if we focus on the diversity of individuals involved, who can add to each others intelligence. I have seen group learning and decisionmaking tools which really surprised me.
The next step is that we connect the "house of tools" to the "house of knowledge"; which means that we co-develop or at least understand active intelligence that can drive automation. I have recently written about hyperCard and its inherent ability to have control structures for everything. If two carpenters are exchanging designs and part descriptions in CAD, they can be transferred to an automated saw that cuts parts. And that is just a primitive paradigm of "realizing" technologies that people can learn to master. The exciting thing is that "knowledge" is becoming more and more the existence of quasi-biological objects with embedded intelligence and I can find nothing wrong in following this strain; OpenSource is vital to avoid them getting "Out Of Control". We need to create repositories of active knowledge, but this also means that all our technology needs to become standardized to cooperate with design languages.
Thats where Edward and the simputer people come in; In a way we need to set order partameters for appropriate Village technologies and have companies and corporations follow them. Much in the way like Amory Lovins has succesfully pushed the HyperCar?. Infrastructure therfore has to be actively conceived and not taken for granted.
We will always have to narrow the question down at the beginning; but if we do not have the right vision of empowering technologies, we will end up in traps. Now the Hungarian Telecottage Association is in the trap of Microsoft; it is becoming trapped in the assumed position to become a marketing channel for insurances, cars and beeptones. Thats the result of false technologigal choices, and it shows that technological choices are moral choices. Everybody jumping on the bandwagon of fast money and commodity streams will "enjoy" the fact that this economy is highly saturated and will not work any more. It gives no perspectives to the villages than to die and to dissolve. I do not believe a village economy producing agricultural goods can ever be competitive; it will only be sustainable if it goes beyond competition to intentional subsistence. Subsistence is not low-tech, it needs high-tech of any kind. We can pay for it in different ways, the most logical is the one that iDorf suggests: make the village a safe and secure home for teleworkers, global people that take part in the information economy. Thats also Waclaws intuition, that we must take part in this global information economy somehow, in a way that is not detremental to our villages. But in parallel to this, a new "information ecology" emerges within our local system of production. It brings them to life again by implementation of automation. And I am not saying that permaculture is bad, nature is by far the best automated system that exists; we can only hope to add a layer, not more.
>Is there a sustainable financing model to ensure continuity?
Again a very good question. In Austria we target local communities, political administrations, but in other countries Infocoaching might well work as part of regional development associations. Andrius has very well described the danger of a "key person eating away the resources that other creative people need". We must make sure that RIC is based on performance indicators that avoid this danger.
RIC is basically a local service to "global village leaders", but not limited to them. It assumes every person in the village can become leader in some way. These are people at high risk and its most likely not appropriate to charge them directly.
Therefore, RIC is a resource that the community must be willing to support, feed, pay for.
We showed to Andrius that there is an interplay between local touristical coaches (SEPP) and the documentation center in our "Model Village" Ybbsitz and I think Heidemarie Thonhofer can give us a very good role model of sustainable financing models, where public subsidies and new business opportunities are in synergy.
>Will there be some sort of assistance, >financial and material, to help students start their operations?
very good question again. We cannot educate people to become jobless. As I said, RIC is primarily meant to be a public activity like a librarian, and not so much a self-employed initiative. So the facilities will have to be provided by the community also.
We want to build a trust system by which people can be hired that are most likely to have positive impact on a community. Andrius is right doubting that formal certificates alone can do the job; we need a case-oriented portfolio system for evaluating the ability to do regional infocoaching.
In a way, this also means that we need "real life setting" to learn and do training on the job. Some Villages will offer educational positions like apprenticeships and people will even pay for this opportunity. I think part of the miserable service quality in Austria is due to the fact that apprentices get paid. So enterprises have to use them as cheap labour instead of teaching them. Maybe you cannot avoid this situation in a working class condition, but it sheds dim light on the state and their educational system.
>Once again the question arises: what is the underlying service or >physical reality that the information coaching will address?
Village economy - Village life - Information needs - Local Business - Local civil society initiatives - People want to do something Global that strengthens their local economy - People seeking education - to build a house, run a farm, a workshop, a garden, a family.....want to improve and doing it better....people looking for better health....improve spiritually, personally and culturally, there are hundreds of reasons for self-learning.
We compete against the reasons that influence mayors who subsidize a CISCO academy with the effect that the qualification throws people out of the region. Thats a pretty idiotic move, isnt it? They spent their resources to build a catapult that makes them loose their best people. They are now in Vienna, Frankfurt, London. We want to do the opposite. It is not really hard to make people understand that.
Or is it? Only some communities have come to the level of apprehension of the economic power of sustainable development. In Austria they are doing extremely well. They are our role models, and we want to strengthen that tendency by creating the adaequate educational circumstance.
>Tell me more, and i >will try to identify a person who could serve as an avatar, especially if >it would be relevant to our education and curriculum development mission.
I think you are building something of a kind. An open Farm that provides people with all the tools to learn and start operations. If you want to do it one hundred percent private, there is difficulty to get you involved directly here. We are looking for a "hook" in the public system, in the educational system, that could provide leverage and support for people like you. If you have such leverage and support people, they are the right ones to send to malechowo.
All the best
on 18th of July Franz Nahrada wrote Dear ERDE partners, dear Globalvilagers and E-Rics,
yesterday, before Andrius Kulikauskas departed from Austria to Germany, we had quite an impressive visit to the Eisenstrasse Region in the foothills of the alps and quite enlightening talks about Regional Infocoaching which I would like to share with you all.
This is a region where we probably find the best examples of rural and regional development in Austria:
- a small city which has managed to stay vital and wealthy by shifting to new forms of knowledge intensive economy
- a village in the region around this small city which has reinvented itself as a "theme village" and is integrating tourism into its own purpose rather than simply submitting to it.
I will write more about these things later (sequel); it also has to do with our Grundtvig 1 proposal which we have to sketch in broad lines until August 15th.
Waidhofen/Ybbs (the city) and Ybbsitz (the village) may well, according to Eisenstrasse Documentation project leader Heidemarie Tonhofer, be a practical implementation site for RIC and similar ideas: they have developed a lot of projects that we can learn from even one very close to RIC; and even though we had them on the program of the St.Pölten ERDE workshop in 2003, the local experience that we had yesterday was very important and showed us where we can really learn. So we also invited them to Grundtvig 1and I will try to include at least once somebody from Eisenstraße in the ERDE travel team of GIVE. (Poland, England, Slowenia or Lithuania)
Grundtvig 1 was already the main point of discussion a few hours before, when Monika, Andrius, and I started to take off from Karolinenhof yesterday morning to this "country tour". Monika had taken along the younger of her two daughters and she had arranged a meeting in the village of Ybbsitz that I described above. Actually, Monika was born and raised in that village and we also had opportunity to get to know her parents there.
So sitting in the car, we decided to discuss what Regional Information Coaching was all about and if this was the right content for our common work in Grundtvig 1.
Andrius had strong objections and he had voiced them several times within the ERDE group, so it was time to sort that out. Basically also because it seems Waclaw Idziak from Poland had voiced similar objections, while the rest of the team (CityandBits?, Coburg, David, Stanko) has not yet even formulated their position towards Regional Information Coaching (Thank you Karin for your encouraging words, though).
I tried my best to present my heartfelt conviction- that Regional Information Coaching is real and valid - to Andrius; I also felt that there was a lot of information that Andrius did not have before about what is the background of that proposal. So I told him that RIC is not just a pure brainchild, but the logical consequence of a development within the (Lower) Austrian Library system. A certain kind of librarians - especially in the small community libraries - which sit there and wait for people to come for books, gets increasingly irrelevant. So some of the other librarians changed the mindset and became ore mactively "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 was that they opened up the library to become a meeting place, a Café, a discussion and encounter place - another way was to provide internet access. The books become secondary, but not unimportant. The library is the institution that cares for the development of the individual person, much more than schools that treat everybody as equal. So the librarians that implemented this change towards the library being an active agency to support local initiative, to be precise even leadership, self-learning and entrepreneurial skills - became a creative minority, increasingly separated from the old image of the librarian. We found that this creative minority has a strong tendency to rediefine their own profession, and RIC was basically an attempt to say: Hey, what you are doing here is part of a new movement, that not only encompasses librarians, but also telehouses, village renewal agencies, the regional offices of Monikas Bildungswerk etc.
These are people that support local initiative by providing education and facilitation. Ideally, they are a place that facilitates the meetings of many local groups and cross-connect them by simply facilitating flows of unbiased information between various associations. The Gyerhaz of Bezenye and many of the Hungarian Telecottages were giving a good role model for that, being the central hub and the seat of many associations. I often discussed the proximity of Library and Pub in the past, but Tilda and Kati in Bezenye have made it happen.
So here Andrius came in hacking with critical questions:
- Could it be that such an institution (or person) also blocks individual and community development by "filtering" ideas from an old mindset?
- Is such an institution inherently not tending to abuse and over-eat resources that otherwise could support the work of more people?
We tried to convince Andrius that this was not as such. The Hungarian example of where we were (Bezenye) and the Austrian example of where we were going (Ybbsitz) would show that Regional Information Coaches serve a broad range of individuals and associations with facilitating them in an information-rich (and comfortable) physical environment, allowing them to access and present knowledge that they feel is relevant. The "central node" would be invaluable for effective discovery and faciliatation of all local resources. Government spendig would not be ineffective, but have a lot of multiplying effects.
Andrius came up with another proposal. I try now to go to the reverse side of the chessboard and show his position... he asked:
- what if we supported the individual learners with an infrastructure than just the central nodes?
- what if we created a "professional" mindset of "global village leaders", people that are the heads or souls of local associations and initiatives?
- Instead of one person being the nodal point of the network, we should distribute networking skills to as many people in the village as possible, teaching people also how to make a living and sustain themselves. They still would, with the help of Grundtvig 1, have an opportunity to transfer this qualification and bring it to another workplace or living place. The transfer would very likely work on the base of a portfolio system that says "whom have you helped"?
Instead of trying to deepen the hacking points and try to find or invent weak sides of the mutual concepts, we came to the conclusion, that the best idea for a Grundtvig 2 proposal would most likely be to do both. Instead of having one role, we would most likely be prapared to support a diversity of roles with our proposal.
We had this diversity of roles allready in a proposal from 2003 when we met for the first workshop in Vienna. But it seems that the "Regional Innovation Coach" and the "Regional Media Coach" were not so high on the priority list of any members that they would put the needed work into it. Maybe it was just a way to politely reject the assumption that RIC would be really high on anybodys priority list.
I think we could show to Andrius why RIC is important on our prority list:
- there is proven examples, that local governments in Austria and Hungary can work together well with local innovators and the civil society. In Ybbsitz for example, the initiative to form an association of local governments "Kulturpark und Dokumentationszentrum Eisenstrasse" was initiated by private persons who managed to get 26 local governments in a collective body as members. There is a real heartfelt feeling among the leaders of this organisation that they are an NGO. (sonds pretty paradox). So we could most likely make the assumption that a village, small town or region might want to support information coaching like they support the building of roads, elementary schools and so on. Information coaches would be like documentation persons for the overall civil society potential, and they would most likely be also librarians, telecottage leaders, tourism managers or something else. It is not a stand-alone profession, which is very often the case in villages.
- there is a necessity to find a common paradigm now because so many like-minded institutions are doing the shift now towards creative combinations between regional development and education. For example, the telehouse in St. Georgen wants to become a "elementary school for entrepreneurs", taking the idea of the "founders business hub" down to the village level. If we could encourage all those institutions to find a common paradigm, this could facilityte division of labour between many RICs and much better service.
But I see also why Andrius puts Global Village Leaders high on his priority list:
- Creativity often develops outside institutions. We have tons of programs to support teachers and other people inside institutions, but almost nothing for independent thinkers outside institutions. Looking backwards, we almost regularly find that social progress, scientific findings etc. were advanced by such individuals not willing to comply, who really help most making this world a better place. Andrius has devoted part of his life therefore to support independent thinkers, because its the best way to find a global structure for remaking the world. There is an internal connection between "marginal" places and "marginalized" culturally creatives, so having them supported to manifest their potential is almost equal to supporting the villages.
- The overall effect would be bigger. If people were tought to make a living in a way that is organic and real, the base for their activities would be much broader. Instead of eating up government money for one job, people would be encouraged to combine their leadership with ways that are spurring economic power.
We also came to the conclusion that in poorer countries the corruptive effect of diversity of such a "state funded" well-off person and the rest of "havenots" would be most detremental to the social fabric. So a more equitable and just way would have to be found if our common purpose was to succeed.
So to cut the long story short, our conclusion was also that we would work out both ideas in the Grundtvig 1 proposal. It also means that there are new options in widening our scope of partners and very promising options of co-operation between both approaches. Instead of competing with each other they would support each other.
With this salomonic solution in sight, I close this mail before it becomes a novel. Rather I'd have it a sequel. And I am curious for your reaction. I want to narrow this down to the e_ric group and I would like all of you who are interested in the subject to subscribe it.
Please, this group is not really ready yet memberwhise!
best to you all