Franz Nahrada / Texts In English /
Regnum Interview2







Original in Russian:


Innovative rural development

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Archangelsk region will help Russia to introduce and new technologies to Social sphere

On the 12th of February Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Kremlin spoke for broader instillation of information technologies in the life of Russian society. He said that without new information technologies progress is not possible- neither in science nor in the sphere of management. The primary tasks include also creation of electronic government, introduction of digital technologies into social sphere. The correspondent of IA REGNUM is discussing how to make it effectively with the leader of international network of experts innovators GLOBAL VILLAGES NETWORK Franz Nahrada and also with Director of the Institute for social and humanistic initiatives Gleb Tyurin

REGNUM: Mr. Nahrada, we are glad to meet you again. Continuation of our interview was postponed more that for two months. What was the reason for it?

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, what can we talk about.

REGNUM: Have you got the answer 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 the work on sustainable development of rural areas in Archangelsk region today and it was said that Administration of Archangelsk region is interested in cooperation and is ready to support undertakings which I was writing about. In particular it was mentioned: ď Let me assure you that we are interested to develop rural territories and are ready to render support in arranging this work in Archangelsk regionĒ.

REGNUM: So we can conclude that Archangelsk region is ready to become an international pilot territory of rural development?

Franz Nahrada: As far as I understand it was exactly that meaning. So, it looks like as indeed we move forward to make Archangelsk region international innovative pad of rural development. While at the same time I would say that we have got only very preliminary consent. We need to go on discussing and formulating what can be done. I hope Administration of Archangelsk region will come up with own vision. I think that for the beginning we need to create joint understanding what is rural development, what is it about, what kind of process is that.

REGNUM: So, letís talk aboou 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. So, together it will be easier for us to formulate practical approaches towards rural development.

So, we are talking about rural development, about development of a place. There is a certain place, certain territory Ė village, settlement, district. There is a village as locality and it has to live, it has to go on developing.

REGNUM: Is it really important? Do we need locality to go on living and developing?

Franz Nahrada: It is extremely important. Locality is turning into omen or a pivot of our time. Localities have to live (and local markets have to develop) in order to let regions to live. Modern crisis showed it again with its inexorable logic. If most of most of goods which are consumed in your region are imported, and most of produced goods are taken out, then recession on outdoor markets will doubtless crash production and consumption in your region. And this decline can be catastrophic. At the same time local market which consume local goods, will become one of trhe main safety pillows, and universal economic chaos will not affect you as others.

Gleb Tyurin: Thatís why the new movement called relocalization has been growing in America for last years. It is a strategy to focused on the local production of food, energy and goods/ Relocalization has the aim to strengthen local markets, local self-governance, 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 praxis, millions of people are involved in this work. In a number of states they agitate that food should be taken from the distance not more than one hundred miles.

Franz Nahrada : The same approach can be met in many countries, Canada, Great Britain, Chili, Serbia, Lithuania, Kirgiztan, Thailand, Kenia, in many countries local development has appeared. People has taken into consideration that need to make their life more local I they want it to be safer and more successful. It does no mean destruction of global (distant) links. It means that global links have to get absolutely new meaning, new sense. It means that we need to build 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 Politian (governor or a mayor) is for enlarging the role of local production, enlarge consumption of local products. For example, Archangelsk Governor Michalchuk is standing strongly for that. The significance of these tasks is growing.

Franz Nahrada: So, locality and local issues has got into agenda. One canít 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 comprehensive changes, basic changes.

We canít achieve anything if we shall go on supporting the order which existed before. We need to be realists. We canít keep the local markets in the way they existed before. We canít keep the village in the way it existed before. If everything will remain the same as it used to be before, locality will not be able to resist to the huge billow (barrage) of mass production. Most of local markets is still archaic, not efficient, not able to compete. They should be built anew and on new basis.

Gleb Tyurin: Previous decades we lived in industrial society, which was constantly enlarging production, destroying all these small places, villages, small towns, moving people to urban areas. Mass production has become absolutely dominant. It has created mighty infrastructure of promotion of goods: malls and supermarkets in cities. It also conquered all local markets, even the most small ones. Look at shelves in any countryside shop in any country. Toy will see that it is heaped up with imported mass products. They are usually not local

Franz Nahrada: Rural areas have become the area of non compatibility, poverty. They have lost own markets and canít pretend on own human resources, as young generation normally is leaving. So there are no productive forces.

REGNUM: Поэтому Thatís why the main questions are: how can we enlarge possibilities of rural areas to compete, how can we overcome the rural poverty?

Gleb Tyurin: Maybe it is better to ask, how to make rural areas rich? How to bring the modern ay of becoming rich? In order to stop being poor, people in villages need to make modern ways of creating abundance the part of village life.

But what is wealth now? One of those famous modern thinkers, Roberta Verzola from the Philipines, recently wrote that wealth is based on two things: ability of nature to reproduce itself (fertility) and the infinite nature of ingenuity of human knowledge, which is in fact based on sharing of information. Knowledge (information) is playing absolutely leading, revolutionary role.

Today in every piece of abundance knowledge is occupying very essential part, sometimes - the main part. For example, software is almost pure knowledge, pure information, it is just digits, which are arranges in a certain way and linked with the abilities of computer.

Franz Nahrada: Knowledge has changed the world. We donít estimate it properly. It is growing with the huge speed as snow roll. It brings new changes constantly. Change is the main feature of modernity. Modern development is a constant change, based on knowledge growth. Not every information is bringing development, but the one, that changes the way of using resources and brings new possibilities. The most valuable information is pressed down in technologies. Modern abundance is based on technologies and knowledge, which allows to use technologies.

Thatís why one more important question is: how to bring to rural areas modern technologies and possibilities, how to open up rural economy of knowledge. Letís pay attention to the fact that Russian program 2020 puts knowledge economy promotion as the main priority.

Gleb Tyurin: Up to nowadays modern technologies in rural locality looked as something totally impossible and unreal, as they were almost monopoly of urbanity. Industrialization almost destroyed this charming ancient traditional system of knowledge, which allowed rural areas to live up to XX century. Peasants were part of the nature. It all almost has gone. No new knowledge system for rural localities appeared. More to say, village was excluded from any mechanism of accumulation and exploitation of information and knowledge, deprived of intellectual resources.

Franz Nahrada: The world split into technocratic industrial (and able to change) cities and traditional, archaic, ďlost in the pastĒ rural localities , where people could ďonly twist cows nailsĒ City was the only surrounding where technologies could be allocated and live. Cities were dominating and as a vacuum cleaner it swallowed, sucked out human resources, just destroying rural places. For decades and decades technologies development lead only to village destruction.

Gleb Tyurin: But it all started to change. Further technological development again pull apart the limits of reality, stepped outside cities, giving local places new possibilities. It started with 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 possible not everywhere. What to do in places where it is not available?

We are talking about brand new possibilities which can be brought almost to every of these distant small settlements spread over somewhere there..

REGNUM: Could you say more these possibilities?

Franz Nahrada: They are in fact remarkable, there are plenty of them, they can give new breath to locality. Buy not many people knows about them. And very few people can guess how to use these possibilities. Letís talk about some of them.

First. There is a number of new technologies which allows to build local non-massive, and at the sane time compatible production. Impetuous growth of digital technologies, its implementation and combination with other techniques caused brand new situation: they became at the same time smaller in sizes, more productive and more accessible. They donít need huge factories any more, few people (or one person) can run it. This equipment can be moved and installed almost everywhere (in the remote village or in the middle of the forest). It gives small but efficient production. This equipment allows to build new local economy.

Gleb Tyurin: For example, there are new types of compact transportable sawmills, which one can move to the forest and produce good quality desks just there. Using modern sewing machine, one can make dozens of complicated operations, including embroideries for t-shirts. We can provide huge amount of such examples in different spheres of life (and weíll return to it later).

Alas, these opportunities are mostly not used at all, and not because of lack of finances. The matter is lack of understanding, lack of knowledge, lack of information. Often people donít know about it. And even if somebody tells them about it, they do not know how to make a step forward.

Many people canít even imagine it all. One can hear: ďWhat 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 substitute mass production, but local producers can find new niches, can compete and develop. Local products does not contain all these E, dye-stuff, chemical fertilizers and other artificial ingredients, which makes in fact makes food dangerous and make 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. It can be turned into essential asset for locality. And producers of different sizes cam find niche here: from individuals which produce something just for neighbors, farmers, cooperatives, up to bigger producers. It can be kind of 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 of the place, build as a combination of private interests. It is necessary to unite efforts in a way that in enlarge forces and abilities.

The main task today is not to sell food to cities, but to return local markets. Food is often imported to many Russian rural areas. Except food, we can also think about other small scale production. And here we again need new technologies, including managerial and marketing technologies. Majority of villagers doest not understand how promote or advertise goods, how to setup prices, how to diminish cost, etc.

REGNUM: But we need to admit that in many our villages you can find only elderly people. Who can bring changes and technologies to villages?

Franz Nahrada: Our time brings new possibilities of attraction people to rural areas. Some of them sounds very unusual. We could not even imagine them recently. Letís say there is a strata of people in cities which can become rural inhabitants. For example there is a ďgeneration which work at homeĒ. These people does not go to work (to office), they work at home, and the results of their work send to the customer via Internet. Among them we can find designers, engineers, accountants, consultants, stuff for call centers, people working with computer technologies. This list can be continued. These people are communicate with their customers via means of communication, and get their orders in other cities, regions, countries, even continents. It is not necessary for them to live in cities. As they ďwork not where they liveĒ. They can live at any place. Rural area which want to develop, can offer these people possibility comfort life in village Ė without noise, stress, jams, in ecological. Then these people can live as rural inhabitants, earning as people in cities.

Gleb Tyurin: So rural areas could receive a slice of qualified people, which before lived only in cities. They can create economic symbiosis with farmers, buying services and food. Appearance of these people can невероятным (почти взрывным) broaden abilities of localities and create new rural intellectual human resources. Even few new inhabitants which moved from the city could open up brand new possibilities.

But we also need to think how to return back young generation from villages which moved to cities. It is possible. But to make it happen one also need to bring brand new technologies and build new economy.

REGNUM: But is it really possible that people move to live in countryside? Is it a story from fantasy novel?

Franz Nahrada: It is not a fantasy, it come true in many countries. Somewhere it is usual story, in some others it just starts. But it seems to be a growing tendency. Indeed big cities are very problematic place to live. Much more people could move to rural areas, if they become microurban.

Gleb Tyurin: We can find such examples in Russia also. There is the beginning of new colonization of the countryside and not only round Petersburg and Moscow. I know a dozen of persons from Moscow which say that they would like to move to any nice old village, as they are tired of city and its crazy ecology. And here is one more modern development opportunity: development, based on cultural heritage and recreational potential.

Our time developed demand on authentic local traditions, local culture. Mass production обезличива the planet. You can meet the same trading centers, fastfood, advertising everywhere. Thatís why real подлинность, некая самобытност is bringing joy. It means demand for keeping our locality, preventing local peculiarity. Those local areas, which keep the traditional local features, have essential asset for growth.

Traditional landscape can additional value to the area, it can become a background for specific landscape development and creating specific surrounding where people from cities would move. It can form the basis of one more important branch Ė rural tourism. It is a huge market, it can also bring development possibilities. Archangelsk region has good perspectives in that direction, we have a big number of unique old villages.

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 you it all is very doubtful. Many local inhabitants will hardly understand and accept that kind of ideas.

Franz Nahrada: Thatís true. And that is the main limitation. One of the main reasons, why villages donít develop is that absolute majority of the population donít see any possibilities. They exist in mental space, which deprive them of any possibilities. Rural areas will not start develop suddenly by itself. We need someone who will initiate changes.

Gleb Tyurin: Thatís how it is. One of the main features of any rural society is its disability to change. It is not ready for changes. It doesnít know how to create changes. As distinct from cities, where people were used to live changing all the time, rural inhabitants were used to live the same way year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation. But today ability to change is absolutely crucial for survival. And changes sometimes

Franz Nahrada: We need to rise this ability to change and create positive changes, ability to be modern. More to say, only innovative development can 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 Russian program 2020 (Putin plan) is called innovative development of population .

REGNUM: But itís terribly hard. There are doubts if it is possible in general.

Franz Nahrada: I think that 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. Thatís why this experience is so attractive.

Gleb Tyurin: Development is not a money delivery, as some officials thinks. Development is transmission of knowledge, know-hows, skills, delivery of knowledge which forms innovative behavior of citizens, community. Thatís what Putin and Medvedev designated as the strategic priorities of the country. And it is evident that it requires people who can work with that professionally, such professional ďdevelopersĒ or development agents. It 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 could realize something innovative in daily practice. Then it should be showed and promoted to others. And after that followers will appear.

Franz Nahrada: And today we have to speak about new profession - local development agents, which have special skills to come to any locality and help people untwist innovative projects, build bridges into the future. This profession appears at the dame time in different countries. It still doesnít have the settled name. In Hungary it is called mentors of information society. In Austria we call these people regional information coaches. Somewhere they are called guides or trainers, facilitators, animators. But we know that their main task is help local inhabitants to see new possibilities and obtain changes step by step. We speak about Archangelsk region as a pilot area on 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 the program of innovative development.

REGNUM: Let me thanks for that conversation. It happens to be big and not expectable. But still there are many questions to ask. We did not touch them. So letís return to them later.

Franz Nahrada : With pleasure