public / Kronach Meeting2 / Summaries Of Austrian Participants

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Table of contents of this page
Fritz Endl, activist, Triesterviertel Initiative   
Was the encounter with MIR useful and prolific?   
What are impacts on personal, organizational and local levels?   
Uwe Christian Plachetka, researcher   
Was the encounter with MIR useful and prolific?   
What are impacts on personal, organizational and local levels?   
Elaine Christiansen, coach and mediator   
What have I learned and how has this been and will be interwoven into my professional approach? The example of An Cosan   
SabineGruber , external expert   

Fritz Endl, activist, Triesterviertel Initiative    

I took active Part in the MIR Austria Visit in 2007, namely on the Vienna part. The Meeting in Vienna was focussed on local development in disadvantaged area and the new forms of adult education emerging from local development needs. I am member of GIVE and with this resource we maintain an online community in this part of town "Triesterviertel" which one could call "dense outskirt". The problem is that peoples sense for the place and community is something that needs to be recreated from the bottom up.

Was the encounter with MIR useful and prolific?    

Yes, the event was for me so prolific, especially because the first time I actually felt a sense of a central objective of the "Dorfwiki" and GIVE received, namely a "global network of villages" being built.

What are impacts on personal, organizational and local levels?    

I have been materially and emotionally encouraged that I have the platform "MACH MIT! im Triesterviertel "and the webforum http://www.triesterviertel.at as a "Viennese Village Wiki". The perception of the difference of this civil society initiative to similar processes and facilities of the City of Vienna, like the "Bassena am Schöpfwerk" (that was also present at the time), cwas sharpening - a paradox local effect of this global visit. Encouraged, I also felt by the positive reactions to the reported target for me especially on the group of children and young people to concentrate. If we really engage in adult education for local development, we must engage in intergenerational education. That was an imortant result of the project.

Uwe Christian Plachetka, researcher    

In the context of my research work to find the counterpart of a “transmission belt” between (a) education and (b) rural development, it was in 2007 when I first visited Kirchbach / Styria as a show-case for a “Global Integrated Village Environment” as defined by Franz Nahrada *) .

Was the encounter with MIR useful and prolific?    

  • This visit gave way to a forthcoming scientific analysis of the social conditions of a really existing “Global Village” by a member of the other project ORA (Oil Reduced Agriculture) to check the lessions from the first visit. Now there is a scientific publication on Global Villages available at the Peruvian journal for agricultural anthropology “Tikpa pachapaq” defining the “transmission belt” between (i) education and (ii) rural development .
  • My personal experience in the visit with An Cosán, Ireland was of some importance in the search of this “transmission belt”, as the ladies there are really knowing their stuff. Let me explain: An Cosán was to help socio-geographically displaced people’s making their mind up as they used to be professionally "on the dole". Some people reported that from the traditionally “easy going” Dublin inner city districts characterized by a cooperative folk culture especially inside the pubs they were displaced to an outskirt district with hardly any social infrastructure and public transportation systems.
  • Therefore the “culture of poverty” suffered substantial erosion ending up in a slum with fragile social structures if any. Drug abuse, violence etc.; the complete program of a slum.
The An Cosán ladies started a program of empowering women as they considered them, if I may say that, as a transmission belt for developing issues - but now they are also focussing on educating men. The women’s curriculum starts with “conscienzicazión” in the sense of Paulo Freyre (that means mind hatching) and ends with the European computer driving licence. With men the curriculum is the other way round. They want to see the results first and the "psychotherapy" afterwards, once they have improved their professional skills they are willing to get trained by those declared feminists, to develop soft social skills and the art of networking. For me this is a tangible way of gender mainstreaming in development projects with measurable results and a very important message.

What are impacts on personal, organizational and local levels?    

  • My work is about the relation of knowledge organisation, culture and impacts like food security, and this work aims to recreate a framework and resource for local development fostered by available cultural legacies. For example, Peru has invested in 1500000 XO-Laptops as the infrastructure for a sustainable improvement of rural education. This will have enormous impact since it constitutes a resource for local development unprecedented in history (although I am working on parallels in history).
This was a hot issue in Ireland as well as Peru harbors the genetic diversity of potatoes, desperately needed by Ireland: The Irish potato famine is now explained by Ireland’s lack of access to the potato varieties in their respective center of original crop evolution. So they value the cooperation with an ICPC, because they know the costs of refusing this cooperation. This crop diversity is a living system, that means, if the farmers migrate away, the traditional crops will get extinct and the genetic reserves will shrink. Ex-situ conservation systems won’t help as the conserved crops are adapted to the environmental conditions at the moment of their conservation, but global warming and the combined forces of climate and therefore ecological change will turn the conserved germplasms to a kind of useless “Jurassic Park”.
  • An Cosán has probably found the the way of finding the transmission belt between education and rural development, unfortunately the traditional Celtic legacy and “cultural memory” is a weak asset around “the pale” i.e. the region around Dublin due to long-lasting English presence. This traditional cultural legacy is also endangered by the EU’s ban on smoking which is considered as an attack on the places, Irish culture is usually cared for: the pubs. Maybe another Irish rejection to European treaties will have to do nothing with the Commission’s proposals, but with the defension of indigenous rights as the Irish as Celts are an European indigenous people. Outside Europe it is now a violation of human rights to rituals of indigenous people vital for developing their identity (legal sources: ILO 107, 169, Maastricht treaty Art. 14 etc.). The Irish should be respected as one of the last indigenous peoples in Europe. Getting to know their ways better might help us rediscover our own sources of successful local development.
Elaine Christiansen, coach and mediator    

As adult educator with focus on vocational education, skills and social competencies, in retrospect, the learning partnership has yielded both inspiration to improve the quality and to better define the objectives of my work. The experience of being confronted with the knowledgeable queries of the partners has resulted in observing and analysing my own activity from other standpoints and within other perceptions than my own.

What have I learned and how has this been and will be interwoven into my professional approach? The example of An Cosan    

Being the learner, inquirer and observer of the partners’ work has helped implementing new approaches and even methods on several levels of my and my colleagues’ work. I hope that this interaction of information giving, information asking, critical queries and the self reflection resulting of these has been as fruitful to the partners as to us. After some consideration I have decided to report on one of the concrete impacts of the project alongside one theme. Please understand that this does not represent the quantity of applied learning results, but that that will accompany my work context most substantially also in the future.

Affirmative adult educational approach

As a teacher, the pedagogic slogans “refer to the students’ standpoint”; “pick them up from where they are”; “go from the familiar to the unfamiliar” etc. have always been clear guidelines to me when it comes to constituting a relation between the learner and the subject matter. These slogans, however, now carry a wider dimension: A socio-political one. As a basically political person, I have often favoured the “grand ideas” for society and the strictly “small” professional ideas at work. Also, sometimes the full reality and its deficiencies are much better visible if you have a very concrete example of a very different possibility that you could compare the present situation with.

The controversy between the functionality that our society requires from any adult person and the political idea that we all are entitled to high standards regarding education, economic security and access to culture and health care was challenged in the learning project.

In Ancosan it became clear to me that the pedagogic slogans had been extended to constituting a relation between the learner and society.I call this affirmative education because I can not give up criticising a society that produces paupers.

However, I did see the upward mobility that the Ancosan triggers for many individuals. Each of the women (and some men) that have had the opportunity of being educated in Ancosan have been subject to an atmosphere of respect and as far as possible been educated to take responsibility of their own and their families lives within the current obstacles of society and within their own identification.

I.e. As a gender critical person I would politically state that it should not be the women’s’ sole and most important responsibility to bring up children and keep house. As it is, many women are in that situation, feel and acknowledge the responsibility, but are quite at a loss how to do all of this. Ancosan sees this and takes action.

Ancosan also asks what the immediate regional work market needs are.

These requirements are brought together. Young parents learn, earn, clean up, plan, plant, socialize, involve in school, seek consultancy, and take responsibility. Many of the children growing up in these families will acquire values and self esteem their parents lacked when growing up.

So I have begun to see that the “affirmative” work itself might induce major changes in society on a long term basis and as such is really political.

In Vienna (and Austria) we have a quite rigid situation when it comes to adult education for those parts of the population who cannot afford learning. There is traditionally very little interest in social mobility due to a long and heavy tradition of classes. Nevertheless, Vienna is a social democratic city of Austrian making and programmes for job-finding and re-orientation are mandatory for unemployed persons.

It has become evident in the course of the learning partnership that our work here – with the unemployed, the one-parent households, persons who have fallen out of social security of various political or bureaucratic reasons, etc.- has become more and more a service to statistics rather than to real learning or coping measures.

That there has been an overall socio- political decline in the last decade (or just a little bit longer) in the field of adult education as an instrument of social improvement, can also be read in the nominal decrease of salaries of anyone who works within such fields. The decrease amounts to 30% (nominal) related to 12 years ago.

We, teachers and project workers, have begun to discuss openly if and how we can/want to speak up for the needs of our clients, the environment in which they live, the reality and possibilities. We have also begun taking action in order to be heard as stake holders in the (so far secret and exclusive) decision-making fora.

Personally, I have become much more active in discussing with and supporting my colleges in the quality of their client centred work, even at the risk of sometimes not servicing national or city statistics. Or at the risk of working to immediate reality albeit political high ideals.

Using the terminology of Ruth Kohn’s model, I would say that the learning partnership has for me raised the question whether the centred action can eventually change the globe?

This question will not be resolved by our work, but I am convinced that this controversy is needed in all our work.

As far as I have understood, Kronach is also putting its ear close to the needs of the regional potential. I am looking forward to see more of their work in our closing session.

Projects as this one, which enable us to learn through real and stable communication channels, wheather as personal encounters or within IT networks, will probably be the only way to anticipate and continually deal with the changes in our societies.

The cross-cultural aspects of the learning partnership have been overwhelming in that we have all found similarities and differences that cannot be explained by distance in kilometres or common history. I hope that this experience will teach us to listen carefully, accept surprises and become able to explain our own needs and objectives more accurately in the future.

Thank you learning partners.


SabineGruber , external expert    

Ich habe die Agenda 21 am Alsergrund vorgestellt - ein BürgerInnenbeteiligungsmodell? mit „bottom up“-Ansatz. Das Projekt wurde gemischt aufgenommen - einerseits Würdigung des Empowerment-Ansatzes und der Lernschritte, die ich beschrieben habe, andererseits Skepsis wegen Aufwand und Erreichbarkeit der BürgerInnen.

Im Vorfeld haben wir uns über die Bedeutung von Bildung für Regionalentwicklung und Demokratie unterhalten. Als Volksbildungseinrichtung sehen wir bei den Volkshochschulen eine große Aufgabe und Chance, die aber unter der neuen Prämisse der Rentabilität (Privatisierung der VHSen) nicht mehr wahrgenommen wird. Inzwischen ist keine Volkshochschule mehr Trägerin eines Agenda-Projekts.

Umso wichtiger sind die Zugänge die wir im Rahmen von MIR diskutieren, allerdings sollten sie auch die Schallmauer zur praktischen Realität durchbrechen. Für mich persönlich sind in jedem Fall bestehende Kontakte geblieben. Inzwischen gab es weitere Vernetzungsgespräche und aus den Kooperationsabsichten kann durchaus einmal ein neues Projekt wachsen.