Franz Nahrada /
Presentation Ukhta

(Weiterleitung von Franz Nahrada / Presentation Uchta)








On 10th of July, a youth innovation camp with more than a hundred participants is taking place in Ukhta, in the Russian Republic of Komi. Ukhta lies within the Pechora River basin, an important oil and gas-producing region. [1]

I am invited to give a speech on Community development, these are my preliminary notes:


Thank you for inviting me to give a short lecture in the context of your meeting. I consider it important when young people all around the globe meet to understand what are the threats in todays world and what are the opportunities. So you probably ask yourself what can we do to secure that tomorrows world is really a safe and reliable place for all people to live.

Let me introduce myself. My Name is Franz Nahrada and I live in Vienna. I am sociologist and also manager of a small hotel, meeting people from all over the world on a daily base. In the course of my studies and my life I became more and more interested in the fact that this our world is growing rapidly together. The new tools of telecommunication have the power to connect us as if we were living side by side as neighbours - in fact, as Mashall McLuhan said, as if we were living in one big village.

I also had the opportunity to travel a lot, and with that travel came a lot of friendships and relations. It is amazing how modern media make it possible to maintain these friendships, for example also with Gleb, who translates my words into Russian.

But my travels had also less bright sides. I found out that this world, instead of going to increased states of prosperity, is struck by a problem which comes by the very means of communication. The problem comes since powerful centers of control emerge now which have the means to control the worlds economy, they raise productivity and efficiency, they construct a global factory with the workbenches constantly moving to the countries with the lowest salaries.

Thus they are eroding the economic fabric that kept the world runnig so far. And of course, the main victim of this global factory which produces more goods than the market can swallow, which relocates constantly but only to the most favorable places also in terms of traffic, power, connections, and as already pointed out human resources - the victims are the peripheral regions. Not every region is favored with a crucial resource like the one that is hosting your meeting, and not every resource supports the survival of population.

So the general result, if you look at todays world, is shocking: on one side, you have a big global social and industrial machine, powerful and efficient, but in many cases this machine has, as my friend Frithjof Bergmann puts it, a big design error: it will break and fall apart and cannot function as soon as it slows down; it needs to be constantly accelerating in white heat or else it disintegrates and collapses. Again, lucky are those who live in an exception of the rule.

So around the world you see a crazy race of building and development in large cities, and you rightfully feel that this skyscrapers sooner or later will sink into the ground out of their shere weight. You see these big social machines duelling against each other, fighting for even the smallest market in Africa, seeking to outcompeting each other, and what is hardly recognized is that this machines are becoming so sophisticated, so costly, that they consume all of their inhabitants time, energy, lives.

The so called “globalization” has had a reverse effect: there are steel and car factories, agricultural factories, lots and lots of export oriented businesses all around the globe now: but they constantly devaluate each other and thus their benefits are hardly any more enough to feed the general infrastructure. In the opposite: many nations are threatened by amassing of debts. The cities are surrounded by belts of poverty, where people amass in the hope to get a piece of the cake, but their life is miserable. Even the stongest states struggle with this phenomenon.

But where else should the people go to? The other side is of course, that all the local industries, that used to be the backbone of whole towns and regions, are incresingly dismantled and in decay - because global competition is hard to withstand. And like pieces of Domino game, their collapse destroys local businesses, local farmers, local services. So this again means, that incredible amounts of wealth that many generations have produced, stand waisted, get rotten, are obsolesced.

People flock to the cities, and someone described this situation as: We are behaving like the visitors of a big country estate, where all the trees are fully hanging with apples, while we all are struggling for the fruits in a small provision chamber in the main house.

We are literally in a world which is gradually reducing itself to 2 percent of its land mass, whilst the rest is left alone or grabbed for the needs of another big machine to automatically farm biogenic resources. In both cases, humans are more and more left out, and the vast potential of rural areas that comes from diversity and mutual support is unused. So in the end humanity is trading a big loss for a small fast gain.

No wonder all around the world people are wondering if they can escape this mechanism. This is the moment where the idea of community development comes into sight. We begin to recognize that our development depends on each other, that the decision one person makes affects all others. Its useless to blame people for taking what the think is the better choice. In order to keep our region, our town, our village liveable, we need to create a better choice together. We need to understand that the world is cycles of diversity, that we can create whole cycles of supply and demand out of this diversity and transcend linear thinking. We can see that such cycles are much more alive, much more self-supporting than if averybody did the same thing,

It all starts with a vision, and I think such vision is needed to lead us out of the deep crisis of rural areas and even whole town-regions - affecting almost every country in the world. The vision is to make rural areas livable again by using old and new potentials together.

The new potentials

Sometimes history is full of suprises. The big industrial machine with its needs for coordination and automation has produced a lot of new tools that might favor its counterpart, the local economy.

It all starts with communication. Nowadays, communication infrastructures like the Internet that we are just using are spreading all over the world, and even if they were invented for dubious puposes they can bring a lot of benefit, like providing education, information, cooperation and coordination between independent actors. The process of feeding with information can be spurred immensely by allowing and supporting global cooperation of villages, sharing of existing knowledge and more: a process of bottom-up knowledge building. This has already taken place in many corners of the world, and hundreds of “living universities”, villages and regional centers ready to communicate appeared - ready to share their knowledge with the world and get lots of ideas back.

Then there has been a revolution in technology which makes it possible to do a great lot of things at the local scale and share them - this means we need not waste enormous amounts of resources and time just to move people and things around.

  • first of all, new technologies of automation make it possible to get rid of painstaking, repetitive tasks, also in much smaller dimensions than ever before. Container Factories.... Programs and designs can be shared worldwide, the skills are mostly incorporated in the program and machine.
  • second, a new green chemistry is complementing fossil chemistry; thousands of materials can be made out of plants now. We cannot get only our food from agriculture, we can get cosmetics, packing material, bioplastics - possibilities are endless.
  • third, we can now harvest energy directly from the sun, which is a big enabler of decentralisation. There are new ways to store this energy and all this knowledge is used by many startups to build new and exciting products that increase other peoples independence.
The methodology

Unfortunately, the work of re - establishing or creating a local economy cannot be done by a planning committee or a big investor. It is rather small steps that resemble organic growth that lead to succesful examples of local economies. They are by no means spectacular, but in the end they look spectacular in comparison to the brownfields left over by unsuccesful industries.

I cannot provide you with such spectacular examples right away, but I promise you they do exist and will get more and more visible. In many parts of the world local development is beginnining to write success stories, but it is necessary to understand that most of it comes from the initiative of people that have courage to change the situation.

Information based economy enables us to build smaller, more intelligent machineries. These devices can be deployed where the previous, industrial economy could not afford to go. They can be moved everywhere, instead of needing a big critical mass for production. The new automated generation of technologies allows decentralization, while making all information available at any point through networks.

You can download urban qualities into a village. Be it production, health, processing of resources, energy - lots and lots of things can be decentralized. Formally unused or underused assets suddenly become available. The forests around, the sun, the rivers, the wind.....The knowledge economy is not about information in the computer, it is often useless. The information economy is about the process where the information in the computer meets a real potential of practical application, when it is linked to new way using real resources.

And Russia is full of them. Lots of spaces that can become cultured, augmented, liveable simply by the self supporting interplay of small but intelligent structures. Small is not only beautiful, but at the end, by multiplying, it can also be big, very big. Small structures are scaleable by multiplication, they can deal better with the resources in their environment, they can spread across a nations territory and still stay very well connected to each other. One technology, one idea invented on one point can be used everywhere, there is direct and sudden multiplication.

We see the first traces of this model emerging, still immature, but nevertheless successful. We call them “Global Villages”. We call for villages and smal towns to talk to each other, explore potentials, share success stories, know that for each problem there is a solution. And for this nwe are building a network, the Global Villages Network.

It is our goal to show by example, and in the not too distant future I hope to have many good examples for you. They will emerge from the collaboration of many, from the sharing of knowledge, from common development work.

Thank you for your attention!


On the next day, much less officially, there was a second videobridge (2 sessions!!) with the opportunity to add some essential points for a dedicated group of young people:

The first one, planned just as a short chat, turned into a very deep encounter.

in the second the principles are outlined: