Global Village Movement Status Report 2010

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By Franz Nahrada [1]:

I have not written to the communit(ies) for quite a long time and want to give an update on many points concerning GlobalVillages. I try to be short so you can read it - but also authentic and clear so it is worth the read. I try to talk to the experienced "members" and the casual "lurkers" alike.

This goes to the [email protected] Yahoogroup, to the members of our NING community and to other friends.

Bear with me if I start with the basics and then go to some actual details. If you are not interested please consider cancelling your membership or drop me a mail and I will do it for you. I promise that will be the only long letter for a few months.

1. Why Global Villages?

- Definition number 349 or so:

Global Villages is a network of people that think something called Global Villages is desireable and possible and they want to work for it.

Global Villages stems from the idea of a positive exchange of energy between the city and the village, the idea of a dyadic world where each side profits enormously from the counterpart. The core idea is promoting a new economic logic of extending or creating kinds of "household economies" to whole villages - and have those empowered villages cooperate globally.

The purpose of this global cooperation is primarily the improvement of a local cooperative lifebase.

The cities (=business worlds) role is to become support centers by providing tools and technologies of many kinds. Thus they thrive, although people have now the real option to emigrate from the cities.

Other than the current unilateral race for economic success on the world market that increasingly destroys the beauty and success of the human endavour as a whole, its a bilateral system of checks and balances. Its a choice, a real choice: between speed and slowness. between big and small. between aggressive and symbiotic. Slowly it will also mitigate the cities role.

But overall, its one logical system of synergy that could work and transform the existing one. No revolution needed, just an effort of a foreseeing minority plus a clever deal with the powers to be to create extensions and adaptions to what we have now.

And we can start building these extensions today. We have tools and technology to make village life equivalent to cities, despite their big conceptual differences. Very little effort goes to the conceptualisation of this new cooperative village. We want to change that.

The change starts with the perception of possibilities, with education. Connecting villages to each other means establishing a new educational backbone. Everything starts by the perception of the potential which comes out of knowledge and its implantation in design. This is of course targeted knowledge, the knowledge to combine and weave our abilities into a beautiful local cycle of support, fueled by the worlds best answers to all the questions we have.

We have all the *tools* to make this happen, in particular deep ecological insight, flexible automation, new materials and incredible communication technology that allows for the sharing of any new discovery out of research and experimentation, thus making the villages a living global university of life.

We have all the *need* to make it happen, a global crisis of resources and procedures, a common feeling of an imminent collapse of the capital/power system that is simply deepened by procrastination and denial, by illusions, allegations and agressions, by spectacle and sensation, maybe also by intentional strategies of power elites, we simply dont know.

And we have the *scale* to make it happen: the village scale, the neighborhood scale, the community scale. We feel that a massive convergence of knowledge can allow us to transform microcosms of life into unprecedented completeness, wholeness, richness.

My intention is to build a movement.

2. A movement in the making

Yet I cant help but starting this report with mixed feelings; not only my personal situation, but also the situation of many friends - who are ready and willing to work towards a real solution along the principles outlined above - is far away from a state where we can reallize our dreams and show the potential of our ideas - even in a situation where path-dependence of mainstream economy, technology and habitat leads to more and more painful experiences. Neither do we see much success on the village scale compared to the possibilities we sense, anywhere in the world.

On the positive side, although still far from the mainstream, there has been a lot of convergence and coming together in this year: a new sense of belonging together resulted in the formation of broader movements, like the Commons movement and the Transition movement. They all share the same basic rationale that is also the lifeblood of the GlobalVillages idea: that we need to foster economic localisation and the better use of resources, reflecting on the multilateral, participative way of using and circulating and replenishing resources in the local arena - and building on cooperation rather than competition.

And then there are other movements that focus on the overcoming of the old economic structures: the New Work movement, the Zeitgeist movement, the ecovillage movement and so on.

But what about "Global Villages" in particular - as that very necessary "movement within the movements"? What about the fervent zeal to make the local environment aka villages more self-reliant, bright, intelligent, liveable by special emphasis on themes, networks, communication centres, experimentation, innovation, design? Going beyond all that existed and create really self-feeding, organic habitat? Showing that we can have the full life in an incredibly small place, making the planet a million times bigger just by that perspective? What about the potential to become a global brotherhood/sisterhood of true citizens of the world, simply seing a potential ultra - productive localisation as the ultimate global agenda - with new codes of global cooperation that do away with obsolete forms of "intellectual property" and therefore unfold an unforeseen productivity for all?

"We" - and that we *does* exist somehow - are convinced very much that this - and mostly this - is the true, peaceful and successful way to "outcooperate" the currently dominating mode of production.

But: can "we" find an "entry door to reality" that gives us the leverage to create strong centers and start a real movement? Will we finally find ourselves together via practical goals and a shared agenda, and when will that finally be?

There are some tiny sign of success, like the fact that Marcin Jakubowskis "Gobal Village Construction Set" has just made it to the top of MAKE magazines green products contest ( and there is some feeling in the air about the exciting interplay between global communication and increasing local abilities.

I was surprised how at the recent commons conference in Berlin, a spontaneous session about Global Villages attracted many visitors. Academic works are written about the idea. The term 'Global Village' has begun to shift its meaning (maybe also due to this continous work). and so on.

But nowhere, neither in media nor in politics, is this option yet visible nor taken really serious. People like Steward Brand can still call for the abolition of the village in the name of progress and be celebrated by TED; the mainstream still assumes a progressive 75%+ urbanisation in the next decades, while industrial land grabbing aggravates the situation in a deadly speed and leads to an ultimate enclosure of planetary dimension. A self fulfilling prophecy of enormous destructive dynamics is the challenge to be met; and the civil societies of the world have not even grasped what their cooperative power could create, if there was really a grassroots globalisation of the right kind going on, one that creates a cycle of empowerment around centers of self-reliance.

3. A year of standstill ?

My main concern has been bringing the alternative option to public recognition and support, considering Global Villages the "salt of the earth" in the perspective of a progressive "villegiatura" (village building era) of planetary dimensions that would allow us to unfold a myriad of cultures, lifestyles, human possibilities in truly autonomous circumstances and spaces - a big program for peace by directing energies towards constructive goals including really everybody willing to reflect on their true desires.

Getting practical again, one idea that started the year 2010 for me was that the intentional establishment of "Global Villages" as service centers to many communities in a given region, thus the scheme would become part of regional politics and its initiation fundeable.

At the end of 2009, I had a dinner in Vienna with the governor of the Polish region of Opole who is also a leader in the European village renewal alliance, and it was very interesting that we shared for a short moment a very clear image that helped facilitate the meetings of our minds: A particular village, outstanding in its nature, that would serve not only its inhabitants, but a whole region as connecting point to the world, a learning and meeting center. Thus, a global village might be easier to implement even in present circumstances, funded even by conventional regional development.

It all seems so easy and logical, but we did not make very much headway in particular. I have not heard back a long time from them. The promising vision of a European network of learning centers, discovering and developing together - that might have been an outcome of the Grundtvig Workshop (, - the vision of diverse localities experimenting with form and content in a holistic way that includes real local needs, is still a remote dream. The Grundtvig Workshop was nice, but not as sustainable and effective as I hoped for. The idea of combining a new content of education with telepresence did not really catch up.

(a tiny footnote on "telepresence": We are made much aware of the great obstacles present in this domain, for example in this important report we received recently about the ElectroSmog festival: The idea that this challenge could spark an inventive community working on improvement of working patterns that transcend the undeniable obstacles is still far away and we could not even set up a project proposal together.)

In the opposite, on a personal level, it seems the buerocratic necessities to finalize the existing workshop procedures have exhausted me and had a negative impact on many other works in this year. We did have some other promising activities, like one on the village of St. Martin and environments in Austrias Waldviertel. This community is implementing a communal Open Access Network based on fiberoptics with 100MB bandwidth to each house - a rare dream setting even here in Austria. We did a workshop on possible content there, also giving videobridging a prominent place (with people from many other places taking part). Yet it seems the possibilities of follow-up projects have not materialized yet. A quick fix for profitability is hard to achieve, thats not the path we can provide.

Or the - definitely *very* interesting - May 2010 meeting at RealCorp Vienna, where I did a common workshop with Clear Village people Karsten Stampa and Chris Garvin and others who were interested in the issue of the impact of communication on human settlement and/or the renaissance of the village scale in our time. In the aftermath we went down to the exhibition floor of Real Vienna, a trade show which brought many investment - hungry regions from Eastern Europe together in Vienna to show their real estate opportunities to investors. The floor was pretty empty, the investors for all these dreamy mega - projects simply lacked, so we had an easy time getting in talks with regional representatives, mostly from countries neighboring to Austria. Some of them really embraced our innovative ideas and wanted to learn more. Later on, some of us spend a lot of time in developing a concept for a Village Forum with the Austrian real estate magazine, an event that would bring all stakeholders of the village building process including the real estate industry together. The proposal was applauded and lauded as a truly breakthrough scheme of giving a saturated industry a new direction - but eventually our prospective partners said no because of work overload.

so it goes.

4. Finetuning the goals

So this year did not really provide a base from which we can easily continue work in the next year. In November at the First International Commons Conference I tried to conceptualise a Global Villages Meeting in Berlin for next may in conjunction with the upcoming First European Conference of Village Movements in May 2011, which would be the perfect occassion to meet and work on our agenda. The setting seems almost perfect, and I repeat the call for everybody to join this conference:

URL =ändlicher_Raum/Announcement_int.village-conf.pdf

But then, for me the recognition came, that for the months and maybe years to come I will largely be absorbed in local business here in Vienna which means the hotel. Its really clear now it will fall on my shoulders.

Besides preparing a good speech for Berlin about Global Villages which is a challenge in itself, there is not very much I can do on the side reflecting the agenda here in the next months. It seems nobody among my many, many friends in Berlin believes they can organize something bigger, even though we got a great response from Franz Reinhard Habbel of the German association of towns and villages. So it might simply not happen in an organized fashion.

So .... I became aware of the challenges but also the opportunities that result in having more responsibility for the hotel after the imminent retirement of my sister in March 2011. It started with the sudden realization of many unfinished local issues here, starting with basic technical and safety issues but also with the necessity to develop a business plan when the "business hotels" will spring up in masses in our district (a Ramada just started preopening sales). I need to reinvent the Karolinenhof if it shall survive.

One very exciting option is this: To do everything possible to create a good physical meetingspace here in Vienna for the meeting of communities and the business world, for the years to come this might be our hotels company mission. If I get consensus, I will even try to extend, to create a true small "community hotel", that makes it fun to convene in Vienna. A coworking-cohousing hotel. Very ambitious plan, but not allowing me to spend too much time researching and communicating in the networks.

Maybe some of you have specific circumstances that would allow us to explore deeper what this kind of hospitality needs, or if some of you would consider even taking part in that endavour here. This is ther first invitation, athough I have not very much to offer.

And here comes the second invitation: there is a real danger that I will not be able any at least for the next years to pursue the ambitious dream of a Global Villages Network ..... unless some of you step forward and really share the task with me. This is the purpose of this message and of shorter messages to come, creating a very clear agenda which could be shared by many. Our Russian friend Gleb Tyurin is just one of the examples of how important it would be to many people to have a strong support structure at hand to support the most visionary "localizers" all around the world.

So again and -maybe more precise than ever - I present you my personal vision or fantasy of the network, in the hope that it truly resonates with your fantasy or vision, and we could do something about it.

Global Villages Network should be:

  • a distinct community of maximum 500 people that know each other to some degree and collaborate on a network of locations all around the world which want to be at the forefront of community design and liveability,
  • so not only thinking how beautiful a village can be, but really believing in the possibility and working for it
  • having or seeking positions in local community education, foreign relations, planning, administration
  • staying in close touch and establish working groups and project groups for all aspects of local community building (with the goal of freely distributed "products" that can be useful and applied)
  • but also develop a theoretical common understanding, like conceptualising a flexible general model or pattern language of a "minimum critical mass" local community (500? 5000?) that thrives on empowerment of each of its members by global networks
  • collecting successful examples (observatory) and essential patterns (repository)
  • intervene not only in support of each other (as a "phyle"), but also vis a vis partners in the business and political world to facilitate growth and development of Global Villages.

I like the idea that the virtual community is also in itself not much bigger than a village, and the amount of its workload can be dealt with by those relatively few individuals, which allows for a certain non - buerocratic structure. Maybe eventually the network will dissolve into a political entity of much bigger size, but thats beyond the foreseable and purely speculative. What we currently need is a catalyzer for effective localisation, an interface between local development and global communication that has a clear focus which is not too narrow and not too wide.

If you want to be part of it please stay. If not, please unsubscribe.

5. What is needed next ?

5.1. Building Global Villages Network as an online community

The coming together of this whole network has been started by events in the nineties mostly in Vienna ("Global Village", "Cultural Heritage in the Global Village"), but only recently re-actualized with the assumed potential of social networking and community building.

I met hundreds of people in the course of the last 20 years with whom I felt deep resonance about the idea, but had no way of keeping in touch phyiscally or physically bringing them together after the Global Village conferences were over.

This period of dispersed past seemed to end with the advent of social networking tools ... but:

In mid 2010 NING terminated its free networks, and I began to think about a new networking strategy. Global Villages Online Groups were established in various locations, in the hope that to all these venues there would be a vibrant center to connect to; from LinkedIn via XING via Wiser Earth and Facebook - there is a plethora of venues where you can find different kinds and attitudes of people that are all needed - to one convergence point.

Like Global Villages as a movement should draw their strength and idea base from the wealth of cultural diversity around their globe, so the Global Villagers should be a rich blend of many backgrounds: business, science, humanities, engineering, vision, emotion, art, practical experience and actually living it - everything should play a role in the "grand small" design. But that diversity would have to be held together by a strong center of exchange and inspiration, which was envisioned as a set of online venues like, and

It became increasingly clear that the formation of such a center and also the maintainance of all the precious peripheries required external energies to be brought into the game. Much more than I can master or manage. Without some help, everything is gone.

One option was and is to especially cooperate with Clear Village on an economically successful endavour of village building events and activities, which would then call for a "observatory" and a network of people who would also have a chance to take part in such events and activities.

This has not happened yet; and my best idea so far for the time being was to provisionally embed the Global Villages movements core structures as a subset of the very successful online communities around the Transition network.

Transition is a wonderful umbrella structure with a wider appeal, practical and ambitious at the same time, which serves as a meeting ground for many strands of economic localisation and ecological inventiveness. The two groups in the Austrian and in the international system seem to be the venues of the moment:

And I spent most of my available time to help build and grow the Transition movement here in Austria as a mothersoil from which a Global Villages movement will naturally emerge. The importance of localisation is fuly recognized in this movement, as R.K. Moore describes:

"The localization movement focuses on economics and resources, but in a broader sense it is aimed at enabling a community to solve its own problems, to take charge of its own destiny. Besides an economic premise – localization makes economic sense – there are certain political premises that are implicit in the movement:

  • We can’t count on government to solve all our problems.
  • We have the capacity to improve our own circumstances by working together.

And there are cultural premises as well:

  • Community is a valuable social entity.
  • Stronger community can be a source of local empowerment.

So thats Transition. A good base to establish contacts.

But also the other venues are alive: even without my "gardening", Global Villages group (LinkedIn, XING, Wiser Earth, Facebook etc..) constantly find new members. Even our old NING gets new members every day, but its limited to 150 and a NING mini, therefore its more a temporary storehouse than a good center.

We (Ralf Schlatterbeck and I ) established as the future central domain, but no decision has been made yet what system to use. The server that we rented is fast and powerful enough to even run voice communication, webinars etc.

I received several offers of support, from Raffael Reinehr from Brasil who is ELGG - literate to Urs Riggenbach from the US who runs Drupal Systems for a Human Ecology College. Also the Estonian "Community Tools" group has offered help. But I feel before we build a system we should have a board of editors who really are commited to maintain the communication flow, keep it simple and effective.

There are a few people like Jeff Buderer or Markus Petz who are very active networkers, but what is needed here is a steady focus around the vision. I do not really know if the vision of Global Villages is really so important, but I feel its a beautiful node in the fabric of the new world that is woven now, the marriage between the physical place, the appreciation of the natural, the appreciation of culture and technology all flowing into one convergence point. I feel in contrary to Andrius Kulikauskas that this network should not be woven around people, but "people resonating through an idea".

Otherwise, I felt Andrius had a lot of sensational ideas, using the virtual network almost like a life support system and a creative tool for constant rekindling our inner fire and recallibrating our inner direction that is often lost in our crushing environments. A spirit of appreciation, respect and support, a feeling of being alive and close to the breakthrough is what this network should deliver. Thank you Andrius for all that, although we might be too different to work closely together in future.

5.2. Defining projects and products that will have us leap forward.

So Global Villages should not only be a community, but maybe also a phyle. A community that develops its business backbone.

A few days ago I received a message from our dear Indian friend Anil Chawla, who together with his wife Suman runs a leather factory in India, and who has the revolutionary idea to place this factory near a village instead having people travel thousands of miles. Everybody calls him crazy but I encouraged him to strike a deal with vilagers that could mean that he helps them videobridging in the nearby school for better subsistence and lower living costs.

This is just one example of the many exciting possibilities that everyone of us has in his or her hands and the might fit together like the pieces of a mosaic. If Anils villagers implement Marcins Global Village construction set or something similar, that is a possible realisation of our networks strength and internal cooperation logic.

Our friend Gleb Tyurin produces a video that shows to the general public in Russia the potential of localisation. Maybe there is footage for him to implement, I encouraged him to think of a collaborative video production like the beautiful "Coalition of the Willing" animation that was done by a coalition of professional media producers, showing the potential of collaborative production.

So it is very important to see the Global Villages Network as a network of people who have some living connection to the ground, DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER. The connections might be of different nature, our diversity and our different backgrounds will help us realize better our common visions. Its good that Anil is a businessman and uses his abilities as a businessperson to bring the realisation of global villages forward.

It is very important that each of us discovers the general aspect of what they are doing and we group around practical outcomes.

At the same time I feel its important to still be connected by the strong tie of a common vision.

lets have these two things combined better, so we will survive and thrive. Again, please consider your membership in our venues if you dont think thats interesting.

5.3. Try to come to Berlin anyway!

So as I said I will not be able to fulfill my own expectations to orderly organize a gathering in Berlin around May 14th. Too much is on the plate right now here in Vienna. My hope is that something spontaneous will emerge nevertheless.

We might be able to travel to very interesting examples of successful localisation after the conference in Brandenburg. I will issue a call for who might invite us. Everybody will be on their own financially for the time being. But I hope we do something important to meet the challenge of changing our situation as individuals, too.

if we meet and before that, we can discuss: a) whats the meaning of all these social networking activities b) how we make them fruitful for each other and keep coherence c) what are the momentary priorities in terms of attention and projects d) how this fits in a strategic picture

please use the globalvillages mailing list for your contributions! (

More Information

  1. "Join this group" if you are not subscribed yet:
  2. Global Villages
  3. Global Village Movement Status Report 2008