Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Vision to Transform the World - Introduction

A Vision to Transform the World

“Be the Change You Want to See in the World”
Mahatma Gandhi

Executive Summary of Solomon Source Rural Revitalization & Empowerment Strategies

Mission: To awaken people to the heart of the matter: our relationship with the planet – we’re all in this together, we must save Our-selves, and each other.


This document describes a simple concept of “people helping people, and the planet”.

This document has developed over the last twenty three years from looking at issues behind environmental degradation that are usually driven by economics, and ignorance of the ultimate costs of environmental destruction. The solution has to do with educating people and providing opportunities for people to get exposure to the wonders of nature, and for them to experience nature in new ways – leading to an awakening of the spirit. To this end the founder of Solomon Source has been on a personal mission to develop solutions that can be adapted and utilized in the current socio-economic paradigms.

Initially, our approach seems to focus on tourism or economic development. However, upon closer examination, it is apparent that these are used as vehicles for interaction, and platforms to establish opportunities for people to experience the out-of-doors. We use the term "Experiential Tourism" to describe a very robust opportunity space, mainly because there has been so much fragmentation in the tourism industry, with new terms being constantly created (e.g. ecotourism, nature tourism, heritage, shopping, etc). Ultimately it all comes down to experience. Satiating people's curiosity and providing them with meaningful, memorable experiences.

We promote tourism and innovation, within context, while at the same time empowering rural communities and their citizens to expand the economy, creatively and responsibly (especially agricultural). Tourism must be blended and be complimentary to the existing economy. At the same time, careful considerations are made for a holistic approach to protect the environmental, social and cultural characteristics of the communities and the region. We also focus on rural, but it is important to note that a critical relationship exists in what is called the "rural-urban nexus". In short, these two exist in absolute dependence. Rural places provide the food, water, natural resource management and respite from urban life, while the cities utilize the products of the rural places. We have said for some time that "everyone can't live in the city", nor would we want them to. However, if we don't support rural places through policy and through rural and agricultural innovation, we will have even more serious problems than we currently do.

So as you read this document it appears to discuss many things. It does. But it is necessary to look at the bigger picture in order to blend these new opportunities into the environment and to advancing humanity. To move forward on these opportunities we must bring together teams of experts, but more importantly we emphasize empowering the local citizenry to be the "masters of their own destiny". Because, at some point in time, the teams will go home and the community will need to carry on. So again, the solution is about education, and empowerment.

It should be obvious that we see the Internet, and new emerging technologies, as paramount to support these efforts. It is our opinion that we have barely tapped into the potential, however, we need to remember that these new technologies are only a tool. Ultimately we see tremendous hope for the changes that are happening, people awakening and developing "grass-roots" initiatives and recognizing the urgency of our task - to take care of each other, and the planet.

Executive Summary

The Rural Revitalization & Empowerment Strategies (RRES) describes a holistic regional and community empowerment initiative.

It is grounded in the idea of developing and implementing community and individual change through pragmatic, “common-sense” solutions. These common sense approaches have been developed from a theoretical understanding of the world, but are based on pragmatic questions. The principles and approaches described here have been hammered out of many years of study and work in the area of “community development”, mostly in rural regions but the approaches are designed to be generalizable and adaptable to any situation.

This document extracts from hundreds of pages of materials to provide the crux of the approach for our regional empowerment process. The document is organized as follows:
1) executive summary, (pages 1-3)
2) an introduction to some of the theoretical concepts that provide a context for our approach, and
3) a refinement of specific “action centers” the of strategy including a) education institute, b) product and idea creation and development center, c) technology platform, and d) the community “toolbox”.

It is not possible to cover the theoretical concepts beyond a rudimentary introduction. Nor is it possible to go into the level of detail of the functional components as each “component” has numerous sub-parts that require a unique set of objectives and activities. However, this document will provide the reader with a good working understanding of the overall approach of the Solomon Source Rural Revitalization & Empowerment Strategy (hereafter RRES).

The necessity for this “new model” comes from what we would term a “wholesale failure” of current methodologies to accomplish the goal of sustainable development in rural places. Additionally, in our evaluation, the performance of current means and methods to supply all peoples a satisfactory life has not been met. At the same time our current basis for economic development inadequately distributes wealth. Plus, they destroy the environment at the same time which further exacerbates problems and affects the quality of life for people and the natural world.

The RRES is established on foundational principles which are presented in this document in brief. Volumes could be written on any one of these topics. It is not the point to proclaim the solution. The intent is to introduce some new, and re-introduce some established principles and approaches to start to build a new “foundation” upon which to begin building a new structure for primarily rural regional and community economies based on strategies for enhancing cooperation, collaboration and creativity (see Nash).

Paramount to all this is the consideration of the existing context (systems thinking) and the protection of the natural environment. Environmental protection is not discussed in detail in this document because the topic could divert us from the aim to introduce a focused approach to sustainable development. The reader must understand that environmental protection, management and enhancement, and the development of new practices for agriculture and all economic activities must be based on new models, or models using combinations of established methods that perform better for long term environmental sustainability. This is a topic for a future discourse.

Our position regarding environmental protection is based on evidence gathered from throughout recorded human history, and we are irrefutable on this point: that the costs for not protecting and sustaining that where our bounty comes from (the planet) are exorbitantly high, not only in economic terms but in regards to human, animal and plant health and for the quality of life. The current “human-nature” paradigm of exploitation and dominance has failed. We need new models and practices, and we need them now.

We foresee radical changes occurring in communities and economies in the future. However, we see that we must move from the current economic and social paradigm to the new one without a total collapse. The RRES presents a process that will fit within current paradigms, but move the communities towards those new models. We do not proclaim to know what those new models will be in total, but in certain circles we have observed a more “micro-scale” economy to be more sustainable. We believe that regional based economies to be more supportable, efficient and workable. Based on trends in communities and larger economies, and our evaluation of what we see as structural problems in current corporate and macro-scale economics, there will need to be significant changes for the creation of more sustainable communities. We have predicted for some years that more localized, regional models are more efficient and more sustainable. However, it is necessary to present the RRES within the existing economic, institutional and social contexts. In any case, it has been our belief that the new model will grow from the “grass-roots”, based on individual empowerment which will lead to more creativity and cooperation, as opposed to the competitive model. It is envisioned that these approaches will aid in the evolution, or adaptation, of regions, communities, businesses and individuals to a more harmonious and sustainable way of life.

As a very general introduction we see that two of the most important principles reside at two ends of a spectrum – broad scale “context” and “individual empowerment”. In order for our strategies to proclaim a holistic approach we must understand the larger “context” , this idea is related to the concept of “systems thinking”, and at the other end of this spectrum is “individual empowerment”.

Introduction to Vision, Guiding Principles and Conceptual Foundations

Prior to presenting the specific “action centers” of the RRES, it is important to provide five theoretical/conceptual principles for a project of this sort. This document is organized as a progression from overarching “Guiding Principles” to specific components, initiatives and organizational structure. We additionally provide a case-study of a project that was implemented in 2003 in Texas which became the initiator of projects in a dozen states in the United States. This technology based “community network” project is still core to the RRES in regards to the creation of this holistic, community empowerment strategy. The final section provides a summary with the diagram entitled “The Big Picture in Simple Terms”, and some concluding comments.

Guiding Principle 1) Systems Thinking – Understanding Context
a) the Duality of the Engineered vs Human
b) the Context, or Opportunity Space – the Urban Rural Nexus
Guiding Principle 2) Focusing Energy—Creative Synchronicities: The Mandala/Lotus Flower Metaphor
Guiding Principle 3) Creating Systems that Serve People
a) The Infrastructure Serving People Community Model, and
b) Success Across Scales
Guiding Principle 4) Extracting Knowledge and Converting (idea creation & development)
a) Merging the Silo’s, and
b) Creating Effective Interfaces for Service Exchange
Guiding Principle 5) Grounding Education Principle: Experiential-Service Model – Next Generation Education

The Bridge - Moving from Concept to Functional – The Puzzle: A Conceptual Vision
with Practical Implications

Action Center 1) RRES Institute (Hub for Education and Outreach)

Action Center 2) Product and Idea Visioning & Creation Center
Action Center 3) Technologies – the Platform for Success:
a) The Network – Creating Critical Mass and Supporting via Technologies
b) Electronic (Virtual) Meeting Places – An Interface for Commerce and Education
c) Case Study: Creating the Platform the Traveler Tourism and Community Network
Action Center 4) Community Empowerment Toolbox
Summary and Conclusion - The Big Picture a Contextual Summary

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