Varena Meeting

From 4th to 6th of July.

Alert from Rimante: Please fill in the participants page!!

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AndriusKulikauskas: I will write about our meeting in Varena in summer 2005.

As I wrote before, it would be best for us to participate through Varenos Technologijos ir Verslo Mokykla was founded in 1972, and has evolved as a regional vocational school preparing youth and adults of the Varena region for the job market. Popular specialties have changed from tractorist and machinist in the 1970s, to farmers in the 1990s, and now chefs, barmen, construction workers, and technicians. The school has 35 teachers and 300 students, and is a center for the development of the folk arts, traditional crafts, and culinary arts of the Dzukija region.

  • Legal name: Varenos Technologijos ir Verslo Mokykla
  • Translation: Varena Technology and Business School
  • website
  • Contact Person: Algirdas Juskevicius
  • Contact Person's Function: Program coordinator
  • Address: J.Basanavi?iaus 1, LT-65178 Var?na, Lithuania
  • Telephone: +370 3103 1595
  • Fax: +370 3103 1597
  • Email: aljus(AT)
Note: Please let me know if you need help writing the Lithuanian symbols ? ? ?

I spent a day in the town of Varena with Algirdas, he is a master and teacher of traditional wood carving, a mentor for youth, and an independent thinker. He introduced me to photographer Algimantas Cernaisukas in the nearby town of Merkine, who leads the Information Center for Dzukija National Park. We drove together to meet Henrikas Gutauskas, a writer turned ecologist and hermit who lives in a homestead. Together we went to the opening of a photo exhibit in the resort town of Druskininkai, known for its mineral waters, and for the symbolist artist Ciurlionis. There I met other creative types, some of whom are part of the small "green wave" of people returning to the countryside.

I imagine the countryside in various parts of Europe has quite a variety of history and outlook. Let me describe the situation in Lithuania, and my conclusions for what we need.

Lithuanian peasants considered farming to be the only honest work. Jews were half of the population in the small towns, all killed during the Holocaust. The Soviets forced people out of homesteads and onto collective farms. People migrated to the cities for education and professions. Alcoholism was rampant in the countryside. Collective farming was pursued factory style, imposing a factory mentality in the farm workers. Collective farms were dissolved with the return of independence, and most of the physical property, down to the pipes and wires, was stripped and plundered. Independent farming has been difficult and idealistic. A lot of land lay fallow, old women survived by keeping one or two cows, many people reverted to relying on horses. Development has lagged enormously behind the cities, leading to a protest vote. City dwellers mostly have come from the farms, children spend summers there with their grandparents, who are dying out, though, along with the villages.

The upshot is that in Lithuania, although there is a rather large rural population, there is not any rural life to speak of. Young people in the countryside are and should be encouraged, as much as possible, to leave and get at least some experience in the cities. It would be enormously stunting for people not to leave. There aren't any good jobs to speak of, as there are perhaps in the German or Austrian villages, which have a tradition of craftsmanship, workshops and factories. There aren't any colleges in the villages, either, nor that much in the way of enlightenment. Nor are there any mines or natural resources.

Instead, what makes sense here is that people from the city - educated, driven, confident - come back to the villages, where most of them have family roots. They have enormous influence in bringing an enlightened, thoughtful and positive mindset.

In Lithuania, when I think of designing curriculum for Regional Coaches in Information, Innovation, Media, it seems to me that it makes a lot more sense for these to be outsiders, educating themselves, rather than local people.

There are many educated people today in the cities who are rather adept at information technology. Of these people, there are quite a few who might be interested to pursue there own self-education further. I believe they could explore their own interests by traveling through the villages, meeting with independent thinkers there, many of whom, however, are quite old and stubborn, hard to employ, and have negative feelings towards the Internet and other technologies which they feel are invading the countryside, where they have fled from civilization. These independent thinkers can be quite inspiring, though, and given energy, can attract the young people locally.

The traveling self-learners could help apply information technology so that the independent thinkers might present themselves and participate in the global society, and realize the advantages of such. The traveling self-learners could gain enormous practical experience as they serve others. Meanwhile, they are helping the countryside and finding a place for themselves in it.

I've spent about 1% of my life in the countryside, and 1% in the wilderness, and it's been quite meaningful. Imagine if that was 10% in the countryside or wilderness. If that was true for all of us, then there wouldn't be any lack of opportunity in the countryside.

What I've concluded is that, in terms of shifting how we think, and developing a network to sustain that, it's more practical and important to have a curriculum (of self-learning) designed for IT people to come into the countryside, and find their place there, and support independent thinkers there, rather than to develop local people to take up positions in some local bureaucracy. The wealth of the countryside will gain much more from supporting a decentralized network of innovators, from providing a genuine service (self-learning), from developing vital village-city interconnections, and from bringing in outside energy. Dozens or hundreds of such self-learners can make an enormous difference, and this is very much the eRider idea that has been developed for serving NGOs, except that it would be developed as firstmost an avenue for self-education rather than as a profession, and serving individual activists rather than formal organizations.

The major problem in depressed areas, like the Lithuanian countryside, is the spiritual depression. I think it's crucial to attract and involve people with energy. We need to look outside for this, the atmosphere is crushing on the innovators in the countryside, it's not right to think that they can just have energy on their own. They are drained and they need a lot of support and encouragement.

This curriculum could be set up on the 100 MB USB storage devices which I wrote about.

As I wrote, we can't receive funds for organizing the conference. Therefore, we need to consider how we might best contribute to our team effort. For example, we could organize the publishing of the curriculum onto such storage devices. Would this be helpful? And we might orient this for the traveling self-learners to view, collect and share local information (photos, data, write-ups) in the Public Domain that they can use for their own projects.

Our plan for the conference is pretty much as described below. We'll need participants to pay for their accomodation, etc. 20 EUR per day should be sufficient. Is this possible?

May I see our budgets for last year so that I understand what we might ask for? It is very difficult without that. And where are those numbers written in?

Also, we'll need to make a one to two page translation of a summary in Lithuanian. Where can we find that information, and when?

February 18, 2004, I spoke with our national office for SOCRATES and our officer for Grundtvig 2.

It seems that the rules for Lithuania are perhaps slightly different than other countries in Europe.

My laboratory, Minciu Sodas, is a sole proprietorship. It's not clear whether we can participate. I will double check on this. Also, if we do participate, then we can't get paid for work as "specialists" for website design, etc.

It seems therefore that it would be better that the partner in Lithuania be a vocational school in the town of Varena with which we have contacts. Our laboratory participant Algirdas Juskevicius is a folk artist, teacher and also in charge of writing projects for the school. He is interested, and I will visit him tomorrow.

Most likely our travel expenses can be paid for, and we can work with the school.

However, our national office does not give funds for organizing conferences in Lithuania. Even without any funding, we can organize the conference, but participants will need to pay for accomodations, etc. Costs will be rather low.

Instead, we can get funds for "work product" that results from our work with our partners. It has to serve not us, but others outside of Lithuania. So we need to think what this might be. What would be most useful? Typically, funding goes to websites, booklets, brochures, etc. Websites are I think best because the money can go to "specialists" such as our lab, and we're creating websites anyways. There's not much point in spending money on killing trees, I think. But it can't all go to websites, we need to think of something else. It has to be oriented to our partners, not ourselves here in Lithuania. Perhaps we might spend the money on translating our activity in Lithuanian into English, German, etc.

What would I like to achieve, as a participant?

My main interest here is self-education. Our laboratory serves and organizes independent thinkers We would like to develop, as part of that, a network of independent thinkers in the villlages of Lithuania and the rest of Europe. I would like traveling self-learners to be able to go to meet people who might inspire them to pursue their own projects. An alternative to college. Also, to organize a database of such people to visit, their interesting ideas, and where to stay. Help local clusters connect with the global society, help "dream investors" leverage them for local projects they would like to organize (like summer homes, small businesses, etc.) for which they need responsible, self-directed, self-managing, self-educated people, who can be very difficult to find in the Lithuanian countryside.

We'll be working gradually on this. We would like to make these efforts in the Lithuanian countryside, and our goal might be to stimulate such efforts in the villages in the other countries, so that we might have an informal international network, including through our laboratory. We might spend our resources on translating our activity, creating a website/database to help people connect with the independent thinkers in the villages, and perhaps compile Public Domain resources, materials that might be useful for self-education. (We would be working in the Public Domain "except as noted" ) Such material could be "published" on the new low-cost USB-storage-devices I have seen recently, so that 120 MB of Public Domain material (of pictures, etc.) could be easily shared and circulated, would not have to be downloaded. (This would fit with our efforts for "effective use of marginal Internet access"). Perhaps that would be allowed. It would also be nice to have a set of digital cameras, but I don't think that's allowed, either.

Oh, if we do publish material, we are allowed to sell it. So that is something to consider. What would be useful for people that they would buy? Again, we might have what is, in effect, a 100MB "catalog" of Public Domain material about villages and independent thinkers that we could sell to eco-tourists, self-learners. A database of places, pictures, people, wildlife, etc. that they could connect to a webservice (our website) where they could get the latest updates. (When they stop at places that have great access, or that have mirrored the information.) That would be useful for us.

We propose, for the conference in Lithuania, July 2005, that: - We would meet in the capital Vilnius, and spend several hours meeting at our laboratory's headquarters in the Folk Creativity Club "Atzalynas", which is in a rural neighborhood of the city. - The next two days we would have a "distributed meeting" to have in mind the natural advantages of the countryside. We would break up into groups of 3 (choosing as we like) and be sent by car or bus to villages in the region of Dzukija where we will meet independent thinkers there, and also have access to the Internet. So we'll be encouraged to work at our own pace, focus on people we want to work together with, have time to be alone and with others. We'll be in touch by Internet, and also groups can drive to meet each other, as they might desire. An ecotourist experience, the countryside here is quite nice, I hope thought provoking. - The evening of the second day we'll have a meeting at the vocational school in the town of Varena, and bring our ideas together. - The next day we'll have a celebration of support for self-learning.

Our national office expects that participants will cover their own accomodation costs here, which we will try to keep low, about 10 euros per night per person, for example. It will be a low budget experience.

Also, I think we would be interested to go to the other conferences by cars or buses, so that our team might likewise work together while traveling, and stop in places along the way.

We'll only learn in the fall if we'll be funded.

These are my thoughts. What do you think? How might this fit with ERDE? Do we know of other funding sources or commercial opportunities? It would be good to see last year's application.

Andrius Kulikauskas writes:

Yes, I'm interested to participate in ERDE and I think your wiki will help me understand more about that. Franz has been quite inspirational in helping me see, particularly in The Balkans, the value of village centered life.

My laboratory, Minciu Sodas,, serves and organizes independent thinkers, so my emphasis is on the value in people.

As a businessman, I think that "wealth is relationships", so I look to integrate people and thereby generate wealth and also overcome poverty. My conclusion last year was that the advantage of villages, for independent thinkers, is that just a few people can have a remarkable influence over the entire environment.

In a city, we have to take much more on faith, we are less able to see our influence on our environment, it takes a lot more people. So villages are great laboratories and one of my dreams is to have a network of such villages/laboratories in Lithuania and around the world.

Also, independent thinkers in the villages might themselves be not directly valuable in business, but I see that they can attract the curiosity and spirit of the young people who are enormously employable. Also, a core of such self-educated, self-directed people makes it possible for investors to fund their own dream projects (such as a summer home, or a village business) which unfortunately they often can't do because they have nobody they can trust. And because they aren't integrated into the village. Villages can be quite harsh on people! and quite depressing, too, objectively. Also I am keen to organize a system of self-education where self-learners might hang out with independent thinkers in the villages and draw inspiration and restful thought for their own pursuits. An alternative to college, especially in the developing world, I think.

My priority now is to set up a system for us "social instigators" to act most effectively. I'm using the KMWiki to prototype an OpenNetwork of OpenPeople who agree that, at places they indicate, the content they bring and generate is in the PublicDomain except where it notes otherwise.

The idea is to identify the open-spirited people, be aware of the material that they generate in the public domain, draw from that to circulate ideas and energy, and then create a natural system of channels for getting things done. I'm very happy if we might sign up!

All content in this wiki is PublicDomain except as noted otherwise. Please be kind to our authors! changed: April 26, 2006