Grants/Applying Creative Commons to rural development in China.
Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
The project will begin to develop a knowledge base addressing needs of communities as they undergo rapid environmental and social change.
The initial target communities will be two villages in the rural north of China, as they face severe, extended, drought as well as depopulation due to the adult population either migrating to find work, or suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The project will involve training farmers to identify develop pattern-based permaculture best practice; village children will record community memories from their grandparents; phone-based surveys will evaluate how climate- and social change have led to divergence from traditional Chinese calendars of agricultural and health patterns.
Two villages will be involved in this pilot, in order to test how the knowledge base enables different communities to compare experiences and share solutions.
The knowledge base, patterns and procedures developed in the project will be designed to scale to be used internationally wherever communities have internet access and/or widespread mobile phone ownership.
Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).
a pattern for describing which groups of plants can be planted together for best synergistic results according to permaculture principles; an initial CC-licensed seed of recommendations based on experience in northern China (extremely cold & dry, with low annual precipitation).
Community: a CC-licensed multimedia record of memoirs from the older generation, dating back to the pre-1949 period, which will trace how villagers used to live and how the community has changed. This could be collated into a short movie to be shown in each village.
a CC-licensed version of a traditional Chinese calendar that outlines dates for planting specific crops, dates when illnesses can be expected, etc. a CC-licensed data set of responses gathered by SMS from the community that will indicate the ongoing validity or otherwise of this traditional calendar.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
We will be working with two communities, Qingbiankou and Gangfang.
Qinbiankou is a farming community of approximately 1200 people, based inside a Ming Dynasty military garrison town in Xuanhua District, Hebei Province. Located at the foot of a pass leading from the Mongolian steppes down to the plains of north China, Qingbiankou has three separate stretches of the Great Wall of China dating back to the Ming Dynasty (500 years ago), the Northern Wei Period (1500 years ago), and the Zhao Period (2400 years ago). The village produces a range of agricultural produce, and corn in particular. However, the region is suffering from an extended drought, which is causing desertification and damaging crop production.
Gangfang village is also in northern Hebei Province. Like Qinbiankou, it is close to the Great Wall of China, and has been involved in the local tourism development. Being closer to Beijing than Qingbiankou, a larger proportion of adults are absent for long periods, having moved away in search of work. This has caused empty villages, increased older population while children are moved to boarding schools and also come to the village only on the weekend visit. The children of both villages are absent (see above), due to Chinese education policies which require village children to be educated in boarding schools – which can often be a long distance away.
With the Qianbiankou experience and attitude in the environmental issues and Gangfang experience in tourism two communities could work on exchanging the best practices and how it can improve the livelihood and economy standard.br />
In Qingbiankou, Emlyn Phillips has been involved with community leaders and local government since 2009 in a project researching potential uses of e-learning and m-learning for economic development. Emlyn is a lecturer in E-Commerce and Business Strategy at China Agricultural University.
In Gangfang, Dalida Turkovic and Peter Strijdonk – along with Zhang Dan and Liu Xuyang, their colleagues in Small Steps Consulting – have been active since 2001. They have been working with the local schools and community to improve educational standards, provide training in ICT and computer skills, and to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. The latter project was approved by the local ministry of education, and was the first primary school to have this kind of project in China).
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
- Exchange of best practices: how many proposals from each village are approved by the other; - Personal visits to the communities: qualitative feedback from villagers. - Identification of potentia for improved and/or diversified income in Qingbiankou through new permaculture initiatives. - Improved environment in Gangfang: steps to a cleaner river, and a reduction in the number of garbage dumps. - Exchange between the schools and the increased awareness amongst children on the lifestyle and knowledge of their grandparents. - Bridging the gap between the generations (grandparents and grandchildren)through a common project that is based on knowledge sharing. - Publication of academic papers.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
Emlyn Phillips (e-learning & knowledge management) Dalida Turkovic (pedagogical insights & coaching) Peter Strijdonk (pedagogical insights & coaching) Zhang Dan (computer systems support, translation) Liu Xuyang (traditional Chinese culture)
Community – Qinbiankou:
Li Rong (ex-mayor of the village). Li Rong is an activist in an extremely conservative community. He has a long personal history of environmental work, such as planting trees to retain water in the ground. He has high prestige within the community; initial change has to be introduced through his personal network of friends and family, but once positive effects are clear, other villagers will emulate him. Li Rong also has excellent relations with the local government and Communist Party apparatus, which is essential for projects of this nature in China. Li Rong is the informal head of a group of influential villagers who are well aware that the village has severe environmental and economic issues, and who are extremely open to new possibilities.
With regard to the problem patterns, we expect to work with Li Rong and five or six of his personal network. Surveys pertaining to the calendar should expect to involve ten to fifteen participants in Qingbiankou, including both children and adults. We expect seven or eight teenagers or young adults to be involved in the interviewing of the older generation.
Community – Gangfang:
Mr. Wang Jiuji– headmaster of the Bakesheying School, also the one who supervises the Gangfang School and its development. Young and very capable, is looking at the reforms in the area that would bring the benefit to school, community and education in general. Visionary and proactive he would be the great resource for the direction and influence in the whole area.
Mr. Zhu Weidong – headmaster of Gangfang School. Small Steps in China has been closely working with him in all the projects from year 2001. He is the bridge with the local community although a bit reluctant to come forth with strong initiative for change.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
The project will introduce the concept of Creative Commons to teachers, school pupils, villagers, and government officials in China. The teachers in particular will be able to pass on their understanding of CC to future intakes of pupils.
It will also generate a substantial volume of material which will be useful for research and other projects, and which will be CC-licensed.
Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?
FrontlineSMS: with a low-end mobile phone connected to a PC via USB, Frontline SMS can manage SMS lists and text-message processing. This will be used to conduct surveys of villagers and of children in their boarding schools.
The village school in Gangfang is equipped with a computer laboratory with Windows PCs. In Qingbiankou, Li Rong has put together a PC-equipped training centre. Windows Movie Maker is therefore going to be the default video editor. Using this and a free format-conversion tool such as VLC, we will train young people to edit video clips from their phone into a tagged and categorized online repository of interviews.
Emlyn Phillips has already been working with Chinese NGOs to identify uses for Frontline SMS in China. Both Emlyn and Zhang Danhave strong I.T. and training backgrounds.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
Some elements of this project - the interviewing and the surveys - should be relatively straightforward. There are inevitably issues involved with outsiders asking questions and being perceived as 'interfering' in close-knit, conservative communities, but our past involvement with key individuals should get us past that. Some of our team members are native Chinese speakers, while others are fluent in Mandarin as a second language; this will ease communication and ensure that there are no misunderstandings.
The use of SMS-to-computer software and the use of mass-sending SMS messages in a rural environment could possibly be awkward in China, where recent history has alerted the authorities to the potential use of such tools to organize mass events; however, our existing connections with local government in Hebei province will enable us to keep them informed and aware that our plans are not controversial.
The biggest challenge will be in the formulation of patterns: we already have an outline of the major concerns that face the inhabitants of Qingbiankou, and can rapidly do the same for Gangfang. In order to keep this element of the project focused, we intend to record the environmental conditions of the villages, and use local knowledge to develop suggested families of "plant guilds" - a permaculture concept which promotes synergy between groups of different plants, planted next to each other. This may take some explaining, and will be new to almost all of the farmers. We will also have to teach many of them how to use OpenOffice which, given that they are working in the fields during daytime, will be an effort for them. By keeping the numbers participating low at this stage, and selecting villagers known to be concerned about the villages' economic development, we should be able to maintain enthusiasm and involvement.
How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?
As noted below in the section on scalability, we see two complementary user groups in for the project's future: communities in developed countries seeking to reskill and develop resilient communities in the face of a post-affluence economy; and communities in developing countries which have acquired access to at least some level of communications technology, and are coping with environmental and social change. In the first case we anticipate that sources in Europe and the US (such as the UK-based Tudor Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation) could be likely sources of funding. In the second case, we will approach sources of funding including the Asian Development Bank.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
Some elements of this project have the potential to be extremely scalable.
The use of inter-generational interviews can record more than memories of how life used to be; it can also be a record of skills and community practices that have fallen out of use in a modern economy. These skills may be needed again in the future, but may be forgotten by then unless there is a record. This practice is an element of the Transition Towns movement, which has the purpose of building 'resilient communities' which can adapt successfully to an era of consistently high oil prices. In this context, we anticipate the input of Chinese content to be a piece of a global jigsaw.
The global aspect also plays a part in our future plans for the "pattern-based problem-solving" element of the project. Communities around the globe are coping with climate change and species migration. In some areas, food producers have access to the information they need to decide what to plant when the average temperature is a degree or two warmer than it has traditionally been in their locality, or when the rainfall has declined dramatically. In other areas, this information is not so easily available, or the people concerned do not have the skills needed to research it. We hope that this element of the project partly seeded by ourselves, and added to by Chinese villagers - will create not just a CC-licensed set of data of which vegetables grow in their climate (which is similar, for example, to mountainous regions of southern Africa), but also deeper insight into the kinds of questions that have to be asked, the categories and tags that are useful, and so on.
This data will be useful in many other parts of the world; we already have contacts in South Africa who may be able to use this approach. Similarly, we see a future extension towards solution-sharing between "bottom of the pyramid" communities in different countries, as well as in developed nations preparing for a post-affluence economy.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
The guidelines for project applications note that Creative Commons will provide web hosting. Assuming that this allows the use of Wordpress, and the hosting of large amounts of media files, AND can be relied upon to be accessible through the Great Firewall of China, this is sufficient assistance for this project.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
In Qingbiankou, Emlyn Phillips communicates via mutual Chinese friends working in NGOs.
Small Steps communicate with members and partners via web site, email lists and mobile phone.