Through the blog network weaving I´ve found a very interesting article, "Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving" by Valdis Krebs and June Holley. It´s both encouraging and sometimes discouraging how many things that I have independently ´discovered´ turn out to have long before been found out, tried, published about (and often, abandoned) by others. (And: What a rich source the Internet/blogosphere is! Once you start articulating what you are looking for, you´ll be able to find some information about it, whatever it is! Then you think: why didn´t I find this before? Another confirmation: modern life is no longer about having access to the information but about meaning making…)
Slowly, I had come to envisage how networks and linking networks could provide better opportunities for the Alentejo. It started when I found out how much Portugese society relies on ´having the right contacts´ (of course I knew this cliché, but again: meaning making is a world apart from having the info!). This is true for Portugal in general, but especially in the Alentejo, a rural area formerly ruled by landlords. No business can be done if you do not know the right people. However, to get to know them is not easy. The social networks may be effective for those within, but they are not very effective for the region as a whole. I think they are old, little transparent, inaccessable, much seggregated in terms of class and gender. Network organizations or other organizations/clubs where networking can be done, hardly exist and if they exist they are again dominated by the ´old networks´.
As a result, local entrepreneurs and new comers, are not very "linked": some are succesful in what they do, but the region as a whole does not benefit sufficiently. Too little "dynamics" are generated for the area. An example are the dutch dairy farmers who have flourishing farms: in terms of family many of us are fully integrated, and many portuguese suppliers have found their way to our farms. However, there are opportunities untaken, potentials still hidden… I suspect the same is true for the spanish olive growers, the younger Portuguese, the new generation entrepreneurs, lisboetas coming into the country….
This, together with my ´discovery´of web2.0 tools for communication and networking, made me think of a "network organization" for the Alentejo. A space to link local entrepreneurs, newcomers, ngo´s, large companies and old networks, aided by ICT.
And the article (see also the post on regional innovation and its comments) provided me with some pointers of how to start: Know the net, knit the net. I´ve started knitting, but what if this dairy thread stops?