From mule trails to the electronic highway

INFORMATION
As mentioned earlier, sharing implies having something to share and not being afraid to share it. The people associated with EcoSouth not only take pleasure in sharing information, contributing to the expansion of knowledge in the southern hemisphere (we prefer that designation to  “third world”, “developing countries”, etc,), they also create information.

Knowing what information exists, where to get it, and where it should be transmitted are essential to sharing knowledge, and implies some selection. While selection can be a somewhat delicate matter, in the case of EcoSouth it is highly reliant upon who participates, back to attitudes. One becomes part of the process or not. Through the years certain people and/or organizations have been more active participants and through qualification that has been more of a self-elimination of the disinterested (attitude again), a core group of experts has emerged who guide the flow of information.

 

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Research and development
Information and therefore knowledge can also be created. We place research and development in this category. Thus, small projects that focus upon specific themes, be it investigation into lime burning possibilities in Namibia, or investigation into types of plasters for clay walls in Ecuador and Guatemala, or even embodied energy in Costa Rica, contribute to the accumulation of knowledge that EcoSouth shares. These small projects are one of the ways toward sustainability as they involve key experts who in turn share the knowledge with those who access the website.
Keeping eyes and ears open to what is happening and then sharing it with others, inviting people to participate in local and international events, responding to questions, are some of the ways in which sharing occurs. As well, EcoSouth consultants maintain a fresh flow of inputs through feedback about their onsite missions throughout the world.

Questions and answers
Answering questions has always been essential to EcoSouth networking. Early on it was letters, sometimes hand written on scraps of  paper, that were answered with letters typed on manual typewriters.  Since the advent of electronic communication, this has expanded to include e-mails. With the newly designed website there has been an inundation of questions to the Site. Depending upon the theme,  questions are answered by appropriate experts in a variety of countries. At the moment, our Web designer is working on more efficient ways to respond and organize the Question and Answer Service.
This is part of our future, and a sustainable manner in which EcoSouth can continue to share knowledge. The hardware is in place. The right attitude exists among the participants.

Students, professors and researchers
Information gathering, organization, and sharing does require human resources. In recent years students have become involved in small research projects such as those investigating plasters, or client surveys, while ohers have focused upon aspects of Ecomaterials for their own research papers and theses. This creation of knowledge finds its way into the sharing process. Tune into the website www.ecosur.org. Read the EcoSouth e-Magazine.

Face to face contact
Face to face contacts at conferences and seminars allow direct interchange, but are dependent upon great organizational efforts and some outside financing. Through engagement of its partners and sponsors, EcoSouth has held two international Ecomaterials Conferences (1998 & 2001). Such events not only intensify the sharing of knowledge but also elevate the degree of commitment of participants to further engage themselves along the bumpy roads in their own countries.
In the early nineties most communication was face-to-face and relied upon visits from people who were mobile, or who had the means to mobilize and bring people together. This often took place within the framework of projects and required time and financial resources in order to reach one another, either vehicles, telephones, even accommodation where distances were involved. Followup and continuity was inevitably dependent upon transportation.

Feedback
On the one hand, EcoSouth is a transmitter of knowledge and on the other hand it is a recipient of questions and information that is further transmitted. This feedback is the process of sharing among many people connected to one another in various places throughout the globe. Sometimes those on the fast track of the information highway can be the same people who have no means of vehicular transport on the bumpy roads of their daily reality.

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