When Borderlands was created in 1997, the idea was – and still is – to create a place where people can meet, talk, reflect, learn and teach, read and study, do “cultured” things together, organise, administer and manage their networks or activities in and from, where consultation, consulting and counselling can happen, where a broad spectrum of basic resources are made available and accessible.
The need for a profound re-development of our local communities. In many ways, processes of globalisation and (increasing) individualism have eroded our local communities. Efforts are being made, all over the world, to maintain what’s left of them and/or to restore them in appropriate ways. Existing networks of community development teachers and workers have recognised the need to make available independent resources and opportunities for learning about and guiding processes of local community development. Implicit in this recognition is the need for for exchanging and disseminating experiences with and providing organisational capacity in support of such efforts. Borderlands contains a vast collection of (inter)national materials and offers opportunities for ongoing reflection for practitioners at various levels of experience as well as offering administrative support for these activities. The most fundamental purpose pursued by Borderlands in this area is to promote in practice and theory – locally and beyond – the notion of community (re-)development as a relevant “working principle” in many areas of professional, economic, social, voluntary, pastoral and every-day intervention.
The need for more ecologically sustainable local (suburban) living. It seems clear that the pressures on our environment – our ecological footprint – will continue to increase exponentially (and add to the already existing deterioration). It seems therefore necessary to at least attempt to develop more sustainable forms of living in the suburbs – not only understood in a purely material way, but including the more spiritual and ethical dimension as to how we (should) deal with and are (should be) connected to the space we inhabit. The permaculture network is invited to come and create a sympathetic “base” in the suburbs and various eco-philosophical spirituality-focused networks and groups exist who have expressed an interest in using the venue for meetings, discussions and study/reflection. Links with international and national/local networks are already established (for example, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Syntegrity, Ecoversity, the Living Economy Network) and will be represented and accessible in Borderlands.
The need for international and inter-cultural learning, exchange and awareness. As the world has become “smaller”, the distance between people seems to become ever greater and the inequalities and injustices in the areas of development and cross-cultural relationship have – if anything – worsened. In addition to respectfully listen to those who have in the past been oppressed, exploited, neglected or worse, we need to do our own “homework” and try to get a better understanding of “where we come from“, what our identity is, in order to practice the necessary (re-)conciliation with the former groups and peoples. Celebration of diversity and difference will thus be an ongoing theme and preoccupation of Borderlands. Ongoing contacts with local, national and international development agencies and groups have suggested the need for opportunities to reflect, learn and exchange experiences in a broad range of pertinent areas and activities. As well, intercultural learning and consultancy is an emerging area of expertise to which Borderlands will be able to contribute through resources and formal and informal courses and other programs. Existing networks include the South-North Network Culture and Development, the Human Scale Development network, the Inter-University Consortium for Social Development and other local networks for inter-cultural awareness and action.
The need for critical (self-)reflection and for active and participatory research. The worlds of science, research and academia have grown more and more remote from every-day awareness and consciousness of “normal” people. We seem almost forced to swallow whatever “experts” of all kinds (but especially economic and political “experts”) tell us is the “truth”, which in turn is powerfully reinforced by media (mis)information. Meanwhile, every-day communication seems to acquire a consumerist shallowness which powerfully prevents the emergence of a more critical consciousness and thus undermines deliberate change based upon such consciousness. There is – locally and internationally – a long tradition of alternative forms of (social) research and evaluation which intend to give power back to those who have usually been “researched upon” and which thus provide an important avenue towards developing a critical and active stance amongst those involved. Existing networks include the Action Research Issues Association, the Action Learning, Action Research and Process Management association and a growing international network of researchers, evaluators and organisational development consultants are invited to use Borderlands and/or provide access to their respective and considerable resources