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An Attempt Of Mainstreaming Pattern Work

An Attempt Of Mainstreaming Pattern Work in Regional Development - Early Considerations

Abstract for a contribution at PURPLSOC Prep. Workshop November 2014 by Franz Nahrada

the further development happens here:

As the work towards PURPLSOC proceeds, day by day not only are we getting aware of more and more researchers, practicioners and institutions approaching problems and issues by applying elements and methodologies derived from classical pattern languages to new fields of knowledge and action; also, there is a growing self-confidence in the pattern community that these approaches can be brought to greater public visibility and impact.

In this context and framework, we have chosen to apply pattern methodology to a regional development project that is actively seeking innovation in the field of higher education. The Austrian region of Osttirol (Eastern Tyrol) is part of the state/province of Tyrol, yet geographically separated from the "mainland" by a hight mountain range. The region is maybe the most remote peripheral region in Austria, yet has a quite vibrant urban center (the town of Lienz) and good infrastructure.

What is really missing is an instititution for higher (scientific) education, although Lienz has several educational institutions. To study a scientific profession young people have to go abroad. Vocational opportunities for professionals deepening their knowledge are missing. The region has started to initiate a discussion from inside which covers key fields of regional development and also education, the term "Campus Osttirol" was coined to designate a desired development towards a local institution that catalyzes higher education in and for the region.

In the framework of an Interreg IV project called "Bit Generation", the regional development bureau has comissioned research and instigation work to create a favorable climate and also precise information that would lead to political decision making based on a participatory process within the region. It turned out that a proposal was successful to base this participatory process on a pattern language. The reason is obvious, there are many players, there is no fixed outcome yet, there is innovation and inventiveness involved which transcends the ability of even the best experts.

In the framework of this PURPLSOC workshop contribution, we do not only want to report on the steps we took to implement pattern language construction and public participation in this process, but also gain inputs and ideas from the pattern community assembled at PURPLSOC. We think this is an exciting work in progress and everyone has a chance to shape its final outcome.

Identifying problems in introducing the patterns approach

Whilst there is a widespread conviction among researchers that pattern work must be perceived as innovative and people - centered in comparison to other approaches, we faced interesting initial discussions with other schools of thought like action research etc. In their perception, "patterns" equal habits, unconscious barriers to facing problems, rather than the very means to solve them. Patterns are seen as prescriptions, hindering creative action and discovery. So it is important to notice one cannot introduce the word patterns as if it was a neologism.

We will put special attention in our work to these and similar blocks to adopt pattern methods. In the workshop, we seek to discuss succesful strategies of overcoming these mindsets and beliefs and also of evaluating whatever truth they may contain.

Purpose of the envisioned pattern language (EPL)

The purpose of the EPL is to bring the envisioned "Campus Osttirol" to life. We want to keep all options open, not pretend the solution must be primarily a new architectural innovation. A "Campus" could and probably should comprise the whole region, local communities and their institutions and even look at the existing firms and farms as places where higher education can take place. We have this broad options because they are in alignment with the general development goals cited below.

The EPL serves as tool of information and evaluation for a broad range of actors who engage in a participatory process yet to be designed. All of these actors have acquired a lot of active competences, but they were mostly formed in an environment of specialisation and expert - based practise. We want to increase "pasive competences" of all groups involved, which means to understand the complexity of the field they are acting in, understand the different options they have to reach their goal, understand the thinking of other people, professions and groups involved, get aware of win - win - constellations, get a clear understanding about long - term sustainability and possible "side - effects" of solutions. This must be achieved by "condensing" proven solutions with the help of experienced experts, analyzing their context and focusing on alternatives, sequences, synergies, blocks and so on.

The purpose of all this is to enable regional actors to shape an optimum educational (with some focus on higher education) environment in the context of their overall development goals, which have already been canonized by a "ahead-thinkers community". The main goals are:

  • to responsibly, consequently and compentently connect to the natural environment, a very vital natural and cultural landscape full with precious water, sulight, forests; to preserve the rural and agricultural structure and their traditions, yet connect them to modern science and its insights and achievents, especially facing possible climate changes.
  • to fully take advantage of the human potential of this landscape as a resource for recreation, relief and self-actualisation. To create a common strategy for "earthed" and "decelerated" activities in crafts, agriculture, catering which will be useful and in demand far beyond the region itself.
  • These qualities should build the base for a science - driven economic region, one that knows about the highest potentials of the existing resources, fosters cooperation and deliberate knowledge exchange.
  • to build on the human qualities that this demanding nature has brought about within people in the course of centuries, which is a high motivation level, industriousness and studiousness, and the ability to be culturally creative. Thus the envisioned goal is a space in which human talents grow in an atmosphere of both individuality and intentional cooperation.
  • which of course means that this quality does not end at the official borders of the region, but naturally fosters economical and social relations, in particular to the neighbors Carinthia,Salzburg and North Tyrol. The envisioned pattern language should also enable more international cooperations, sharing of knowledge and talents especially with South Tyrol and Friuli-Venetia, create a common development space in a 'Europe of Regions'.

Scope and fields of the envisioned pattern language

From the things stated so far, it is clear that we do not only look at the immediate educational process alone, but also on supportive environments of any kind that foster higher education and learning.

We figured out we need to deal with:

  • Ideas and Attitudes that foster higher education in the regional context - for example the comittment to regional identity which essentially needs intellectuial progress or the comittment of individuals quest for new roles in a cooperative context, dee description above.
  • Patterns of human interaction -like "mentors" or "ambassadors", "steering groups", "community education teams", "regional scientists council" etc.
  • Patterns of technology applications - like "MOOCS" or "Webinars" or "RegioWiki" or "Videobridge", "Gamification",
  • Patterns of supportive institutions - like "distant teaching universities", "open universities", "online academies", "community campuses"
  • Patterns of space and resource use - like "academic farm guest house", "community education cafe", "living learning labs"
  • Pedagogical concepts - like "learning circle" etc.
This list is by no means complete and we appreciate inputs. We want to mediate between seemingly unique situations and their reproduceability, especially in similar (rural and peripheral) regions.

Participants and repository

The project will be permanently supervised by a steering group that consist of the regional development team and advisors from 2 selected institutions. The team itself consists out of four people with core comptetencies in new media, local networking, pattern language building and future research. They are distributed between Lienz, Salzburg, Graz and Vienna. The "Regional Forward Thinkers Group" is the most important "inner circle" from which we expect impulses and ideas, evaluation and refinement for the pattern language building process.

We are working with several online tools simultaneosly. Some tools serve merely for internal communication of the team, others will be used to foster participation. These are, in particular, weblogs and a public Facebook group.

The central repository will be of course in a dedicated wiki.

Collection and refinement of patterns

Patterns will be collected and discussed in interaction between the team and target groups, experts, the Forward thinkers and many others.

At some point, there will be constant publication of patterns via the weblog and Facebook group. But we also have planned several workshops in which we seek to foster concrete applications and trials.

Patterns will be constantly re-evaluated, selected, cross-referenced and also will receive "value points". We want to experiment with several methods to do this.

Expected results

We expect a robust pattern collection that also serves as the background for reccomendations. A shortened version of the pattern language will be the main body of the final report.

What really counts though is if the patterns will make it to peoples design thinking and help them to order and structure their needs and actions.


(C) Die Autoren changed: 3. Oktober 2014