Community 21: Digital toolbox for sustainable communities

Nick Gant
Teresa Gittins


This article will describe the 'Toolbox for the 21st Century Village' action research project and outline the critical research contexts that underpin its development as an online informatics and social engagement tool aimed at facilitating understanding, sharing and planning of integrated sustainability by individual communities. This will include exposing the context of ‘mis-communication’ of sustainability issues in society by visual culture, the media and politics. The article argues that this has served to alienate, demoralise and disenfranchise many individuals and communities. Being rural does not necessarily mean being ‘green’ and the article will describe the ‘green dichotomy’ and how rural behaviours are disproportionately dependent on natural resources and as a consequence are ‘less sustainable’, despite relative autonomy and community potential to make significant gains. The article will also unpack and explore how the loaded term sustainability only serves to divide and detract as a polemic and absolute term; whereas self-sufficiency is a demonstrable concern of vulnerable rural communities; a by-product of which can be genuine and valued, measurable and meaningful sustainable development.

The above provides a contextual backdrop and rationale for the formation of a project that enables communities to frame their own concerns and envision themselves and their problems and responses as part of a larger system. The project is developed around an experimental online content management system (CMS platform) that will facilitate sustainable development through envisioning, action planning and networking – connecting the ‘knots in the net’ of an active patchwork of ‘multi-local communities’. The platform design will provide methodology, process and capacity to enable reconciliation between the manifold concerns of social, economic and environmental sustainability whilst providing community facilitators with new opportunities and roles within the context of the changing technological and environmental landscape.

Keywords: sustainability, rural communities, informatics, community-led engagement

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