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The value of community – 7 ways in which communities like Hackerspaces enable Kosovo’s development

The value of community – 7 ways in which communities like Hackerspaces enable Kosovo’s development

BACK in elementary school, I remember learning of the story about the seven sticks… The lesson at the end was that: One could easily break an individual stick, but put seven sticks together and it would be almost impossible to break them. You’ve probably heard the story before, or a version of it, because it has been told around the world for ages. The story has survived with good reasons I would assume – because there seems to be great value in unity.

I bring up the story of the seven sticks here because it as relevant today as it has ever been – we need people to stick together! We need Kosovars to work closely with neighbors, with each other and with the EU – for mutual benefit. There are many ways to go about achieving this goal, and one key method would be to leverage Communities in order to develop Kosovo.

It is quite apparent that Kosovo has much to achieve in order to get up on its “Newborn feet”. So, this publication aims to draw attention to the value of communities in general, and how their volunteers, their resources, and their networks could serve as a “crutch” which could enable Kosovo to rise and walk – or even run – towards success!

I recently joined the Prishtina Hackerspace community because I needed working space for my start-up company, but I see all sorts of members here. I see members at Hackerspace who only volunteer to share their knowledge with anyone bothering to attend their open meetings. I see young members eager to learn, who attend these meetings and grab the free knowledge floating around. There are members who only work on the 3D printing environment; there are members only interested in the Electronics Corner; and then, there are some other young members who have no clue what they want to do in life but they come to Hackerspace to explore. Some students and future professionals pay for training courses to hone their skills in areas ranging from programming to metal welding; while, some businesses offer free training workshops to find future employees to train and hire. Some come to produce beer, and others come to drink it. Some come to produce music, and others come to listen while mingling with others. It’s a diverse crowd here; each individual is in his own world, but all these worlds somehow converge at the Hackerspace.

To summarize it briefly, Prishtina Hackerspace is a community based co-working open experimentation space established for technological, educational, cultural and scientific purposes. So, it makes sense for me to be a member, as it does for many others.

I would assume that every community member has their own reasons for being here; but, it’s when our reasons align with other members’ reasons – that’s when the magic truly happens! For me, the biggest value in community is that Communities – defined for the purposes of this publication as groups of people with common interests, resources and characteristics – in general they (Communities) provide environments for individuals to go about reaching their individual goals, while offering opportunities for shared goals with other community members for mutual benefit.

There are so many benefits of being a part of a community that it would take forever to list them all here. Nevertheless, I’ve chosen seven of the most important ways in which I think communities like Hackerspace are the silent catalyzers of the development of Kosovo.

7. Resources

Communities provide its members with access to all kinds of resources, from simple things like working space and working tools, all the way up to finding the right people for the job. At Prishtina Hackerspace, thanks to the generous donations of well-intentioned organizations and individuals, members can use the existing space and equipment to work on their technological, educational, cultural and scientific projects.

Most importantly, the community provides its members with access to People. Nowadays, with the right people, you could do just about anything. For those with ideas, communities like Hackerspace provide a place to turn ideas into reality. For organizations with resources to donate for the development of Kosovo, communities like Hackerspace provide an excellent channel for Donor Organizations to maximize the results from donated resources.

6. Opportunities

By design, communities typically offer a wide range of opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders. The next multi-million euro business might come out of a random hallway chat between two strangers. Who knows who you will meet, and how they will shape your thinking, and how you will shape theirs’?

Chances are that if you gather the right mix of people to operate in the right mix of conditions, and then you give them the right tools to do the jobs they might want to get done – then you will have yourself a recipe for development. In this sense, communities like Hackerspace provide excellent environments for opportunities to arise, and those who see value in opportunities usually join the community.

5. Volunteering

On one hand, communities like Hackerspace are good ways for young inexperienced students to gain knowledge and experience, before they go out in the labor market. Ever hear of the following paradox? “You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience if you can’t get a job.” Well, communities like Hackerspace solve that problem for youngsters interested in fields such as technology, education, culture and science. Other communities may provide similar solutions for youngsters interested in other fields that Hackerspace doesn’t focus on.

On the other hand, communities provide an outlet for professionals to share their knowledge and experience with others for greater good. We all have to thank the busy professionals who continue to tirelessly devote their precious time to help others, and I hope that more people join in and contribute similarly to the Hackerspace community, or any other community for that matter.

4. Connections

Whether you need a programmer, a designer, a welder, an electrician or a musician – chances are that you will find them through Hackerspace, including many other types of professionals not listed above. It’s the size and diversity of the community that enables more connections and better suited ones.

If you are looking for connections of any type, your best bet would be to start looking for communities related to that sector you are targeting. Currently, Hackerspace provides solid chances for connections in technological, educational, cultural and scientific areas, while other communities provide connections in other areas.

3. Support

Communities are typically designed so that people support one another, much like the sticks in the story of the seven sticks. In that same way, Hackerspace members support its other members to reach their goals.

Often times it is this type of support from “someone”, or lack of it, that can make or break projects when starting out. Communities such as Hackerspace provide excellent support to its members, and will probably continue to add more capacities in the future. In this regard, it would be great if more development organizations would donate more resources for the community to support its members. Just saying…

2. Knowledge

On one hand, youngsters with little or no experience, but an insatiable appetite for knowledge, can join the Hackerspace community so they can learn just about anything related to technology, education, culture and science.

On the other hand, communities such as Hackerspace have their knowledgeable members to thank for spreading the wisdom among the community. Often it is this shared knowledge that enables successful projects, and as a result – successful communities.

1. Fun

Ultimately, if the members are not having fun in one way or another being part of the community, they will eventually stop being part of it. That is why Hackerspace encourages a playful environment, one in which members have fun while being productive!

In concluding this discourse on the strategic value of Communities for the development of Kosovo, the following has to be said:

I believe that social evolution will run its course, whether we like it or not! From an evolutionary perspective, the groups that work best together to adapt to the environment will most probably survive and thrive in the long run. So, if we wish a brighter future upon Kosovo, then we need to – among other things – invest in building better, more resourceful and more diverse communities that enable long-term sustainable development in Kosovo and the region.

 

For reasons too many to list on this short publication, I call upon any well-intentioned individual and organization in Kosovo to get involved with communities related to their interests. In particular, I urge the Kosovo youth to volunteer their time within communities to gain experience and knowledge. I plead with local and international professionals to come share their knowledge and experience with communities here. I recommend donor organizations with development interests in Kosovo to highly consider investing further in communities because of their multiple benefits to society. I ask respective government agencies to listen to communities’ input and integrate their concerns and recommendations into their policies and practices. Last but not least, I highly suggest businesses utilize communities like Hackerspace for researching, developing and testing solutions to their current and future business challenges, whatever they may be.

 

Author: Korab Krasniqi (Member of Prishtina Hackerspace)

This blog was originally published in Volunteer4Development Incubator.