By Tim Leeds
NARFI.org is a web site on the Internet for people to find and share information about the needs of and resources available to rural communities.
NARFI, the North American Rural Futures Institute, was founded by Jonathan Richter, the coordinator for the PT3 (Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers for Technology Today) grant at Montana State University-Northern.
The site provides an Internet link between economic development agencies, agricultural extension agencies, cooperative development centers, rural studies programs, and anyone wishing to provide or find information on the latest developments in social and technological innovation and concepts of futures thinking.
NARFI.org already has 79 links to other sites related to the concepts of the organization. There are links on the "Resources/Links" page of the site for other groups to submit their web sites for consideration as a link on NARFI. There is also a link to contact Richter through email on the site, and links to the partners and sponsors of the site, Rick Smyre's Community of the Futures (COTF) and Global Rural 21st Century Network, and Sohodojo and its Center for Open Source Collaboration Technologies site of COTF and other sites, such as Small is Good' Business Webs.
Pages at the site also provide information about the three main focuses of NARFI, the Rural Futures Institute, the Wired Community Learning Center Network and the Process Leadership Development Center.
The Process Leadership Development Center is a source for training leaders in both traditional leadership skills such as problem solving and conflict resolution, and process leadership. Process leadership, which is part of the concepts of COTF, is defined as the ability to help people rethink institutions and activities and build capacities to transform their own social, political and economic environments to succeed in today's technological global environment.
The Wired Community Learning Center Network will connect centers which provide community gathering places and a source for people to learn about and teach others about gaining and using computers and Internet access.
The Rural Futures Institute, hosted by NARFI's partner Montana State University-Northern, will identify trends which may impact the community and develop scenarios for creating plans, educational curricula, proposals and opportunities related to the research conducted.
The idea for the NARFI site evolved while Richter, and other leaders in the community, were working on applying for a grant from the Hewlett Packard Company to increase the capability to use and the actual usage of modern technology in the Havre area.
Richter and others involved in NARFI are currently seeking public support for the futures institute, and are also contacting the Montana U.S. congressional delegation to seek support for funding the institute. They are also investigating grants to fund the institute from other sources.
While Havre did not receive the grant from Hewlett Packard, Richter said many ideas were raised by the people working on the grant application during their weekly 7 a.m. meetings from August through November. Richter met Rick Smyres, the founder of COTF program while at a conference, and that led to the NARFI web site, a member of COTF.
COTF is a network of community centers and futures institutes with the goal of helping communities find ways to plan for a sustainable future in today's, and the future's, ever-changing high technology environment.
The NARFI site was created by and maintained by JFS Consulting, Inc., Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky's web site development company. Salmons and Babitsky are the founders of Sohodojo.
On the 'net: North American Rural Futures Institute: http://www.narfi.org/
Communities of the Future: http://www.communitiesofthefuture.org