28 August 2006
Prout Research Institute of Venezuela begins
Namaskar from Caracas!
For me, the most exciting project of my life is just beginning. I have been permitted by Proutist Universal to work 50% of the time in Venezuela to open a Prout Research Institute, and 50% of the time in Europe. So I arrived here in Venezuela yesterday on a 3-month ticket. Dharmapal, an LFT from Hungary and an architect by training, was supposed to arrive the same day, but the one-year ticket he bought had a 2-and-a-half-hour layover in Miami, and he was not allowed to board his flight because he didn’t have a US visa for those 150 minutes! He is now struggling in Lisbon to overcome this political obstacle!
Instead of renting an office and residence, we are buying a house, which we should be able to completely pay off with four years of rent money. More news on that in the coming days after the contract is signed. Simultaneously we will legally register PRI as a foundation. We have started constructing a web site at: http://www.ve.prout.org/
For the first three months we will create a team of from five to ten full time volunteer interns, some from abroad, some from Venezuela. The focus of our research will be on cooperatives. We believe this is the most valuable practical contribution that Prout can make in Venezuela at this time, due to the extraordinary number of 120,000 co-ops that have been started, and the insufficient training, evaluation and support of them. Our plan will include:
Review national and international research on cooperatives and cooperative training programs.
Study Sarkar’s writings and those of other Proutists to compile a clear Prout model for ideal cooperatives.
Implement a needs assessment of cooperatives and related public institutions that would examine current conditions of cooperatives.
Analyze available public and private documents in the country, including statistical analysis of quantitative data.
Interview and consult with key leaders in the cooperative movement in Venezuela, in both public and private organizations, to discuss their experience and opinions.
Make a representative sample of Venezuelan cooperatives randomly chosen that include different sizes (both large and small numbers of members), different duration (years of operation), different locations (large city, small city and rural), different sectors (transport, handicrafts, agricultural, food production, manufacturing, etc.).
Set up focus group meetings with cooperative and community members
Design a survey questionnaire to get a representative view of the challenges and needs of Venezuelan cooperatives, and also to assist in the categorization of cooperatives for analysis purposes.
Analyze and triangulate data from diverse sources in order to determine precise needs and perspectives of public agencies, cooperative members, and affected communities.
Consult with cooperative experts in Venezuela and in other countries to discuss the analysis of data and identify effective and culturally-sensitive components of a cooperative training and evaluation program.
During the fourth month the following “deliverables” will be produced in both Spanish and English:
1. A press release announcing the opening of the PRI Venezuela and its initial projects.
2. A “Frequently Asked Questions” with short replies to the above questions.
3. An academic article submitted for publication to university journals outlining the reality of Venezuelan cooperatives and recommendations.
4. A popular article on the same subject submitted to progressive magazines and newspapers.
5. A project proposal to develop a cooperative training program for Venezuela that can be submitted to various foundations and government bodies to request funding.
I would like to invite interested people to join this historic project in one or more of the following ways:
1. Be a volunteer intern! Come and help for a period of two months to a year or more. The benefits include:
* Intensively study Prout and apply it, by working in a team and sharing ideas daily via telephone and email with some of the best Proutist thinkers and activists around the world.
* Learn Spanish and/or English, with 90 minutes of daily class time according to your level, and total immersion.
* Experience the “Bolivarian Revolution” of President Hugo Chavez, one of the most exciting political, economic and social transformations taking place. See first hand what happens when the consciousness of poor people is raised and they are empowered to overcome poverty through education at all levels, free health care and cooperatives. Review the successes and critically question the failures. Personally meet and discuss with key leaders of this historical process.
* Work collectively in a professional environment that is respectful of all, where every idea counts.
* Strengthen your meditation and daily practices in a supportive and caring spiritual environment.
* Every applicant will be interviewed by telephone.
* Those who are accepted will have to provide their own transportation to Caracas.
* PRI will provide sattvik vegetarian food, accommodation and money for your local transportation.
* You will be expected to work 40 hours a week on specific tasks that will be monitored.
* PRI will try to fairly resolve any problems, grievances or difficulties you may have while you volunteer with us;
2. Be a PRI research assistant at home! We need help to research on the Internet very specific questions and tasks. If you can spare a few hours a week, we’ll send you the list. Your job will include finding, reading and analyzing significant articles on the topic.
3. Donate in cash or kind! The Institute needs a library of good quality books and periodicals related to Prout and social sciences. If you have a motor vehicle in good working order that you can donate, we’ll arrange the shipment. If you can donate funds, please remember that every little bit helps. If you are in the USA, we can arrange a tax-exempt receipt for your donation.
4. Come visit! See the project and the country first hand. We will ask for a minimum donation of US$5 or €4 per day to cover food and accommodation costs. We are hoping to organize a global Prout Convention in late March 2007. More news will come on this soon.
Please write me if you are interested in any of the above: maheshvarananda[at]prout.org