Social learning, entrepreneurship, and rural community
People, practice, and place are the three dynamic, interacting elements of learning in context. Adults learn by doing, over time, in specific historic and cultural places, with specific people. And we learn with our whole selves, not just our minds, learning by doing, by practicing what we need to learn. We learn individually and socially, by reading, listening, watching, talking, teaching, acting, not acting, feeling or not feeling, participating and not participating. Over time and experience, we see patterns, and educators can help us identify some useful patterns earlier than we would have if our learning had evolved by trial and error. Educators may equally hide those patterns from us and keep us from learning, sometimes because it benefits the education institution if those patterns remain hidden. Formal education and training must be balanced with informal, peer-led, “kitchen-table” learning that includes talking critically about the systems of power in which we participate, and learning in the context in which we live and work.
I am an advocate for rural entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship” has assumed a cult-like status in political and media circles, and that has influenced what we mean by the term. The media has use “entrepreneurs” to mean young, single, urban men whose tech startup will be sold to Google. I use “entrepreneurship” to mean anyone who takes a calculated risk, and is accountable for the outcome of that risk. In rural areas, those people are often female, parents, middle-aged, second-career, self-funded, self-organized, and self-taught. They often do mundane work which does not attract the attention of venture capitalists or government economic development administrators who want to be recognized for supporting a good news story in an election year. They are not fee-paying clients of higher education, and by extension, not conveniently located and accessible participants for university researchers. They are therefore also invisible to policy and funding programs.
Emerging rural entrepreneurs are at a power disadvantage in their community as they threaten to divert the finite disposable income of the local population from existing businesses. Those existing businesses, frequently family businesses with long histories and many relatives in the community, have a vested interest in suppressing or controlling the emergence of new entrepreneurs in the community, and they do.
Learning in context:
In other words, rural entrepreneurs just starting their business are on their own, often radically separate both in lifestyle and mindset from everyone else in their geographic community and the larger community of entrepreneurs. They often survive against all odds. I want to help improve those odds. I bring together informal, social learning, critical examination of systems of power, and emerging rural entrepreneurship.