Information about the “Smart Networks” project, Belarus
I enjoyed HLM_2 in Seoul – it was really interesting. Though, I constantly caught myself thinking, that we generally speak about organizing knowledge exchange “from institutions to institutions” or “from institutions to people”.
Don’t know whether it’s Belarusian specificity or not, but one more direction of experience exchange is actual for us: “from people to institutions”.
The issue is that in some spheres of knowledge and experience individuals go much further than state institutions. The spheres of information society, network communications and new media could be a shining example of that idea. In these cases state institutions feel the need for experience, for learning from advanced citizens.
If we want state authorities to perceive these knowledge and experience, to understand them well enough, we have to prepare citizens, who have that knowledge, properly. We should show them how state institutions work, what there machinery is. How do they percept the information? How do they acquire knowledge?
Belarus has brilliant youth, which posses’ modern knowledge and experience in various spheres, especially – in the field of information society. From other hand, young people don’t know well how system of state administration works and how to exchange information and knowledge with it effectively.
Understanding of that problem resulted in the idea of the “Smart Networks” project. It became a platform for sharing ideas, knowledge and experience between state administration bodies and young intellectuals.
The project was initiated by the Informational-Analytical Center under the Administration of President of the Republic of Belarus (IAC), the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus, the Republican Institute of Higher Education, Belarusian State University and Minsk State Linguistic University.
In the fall of 2012 IAC used the most popular social network in Belarus – “Vkontakte” – to invite young people to participate in the program, which was presented as the project for young analysts, who are interested in collaboration with the state (and, probably, in the placement further on).
Everyone who has received at least a Bachelor’s academic degree (it doesn’t matter what you focus on) were welcomed to send an application and an essay with his or her thoughts and ideas.
Participants have formed a web-based analytical community of almost 170 young people. It includes not only talented youth, but also high-level experts from IAC, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Economy.
The typical activities within this community could be boiled down to 4 kinds:
- 1. Information, knowledge and experience exchange between young analysts;
- 2. Information, knowledge and experience between young analysts and high-level experts from state administration;
3. Crowdsourcing: collective production of ideas and projects for state administration bodies;
4. Participation in educational programs, aimed at the development of analytical skills.
Currently, the biggest project, analytical community is working at, is a series of scientific conferences named “Agenda-2015”. Its goal is to propose ideas for the social and economic development of Belarus over the years 2016 to 2020. Besides discussions online, young analysts meet twice a year during “offline” conferences, which are hosted by the universities–partners of the project. Conferences give the opportunity to argue with Belarusian experts and representatives of foreign think tanks.
At this point young analysts from Belarus have worked out (with the help of experts, of course) so-called “The Map of Challenges” – a document, which reflects the vision of the most important challenges and problems, Belarus will, likely, face. The Map covers four spheres: foreign policy and globalization’s challenges, modernization of the economy, state youth policy, information society.
More than one third of the project participants have used the opportunities to get the additional training in the field of political analysis. Since 2014 they got a chance to study for master degree in the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus. The master’s program was created specially for the “Smart Networks” participants and is free of payment.
Several participants of the project were noticed by bodies of state administration and were included into staff reserve. Three of them – the ones, who were among the first participants of the project – have already been employed by government structures.
I believe it’s only the beginning: our project hasn’t even celebrated its second birthday yet.
Smart Networks coordinator,
IAC Deputy Director