Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Toolkit: Building a World-Wide Learning Community

Knoogle New Mobility 1.1

Knoogle New Mobility 1.1 is the first iteration of a power search engine aimed at better linking a world-wide learning community in support of urgent, climate-driven transport reform in cities. Knoogle is specifically tailored to help policy makers, local government, researchers, NGOs, activists, consultants, concerned citizens and the media keep up efficiently with the work and plans of the programs, groups, and sources leading the field of sustainable transport and sustainable cities, worldwide.

We invite you to test our in-process but entirely usable Knoogle New Mobility 1.1 combined search engine to view the results of a quick unified scan based on your selected key words, combing through more than one thousand selected institutions, programs and sources in thirty countries that we view as leading the way in their work and competence in our heavily challenged sector world-wide.

Click here: to go to Knoogle New Mobility 1.1.

The question: Networking knowledge, competence, collaboration?

Is there a requirement, a potentially useful role for a more creative and powerful system of linkage, dynamic multi-level interaction, information exchange and eventually collaboration between the many and fast growing constellation of programs and their considerable knowledge and competence bases, with specific reference to the issues, roles and possibilities of the new mobility/sustainable transport policy, planning, and practice? And if so: who, when, what next?

Basic principles of project

The Knoogle project is defined by the following basic principles:

1. We are losing the climate war in a very big way - and we don't need to.
2. We are losing the fossil fuel, food, and resource wars-and we don't need to lose them either.
3. Transportation accounts for on the order of 20% of the climate problem -- more in the case of some of the others.
4. More than half of the world population today live in cities -- with more pouring in every day.
5. The vast majority of these people are poorly served by the existing transportation arrangements - and most the plans and projects in the pipeline offer zero prospect of the fundamental structural improvements that are needed.
6. A growing number of institutions and programs trying to make targeted contributions to deal with these challenges --some with fair resources and broad backing, most however working on bare bones budgets.
7. These programs and the people who make them up communicate with each other and collaborate with each other in a number of ways - but there is every reason to step up this creative interaction by several orders of magnitude if we are to have a chance to rectify these fundamental planet and life threatening problems.
8. Communications and computer technologies offers the possibility to better network these programs, institutions and the people working with them - at low cost and very quickly.
9. The more unified, more deeply seated networking and sharing approach that would come out of these greatly heightened communications arrangements would improve their chances, individually and collectively, at getting to grips with the underlying challenges.
10. This project has the mission of opening up the dialogue that is needed to advance this very specific component of the sustainability agenda.
11. Dividend: This deepened and more universally accessible knowledge environment is for sure going to open up new project and service opportunities for entrepreneurs, both public, private and volunteer.

What makes Knoogle Klick

There are four main building blocks of this tool set,

Google CSE:
The first of which is Google's excellent search functionality which does the heavy lifting. (The name combines the two basic components that make it work, KNOwledge and goOGLE, into a single memorable (?) word (pronounced "kah-noogle").) Our contribution is simply to point it in the right direction, as follows:

The targeted sources:
The next building block is the selection of programs and sources to which we have directed the search engine. Thus far more than one thousand in number, each carefully screened for inclusion here as a result of our research identifying what we regard as the premier sources and programs working in the areas that specifically concern us - sustainable transport, new mobility, climate, environment, reform programs, etc. To get a feel for these sources all you have to do is try a few sample searches and inspect the programs that are called up in the search results. (If you click here, you will see an early (partial) listing of these sources which should give you a feel for what we are targeting for coverage.)

Key words:
In carrying out your search you can of course use the usual key word filters in combination. (Click here for a reminder on this if useful.) Let's look at an example by way of quick illustration: "BRT" generates 439 Knoogle references. "BRT + India" narrows this down to 217 entries, "BRT + Pune" calls up 75 entries -- most of which are right on topic. The usual except that we are dealing here with targeted references and not the dog's lunch.

Search refinements:
Then as a next narrowing device, you will see that each search results page also shows in the top rows which show the "Search refinements" which we have developed on what we see as key topics of interest, ranging from different transport modes. Refinements are labels that you apply to websites. They appear as a list of links above search results, offering you a way to narrow their search.
The 1.1 version provides on click refinements for the following categories: Children, Climate, Conferences, Economics, Energy, Freight, Land use, Measurement, Non-motorized, Paratransit, Parking, Pollution, Presentations, Public Transport, Traffic, Videos. Each of these calls up not one but a tailored cluster of keywords. As an example when you click Public Transport, it will automatically search the specified target for any mention of public transport, but also public transit, bus, rail, BRT, LRT, tramway, metro, train, subway, Mobilien. And of course if you feel that these composite keywords cast the net too wide, all you have to do is narrow the search with your own selection.

Knoogle or Google

When the first of these search engines appeared on the scene in the nineties, there was great satisfaction to being able to dredge up comparatively large numbers of results in swift answer to our queries. But navigating these shoals has become ever more difficult as the numbers explode. Fortunately judicious use of the key words and other advanced search tools has helped greatly for our daily uses. In fact, the idea behind Knoogle is to take this idea of useful narrowing one full stage further, and in this case specifically in the context of the issues which bring us all here.

Let's have a look at a couple quick comparisons showing why we feel this kind of directed search may be useful to you. Suppose you are going to Kabul for the first time on a mission involving our shared concerns.

You fire up your browser and you get:
• Karachi: Google – 1.9 million general references. Knoogle 1.0: 129 targeted references all relating to our topic.
• Karachi + pollution: Google – 185,000. Knoogle: 148 targeted references

Likewise, a Google search on "parking" will open up the portals to almost 26 million references. By contrast Knoogle 1.0: 434, most of which right on target. As noted this is still a beta version, and it can be better . . .

Project origins :

The concept of new mobility or sustainable transportation is gradually gaining credibility as an alternative strategy for the policy, development and management of city transport systems worldwide. Starting from a very different series of basic conditions, premises and priorities to the transportation policies and practices that largely dominated the 20th century, these new approaches are increasingly being supported by a wide variety of leading practitioners, authorities, and institutions -- public, private and participatory -- in many parts of the world.

Despite this undeniable progress however, this approach is still heavily outmatched in many cities and parts of the world, in part because it advocates different approaches which are often regarded with doubt or suspicion by more conservative interests.

Fortunately there are a growing number of people, programs and institutions in different parts of the world that have got the message and are leading the charge with these new approaches: strategies and measures which are far better matched with the very different, historically unique and highly stringent requirements of this new century. One of the goals of this first-stage project is simply to identify the leading groups and approaches. For this you will find our latest short-list if you click here.

The goal of this open collaborative project is to initiate a constructive dialogue among the people and organizations around the world who know the problems and possibilities best, to see if we can come to some sort of creative vision of what if any best next steps might be.

These first stages are being taken in hand by the New Mobility Partnerships as a public contribution -- and in doing this we note the sense of high emergency associated with this project that is driven by not only the long understood needs for radical transportation reform in our cities, but also and above all by the utmost urgency of the climate issues and just behind them the ever more pressing problems of energy supply, security and prices. It is for these reasons that this project takes on particular urgency and importance.

The project started to take shape in Spring 2008 with a series of exchanges between Sue Zielinski Managing Director of the Sustainable Mobility (SMART) program of the University of Michigan and Eric Britton of the New Mobility Partnerships in preparation for a high level brainstorming public/private conference on "New Mobility: The Emerging Transportation Economy" in which the idea was being turned around that our present information and "knowledge recuperation" tools were not keeping up with the urgent challenges we are presently facing. Britton was asked to lead a presentation and discussion on this during the 12 June 2008 conference, eventually entitled "Reinventing the Wheel (But not all by ourselves".

The discussion was well received and eventually gave birth to this first stage project probe.

New Mobility Network - Latest round of incoming contacts and queries

As per 11 May 2009:
This map, reporting a selection of the rounds of enquiries coming into the project website, provides a good visual illustration of where the action is on our topic. That great white swath that sweeps from south to north from Africa and up through the Middle East and on to the former Soviet countries is notable. And certainly worth a thought or two if, as it is, our problem is a planetary one that cannot be handled on a piecemeal or partial basis.

Workplan (in process)

Here you have a quick outline of steps taken and underway in the process of vetting this idea for follow-up and action.

Getting underway (2008)

1. Early 2008. Brainstorming discussions with partners of the New Mobility Agenda discussion group to define problems and eventual paths for solutions
2. 12 June. First concept presentation - To Ann Arbor SMART Conference.
3. July: Creation of the first version of this website and the 1.0 Knoogle working model.
4. August Systematically expanding listing of key groups/programs (to more toward a more complete collection of P2P key nodes )
5. First brainstorming on new tools to support new cross-cutting structure (see the New Mobility Agenda discussions via http://www.newmobility.org/, Café)


1. Initiate first round of direct contacts and discussions with identified groups, based mainly on information provided on website
2. Continue to develop and refine web site and PPT presentations
3. Work to define and test new tools toolkit candidates
4. Disseminate preliminary materials widely to seek counsel, suggestions and eventual collaboration.
5. Continue to extend master list of groups and programs to be contacted for their ideas and eventual collaboration in the problem-solving stages
6. Discuss formation of an informal core working group (provisionally 5-10 active collaborating groups)
7. Invite selected colleagues to join International Advisory Council
8. Discuss and decide about organization of the appropriate "discussion/exchange forum": the technology to be used for group discussions and exchanges (the simplest option would be to use either the New Mobility Cafe, to create another basically similar group dedicated specifically to the knowledge site, or possibly something else and quite different and much more powerful. This last of course being the most appropriate chose for a project like this.)
9. Starting summer 2009: : Present project when it is ready to conference, workshops, media, etc. Incorporate feedback into key materials;
10. Start to initiate first linking steps - on limited trial basis first, then when proven extending it to all interested participating groups
11. Seek both short and longer term support, financial and other
12. This is the way that the process looks today (11 May 2009) and we can expect that it will continue to alter quite quickly as work moves head. Stay tuned.

For more on this collaborative project, click here.

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