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The Concept: A New Paradigm

in Intercultural Communication

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"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  G.B. Shaw   

Hut in Papua New Guinea The Global Development Communication Dilemma
Billions in financial resources are committed annually by governments and development agencies worldwide in an attempt to provide life-crucial health, education, and development information to huge, diverse, at-risk populations. Materials provided run the gamut from basic literacy and education texts to life-crucial information on topics such as HIV/AIDS, clean water, enhanced agricultural practices, and sustainable, community-directed development of all types. Yet recipient communities often do not understand or trust this information because it is not in their language, or lacks authenticity and authority in terms of the local cultural perspective. Thus this abundance of life-crucial information has little impact on millions of marginalized people who need it the most.

The need to build "sustainable local capacity through an inclusive, participatory process" is axiomatic among development practitioners. Yet, unless and until teaching and learning materials are localized, the notion that development capacity-building is inclusive or participatory -- or will be sustainable -- is a myth. And teaching and learning materials are not " localized" as long as they remain in a language and cultural perspective which is essentially foreign to members of the local community.

The Necessity of Top-Down Delivery
Information provided by development agencies must be factually correct and distributed broadly. In light of real-world considerations such as limited resources, economies of scale, and the need for quality assurance, “top-down” design and delivery have been the norm. The overarching concern is to reach the broadest possible audience as economically and practically as possible.

The Neccesity of Bottom-Up Understanding, Acceptance, and Ownership
Yet, on the receiving end are local communities -- hundreds of thousands, speaking over 6000 languages -- with their unique cultures, knowledge systems, social structures, and ways of communicating and evaluating new information. At this level of interaction, information must be understandable and credible before it will be accepted, "owned", and acted upon. In short, new information must be targeted for thousands of unique audiences.

"Top down efforts are usually required to initiate and even sustain bottom-up capacities."  Norman Uphoff

Solving the Dilemma: Information as a Resource, not a Finished Product
When agencies provide their information in an adaptable resource format, they invite and empower communities to take "ownership through authorship" by creating a final product which they've tailored precisely for their own use. Well designed Shellbook resources provide a principled curriculum framework in which diverse communities, the world over, may produce understandable and credible publications in terms of their own language, unique culture, knowledge system, social structure, and ways of communicating.

A Shellbook or "learning shell" is a principled framework in which quality information and training resources are created by topic specialists, distributed for localization by communities, and stored in digital libraries for low cost print-on-demand and revision by the community as needed.

A Global Localization Management System
SPS Founder Mike Trainum with Tauye Life Access Technology Trust founder Mike Trainum spent 11 years in Papua New Guinea as a linguist/translator among the Qoqwaiyeqwa people. Located just north of Australia in the southwest Pacific, Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse nation on earth, with 6 million people who speak more than 800 distinct languages. It was there that Trainum first developed the Shellbook concept, a process in which information is developed so that any community may "localize" it; that is, adapt it to their own language and cultural perspective while retaining the integrity of the core material.  Between 1993 and 2003, Papua New Guinea's Elementary Reform utilized Shellbooks to assist communities speaking 435 different languages to localize K-2 curricula for use in their village elementary schools.

Trainum founded Shellbook Publishing Systems in 2002 to transform the concepts originally conceived in Papua New Guinea into a cost-effective, technologically enhanced localization management system. This technology, Shellbook Maker, allows topic specialists to create Shellbook resources -- both teaching and learning materials -- in a highly adaptable format for localization. Every Shellbook resource edition is underlyingly a small database which integrates a short learner's publication with related teacher/facilitator training resources, multilanguage and multimedia asset management tools, and the ability to easily create and track any number of "derivative works" with all of their adapted text, graphic, audio, and video components once they've been localized by a community.

Shellbook Global Resource Editions may be created, shared, and regionalized by government, development, and mission agencies worldwide in preparation for localization by communities in areas where they provide or assist with education and development.

"Every Shellbook has the potential to become a global family of diverse, yet related, localized publications.  Mike Trainum

The Process: Shellbook Localization>>