CIDESAL: Connecting Minds
Through networks, brain drain can today be converted into a more positive form of mobility, an issue that the Création d’incubateurs de diasporas des savoirs pour l’Amérique Latine (CIDESAL) seeks to address. CIDESAL, the Creation of diaspora incubators for Latin American knowledge, is a European project coordinated by the IRD, France’s public development research institute. As with many countries in the South, brain drain or the exodus of competencies has been a reoccurring problem in Latin American development policies for the past forty years. This sustained and continuous exodus has resulted in highly qualified diasporas, with a majority dispersed among European countries. Paradoxically, less is known about these populations than their counterparts in North America, due to a lack of homogenous information and coordinated observation.
Seen for quite some time as lost resources, these qualified diasporic networks now appear as a form of social and human capital that can no longer be ignored and have the potential to be mobilized by their countries of origin. In the mid 1990s, countries in Latin America were among the first to publicly reveal the potential of recuperating diaspora competencies for the benefit of the countries of origin. But their networking efforts suffered from a vicissitude of pilot projects, without obtaining the same levels of success as their Asian counterparts. That being said, these work-in-progress efforts can still be benefited from today. Indeed, difficulties in networking are today systematically analyzed, with standards for success rigorously established through the creation of more appropriate tools. Through these means, brain drain can be successfully converted into brain gain, or an asset for development.
But facilitating interconnectedness with diasporas goes beyond the simple availability of long-distance communications. The CIDESAL project, in a first phase, will create observatories for the migration of qualified individuals from Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. Within the second year of the three-year project, these observatories will quickly lead to the creation of incubators for engineering, research and other skill sets among their diasporas. Indeed, technical, organization, financial and administrative tools will be developed and disseminated to establish systematic and productive connections between expatriates. These incubators are designed to be light in structure, partially virtual and grouping together tools that can be easily accessed by expatriates and their networks, as well local residents with competencies who might be called upon to circulate abroad and would thereby remain connected. The creation of these structures will be promoted in the countries of origin, but also in the principle host destinations of their migrant populations, in Europe.
CIDESAL is both a research and development project. Bringing together social sciences with engineering, it is based on the premise that organizational and technical innovations, if skilfully combined, can transform situations of asymmetrical relations at the planetary level. It aims to demonstrate that the instruments of a new world regulation are within reach, based on the circulation of human resources. Building on the foundations of this particular project, these instruments could be extended to other geographic zones and fields of activity.
Keywords: Global uncertainties – increasing asymmetries – vulnerability exposure - flows regulation - cooperative intelligence - communication technologies
Introduction: Current global uncertainties threaten to dramatically impact on human mobility in the short term. Evidence shows that, after the migration and development decade of the early 21st century, constriction trends or deleterious movements could follow during the years ahead. For this reason, it is more than ever necessary to set up practical and policy tools to monitor human resources flows in a sustainable development perspective. In absence of such proposals, the situation may turn to an acute brain drain from desperate regions but also to skills freeze instead of circulation, in sectors frightened for labour market protection.
1. Scope of the project General presentation and problem analysis Since the last 40 years in Latin America, the exodus of talent poses a recurring problem for the policies on development. This exodus, both continuous and sustained, has led to the creation of diasporas of highly qualified people the majority of whom are dispersed throughout Europe. Paradoxically, their profile is less clear than of those living in North America because of lack of homogeneous data and comparable analysis.
Besides, long perceived as drained resources, these knowledge diaspora networks appear today as significant human and social capital that could possibly be mobilised by the country of origin to its advantage. In the mid 1990s, some Latin American countries such as Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay, were among the first to show to the world the option of retrieval of talent in the favour of the country of origin. But the instability of their pilot projects contrasts with the successes of their Asian counterparts. Nonetheless, these ongoing experiments could now be fine-tuned. In fact, the difficulties faced could be surmounted through an understanding of these networks and a foundation for their success could be laid through appropriate measures. The brain drain can thus be effectively converted into a brain gain.
Specific issues to be addressed by the proposal In Latin America, several attempts have been made in vain to deal with the problem of migration of qualified people as well as its consequences. There are various causes for this failure: lack of information, tools and organisations in order to pursue, analyse and utilise this phenomenon of mobility. 1. There is a total lack of data with respect to the study of skilled migration in general. Existing statistics do not help us make any precise estimate of the number of migrants. There are no uniform categories, no comparable time series data nor any specific primary data whether for the host countries or for the countries of origin. Besides sheer numbers, the identification and localisation of highly qualified expatriates who are likely to get back to their country of origin, is an exercise that should be carried out in a systematic manner by looking into diverse sources. In the case of Latin Americans, this has only been done partially thereby creating a narrow and fragile basis for any future research. Finally, the associations of qualified migrants, often called diaspora knowledge networks, are poorly known by the agencies that are likely to benefit from their data, be it in the country of origin or the host country. This is further neglected by public or institutional policies. 2. The creation of networks of expatriates scattered throughout the world and their long-term contact with their country of origin, the optimisation or skilful management of their movement in relation to the demands of the global workforce, the transfers of knowledge and other intangible values of a knowledge based economy, all these presuppose the creation of tools for constant action, technological vigil and strategic forecasting. Some of these tools are available in certain Latin American countries today, but not all. Further, diaspora is a new field in which these tools are in the process of making and experimentation. In fact the social mixing of such floating populations having multiple identities, interests and often divergent needs, is a very complex phenomenon. The harnessing of this human resource and its stabilisation are problematic and require appropriate social and technical investments. 3. Lastly, the creation of networks suitable to monitor the movement (but not dissipative) of talent and to assess the need for qualified personnel in key sectors of social and human development (health and education) would require an ability to anticipate, negotiate and take decisions. After numerous trials and errors the experience of Latin American networks show, empirically, the importance of the modalities of good governance. Their ad hoc beginnings are generally tentative, but to be effective they must rely on models taken from the social sciences.
Brief description of target groups and final beneficiaries The project aims to target the networks of highly qualified expatriates (among which women constitute an unrecognised majority) whether already existing or in the process of creation. These networks will be the main focus of our study as well as the first beneficiaries of its results. The next target groups will be national, international and non-governmental agencies involved in the management of migration and human resources belonging to the countries of origin as well as the host countries.
The immediate beneficiaries of this project would be close partners of these networks as well as those who utilise the services of these agencies in the countries of origin such as universities, hospitals, research institutes, innovative enterprises, public agencies, local and national administrative bodies. The general population of the 3 countries would in turn benefit from this capital of talent.
Relevance of the proposal with respect to the needs and constraints of the countries concerned The countries of Latin America, all without exception, stress the importance of the knowledge/information for social and economic development. The retrieval of information plays a big role in the creation of local expert knowledge groups that are both autonomous and long-lasting. Argentina, Colombia and the Oriental Republic of Uruguay have been chosen for this project because the target groups are present there and they are already mobilised. The diaspora knowledge networks of these countries have taken the initiative and local public agencies are conscious of the stakes involved in these networks. The exodus of talent is high in these countries (proportionally equal or higher than the Latin American average) and the concern shown by the administration in order to prevent this brain drain in key sectors is quite obvious. Lastly, the importance given by these 3 countries to development through knowledge makes it all the more vital for them to preserve and even expand their talent base.
Relevance of the proposal with respect to priorities and conditions laid out in the guidelines A major contribution to development is the creation of follow up mechanisms and associations of highly qualified expatriate groups, a task that the diasporas can undertake besides simply transferring funds. These expatriate networks are the basis for a circulation of talent without any loss, since the individuals may be tracked and linked by the diaspora mechanisms. A detailed observation of the categories of emigrants or potential emigrants vis-à-vis the local market of qualified workforce, can only deal with health and education in an ad hoc manner. Thus the creation of negotiated agreements when necessary may seem obvious.
In the end, the project aims at extending to neighbouring countries, especially the Andean states where knowledge networks – in initial stages in Peru and Ecuador and in maturity in Bolivia – deserve to be encouraged and supported with increased efficiency based on experience.
2. Project description and its efficacy
Description of proposal including basic information Today we witness a proliferation of highly qualified diaspora networks in the world, all aiming at the development of their country of origin. Those concerning Latin America represent less than a quarter of the total as against one third for Africa and half for Asia. Yet, South America was the pioneer in the constitution of these networks in the beginning of 1990s, especially the three countries concerned by this project. Today if their earliest networks have died down, others have taken over which is a sign of renewed vitality in spite of difficulties. These difficulties have been elucidated by recent studies which will be used by this project in order to develop adequate techniques. Concrete proposals will be established based on solid knowledge. The project consists of two primary aspects: observation and research on the one hand and development and action on the other.
Objective of the proposal, output and expected results The proposal seeks to set up observatories of qualified migrations in Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. By the second year of this three-year project, these observatories would quickly lead to the creation of incubators of their diaspora of engineers, researchers and other experts. Various mechanisms such as technical, organisational, financial, administrative will be developed and propagated in order to carry out systematic and productive reconnection with the expatriates. These incubators are conceived of as loose structures, partially virtual, trying to regroup these mechanisms in order to facilitate access to expatriates and their networks as well as to the local talent expected to circulate while at the same time maintaining the link. The emergence of these structures will be promoted in the countries of origin but also in the main reception centres of their migrants in Europe.
Description of proposed activities and their efficacy The project plans to develop the following activities in a successive and combined manner: • a detailed census of the highly qualified expatriate population taking recourse to mainly local and European data but also keeping in view data from North America • developing contact with all expatriates that have been localised and identified with a view to test their motivation and inclination to constitute diasporas as well as informing them about the possibility of reconnecting with their country of origin • identification of all networks and associations and their nodal points in Europe and America • analysis of their functioning, dynamics, activities and results while taking into account their evolution during the three years of the project as well as their reactions to the measures that will be taken in their regard • evaluation and comparison of past and present experiences of these diaspora networks from Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay • promotion of digital platforms necessary for new versions on the web and its new functionalities (interactivity, storage, multimedia) which will open up possibilities for the dispersed communities • promotion of modalities of operational governance for these diasporas with an increasing role of the State as facilitator and strategist intervening through various institutions having prior knowledge and instructions • recommendation and training for public organisations in these countries entrusted with the power to manage the mobility of their citizens and their contributions, and in certain cases of desertion and penury of human resources the risks likely to be incurred
Participation by partners in implementing the project, their role and relationship with the applicant For each country, a team of academicians will work in collaboration with the administration or a public body entrusted with the task of implementing policies with regard to highly qualified, national human resources. This research will include the following contributors: • in Argentina, the group REDES (Centre for Studies in Science, Development and Higher Education), a private research organisation associated with the CONICET (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research), has developed an expertise on migration of scientists and technologists. Its close ties with SECYT (Secretariat for Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, recently called Secretariat for Science, Technology and Productive Innovation) which has served these last few years as interface with expatriate groups and networks of researchers outside, will help ensure effective communication • in Colombia, the programme “ColombiaNos Une” (“Colombians unite yourselves” and/or “Colombia unites us”) led by the Ministry of External Relations, consists of a dynamic group which is studying the diaspora and advocates the tools of interaction and follow-up with its members; its organic ties with Colciencias, Colombian agency for scientific research in charge of the Caldas Network of researchers and engineers abroad, will be utilised to strengthen the two sections of the project in this country • in Uruguay, the University of the Republica whose scientific standards on the themes of migration in Latin America are reputed world over, will work together with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Industrial Innovation Agency whose interest in reconnecting with the diaspora will see a possibility of materialising
These pairs of partners in each country of the project constitute a fabric of relations created since long. The IRD (Institute of Research on Development) and the three groups of research mentioned above (Redes, ColombiaNos Une and University of Republica) have collaborated many times, the last one being a study on return migration in these three countries for OCDE (Organisation of Cooperation and Economic Development). These groups are capable of working together and are extremely reliable. The public agencies that are their local representatives in these three countries will have the status of an associate, thereby enabling them access to the project without being an unnecessary burden on the organisation and its finances. The laboratory LIMSI (information sciences) of the CNRS will form part of the IRD team for the creation of tools (socio-informatics) necessary for the incubators.
Other possible partners The empirical results achieved by the study on networks of knowledge diasporas in the whole world have shown the importance of not relying on one sole local agency mediating between the diaspora and the country of origin. It seems that participation by diverse organisations is favourable to a rich, active and productive cross-fertilisation between the two. Well aware of its benefits, this present project will try to multiply the contacts, information and eventually collaborate with entities likely to benefit from the diasporas and make their contribution productive.
3. Duration of the project
Possible problems and back up plans There are three difficulties that one could encounter in this project: difficulty of access to information by the observatories, coordination of information and its integration with findings generated by the incubators and lastly the sustenance of these diasporas actions.
The first difficulty arises out of the proximity of the partners of the project to the source of information both in Latin America and Europe. For instance the Uruguayan team and its closeness to the CELADE (Latin American and Carribean Centre of Demography) of the CEPAL (United Nations Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), or the OIM (International Organisation for Migrations) and the UNESCO; the Colombian team and the lists and data base of local expatriates maintained by the respective Ministry and the Colciencias; the Argentinean team and the RICYT (Ibero-American Network Indicators of Science & Technology) of which it is a coordination member; the French team and EUROSTAT and ICDE.
The compact nature of the teams of this project – 4 countries, 4 partners and 4 associates – aims to anticipate the difficulties of dilution as well as the transaction costs that might weigh on such massive coordination work. It will at the same time ensure efficiency of the incubators.
Experience shows that major risk of disintegration of qualified diasporas comes from political and administrative instability such as change of government, turn over of bureaucratic staff, precariousness of budgetary commitments and fragility of institutions. This instability can alter its capacity for dialogue and sustained action. An efficient means of minimising this risk is by involving local mediators of the diasporas (strategy of mediation). Another is that of consolidating technical networks (computerisation strategy). This project takes into consideration these two strategies.
Preliminary conditions and hypothesis formulation during and after the implementation phase The conditions under which this project will be implemented are favourable. The Asian example of taking recourse to diasporas of qualified people for the development of the country is clearly known in South America. Good management of movement of people is a potential for development. But it is often accompanied by frustration because of political procedures that show a lack of understanding of the phenomenon of mobility as well as the means that help us understand it.
The present project aims to compensate for this loss by creating documentation centres and setting up equipment. This will be possible with the help of observatories and through the medium of incubators. The country of origin as well as the host country will work together and mutually benefit from these migratory phenomena.
Duration, strategies of integration and appropriation The incubators of diasporas will be integrated into the national systems of innovation via public bodies associated with the project since the beginning (Secyt/Mincyt, in Argentina; Ministry of External Relations/ Colciencias in Colombia; Ministry of Education in Uruguay; European Commission). Financing these incubators must be provided for by the national public policies of the countries of origin, by respective contribution from the diasporas, by international cooperation and by specific programs of the host countries. These loose structures do not require any massive funding except for immaterial, organisational, technical and political investments.