Global Ecovillage Network
"The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a global grassroots network of more than 400 local ecovillages worldwide grown out of the eco-movement as well as traditional villages. It facilitates the exchange of experiences as well as running external courses also for politicians in how to develop ecovillages and learning from their sustainability experiences. On the base of empirical case study research we developed three Transformative Social Innovation narratives: of the Global Ecovillage Network and the two local ecovillages of Schloss Tempelhof in Germany and Tamera in Portugal. They describe aspects of change and innovation of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)." (http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/resource-hub/global-ecovillage-network-gen)
"The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) was based on, and in some cases went on to incorporate, a number of “apparently simultaneous ideas arising in different locations at about the same time.”65 One component strand was the “planetary village” movement, centered on the Findhorn community in Scotland, founded in 1962.66 But the relationships between the various tributary movements were quite complex.
In 1975 the magazine Mother Earth News began constructing experimental energy systems, novel buildings, and organic gardens near its business office in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and in 1979, began calling this educational center an "eco-village."
At about the same time in Germany, during the political resistance against disposal of nuclear waste in the town of Gorleben, anti-nuclear activists attempted to build a small, ecologically based village at the site, which they called an okodorf (literally ecovillage). In the largest police action seen in Germany since the Second World War, their camp was ultimately removed, but the concept lived on, and small okodorf experiments continued in both eastern and western Germany. The magazine Okodorf Informationen began publishing in 1985 and later evolved into Eurotopia. After reunification of Germany, the movement coalesced and became part of the International ecovillage movement.
About the same time in Denmark, a number of intentional communities began looking beyond the social benefits of cohousing and other cooperative forms of housing towards the ecological potentials of a more thorough redesign of human habitats. In 1993 a small group of communities inaugurated the Danish ecovillage network, Landsforeningen for Okosamfund, the first network of its kind and a model for the larger ecovillage movement that was to follow....
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990, on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Robert and Diane Gilman used their journal, In Context, to publish stories and interviews describing ecovillages as a strategy for creating a more sustainable culture. When Hildur Jackson, a Danish attorney and social activist, discovered In Context, the ecovillage movement suddenly got traction.
Ross Jackson, Hildur's husband, was a Canadian computer whiz who had been working in the financial market, writing programs to predict shifts in international currencies. When he took his algorithms public as Gaia Corporation, his models made a fortune for his investors, but Ross, being a deeply spiritual man, wanted little of it for himself. Searching for the best way to use their prosperity, Ross and Hildur contacted the Gilmans and organized some gatherings of visionaries at Fjordvang, the Jackson's retreat in rural Denmark, to mull over the needs of the world....
Ross Jackson was also interested in utilizing the new information technology that was just then emerging: email and electronic file exchanges between universities and research centers (although it would still be a few years before the appearance of shareware browsers and the open-to-all World Wide Web).
Ross and Hildur Jackson created a charitable foundation, the Gaia Trust, and endowed it with 90 percent of their share of company profits. In 1990, Gaia Trust asked In Context to produce a report, Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities, in order to catalog the various efforts at sustainable community living underway around the world, and to describe the emerging philosophy and principles in greater detail. The report was released in 1991 as a spiral bound book (now out of print).
In September 1991, Gaia Trust convened a meeting in Fjordvang to bring together people from ecocommunities to discuss strategies for further developing the ecovillage concept. This led to a series of additional meetings to form national and international networks of ecovillages, and a decision, in 1994, to formalize networking and project development under the auspices of a new organization, the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN).
By 1994 the Internet had reached the point where access was becoming available outside the realm of university and government agencies and contractors. Mosaic was the universal browser of the day, and the first Internet cafes had begun to appear in major cities. Ross Jackson brought in a young Swedish web technician, Stephan Wik, who'd had a computer services business at Findhorn, and the Ecovillage Information Service was launched from Fjordvang at www.gaia.org. With Stephan and his co-workers gathering both the latest in hardware advances and outstanding ecovillage content from around the world, gaia.org began a steady growth of "hits," increasing 5 to 15 percent per month, that would go on for the next several years, making the GEN database a major portal for sustainability studies.
In October 1995, Gaia Trust and the Findhorn Foundation co-sponsored the first international conference "Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities—Models for the 21st Century," held at Findhorn in Scotland. After the conference, GEN held a formative meeting and organized three worldwide administrative regions: Europe and Africa; Asia and Oceania; and the Americas. Each region was to be overseen by a secretariat office responsible for organizing local ecovillage networks and developing outreach programs to encourage growth of the movement. A fourth secretariat was established in Copenhagen to coordinate all the offices, seek additional funding, and oversee the website. The first regional secretaries, chosen at the Findhorn meeting, were Declan Kennedy, Max Lindegger, and myself. Hamish Stewart was the first international secretary.
According to Ross Jackson, the GEN was founded “to link the hundreds of small projects that had sprung up around the world....”
The Gaia Trust website adds:
The projects identified varied from well-established settlements like Solheimer in Iceland, Findhorn in Scotland, Crystal Waters in Australia, Lebensgarten in Germany to places like The Farm in Tennessee and the loosely knit inner-city Los Angeles Ecovillage project to places like the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Thy and many smaller groups that were barely started, not to mention the traditional villages of the South. Following the foundation of GEN, Albert Bates continues, “[w]ith generous funding from Gaia Trust for this new model, the ecovillage movement experienced rapid growth.”
Kibbutzim that re-vegetated the deserts of Palestine in the 20th century developed a new outlook with the formation of the Green Kibbutz Network. The Russian Ecovillage Network was inaugurated. Permaculturebased communities in Australia such as Crystal Waters and Jarlanbah pioneered easy paths to more environmentally sensitive lifestyles for the mainstream middle class. GEN-Europe hosted conferences attended by ecovillagers from dozens of countries, and national networks sprang up in many of them. In South and North America, nine representatives were designated to organize ecovillage regions by geography and language. By the turn of the 21st century GEN had catalogued thousands of ecovillages, built "living and learning centers" in several of them, launched ecovillage experiments in universities, and sponsored university-based travel semesters to ecovillages on six continents....
Ecovillages today are typically small communities with a tightly-knit social structure united by common ecological, social, or spiritual views. These communities may be urban or rural, high or low technologically, depending on circumstance and conviction. Okodorf Seiben Linden is a zero-energy cohousing settlement for 200 people in a rural area of eastern Germany. Los Angeles EcoVillage is a neighborhood around an intersection in inner Los Angeles. Sasardi Village is in the deep rainforest of Northern Colombia. What they share is a deep respect for nature, with humans as an integral part of natural cycles. Ecovillages address social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainability in an integrated way, with human communities as part of, not apart from, balanced ecologies....
The best concise description of an ecovillage that I've seen comes from what is apparently an older version of the Gaia Trust website, preserved on an article at Permaculture Magazine:
Ecovillages are urban or rural communities that strive to combine a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more. These are communities in which people feel supported by and responsible to those around them. They provide a deep sense of belonging to a group and are small enough for everyone to be seen and heard and to feel empowered. People are then able to participate in making decisions that affect their own lives and that of the community on a transparent basis.
Ecovillages allow people to experience their spiritual connection to the living earth. People enjoy daily interaction with the soil, water, wind, plants and animals. They provide for their daily needs – food, clothing, shelter – while respecting the cycles of nature.
They embody a sense of unity with the natural world, with cultural heritage around the world and foster recognition of human life and the Earth itself as part of a larger universe.
Most ecovillages do not place an emphasis on spiritual practices as such, but there is often a recognition that caring for one’s environment does make people a part of something greater than their own selves. Observing natural cycles through gardening and cultivating the soil, and respecting the Earth and all living beings on it, ecovillages tend to maintain, recreate or find cultural expressions of human connectedness with nature and the universe. Respecting this spirituality and culture manifests in many ways in different traditions and places.
The typical ecovillage has 50-400 people. Many ecovillages, particularly in Denmark, are linked to a cohousing project of some sort. Such projects lower the material cost of housing (construction materials, heating, etc.) per person, and reduce energy costs by integrating the home with workplace and recreation.73 Neighborhood-based ecovillages in some places have influenced the liberalization of local zoning laws and housing codes, and promoted the adoption of new building techniques by the construction industry. Ecovillage practices include peripheral parking, common open spaces and community facilities, passive solar design, vernacular materials, and composting toilets.
The ecovillage movement is a loose and liberally defined network. According to Robert and Diane Giulman, in Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities (1991), an ecovillage is “A human-scale, fullfeatured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.” The GEN refuses to police member communities or to enforce any centralized standard of compliance. At a 1998 GEN board meeting in Denmark, the Network affirmed “that a community is an ecovillage if it specifies an ecovillage mission, such as in its organizational documents, community agreements, or membership guidelines, and makes progress in that direction. The Network promotes the Community Sustainability Assessment Tool, a self-administered auditing survey, as a way to measure progress toward the same general set of goals.
The Ecological portion of the checklist, for example, includes detailed survey questions on
1. Sense of Place - community location & scale; restoration & preservation of nature
2. Food Availability, Production & Distribution
3. Physical Infrastructure, Buildings & Transportation - materials, methods, designs
4. Consumption Patterns & Solid Waste Management
5. Water - sources, quality & use patterns
6. Waste Water & Water Pollution Management
7. Energy Sources & Uses
Question 2, “Food Availability,” includes questions on the percentage of food produced within the community, what is done with food scraps, and whether greenhouses and rooftop gardens are used for production year-round.
Such liberality of standards is arguably necessary, given the diversity of starting points of affiliate communities. An ecovillage based in an inner city neighborhood, it stands to reason, will probably have much further to go in achieving sustainability than a rural-based intentional community. Urban neighborhoods, of necessity, must be “vertically oriented,” and integrate the production of food and other inputs on an incremental basis, often starting from zero." (http://c4ss.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/C4SS-Resilient-Communities-and-Local-Economies.pdf)
- case study of the social innovation potential of GEN and member villages:
"Ecovillages and the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) are examples of social innovations because they experiment with resilient and regenerative structures and practices, while spreading their experiences in on-site education centers to often international visitors as well as to other sectors from eco-building technologies to consensus decision making methods."
Kunze, I. and Avelino, F (2015) Transformative social innovation narrative of the Global Ecovillage Network. TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169
Kunze, I. (2015) Transformative social innovation narrative of the Ecovillage of Schloss Tempelhof. TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169
Avelino, Flor (2015) Transformative social innovation narrative of Tamera Ecovillage : a summary. TRANSIT: EU SHH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169