A whirlwind of social change is happening in Vermont, and one of the stirrers of this whirlwind is an intentional community called the Center for Transformational Practice. It is a community which constantly creates workshops, events, and retreats in social and environmental justice—and this small group of about 6 has developed quite a following. It has an active hand in changing the politics of the area, such as by advocating the protection of undocumented workers. It is set in a state that brings together rural and liberal, with local food sales at 13% of total food purchases. The state still has a long way to go, and the Community of Transformational Practice plays an integral part of leading the charge.
I went to their incredible retreat on how art can bring together people of social movements, bring up their morale, connect with the deeper significance of social change, and inspire the movement for change to take bold strides forward into the future. A famous poetry duo called Climbing PoeTree were at the event. One of the lines of their poems sprouted wings on my heart by giving me a powerful vision of change. Here it is what the line is about: despite the strength of those 1% holding power who are clamping down on our world like concrete upon the earth, social change movers and shakers and believers in change “will spring up like a thousand daisies through the concrete.”
Meeting with the inspiring intentional community members, living their lives devoted to causes, and attending one of their weekend-long retreats was a transformative experience for me. I was the only non-New Englander there—and Vermonters were surprised to hear that I drove all the way up from NYC to attend the event to represent my beloved urban NYC community Ganas. My ecovillage team NextGenna were there at the retreat because we are going to make a great retreat called “Healing in Communities” in June 2020, and we are actively doing what we can to take lessons from the masters of retreat-making at The Center for Transformational Practice! You can be part of a powerful experience yourself, like I had at the retreat. You can join some movers and shakers, and be like a daisy sprouting through the concrete. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our retreat!
I am sharing something with you all that I had written just for my community in Ganas, and never intended it to be public. However, I thought it was a good idea to share it because it contains the raw and fresh passionate feelings I experience working with NextGENNA for the first time!
Here is how I keep hooked on inspirational energy: I hang around the people in NextGENNA. Right now we are small group of 5 people, but it feels like I am behind a massive force to be reckoned with. At the forefront of this force are Audree and her partner Thumbs.
I first met Audree when she visited our community for the first time. Many people in the community are drawn to her high energy spirit, and heartfelt dedication to ecovillages. She brought an accordion to play for us, after some prompting to me because I heard her play before and I loved it. I told her that people would definitely want to hear her play, and then she said ok. After playing the accordion, she gave us a wonderful talk about ecovillages and the pillars of sustainability. People wanted to hear her speak, so I also organized an event in Manhattan to open her message to the greater public. Many Ganas people who had already heard her already are ready to hop on the ferry to see her speak again.
I first met Thumbs at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in which he gave a workshop on living as a nomad and the gifting economy. My mind was blown away by how differently he was even conceiving the world we can live in. Again, like Audree, he was able to draw a crowd. It is not simply how Audree and Thumbs were able to connect with people, but it is the heartfelt sincerity in their mission, and their ability to express this in a positive, undogmatic, and uncoercive way that is attractive.
I am drawn to their leadership because their positive energy, dedication to make a difference, and vision on how the world can transform is so contagious. Just being around them makes me feel like a better person — they help me see how I can see things in a paradigm-shifting way.
They will be leading an event in June, which you can consider joining — be ready to be inspired! I’ll tell you about it: the 5 of us packed together in a mid-sized room for a whole weekend, where we both slept and worked, in a community in upstate New York called East Brook Farm. We are putting together the event in June called “Ecovillage Pathways 2020,” which is the 6th Annual gathering of people who want to learn about sustainable practices. Our theme is “Healing in Communities,” in which we bring together tools used in different communities for dialogue and resolving group conflict. It will be filled with intelligent discussion and presentations, heart-to-heart experiences, simulated lived-in community experience, and movement-related activities. Come ask us about it here, or message me directly at email@example.com.
“You’re real, and you’re bigger than my laptop screen!”
We’ve converted a bedroom at East Brook Community into our retreat center headquarters. The walls are covered with butcher paper and the faint scent of colored markers permeates the room as we graffiti the walls with flow charts and picture notes manifesting from our brainstorm. This year we’ve been meeting weekly through virtual conference calls, but that can’t compare to the thrill of collaborating in person.
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), and its youth oriented sub circle of North America (NextGENNA) are currently buzzing with growth and opportunities. This weekend 5 members of our team came together to use this potential energy to update our organizational structure and create strategies for our shared projects. We did this with the goal of creating clear new ways for people like yourself to plug into our network and feed your community passion.
Before expanding our team we need to understand what each of us are doing this for, because like all mostly volunteer non-profits time is limited so the work must nourish our higher selves. A series of memes we drew capture what part of our heart song this work helps play.
Following the unconventional passion of community building on your own is difficult and ironic, so our team shared the value of trusting their own insights more when part of a like minded team.
A focus of this retreat was also planning Ecovillage Pathways, an intimate annual event which combines ecovillage education with a community experience. Ecovillage Pathways 2020 will center around “Healing in Community” and how it shows up in the four pillars of community: social, culture, economy, and ecology. We will introduce various community tools which ecovillages can use to address these four pillars. With a balance of intellectual discussion, heartfelt connections, and hands on practice this will be an experience of community from the very start.
The experience of designing, organizing and facilitating workshops at this event is in and of itself an incredible learning experience for young people interested in applying professional skills to their ecovillage passion. However, we’re also ready to serve a broader audience by fostering an online community of ecovillage enthusiasts. We’re lucky to be friends and partners with the already vibrant virtual community network, but are discovering the unique niche we can serve as well. For example, would you be interested in a monthly virtual discussion group on ecovillage life, opportunities and challenges?
A unique gift of NextGEN is to expand ones ecovillage education through immersive experiences, and also to invest in trainings which will help you fuse community passion and career.
There are many ways for you to become part of the NextGENNA team, and the best way to learn more about all of them is to join our Welcoming Meeting in November. It’ll be an opportunity for us to get to know you, and for you to learn about how to plug into the rich global network of ecovillage builders. Please email us at NextGenNorthAmerica@gmail.com to receive an invitation for the Welcoming Meeting. This event will also appear on our Facebook Page, and sign up on our website to receive infrequent but exciting email updates!
Watch our Welcome to Ecovillage Pathways 2020 Video
How can we catalyze healthy culture across the generations? How do ecovillages serve as fertile ground for youth and elder collaboration in wider culture? A group of people passionate about intergenerational community connection gathered this past weekend at a Ecovillage Pathways, an annual event in it’s 5th year.
This year’s gathering was hosted at La Cité Écologique of New Hampshire, an ecovillage with 35+ years and three generations of experience. Participants learned from the community’s alternative school, ecological businesses and hillside organic farm.
Present at the event were 30+ participants, ages ranging from 3 to 80 years old. Together they explored the emergent future of thriving community.
The first day of the event was focused on exploring intergenerational relations, with a facilitated dialogue and a video call with community movement elders from around the world. Elders from La Cité expressed tears of gratitude for feeling deeply seen as respected leaders of the community and sharing their burden of responsibility with the youth. The second day was organized using Open Space Technology to give participants an opportunity to share about their knowledge and passions.
“Movement building requires accumulative knowledge so that each younger generation doesn’t start at the square one again,” said participant Crystal who is creating Feminist Oasis, a community advancing equitable practices and building sustainable alternatives to systemic oppression. “The generational respect and honor for elders experience while remaining open for new universal shifts guided by the youth was very refreshing and inspiring to witness and be part of.”
Ecovillage Pathways organizers were able to offer significant scholarships to participants who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend the event, including a family with a three-year-old daughter hoping to start a community school in India. The organizers are starting to plan their 6th event and invite donations to make scholarships available for participants. Visit http://www.nextgenna.org/donate.html to support this initiative.
In times of globalization, community does not only connect people who physically live together. Cynthia Tina is co-founder of NextGENNA and part of a modern nomad tribe.
An ecovillage is nothing new. Throughout history communities of people have lived lightly on the same piece of land, sharing skills and resources, celebrating their culture and values. With the advent of agriculture, these villages have increasingly rooted to a single geographical area. The majority of people are settled, yet there has always been a distinct minority on the move. In various cultures these are the traders, sailors, gypsies, bards, messengers, explorers, philosophers, actors, pilgrims, tourists and doctors - the nomads.
The function of the nomad is to connect isolated groups through the sharing of goods, services, stories and, primarily, ideas. In the digital age, we still have our nomads, but their essential function has largely been replaced by the tiny gadget you are likely reading this article with. Technology has allowed us to achieve global connectivity at previously unimagined levels. I can guarantee that the wandering bard had no iPhone in his rucksack, or else he could have saved himself much time on foot.
I teach about, consult with, and represent sustainable community projects as my profession. I am deeply committed to the ecovillage movement. This is a ‘back-to-the-land’ movement, celebrating solutions that are ecologically and culturally appropriate for the locality of each community. The activist and author, Gary Synder championed a life rooted in one’s bioregion. In his writing, he encourages us to: “Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
The ecovillage movement is a place-based movement yet, in many ways, I am placeless.
In the past six years I haven’t lived in a single spot for longer than 12 months; and I use the term “lived” pretty loosely. Even while I have a home-base, I often make sporadic trips lasting a fews days to several weeks. You may begin to appreciate how tricky it is for me to answer the question: “Where are you from?”, in casual conversation.
I may not live in a land-based community, but the community I consider myself part of is every bit as real and as rich. My community doesn’t share daily meals or tend the same garden. Our “community glue” isn’t found in front porch gossip and potluck lunch, it comes in the form of a meaningful Skype chat, heart-felt email, or even the quick check-in via text. We are digital nomads. It’s a new breed of nomad and a new kind of community.
The wider community of digital nomads is growing, as more and more people shed their planned careers to adventure in meaningful directions, and awakening students find greater fulfillment in the school of life than the study hall. A new platform, called NuMundo, directly serves the traveller craving educational opportunities in regenerative land-based projects. Gaia Education offers the Design for Sustainability course now as a fully virtual experience. Hundreds of other academic institutions are allowing students the freedom to both roam and study. Databases of work-trade and short-term stays (such as WWOOF) are growing exponentially.
For some of us it is a phase of life, while for others full-time travel is a permanent lifestyle choice. A few friends I may only see once a year, but the trust in our bond and virtual communication is sufficient for each period of re-connection to be just as profound as the last.
There are two modern technological advancements that have made the community I am part of possible: 1) Far and free communication, 2) Far and relatively cheap transportation
Since I can only be in one place at a time, I stay connected to my web of relations through the grace of modern communication technologies, primarily Gmail, Facebook, Slack, Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp and iMessage. My daily virtual chats with co-workers, friends, mentors and mentees from around the world is my lifeline to community.
In case I’m in danger of falling into the stereotype that all privileged young people are born knowing how to adeptly use these virtual tools, let me make a correction. Just several years ago, I considered myself something of a Luddite (the English workers who destroyed those new-fangled cotton mills at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution). I lived in a woodland village of yurts, without cell reception or computer, and only a single solar panel for some lighting at night. Now, I’m on a tech device practically every day. My marketing, website, and graphic design work mandates that I put in long hours at the screen. The transition between these two realities was catalyzed by the recognition that technology is a tool, and just like any other tool, we can use it for noble or contrary endeavors.
More than 3 billion people worldwide are currently linked to the Internet. In North America over 88% of the population is online. This is a huge potential audience, a largely untapped capacity for mass dissemination of ideas and mass coordination. The Occupy Movement, Arab Spring, Icelandic Revolution and other sparks of social unrest at the end of the mid-2000s attribute their successes to the speed and ease of virtual communication, especially through social media. These are examples of the power of the Internet, when backed by real communities of people, ready to effect real change. This is the reason I am online.
Yes, I take a lot of flights to maintain my lifestyle and, yes, it is not the most ecologically conscious mode of living. I’m often asked how I justify the upwards of five flights I will take in this month alone, not to mention the car and bus rides.
From one perspective, there is no justification for the ecological destruction that results from my portion of CO2 emission. However, I’m convinced that the engine of modern consumerism will devour every bit of petroleum it can, for as long as it possibly can. I’d rather see the remains of this incredibly concentrated form of energy go into massive permaculture land re-formation projects to regenerate our ecosystems or into the purposeful education and networking opportunities that travel can facilitate. I don’t travel for vacation. I’m working just about every place I go - offering support, nurturing connections, and feeding my hunger for personal growth.
I have friends, old and young, who follow a similar lifestyle. We share the same community, a community of communities and those who travel between them. We are the pollinators, sampling the nectar of the world’s blossoming projects. From each encounter we are dusted with inspiration and insight. We travel with a head full of ideas and a meager wardrobe on our backs (trust me, ideas are easier to transport than the suitcase!)
With enough distance for wide-lens perspective, our unique advantage is in seeing the whole and the parts of the whole. Recognizing patterns and linkages is our forte. For some of us, these insights are the currency that enables us to travel even more. It may not be forever, but it is a way of life that is working well for us now.
Much like the nomads of old, we travel because virtual connections must be bolstered by live ones. A human heart will always find more depth in another beating heart than in the glow of a laptop screen. As good as the internet is, my community would dissolve without the relief of a genuine hug, not too long overdue, and the promise of another visit to see us through the months of pure digital existence.
Written by Cynthia Tina - www.cynthiatina.com
Cynthia works with communities internationally - catalyzing people, places, and ideas towards a regenerative future. She serves on the board of the Global Ecovillage Network, as well as the Fellowship for Intentional Community. She is the marketing lead for NuMundo and a co-founder of NextGENNA. She holds a BA degree in Sustainability from Goddard College, along with Permaculture & Ecovillage Design Certificates.
Open sky, warm summer days, friendship, and adventure. The idealized “summer camp” has been enshrined for decades in movies, Uncle John’s yarns, and perhaps your own childhood memories. It serves as an adolescent's wild escape from the boring confines of suburban neighborhoods and primary school, at least until “growing up” happens. But what if the fleeting joys of summer camp never ended? What if you could live in summer camp?
Obviously, the creation of such a place would be driven by the demands of the children, and the ready acquiescence of their family. Certain challenges would need to be addressed, such as providing the children with a formal education, the parents with jobs, and ample housing for all while respecting the natural environment. Would it be possible? Yes, and indeed it has been done.
La Cité Ecologique was founded amongst the rural hills of Quebec over 30 years ago, although the community’s children had been attending summer camp on the 700-acre property for several years prior. Falling in love with camp, as many children do, these kids somehow convinced their parents to join them. Banding together for their children, the parents took a leap of faith and figured out the details along the way.
Today this "Green City" is the largest ecovillage in Canada, with its own school for village youth, several ecologically minded businesses, and acres of organic food gardens. It is one of the few thriving examples of intentional communities which are more or less financially, socially, and ecologically sustainable. The majority of adults are employed through on-site enterprises, including Keops International, selling new-age products, Respectare Clothing, utilizing recycled fabrics for women’s fashion, and a successful organic food market. The school’s teachers (kindergarten through high school) live in the community and much of the produce served there daily is grown on La Cité land (which is says something to anyone who has gardened in the colder reaches of North America... agricultural internships are offered!)
La Cité’s incredible story invites us to imagine what is possible when young people work with elders to create a more beautiful world. For this reason, NextGEN, an organization connecting youth with ecovillages, will be hosting its 3rd Annual Youth Ecovillage Summit at La Cité in Quebec this June 9-12, 2016. Old and young will gather from near and far to visit this magical summer-camp-turned-ecovillage. Want to experience the magic yourself? Join us as we explore what works and doesn't in the ecovillage model, hold intergenerational dialogues and, without a doubt, share a weekend of profound transformation.
Registration is still open for this year’s Youth Ecovillage Summit. Visit the Summit Page to learn more and reserve your space before the event fills up! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
We at NextGEN are thrilled to announce the 3rd Annual Youth Ecovillage Summit this June 9-12, 2016 to be hosted at La Cité Ecologique, in Quebec, Canada. It has been a joy to plan this year's event and ride a wave of energy generated by our work these last years. Past participants have become life-long friends and partners in creating a world inspired by the ecovillage model. Communities have benefitted from the passionate group of young people who gathered in their home for one weekend. A tribe is growing, of those who have been deeply touched by the spirit of the Youth Ecovillage Summit and seek to carry it forward.
We want to invite you to join us for a special three day journey, in a very special community, founded amongst the hills of beautiful Quebec. Over 30 years ago, La Cité began as a summer camp for children. The youth saw that another way of life was possible and convinced their parents to join them. Today this "Green City" is the largest ecovillage in Canada, with its own school for village youth, several thriving ecologically-minded businesses, and acres of organic food gardens. There are few better models for how real change is possible.
We invite you to come taste the magic of La Cité. To experience the power that we all have, even as young people, to bring real solutions into this world. Join us as we explore what works and doesn't, dive deep into our dreams and fears, and hopefully share a weekend of profound transformation.
Early-bird registration ends on Thursday, May 5th. We are expecting to fill for this year's Summit so register soon! To learn more and reserve your seat, head to our Youth Ecovillage Summit Page.
We hope to see you there!
NextGEN North America Team
Cynthia Tina, USA – Regional Representative – NextGEN NA
“I began my journey with NextGEN when I attended the GEN Conference at Schweibenalp, in Switzerland, in the summer of 2013. When I left that inspirational gathering as one of two elected NextGEN Representatives for North America, I was extremely excited and eager to take action, but also entirely unsure about what exactly to do next. Luckily, I found a community of support when I returned to the U.S., from my friends at Sirius Community, the ecovillage where I live, and from my fellow Canadian NextGEN representative, Nebesna Fortin. Uncertainties dissipated as I learned that one doesn’t need to have all the answers, just a good amount of passion and a team of people who believe in the possibilities. The second step is becoming clear about what you want to stand for. After careful forethought, our team in North America came up with an answer: we are young adults empowered by the ecovillage model and committed to building the interconnected world of our generation, through the teaching of integrated sustainability and offering of immersive experiences.
As we enter our second year of establishing a strong team in North America, NextGEN is thriving. We have created an online presence through our website , and received grant funding from Goddard College for our educational programs, which are now certified as “Inspired by Gaia Education.” We have built a growing network of Ecovillage Ambassadors, passionate youth living in intentional communities across North America. We are thrilled to be collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations in our region, including the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and Canada, the Valhalla Movement, Generation Waking Up, and more!
One of our most noted accomplishments: in the spring of 2014 we hosted the first-ever “Youth Ecovillage Summit” in North America. This was a multi-day gathering of close to forty young people, hosted at Sirius Community. Since then we have hosted and presented at dozens of gatherings throughout North America. In the coming year, we hope to continue these outreach efforts by holding more Summits and the first-ever Ecovillage Design Education Course taught in French, at La Cite Ecologique in Canada. Using young energy and creative minds we are pioneering ways to invigorate the ecovillage movement as well as bring sustainability education to youth!”
The first EDE of Canada will be host at La Cité Écologique, a 30 years old ecovillage in Québec. In a dynamic environment, the participants will have the possibility of joining some experiential activities, lectures, field trips and participatory learning sessions. The course will be benefiting from the experience of the thriving host community and sharing inputs from the wider youth ecovillage movement, NextGEN NA.
This EDE will be offer in French. Find more information on the web site www.capecocommunautaire.org.
NextGEN NA at UMass Amherst's recent Revisioning Sustainability Conference!
- Is something inspiring happening in your community?