ECOLISE Experience at the GEN Europe Gathering in 2023

The European ecovillage gathering, organised by GEN Europe, took place in Nature Community, in Bavaria, between the 13th and the 16th of July. It brought together over 800 participants from all corners of the world – ecovillagers, supporters of the movement, as well as people interested in joining or establishing ecovillage communities. The rich four-day program was based on the Work That Reconnects, dedicating one day to coming from gratitude, honouring our pain for the world, seeing with new eyes and going forth with the learnings and experiences accumulated together. 

Organised under the motto “Together in a changing world”, the aim of the gathering was to provide the context for collectively reflecting on questions such as: how can we live together harmoniously in community?; how can we live peacefully together on our common planet?, and how can we create a planetary community of care? The gathering focused on community living, self-sufficiency, music, activism, forging deep connections and embodied learning in order to explore these questions through the unique experiences and practices of ecovillages, workshops, sharing and celebration. We connected deeply, expanded our wisdom and curiosity, and discovered tools to move towards a healthier, more peaceful, and socially just world.

ECOLISE was present through team members (Laura, Tasia, Abdul and Tim), Council members (Mieke) and representatives of 17 member organisations, as well as friends from our extended network. The Gathering gave us the opportunity to make heartfelt and embodied connections with lovely souls from GEN, GEN Europe, ECOLISE, and the wider ecosystem of the regeneration movement of movements. After years of limited physical interactions, coming together in the same space, sharing embraces and our presence was a breath of fresh air and reminded us of the joy that being together brings.

The first day of the Gathering hosted the Project Market, where Tasia presented the FLIARA project. The project sparked a high interest, especially from women already involved in gender-related work in rural areas and beyond. A recurrent feedback was that such work is greatly needed at the moment, with many participants expressing their gratitude for the work the project involves in advancing gender equality and the recognition of the women-led innovations in agriculture and rural areas.

Laura and Abdul hosted a workshop titled “Sparking Connections for Transformative Community-Led Action” on the 2nd day. With an engaged, curious group of participants we explored what CLIs are, where people are already active locally, and what support or meaningful connections we can make using collective intelligence. ECOLISE’s larger systematic scope, networking and advocacy efforts were appreciated. They continued their work of exploring a wide range of collaboration and project building opportunities throughout the Gathering, as did the rest of the team members. This led to new connections being formed, and the existing ones receiving a significant energy boost. 

The inspirational documentary describing community-led alternatives in Spain directed by our colleague Juan and Agustí Corominas “Alter-Nativas” was also screened at the Gathering during the evening of the 3rd day. The viewers got taken in into the stories presented and injected with a feeling of hope for the future.

A profound economic systemic transformation was one of the topics the Gathering focused on. During the Morning Circle on the 3rd day, Christian Felber offered ways of seeing with new eyes and shared some of the values, thinking and frameworks developed within the Economy for the Common Good  He proposed to redefine economy as a collective effort of meeting basic human needs of living and future generations within planetary boundaries based on values of solidarity, dignity, sustainability, and democracy. The ECG is a good practice example linked to ECOLISE’s 10 theses advocacy work and  thesis 3: Why is it important to acknowledge extractive economic systems – and the prioritisation of growth and GDP – as the root cause of the planetary crisis?

Among the ECOLISE members present and offering activities to the participants was also Jason, from RIPESS Europe. He hosted a workshop sharing a commons ecosystem canvas and other methodologies for solidarity economy based on commoning, caring and conviviality. Jason also joined a community supported economy lab together with the CSX Network exploring the 6 core principles of “community supported everything” and their practical application. Besides holding space for learning about abundant economies, Jason engaged with us in discussions regarding how CLIs could evaluate the impact of their work to support the social solidarity economy, potentially also using the 3D model.

Tasia and Tim were invited to hold space for a group activity during the “Regenerative Communities for All” workshop on the global impact of the movement, offered by the REGEN4All project team on the 4th day. REGEN4All is a project aiming to create a community of practice for researchers, CLI practitioners and policy makers to make research about CLIs more accessible to communities and researchers, more useful in practice, and more impactful at policy levels. They continue the project’s implementation offering a resource library, colloquiums, community of practice meetings and developing an IT platform for eco-community research.

An inspirational learning, appreciation for  and new narrative of “living a good life” during the Gathering came from Vivian Dittmar’s 5 dimensions of true prosperity: Time, Relationships, Creativity, Spirituality, Ecology – and its relevance for communities. This perspective sees community-led initiatives as innovation labs that model how prosperity can look and feel when we understand prosperity more holistically, beyond the material dimension, integrating all dimensions of collective human existence. 

Another learning about the vital importance of community in times of crises came from GEN Ukraine and their Green Road of Ecovillages. Building trusting local and trans-local solidarity relationships is critical for our capacity to be resilient (independent of top-down and often inefficient humanitarian support) to be well prepared for the increasingly frequent and intense natural and socio-political crises we will face in the coming years.

Moreover, ECOLISE’s co-president and founder of Liberta Terra community Mieke together with Ilonka both from the Netherlands offered a practical, relatable and interactive workshop about collaborating with local governments. Based on shared, complementary expertise they spoke about four main steps: learn the goals of your (local) government, find out who you can best approach, be mindful of the attitude you have when you connect, and be clear what you can offer to them (not just complain, demand or ask for money). Practical examples of Mieke’s tiny house community showed how powerful good collaboration can be to make and implement policies locally and how we need to rebuild trust and openness on both sides. 

These learning exchanges and explorations created the perfect context for exploring ideas about how we can collaborate within the team to re-energise the ECOLISE’s Learn domain, by sensing into what function, focus, and form it should have, considering ECOLISE’s role in the wider transformation ecosystem. 

Tim felt particularly inspired after a loving contact improvisation dance session on the last evening, capturing the essence of the Gathering:

A multi-layered pleasure!

By no means can one measure,

The value of this treasure.

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