Making the Invisible Visible – GEN Europe 2017 Conference Review

” Create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible”  – Charles Eisenstein

Its been a nice and pleasantly warm summer so far on my recent 6 week Europe journey some time after spending a week in Findhorn community in northern Scotland. There I completed a Training of Trainers with Gaia Education, my last leg on my journey to become a Gaia Education Trainer for Ecovillage Design and Design for Sustainability as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hence, enjoying the pleasant train ride from Stockholm through the sunlit Swedish country side of an undulating landscape, formed by the forces of the glacial ice sheets during the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago. Now covered in a mosaic of lakes and rivers, forests, fields and pastures, intsely green and lush with small villages and towns dotted here and there, bringing me into a mood of calm anticipation for the place where this year’s Global Ecovillage Network European Conference will take place over the coming 5 days.

 

Ängsbacka, a community and ecovillage in the heartland of Sweden, surrounded by stunning lakes, expansive pine and birch forests (and plenty of blueberries this time of the year), and lush pastures and fields dotted with cattle and silage at this time of the year is where the conference will take place. Some 2.5 hours by train west of Stockholm and 30 minutes bus ride north of the city of Karlstad lies the rural village of Molkom, where at its edge of the village you can find Ängsbacka, which states it is among the most important meeting places in Scandinavia for people who want to live a more conscious life, live from the heart and care for our planet.  And this beautifully captures the spirit and vibe of this beautiful place which says in its vision to become one of Europe’s leading meeting points for human sustainable development, and a source of inspiration for social, personal and global well being

Ängsbacka’s vision and mission says it is a sacred focal point bringing people to the realization of whom and what we really are beyond all thoughts and concepts.

Ängsbacka is an internationally renowned source of inspiration; exploring how human beings together consciously can create the life they desire on earth, and demonstrating paths to sustainable development, wellbeing, and harmony.”

They realize and sustain their vision through;
● openhearted communication and sharing, based on honesty and acceptance

● practices that encourage self-awareness and personal growth
● cultivating a thriving and fruitful cooperation with the local community of Molkom
● involving our members in the growth and development of Ängsbacka
● consciously creating a life of presence, creativity and respect for all life on earth

Ängsbacka community was founded in 1997 and currently around 20 people live there permanently (with around 50 members residing in the nearby village) and is open to everyone to become a member, participant and resident of the community to contribute to its development and thriving. Ängsbacka as the vision says is geared toward eduation, training, exploration and development of new futures, through hosting many festivals, seminars, workshops and so forth all year round, hence with an intense outward focus to bring to the world all the many beautiful and valuable ideas, concepts and learnings of the local and wider communities exploring sustainable pathways for regenarative living. From inner development, interpersonal relationships, community development and building, governance, practial ecological work as well as spiritual pathways are explored in many different ways with many people from around the world. Indeed a very vibrant and inviting place to be. And Angsbacka is very international and open for new members to join.

And the place is just perfectly set up for small but more so large events like the GEN conference, with ample accommodation spaces (from private rooms, dorms to camping), large and small venues, expansive space in the beautiful gardens and pastures and woodlans beyond, so that one has always space to retreat and recharge from the sometimes buzzling intensity of a new story conference.

 

” You have to give up your life you have planned for the life which is waiting for you” – Jospeh Campbell. 

GEN Europe 2017 Conference, an event which takes place annually and moves around Europe to different ecovillages every year. Last year in Spain (I have been there as well), and next Year in Estonia, is the largest event ofn the Global ecovillage and community and sustainable living calendar each and every. This year it was going for 5 very full and rich days (day and night), attracted between 400 and 600 participants every day and was overall a hugely intense, immersive and holistic experienc. Feeling and experiencing not only the positive and overflowing energy of participants creations, ideas and practices of co-creating a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, but also the feeling of joy, flow, being together and sharing so much with others and the world, inspite of our acute awareness of the darkness and shadows which are around us in our own personal lifes, in local communities, countries and internationally, day in day out. But also trying to understand the deep root causes of where we are now and how we got here.  But this concentration of laying bare and showing everyone else that a new story of life and being in this world is not only strong and boldly present but growing and spreading, expanding and diversivying at a rapid pace, brings joy and delight, support, ongoing commitment for all to continue on our paths.

This year’s GEN Europe conference was under the theme of

MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE through Solidarity, Resilience and Hope, by LIVING THE FUTURE WE WANT NOW!.

The idea of expanding and stepping up our (ecovillages, intentional communities, sustainability & regenerative initiatives, transition towns, co-housing, and any other groups and communities who identify with the spirit of GEN and what it stands for) efforts to enter and show “main stream” society and at higher levels of “power and decision making” about all the experiences, learnings, ideas, models, practices coming out of this “movement”. With ecovillages as laboratories and living models to create locally grounded regenerative and thriving cultures and communities globally connected and networked (glocalism or cosmopolitan bioregionalism) outside of ecovillages and communities (from ecovillages, to ecocommunities, to ecotowns to ecocities), but everywhere, through holistic approaches to co-create and co-design with communities and development. From Visions to real solutions and pathways – lived political economcis. And deliver it did, during the conference on this theme, not only through the sheer number of events, from daily key note speakers, discussion panels, to the dozens of daily workshops, seminars, lectures, explorations many running in parallel, creating a difficulty of choosing and some FOMO. But also the weaving together of the cognitive experiences and learnings, somatic experiences with music, singing, dancing, play, group work, sharing circles and more and not to mention the absolutely stunning and delicous vegetarian and vegan food served from breakfast til dinner (spiced up inbetween for the unsatiable with beautful cakes, coffe and icecreams in the on-site cafe), creating a beautifully relaxed and postively supporting field and energy for enabling co-creation, fostered by being in community and feeling a deep sense of belonging.

Topics  covered all aspects and dimensions of sustainable and regenerative design, development and living (i.e. social, economic, ecological and cultural/worldview and integration of all into a holistic way of being and acting in the world – individually and collectively from ego to eco). From the inner world explorations on how to deal with and overcome personal (but also interpersonal, collective and cultural) shadows and traumas to fully align ourselves with our mind, body, spirit and soul (or head, heart and hands), and about creating new stories and worldviews. To outer world explorations how to create holistically aligned and deeply connected relationships (of any type, intimate, friendships, professional, casual – Love without Fear! – through Trust, Thruthfulness and Transparency and being open honest and willing to gain belonging, trust and safety, ability to be open and vulnerable so we can connect and co-create). Group forming and development (like NVC, Process Work, Action Learning, Healing/Heart Circles, ZEGG Forum, Dagaon Dreaming, to go the way from I to We in safe places with self care and compassion), decision making processes (like Sociocracy) and conflict resolution, governancce to alternative business forms and opportunities, new economic systems and models (e.g. COPIOSIS, Basic Income), localism, appropriate ecological technologies (e.g. home made wind turbines, biodigesters, food systems etc).  Also covered wider topics like adaptive and generative development approaches, ways to spread alternative worldviews and visions to the world and include others beyond (e.g expanding work of GEN and other emerging organisations (movements of movements), but also opportunities for individuals to connect to existing and emerging communities, and of course networking and networkin and networking and of course dance, song and party …… and some walks in the pleasant nearby forests of course !

 

There was definitely too much content and events in order to try to provide a concise but comprehensive account of what comes out of the conference but a few highlights for me were:

  • Key note talk by Helena Norberg-Hodge and her long standing work on LOCAL FUTURES with Local Activism or Heart Activism, drawing together her decades of experience working with local communities in the global south and deeply understanding the ills of our current systems, structures and institutions and underlying worldviews, beliefs and value system of sepration, scarcy and competation as outdated models and paradigm, creating fear and spreading facism. Alternatives in localism, deep connection with ourselves, others and nature, unity and abundance as the new story relfected in the many ideas, concepts and initiatives and practices already spreading rapidly everywhere as a sign for accelerating change and transition into the new story and world, through Economics of Happiness or an Economics of Love – by and for the wellbeing of all and nature.
  • Key note talk by Charles Eisenstein on “Make the Impossible Possible” by envisioning and co-creating the “Impossible” (i.e. the new story and the beautiful world our hearts know is possible), through not only changing our own stories and ways of being in the world (from linear and dualistic to circular, networked and holistic models and paradigms), but similarly with changing the way we connect with others, communiy and the wider world and by creating a clear visions and deeply rooted stories (of place and culture and of interbeing) and changed narratives of a regenerative and thriveable future is core in order to generate synchonicities and emergence of the new world we are yearning for and creating even though often not knowing what and how the future will emerge, but accepting the uncertainty as part of the NEW STORY
  • GEN INTERNATIONAL work lead by Kousho Joubert (current CEO of GEN) of expansions and growth in the sense of connecting with many more communities and initiatives worldwide to draw on their extensive knowledge and experience within GEN (i.e. intensify networking and exchange), GEN reaching out locally (through drawing in other sustainability initiatives like in schools or towns and cities), and globally (for example through working with the UN, participation in various COP meetings), work with refugees (RefuGEN) and in crisis regions (EmerGENcy), GEN Development (work with groups, organisations and governments worldwide particularly in the global south to learn from ecovillages and communities to advance and dvelop their own communities), GEN Ambassadors (individuals who represent GEN wherever they are and whatever they do (e.g. I am a GEN Australia Ambassador), GEN Consultancy (as a diverse resource for communities and organistions to be able to tap into the vast knowledge of regenerative development within GEN), GEN Education (aligned with Gaia Education to provide more products and offers to help communities and organisations learn about holistic and regenerative approaches to work and development, but also webinars, GEN playing cards etc)., doing research in and on communities and last but not least foster and nurture the next generation (NextGEN).
  • The creation of a wider movement of movements known as ECOLISE the (at the moment) European network for community-led initiatives on climate change  and sustainability and transition, is a coalition of organisations (~40 at the moment) engaged in promoting and supporting local communities across Europe in their efforts to build pathways to a sustainable future.  Working in knowledge and learning, policy and advocacy and communication (internal and external) to show viable solutions. The upcoming European Day of Sustainable Communities (23 September 2017) is an event which should be joined through local events everywhere by all communities (and not just in Europe!).
  • The creation of an online platform supporting a movement of movements to connect groups and initiatives together in a smart and innovative way to allow deep and effective global networking and sharing and collaborative learning for holistic, integrated  systemic change – the SOLUTIONS REVOLUTION one can say is an example of a support system for generating Cosmpolitan Localism (or Bioregionalsim), attempting to cover all aspects of social and ecological systems change (from local to global) and a respirotory of workable and proven solutions from around the world. An attempt to unify but maintain diversity, but to make the invisible (of so many solutions out there) visible to all and accessible to all. Welcome to the World of Planetary Co-Creation – THE GEOSOCIAL NETWORK FOR CONSCIOUS CHANGEMAKERS (a Metanetwork also here ). – will be available from 21 September 2017.  

The conference definitely was noticed by and reported on in the Media in Sweden (including some Green politicians attending the conference) and Scandinavia, so a good starting point to make the invisible visible.

On a personal level, it not only provided a myriad of ideas, concepts and insights into practices, many new connections and also uplifted the soul, our mind, body and spirit to make it deeply aligned with our vision of a world which is socially just, culturally rich, thriving and enriching, spiritually fulfilling, and ecologically sustainable and creates a regenerative human presence on this planet and wellbeing for all sentinel beings indefinitely. It has for me personally re-invigorated my own deep commitment to serve as part of actualizing these visions through my own work and vocation for regenerative and thriving futures, it deeply reflects who I am and what my work is, living on the Edge and working on the Edge (in Permaculture language), heading into the uncertainty with my eyes wide open and keep on walking the path – truely inspiring and greatful having been able to be part of this event. So if you ever have the chance to get to Europe for e GEN conference, go for it!

And if you are ever in Sweden I can recommend you head to Ängsbacka for a day or more (or attend a workshop of Festival, work there or live there …. ).

 

Some other Resources very worth checking out:

United Earth

CAPE – Costum Academic Education Programs in Ecovillages

SIRCLE – Social Innovation for Resilient Communities 

CLIPS – Community Led Incubator Programme for Sustainability

JOYALITY – A Program for Personal and Planetary Transformation

Bridgedale360 – Online Youth Sustainability Toolbox

COPIOSIS – A New Post-capitalist Socio-Economic System (and here)

 

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Author: Peter Gringinger

Cultural Creative | Evolutionary Activist | Change Agent | Whole Systems, Transition & Regenerative Designer, Educator, Leader and Facilitator | Peter is a cultural creative, working as radical evolutionary activist and change agent through the use of whole systems, transition and regenerative design to provide support through integral and participatory facilitation for individuals, groups, neighbourhoods, communities and organisations to co-create and co-design our sustainable futures of regenerative and thriving cultures, places, environments and local but globally networked livelihoods. Peter believes in order to tackle and resolve the many interconnected issues and threats we are facing we need to take a whole and integral person and systems approach so that we can strive to (co)-create true sustainability and regeneration of our presence on this planet and to create health and wellbeing for all (humans and non-humans). We have to work on creating bridges between the various ideas and views of the world, to embrace the diversity and work through use of transformative innovation to shift us into a new worldview of cooperation, abundance regeneration and using transformative resilience for a just and equitable future founded on self-reliant local but globally connected communities. Originally trained as a geologist and hydrogeologist and obtaining further postgraduate training in renewable energy technology (geothermal) and in environmental sciences and engineering, he has worked as consultant to support clients in managing challenging environmental impacts from past commercial and industrial processes and facilities, including the assessment and clean-up of polluted soils and waters, environmental risk assessment & management, water resources and waste management. Peter has worked on projects across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Austria, Italy and Iceland. His clients have included local, state and federal governments, organisations including those within the defence and private sector for the production and use of explosives/ammunitions and chemicals, infrastructure sectors of road, rail, ports and airports; private sector clients including manufacturers and petrochemical companies, as well as major property developers, financiers, lawyers, insurers and land owners, waste management companies including landfill operators. Hence Peter has extensive experience in Project and Program Management for small to large scale projects and programs. In recent years Peter has completed further extensive personal development, training and skills acquisition and capability in Sustainability, Permaculture, Sustainability and Integral Leadership, Participatory Facilitation, Applied Ecopsychology, Integral and Systems Thinking, Whole Systems, Transition, Sustainable & Regenerative Design, Ecovillage Design, and provides input and support for individuals, groups, communities and organisations for the co-creation and co-design of sustainable futures and provides advice for personal and organisational change and transformation. Peter is currently the Acting Head of Innovation for Gaia Education, a certified Trainer with Gaia Education, an active member of the Leadership circle of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Australia and a GEN Ambassador for Australia and on the National Committee of Cohousing Australia.

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