As we've been developing Avalon Springs (www.AvalonSprings.com) several on our team, including me, have been researching other ecovillage-based projects in the US and around Europe. It seems that most ecovillages are built around a guru or a dogmatic teaching/social model of some kind. Some of the longest-standing or fastest-growing ecovillages have this aspect. Findhorn was all about the Devas - IE the RIGHT way to plant is to talk to the Nature Spirits first. Zegg was all about the social/sexual experiment - IE the RIGHT direction to head socially is toward complete sexual freedom - (these founders have now moved on to Tamera and took the ongoing edgy experiment of this with them). And then there are Damanhur, Osho's Puna, and more who are really organized around a spiritual teacher who claim he's (they're always male, it seems) got the spiritual answer.
There have been a few, like Sieben Linden in Germany, that have been successful in growing without any such Right Answer. That's what we're interested in. How can we create culture, on a small scale but in a way it can grow to large scale, where people are inspired, informed, and empowered to co-create a loving culture based on respect and self-responsibility? Our best guess so far has been to develop our Field of Alliance.
We did this because it is non-dogmatic, yet sets a strong intention for living in presence, connection, and integrity without saying HOW. What do you think?
Love the field alliance!
You have struck on a subject that goes way back for us. When we first began the Interdependent Project we knew that there was very few - if any - existing EcoVillages that we could actually show case to a main stream audience as a prototype/model because of the fact that you mention plus other minor factors that are consistent landscape features within communities that aspire towards the EcoVillage label. Some of those other features include:
Now none of the above are necessarily wrong or in any way are we saying folks should not have their orientations be what they are. Nor do all of them manifest all at the same time or even stand out as some kind of 'ethos' - it is more subtle than that. The issue is that if we were to promote a community as "THE' living example of an EcoVillage and suddenly they were under mainstream media and societal scrutiny the above factors would sabotage and decrease the chances that the mainstream consciousness would accept it as a valid alternative and option.
The guru thing is a very dominant past and still sometime present factor in the establishment of most IC's (intentional communities) and we make a solid distinction between an IC and an EcoVillage. Findhorn is really an IC - they have a 'ecovillage' development in progress but their infrastructure is mainly normal buildings and a caravan park. Lammas is the model that we have targeted as a solid example of an EcoVillage Low-Impact Sustainable Development. Infrastructure is where most of the unhealthy, unsustainable, polluting, and resource waste occurs in any community development. It is the foundation that the term 'eco' rests upon.
Avalon Springs is a renovation effort on the infrastructure side of things and having existing buildings when the project begins does not disqualify a community from being able to call themselves an EcoVillage nor should they be expected to demolish those resources to get that status. Actually Avalon Springs is a perfect 'California' model because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places in California that are currently abandoned or available to be purchased for such endeavors and Avalon is an example of how it can be done! And Avalon's new buildings and developments are striving to showcase the alternatives as much as possible within the current imposed code/zoning limits that the county/state set forth.
It is unfortunate that in the early stages that developing EcoVillages (including Avalon) are forced to make compromises in their infrastructure vision plan due to county/state requirements but this is why we need to import the mechanisms and protocols that were a part of the Lammas' planning p... and use them as the valuable resource they are to work with the local and state officials for rezoning and building codes that will allow for 'Low Impact Sustainable Development' or 'EcoVillage' permit. If Lammas can get permission in the UK - which has the most strict building and development codes in the world due to population density - then we here in the US can certainly learn from and follow Lammas' lead in setting new precedents here in the US. Lammas also showed how to work with the locals and what kind of patient, inclusive, and calm/assertive disposition is required to accomplish such a bureaucratic red tape feat! This is a passionate goal of our team and forming the EcoVillage Network and building a core team that can take on this important mission is a priority for us.
We want to see what we call the "3 C" unconscious formula being erased from the mainstream mind - Community=Commune=Cult. This collective unconscious association was put in place by the guru led community models that were a part of the commune movement and it is our generations task to take the functional aspects of what our predecessors pioneered and evolve it so that when the term EcoVillage is used it does not fall prey to those kinds of associations. This is what we see Avalon doing and we applaud and join you on the 'Field of Alliance'
Hi Melissa: i'm getting confused with all the different places to post on this. Glad I found this one tho... I would run for the hills if I ever ran across any inklings of a guru based community.
Amazingly small world... i'm trying to arrange a site visit with Sieben Linden in March - although it'll be cold by Berlin area. I speak fluent (native) german, and am teaching in Austria in March on sustainable business + green building... been doin that for 15+ years... i usually end up learning way more! than I start with... they are so much more 'eco' than we can dream of.... practicing ancient + Steiner ways along with modern biomass generators and geothermal heat pumps and of course PassivHaus.
last year I was amazed to see my first firestove with no exhaust stacks... only O2 and CO2 emissions... like a human :-)
My comments on a quick review of avalon springs website: Great concept. Drawing reminds me of the master architectural plan for World Expo Shanghai 2010... circular water/transport flow... golden rule ratios... Reading on the development I was thinking it would be cool for ya'll to try to close-the-loop (cradle-to-cradle TM) on the site. Waste=food, current solar income, diversity.... That's the direction I'm headed to work as part of a team in realizing a true close-the-loop community.
I'm curious as to how many full-time community members you have / are anticipating.
Hi Melissa: That's great news on your joining the Time Bank. I had another great experience with it last week and with the SF Transitions people. In reviewing your previous post about various communities' experiences, I had the honor+privilege to spend a few days living at Sieben Linden in Germany in March... my experiences are detailed on my blog at
To answer your question (and my apologies for super late reply - i've been busy!)
I think the key to success in a community are it's people - that's overly simplified. Sieben Linden has a time proven vetting process, they've learned lessons from their Berlin experiences in the late 80's, and they hble'ad a GROUP of wise sages, and now they have a good 'business' model to keep sustaining themselves. I got a hold of their founding principles 'bible' and I'm trying to translate it. Each community and group is unique and must find their own way. One size does not fit all. We need a permaculture guide to community making.
Now a few months later, and way back into our cultural 'norms' ; I am nostalgic for Germany's culture - especially since they just banned nuclear plants! (again). So I am trying to get my biz ventures for community independent energy microgrids going and hopefully find a community of two that would start down that path.
We're in for the energy micro grid. :)
Richard and I also visited Sieben Linden - I agree - they have it "together" more than any other community I've visited! They are picky enough about people they choose, they have good mix of youth/elder/working folks, and they encourage cottage industries that allow prosperity and celebrate it.
The founder of Sieben Linden (i forgot her name) talked to us and said the most important thing to know is:
Lay your basic policies down right away - don't leave them open to consensus: esp. on items like
Technology policy, pets, kids, how much sexual "openness" is invited, how much food options, drugs, drinking... basically all the "hot issue" items should be SET before inviting members. She said this saves you about 7 years of drama.
I love the realism. :)
So how do we get this energy microgrid started? (typo on my last sentence above... community or two)
I was quite suprised at some Sieben Linden's policies - like no dogs! I loved the concept of no cell phones. They do have Friday parties/dances, and have a 'bar-saloon' - yet residents don't seem to drink alcohol that much. One of the things that still concerns me is their older (50+) live-in generation didn't mix much with the community and stayed away from the common area while i was there - did you find that too? I also met some Poppau townspeople that were not all that pleased with their rules and had moved out.
When were u there? I think it might have been Julia you talked to? i spent a lot of time with Christoph (current co-leader) and a little time with Mike(made their film). I have some ongoing dialogues with them about their energy situation. They seem to have no master plan direction for growth and it's very disconnected - and they get revenue stream from tying to the grid which contradicts their base policies.
I love the concept of founding principles without consensus - but they are flexible to discussing and changing them. The most amazing thing i just scratched the surface on: Sieben Linden's openness and communication/spiritual 'feeling' without ritual. several people indicated they never raise their voices in anger/argument - indeed i found that true during my short time there.
Update: (curious if this forum is still up + running) Two years later, as I am embarking on another visit to Sieben Linden in Germany, it was karma that had me run across this post on a google search. I am close to Damanhur right now in Italy, but will probably opt for Venice instead - less dogmatic and more visual. Seems the caves of Damanhur will have to wait for another trip.
Since my last visit to Sieben Linden two years ago, I have not encountered anything similar in Northern California. I wonder how Avalon Springs is doing. Seems in a good place and direction.
The community microgrid concepts are alive and well, I'm currently focusing and getting involved with some biomass gasification projects (3rd generation)... seems to be a great fit for northern California.
As usual, after teaching in Austria for a few weeks, my whole mind is twisted into what's possible, and more aware of how stuck we are in the USA with our habits... it's all about our appetites for unlimited energy and people are obstinate about make only tiny changes to their lifestyles.
My own personal focus is building an international learning center exploring living energies founded by Victor Schauberger, R.Steiner, N. Tesla and others... along with unlearning most everything i learned in engineering school...
There is a great site I stumbled upon recently, the Fellowship for Intentional Community, ic.org. It has a directory of intentional communities worldwide. Included in the outline for each community is type of governing structure, plus other pertinent info. I think it's a pretty awesome site!