OUR Cooperative Report June 2018
BETTER THAN EVER…20 years of work!
by Brandy Gallagher
This spring we rounded the corner into OUR 20th year of living and learning onsite at OUR ECOVILLAGE as a “25-acre Regenerative Living Demonstration Site and Education Centre”. This was an ideal and an idea that was crafted through 100’s and 100’s of conversations of “what might be possible” in making a high impact and inclusive space for folks to learn about themselves and how we might transform OURselves and the way we live in the world. So much feels that it has come full circle from OUR humble beginnings when we really didn’t know what we were getting OURselves into!!
With a deep purpose towards learning how to live/work cooperatively and share in “the Commons, for the common folks, for the common good”…things started with a spiritual beauty and relationships that were like family (and indeed most folks brought many layers of their family with them). With a collective background from living in Intentional Community, farming, involvement with ‘The Haven‘ (and other modalities of work) and individual/collective work, and incredible mentorship from wise folks and elders of every walk and talk. Now we have said goodbye to many of those Elders (as some have moved on and some have passed on) and find that we OURselves are becoming the Elders and the next “ones we have been waiting for…”! All of the circles of learning/visioning, designing/dreaming, and outrageous optimism have garnered a path whereby much all of what we dared to dream has been manifested – and it has taken these 19 years ~
Who knew that it would take 19 years to finally have a legal framework to live out the Vision of OUR ECOVILLAGE. Arguably one of the most difficult decisions we have made has been to “do all that we do legally; if it is not legal when we begin – then we need(ed) to help make it legal”. This ideal and framework for design/development means that it has birthed OUR LAWFUL PERMACULTURE work…but also that we had chosen to forgo all of the creature comforts of having OUR own personal homes as HearthKeepers along the way. Through OUR idealism so many of us thought we could simply engage in the conventional development and finance path – and that common sense in systems would prevail. Alas, the more innovation we developed from…the less OUR ECOVILLAGE could fit into any conventional and mainstream finance legal models. At the least innovation also becomes known as ‘high risk’ for finance, insurance and permitting. All precedence setting work – also becomes special allowance and yet another example of ‘not in the book’ methodology (even though we might all note that everything at OUR ECOVILLAGE exists legally somewhere in the world!!). It is only now in 2018 that OUR zoning to ownership model, building permits to hybrid mortgage (thank myou VANCITY!)…is finally becoming fully tested. It is clear that not many families, individuals, businesses have the end game of such a long process in mind or within capacity when they start out with such a process. OUR children need spaces to be nurtured, OUR businesses need stability to be considered sufficiently not risky, and overall most folks need to go through a lengthy process to move from individual/family autonomy to collective/cooperative culture. What ever OUR ideal…this is no easy task and certainly the collective heartbreak of Western culture at this time. Diana Leafe Christian’s book, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Intentional Communities/Ecovillages, states that 90% of intentional communities fail. After the huge rise of community/ecovillage projects in the 90’s there was a hope that if we simply found the appropriate legal and structure frameworks – we could solve this failure to thrive. Two decades later what we see is that no amount of legal/regulatory/political work later ‘fixes’ the intentional communities and collective groups…it is the human experience and human challenge of living/working together cooperatively which is still at the heart of most all local to global reality surrounding the extensive challenge of collective decision making (be it our families, neighbourhoods/communities, countries or world!). And yet from the most local to the global implications it is this very need that is the keypin to OUR collective future on this planet…
This is all good reflection at this time of marking the 2 decades of anniversary work of all of the ‘One United Resource’ work of this ecovillage. It is also an amazing time to reflect as we have just completed the first ever North American TRAINING OF TRAINERS with Gaia Education/United Nations curriculum project (and already have booked for next spring to do the next one for 2019!), and OUR 3rd ever ECOVILLAGE DESIGN EDUCATION training! In so many ways it feels that we have finally hit a sweet spot – found a new rhythm and have moved on to being what we truly are…unabashedly unique and a not easy life choice in these chaotic planetary times. Noting that the world’s social and environmental systems are in the process of deepest challenge ever…how could OUR ECOVILLAGE expect to be immune or any different. It is the common culture of the times who shows up to live in ecovillages even through OUR collective dream might be to manifest something different than we were raised with – a seemingly impossible task to some. AND YET – here we are 20 years later…I would say happier and more resilient than probably ever before in many ways. Do we have a long term committed set of HearthKeepers who have put their life work into living/working cooperatively ~ nope! And yet we do have an outstandingly committed, diligent and loving group of human beings who are putting themselves in on a level of heart that defies all common culture imperatives of role, rank, power, economic gain, and mainstream trappings of ‘what we need in order to be happy’ and we have truly declared that it if there is not joy…OUR lives will not be sustainable!! (to quote OUR good friends Ann and Gord Baird/EcoSense…”if it is not fun – it is not sustainable”). I find myself walking (well hobbling again as my injury continues to create new offshoot challenges!) around singing – truly a sign that good things are in process even within the many challenges of the day!
With all of this said we have two teasers for you: 1) we are embarking on a new opportunity around OUR ecovillage live/work plan and 2) we are moving out into OUR wider community with some highly integrated learning community shared work…no peeking on this until we have further details solidified. See you in OUR next Newsletter to get you even more excited about seeing some new work in action! In the meantime – we hope to see all OUR new Sustainers, friends and family here for Summer Wellness programming and the bounty of joy we wish to share.