The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) was set up in 1995 to support the experimental creation and preservation of human settlements that not only sustain, but regenerate their social and natural environments.
Ecovillages are communities with vibrant social structures, vastly diverse, yet united in common ecological, economic, social and cultural values and goals. They spring from the good intentions and creativity of citizens, and their willingness to make a difference. Today GEN contains an innovative alliance between intentional communities (with some of the lowest per capita carbon footprints in the industrialized world) and networks of traditional villages.
GEN – Connecting Communities for a Sustainable World
Definitions of an Ecovillage
Intentional Community: A residential group that comes together for some shared purpose or intention … or develops one.
Ecovillage: (Robert and Dianne Gilman’s original definition, 1991) An intentional community, which is human-scaled, full-featured, harmlessly integrated with nature, supports healthy human development and is sustainable.
Today within GEN we use the following definition.
An intentional or traditional community that is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes to regenerate social and natural environments. The areas of ecology, economy, the social and the cultural are integrated into a holistic approach.
Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)
Guidelines for the recognition of ecovillages
GEN was set up in 1995 to encourage the creation and preservation of sustainable settlements across the globe. At the core of GEN is a vision of community-led, participatory and holistic sustainable development.
Ecovillages are consciously designed for long-term sustainability in four interconnected dimensions: the social, cultural, economic and ecology. They are living and learning centres for a high quality, low impact lifestyle. In the North, ecovillages are geared towards radically lowering ecological footprints and finding participatory responses to peak oil and climate change. In the South, ecovillages often focus on preserving and honouring local sustainable traditions while at the same time embracing contemporary appropriate technologies to increase standards of living. In the face of climate change and the imminent depletion of many of our natural resources, a network which builds bridges of solutions with a spirit of respect, collaboration, exchange and mutual support deserves special attention.
GEN sees the neighbourhood or village as one key element in building solutions to the problems we face today. Many of us can step into our responsibility for future generations on the level of the village. We can oversee and express our concern for healthy relationships within our ecosystem. We can build community and take action together. The most under-utilised resource we have is the good intentions and creativity of citizens, and our willingness to make a difference. Urban and rural villages alike are precious playgrounds for civil society engagement to come to the fore. Village networks weave local solutions into new tapestries for resilient societies.
Both in the North and in the South, thousands of villages are currently losing their social, cultural, ecological and economic cohesion. The survival of entire communities is being threatened and urban areas are growing at a frightening rate. The rural exodus most often finds its roots in economic desperation, environmental destruction and appropriation of natural resources. Much of value is being lost in this process. Community-based projects within GEN slow down and reverse this trend and aim to bring healthy aspects of rural villages into city spaces. We can work to transition cities and townships to become more resilient – but also, we need to look into and counteract the root causes of their rapid growth. Villages will always be at an advantage in the realms of self-sufficiency and sustainability. They can function as guardians of nature and ensure the regeneration of their surroundings. With the arrival of internet, a vibrant connection to global networks is becoming possible even from remote corners of our beautiful planet.
GEN serves as a platform for the mutually enriching South-North and South-South, and North-North exchange of knowledge and experience. Through the sharing of best practice within the wider network we move towards a diverse yet shared pool of wisdom for sustainable living on this planet.
In recent years a growing number of indigenous and traditional villages all over the world have been working to revitalise local wisdom and move toward a sustainable future. Some of these village networks have been approaching GEN with an interest in becoming part of the movement. In answer to this, local village network leaders from Europe, India, Thailand, Senegal, Congo, Peru, Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa have met to formulate guidelines and processes for the recognition of ecovillages. These guidelines were refined during an EDE that took place in February 2011 in Orissa, India.
In formulating these guidelines, we are enquiring into the existence of an internationally applicable framework while honouring the wide diversity and richness of local expression and cultural differences. Participatory design processes ensure that all change and introduction of new sustainable technologies are rooted in local communities. In many cases, the initiation of an ecovillage network can start (and has started) with an educational program (like the EDE – Ecovillage Design Education, see www.gaiaeducation.net).
Kosha Anja Joubert
Guidelines for ‘ecovillage’ recognition
The following are a set of guidelines drafted by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) to assist in the process of recognition of ecovillages. If you feel that your project or village shares these values and strives to implement these practices, you might consider becoming a part of our global network of mutual support and exchange. These guidelines can be further specified for particular regions and used as indicators if so wished.
Growing from our shared vision and values, we – the people – choose to:
- Design our own villages and our own lifestyles in community
- Live in harmony with nature
- Become guardians of the nature around us once again
- Celebrate our cultural identity and diversity
- Uphold human rights for all
- Support oneness and solidarity, while helping each individual to find his or her unique way of serving the whole
We strive to build capacity through:
- Educating and empowering all to contribute to sustainable living
- Honouring traditional local wisdom while integrating positive change: innovative methods and appropriate technologies
We strive to implement:
- Best cultural practices
- Connecting to a higher purpose in life/spiritual practice
- Growing awareness about the impacts of modernisation
- Honouring traditions that are good for the people (and eradicating practices that harm human dignity)
- Political activism for justice
- Celebrating life: the people’s dance, music, art
- Best social practices:
- Strengthening community and embracing diversity
- Participatory decision making processes
- Conflict facilitation and peace-building skills
- Recognising and empowering leadership of those willing to serve the community
- Building networks and alliances
- Best ecological practices:
- Sustainable water management and clean energy
- Organic agriculture and permaculture
- Natural and traditional healing methods for humans and animals
- Ecological and traditional building methods
- Conservation and regeneration of ecosystems
- Best economic practices
- Significant collective ownership of land, water and resources
- Strengthen local economy: barter systems, microcredit, local currencies, diverse income streams and green enterprise
- Work towards economic justice and building bridges between rich and poor
- Engage in ethical and transparent fair trade
- Develop appropriate legal forms and transparent administration for our organisations