Resource, Support and Network Groups
A Little Help From Our Friends
Many groups, especially in the earlier days, struggled on their own, with little more than a vision and heartfelt commitment to a better way of living. Today, there are numerous organisations that can offer specialist experiential knowledge to save ‘reinventing the wheel’. These personal testimonies are offered here to indicate the breadth, depth and variation of what is known and offered. Examples are a sampling of some of the better-known overseas and Australian organisations.
Permaculture Institute Tyalgum, NSW
Established in 1979 by founder of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, PI teaches practical design of sustainable soil, water, plant and legal and economic systems to students worldwide.
Permaculture courses have been taught to tens of thousands of students world wide, in over 100 countries, covering a wide range of climates and terrains. Numerous Permaculture centres exist in every state of Australia and around the world.
Pan Community Council Nimbin, NSW
PanCom was formed in 1987 with primary aims of promoting social interactions among communities; assisting with dealings with councils and government bodies; fostering sustainable economic initiatives; and protecting the environment.
PanCom represents intentional communities, mainly in the north east corner of NSW. There are approximately 100 such communities in this area and they are very diverse in structure and activities. However, it is fair to say that most are committed to living in a low-cost way that minimises their impact on the environment. Many people in communities have built their own houses and grow a proportion of their own food.
PanCom produces a newsletter, holds community meetings, lobbies the government and its depts, and issues media statements on policy matters.
Remote Area Developments Group Murdoch University, WA
RADG was established in 1985 to develop appropriate technologies that will improve living conditions in remote Aboriginal communities. RADG began their work by focussing on appropriate technology for water supply aknd sanitation. The focus has broadened to include revegetation, bush food and communications.
Centre for Appropriate Technology Alice Springs, NT
CAT is an indigenous organisation committed to securing livelihoods in remote communities through appropriate technologies. They work in the field of training, research, project management, product development, infrastructure development, Indigenous housing community planning.
One focus of CAT has been the design of low-tech solutions for desert communities, including the ventilation improved pit toilet, and manually operated washing machine.
Maleny Strategic Alliance
The town of Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, on the way to Crystal Waters, had become somewhat run down until many sustainably minded people settled in the area, forming 19 Cooperatives, their own credit union that invests completely in the local area, and a massive LETS trading system.
Maleny’s co-operative development approach began with the establishment of one co-operative store in the early 1980’s, and has now burgeoned into a network of interdependent enterprises and associations which, are generally based on co-operative principles. These include a Credit Union, which has provided finance for over 180 new jobs within 78 new businesses, a food co-operative, a strong LETS system, a recycling depot, community schools, a business enterprise centre which supports individual and group businesses, and a number of craft and market garden co-operatives.
The Maleny Strategic Alliance group has been formed by the range of co-operatively based enterprises and associations within the town in order to conduct community audits and community needs analyses, and develop a strategic plan for the area. This association may be seen as providing an ‘umbrella structure’ for the coordination of co-operative efforts throughout the community.
Within Maleny, community based enterprises have been developed across a number of industries, and in response to a diversity of human service needs. Many of these are cooperatively organised. In addition, co-operative solutions have spawned small-scale innovative private enterprises. The community credit union has financed a range of small businesses, and the strong business network established in Maleny provides support for business start up. These small enterprises are seen as being appropriate to the local community and, as such, part of a broader sustainability agenda.
Christie Walk Sturt St Adelaide SA
Demonstrates how individuals can lead a low impact lifestyle in the inner city: growing their own food, recycling water, generating electricity, and reducing car dependence. All dwellings are built with low-energy, non-toxic materials and uses passive solar design to keep energy use to a minimum. Has been used as a case study in Australian Greenhouse Office Your Home Technical Manual. Christie Walk has enabled a community of people to bring into being their vision of a sustainable future.
Making the vital connection between healthy soil and healthy people has been the central thrust of Rodale Institute for more than three generations. The first task was finding agricultural solutions to major health and environmental problems. The second was proving that they worked. The third is now sharing them with the world, and has become Rodale Institute’s unswerving mission.
The labels for Rodale-style farming have changed over time – from organic to low input to sustainable to regenerative – but the intent is the same: to provide more healthy food by creating and maintaining healthy soil. Rodale Institute is dedicated to worldwide communication of the soil-food-health connection, and to lending strength and unity to the voices demanding change.
Fellowship for intentional Community
FIC is interested in helping people looking for more community in their lives. Building on its roots in the intentional communities movement, FIC offers a wide range of services, including publications, referrals and events.
FIC has four primary missions:
- to openly provide accurate and comprehensive information about living in intentional communities;
- to promote dialogue, understanding, and cooperation among existing communities and related organisations;
- to make the realities, options and lessons of intentional communities readily accessible to the wider culture;
- to provide moral, technical and financial support to forming and established communities in need.
Intentional communities have existed for many centuries as places where people build alternatives to meet their needs. Although there are thousands of intentional communities in existence today, and many others in the formative stages, most people are unaware of them, or the roots from which they spring. The Fellowship is increasing public awareness about what intentional communities are offering, both for those who want to join them, and for those who are inspired by their example of living cooperatively.
Ecovillage Training Centre (ETC)
The ETC assists transition toward a sustainable society through instruction in meeting basic needs for food, shelter, energy, gainful employment, and community.
ETC offers an immersion experience in sustainable living: courses and workshops, internships and special demonstrations in green lifestyles. Set amongst The Farm community’s 1700 acres of woods and meadows, the ETC is a living laboratory with a mandate to increase biodiversity. Sustainable technologies and principles surround you as study and work throughout the training centre – its inn, organic garden, forests, swales and ponds – in a Permaculture consciousness, within an outstanding networking community of students and teachers.
ETC has hosted Permaculture courses, courses in installing solar electricity and water heating, and yurt, cob, bush pole and strawbale construction, a midwifery conference, a children’s camp, and ongoing demonstrations in alternative energy, hybrid vehicles and organic gardening.
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
RMI is an independent, non-profit research and educational foundation with a vision across boundaries. Seeking ideas that transcend ideology, and harnessing the problem-solving power of free-market economics, RMI’s mission is to foster the efficient and sustainable use of resources as a path to global security.
Established in 1982 by resource analysts Hunter and Amory Lovins, research is focused in seven interrelated areas: energy, transportation, green real estate development, climate change, water, economic renewal, and corporate sustainability.
Working mainly in the US, but with a global perspective, RMI devises new solutions to old problems – or, better yet, new ways to avoid problems altogether. RMI is a working example of resource efficiency and renewable energy in harmony with people and the environment. Since 1984, more than 40,000 visitors have toured the building to learn about its energy and water saving devices.
E F Schumacher Society
Founded in 1980, the Society promotes the ideas inherent in the decentralist tradition and implements them in practical programs for local economic self-reliance. The organisation’s purpose is as follows:
- Intitate model grassroots programs for community renewal.
- Gather a body of information to support the practical work.
- Organise conferences and lectures to create fellowship, celebrate achievements, and provide a forum for continuing discussions.
- Publish the results of these activities to educate a growing audience.
The Society’s regional programs in micro-lending, community land trusts, local currencies and community supported farming have been replicated in small communities and urban neighbourhoods throughout North America and around the world.
The E F Schumacher library houses an 8,000-volume collection devoted to the study of human-scale institutions, mutual aid, respect for the land and community renewal.
The programs of the Society present an integrated vision that can lead to a sustainable, decentralised, “economy of permanence” that nurtures the Earth and its inhabitants.
Intentional Communities Network
For those who want to help make their communities more liveable. We hope to increase the visibility of what has worked for other communities, and to promote a lively exchange of information to help create community sustainability in both urban and rural areas.
In many communities – large and small, rural and urban – issues are being addressed in an interconnected manner. They are demonstrating how innovative strategies can produce communities that are environmentally sound, economically prosperous and socially equitable. Learn about principles of sustainability and visioning processes and how they can help guide community initiatives. Find out how $mart Growth guide planning in neighbourhoods and regions and what tools are available to help.
Global Ecovillage Network
The Global Ecovillage Network is a global confederation of people and communities that meet and share their ideas, exchange technologies, develop cultural and educational exchanges, directories and newsletters, and are dedicated to restoring the land and living “sustainable plus” lives by putting more back into the environment than we take out.
We are creating a sustainable future by identifying, assisting and coordinating the efforts of communities to acquire, social, spiritual, economic and ecological harmony. We encourage a culture of mutual acceptance and respect, solidarity and love, open communications, cross-cultural outreach, and education by example. We serve as a catalyst to bring the highest aspirations of humanity into a practical reality.
GEN contributes to the worldwide transformation toward sustainability, by supporting ecovillages, joining with like-minded partners, and expanding education and demonstration programs in sustainable living.
Our objectives are to:
- support the development of ecovillages around the world;
- build strong international, national and regional networks of ecovillages;
- create an organizational structure capable of linking grassroots ecovillages and projects into a strong, participatory worldwide movement;
- develop Living and Learning Centers worldwide, to promote hands-on participatory education in sustainable living;
- support worldwide development of whole systems and experiential learning;
- advocate for sustainable communities in public forums;
- partner and collaborate with organizations and people who share our vision.
Network members include large networks like Sarvodaya (11,000 sustainable villages in Sri Lanka); EcoYoff and Colufifa (350 villages in Senegal); the Ladakh project on the Tibetian plateau; ecotowns like Auroville in South India, the Federation of Damanhur in Italy and Nimbin in Australia; small rural ecovillages like Gaia Asociación in Argentina and Huehuecoyotl, Mexico; urban rejuvenation projects like Los Angeles EcoVillage and Christiania in Copenhagen; permaculture design sites such as Crystal Waters, Australia, Cochabamba, Bolivia and Barus, Brazil; and educational centres such as Findhorn in Scotland, Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, Earthlands in Massachusetts, and many more.
Rudolf Steiner Foundation
RFS has been a progressive service organisation supporting social and environmental change, particularly the kinds of change inspired by Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education and biodynamic farming.
Rudolf Steiner addressed the soul and spiritual poverty that modern humanity had fallen into by challenging it to rise above materialism, and to accept responsibility for the disadvantaged, the developing capacity of children, a life-sustaining Earth, and the universe. Research and activities include education and the arts; science and caring for the Earth; social responsibility and mutual support; medical and religious renewal; and associative economic relationships.
Community Eco-Design Network
CEN is a network of people, organisations and businesses interested in ecological design and construction. We specialise in bringing together these groups to build innovative structures that showcase ecological design.
CEN was founded in 1995 as a non-profit organisation committed to the research and implementation of sustainable technology for the built environment.
Our goal is to help assist in the transition from a petrochemical-based technology and economy. Our focus is on projects that are neighbourhood-sized in scale, and are building a sustainable economic base.
Support Centre for Non-Profit Management
Support Centre is a consulting and training organisation with a regional focus and national reach. Through consulting, workshops, publications, and special management programs, we seek to help nonprofits to use the best management tools and concepts to help them best serve their communities.
In 1991, World Conservation Union, UN Environment Program and World Wide Fund for Nature put together a Strategy for Sustainable Living. Their Principles of a Sustainable Society are:
- Respect and care for the community of life;
- Improve the quality of human life;
- Conserve the Earth’s vitality and diversity;
- Minimise the depletion of non-renewable resources;
- Keep within the Earth’s carrying capacity;
- Change personal attitudes and behaviour;
- Enable communities to care for their own environment;
- Provide a national framework for integrating development and conservation;
- Create a global alliance.