“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the courseof history.” (Mohandas Gandhi)
This paper reflects our deep systemic approach; following the principles of Human Centered Design
(Acumen). It helps us to create an overview of the area of intervention in terms of ecology, economy and social structures; taking into account the political, social, cultural and economical contexts. As it may contain very sensitive data, we are best advised to keep it intelligently confidential.
The sense of beauty is intimately linked to the senses of individual liberty – “to do what I please on my property as long as I do not harm anybody else”. We all need to have the feeling of: “My life, my family, my friends” so we can grow “our own space”, which takes the shape of our aspirations and -once completed- will feed us back this elevating energy. Right now the situation provoked by the globalization is not helping this effort : the supremacy of the US$ and globalization of the markets have alienated/annihilated the local markets; the green revolution (Monsanto) has replaced autonomous,small scale agriculture by industrial chemical warfare against nature, food and people; the globalization of school systems forbids the use of vernacular languages and thus the local culture disappears – all these things have covered up the treasures of your local tradition and your individual power to change things moving as a community of free humans.
Ps: be aware that all paradigm changing projects pass through 4 phases:
- Non-comprehension, does not enter my perception « does not exist »
Sufficiency versus the rat race
The rat race is build on a projected scarcity of resources which makes everybody compete for the biggest chunk, for every bigger ever more ever faster and so on. This eats our soul away, depletes all our planet’s resources and trashes what space is left on it. This is well described by the animation: the story of stuff by Annie Leonard. The rat race is chasing after an illusion as we dream that at the end of the race we will find happiness and peace. That is not true – there is not even an end to the race.
The rat race model has become the underlying paradigm of the conventional economics and way of life. It is this mindset which divided societies in « havs » and « have-nots » and it continues to polarize more and more. The « help » that is coming from this paradigm is imperialistic (« we who know and can do everything will extend some of our surplus to you ignorant savages ») and motivated only by guilt (« you know in your heart of hearts that you made your « more money » on the expense of your fellow wo-men; and that creates your guilt and shame which you want to get rid of by donating food to the hungry »). Instead of… you may guess what!
The alternative is sufficiency: « Sufficiency is the truth. Sufficiency can be the place to stand, a context hat generates a completely new relationship with life, with money and with everything that money can buy. I suggest there is enough in nature, in human nature, and in the relationships we share with one another to have a prosperous, fulfilling life, no matter who you are or where you are in the spectrum of resources. I suggest that if you are willing to let go, let go of the chase to acquire or accumulate always more and let go of that way of perceiving the world, then you can take all that energy and attention and invest it in what you have. When you do that you will find unimagined treasures, and wealth of surprising en even stunning depth and diversity. »
The environmentalist Dana Meadows puts it that way: « Nature says we have just so much and no more. Just so much soil. Just so much water. Just so much sunshine. Everything born of the earth grows to its appropriate size and then stops. The planet does not get bigger, it gets better. Its creatures learn, mature, diversify, evolve, create amazing beauty and novelty and complexity, but live within absolute limits. »
How to help? – The Begging Bowl Bangladesh. The rat race does not only destroy any true self esteem, especially in those who do not make it to the top of ever bigger and bigger; it creates also a lot of guilt in those who achieve the top: out of guilt and shame they want to « help the poor » and thus is created this completely inefficient guilt-ridden charity. A great example for this are these huge campaigns in the last century to « safe Ethiopia and Bangladesh »:
Bangladesh was listed by the United Nations as the second poorest county in the world in the late 1970ies.Bangladesh became the recipient of another kind of flood, a flood of aid, and within a short time had become almost completely dependent on aid from outside sources. : a giant begging bowl of a nation…Bangladeshis had become convinced they were a hopeless, helpless people dependent on others of even minimal survival.
The situation began drastically to change when the development efforts were going down to the roots; open meetings with people took place in which they were asked:
What would it look like if Bangladesh were a country that was exporting it’s finest quality goods?
What would it be like if Bangladesh were known for its art and music and poetry?
What if Bangladesh were a contributing member of the global community?…
When we completed this visioning meditation, and people shared with one another the visions they had seen for their village, their family, their school, their home, their business, their children and their grandchildren, the vision became rich and real; palpable an exhilarating. A new future was born.
Thus it is off utter importance from which place within us we want to help eradicate poverty etc. The best place to start seems – as the indigenous saying goes –
« If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you are coming because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. »
What is the main Objective of this project?
The ultimate goal is to create an non-monetary, resilient, self-sustained community (following the example of ‘Ancient Futures‘). A community that thrives without the need for money – all that is needed is the contribution of the people with their skills and talents. This unified activity will rapidly lead to success and abundance in all aspects.
The first and most fundamental aspect is the production and cultivation of food and the profitable treatment of organic waste streams. One in every ten people will most likely be involved in the production of food in some way. All their needs will be supported in every area by the Council of Elders.
However the first 1-3 years will still work with money, concentrating their attention to these FIFE initial areas of implementation:
Establishment of the Council of Elders
Free Electricity – Free energy
In this phase we will hold open meetings with the whole community to get to know :
What are the desires and dreams, wants, needs of the local people?
What local resources (people, organizations, agencies, industries, free plants & seeds, biomass, sand gravel, timber, mulch, etc.) are available?
What utilities and services (e.g. power, phone, sewerage, gas, pv, hydro, shops, schools, public transport, hospitals, fire departments, waste disposal / recycling, etc.) are available?
What are the short and long-range priorities?
What are the steps to make the project real?
To enable us to help create the strategy to make the project real, we need to get to know the place and it’s history as deeply as possible; as every intervention will be taylored to the specific conditions of the site. For practical considerations we divide the process into the following phases :
Pre-feasibility study : collecting and reviewing the data we can obtain before visiting the community for the first time.
During the first site visit we will gather all relevant data for the project. To do that and to initiate the project we will form a steering committee with local stakeholders. Together with them we will elaborate the feasibility study, master- and business plan.
At the same time we will elaborate also the financial strategies : what the community can pool in (money, resources) and what government funding is available.
After this visit we will create the official documents based on the data of phase II and submit them to the Steering Committee/Council of Elders for approval.
We will establish at this time the strategy to raise additional funds in Europe/Canada. We like to to that by Participatory Fund raising : where the donors will be encouraged not just to give money but to become personnaly involved into the projet : to fly down to the project (at their own expenses), be accomodated in a family who’s members participate in the project (free of charge), learn the local language and take actively part in the implementation of the project.
As soon as the financing is in place and the documents are accepted we will have the second site visit : when the community will begin to implement the project along the schedules established in phase III with the funds available both local and abroad. Phase IV ends when the Council of Elders feels that the community can now go on on their own.
« We are coming to you because your liberation is bound up with ours – let us work together. »
The Facilitator: Sanctuaire Pont de Vie
Pont de Vie is a non-profit community development organization founded in 2010. It is located in the land called Canada. Pont de Vie will be acting as a consultant, a facilitator. It will not partake in decision making as a voting member. Pont de Vie will keep 3% of the revenues collected by the Participatory Fund Raising in the west to cover expenses.
Founders : Barsha is mother, psychotherapist (trained in Relation d’Aide, Hakomi and the Work of Byron Katie) and educator (creativity and therapeutic residential workshops with children). Aviram is entrepreneur, mentor and EcoVillage Designer, certified by Gaia Institute, Findhorn, UK.
Social aspects of autonomy
In the beginning of the project we will establish a Steering Committee, which will decide over the issues regarding the whole of the community and several sub-committees who will decide on issues concerning their field of action (enterprises, neighborhoods etc).
The work in a Steering Committee is voluntary without remuneration (this may also be a good way to prevent corruption)
The sub-committees will delegate two of their members to the Steering Committee; this is how the various committees/organisms are linked together.
Just, transparent and good governance need only to follow just two main rules :
each member has equal right and equal vote
each organism/committee can only make decisions where they will be subject to the consequences. That means the SE can only take decisions concerning the whole of the community and not concerning issues belonging to just one committee/neighborhood.
This will allow the people to govern themselves and rapidly provide the needs of the community on every level and on a daily basis from within the center of the community.
We encourage very much the implication of children right from the start. They can either be part of the committees or form their own children parliament (see barefoot university). Children are the best ambassadors for change : they embrace change more easily than adults and they generate quicker enthusiasm to spread the idea.
Steering Committee (SC)
The first step that each community needs to take is to appoint its Steering Committee. It consists of the people who are most militant for the cause. The members of the SC have equal power, equal vote. Pont de Vie may participate in the sessions without a right to vote, only as consultants.
The SC will help collect the data, create the strategies and work to include all of the community into the project as enthusiastic participants.
Later on the most senior members of the SC will form the Council of Elders who will replace the SC as soon as the project is up and running.
The participation of children needs to be taken into consideration.
Council of Elders (CE)
The Council of Elders that consists of 13 of the most respected elders, emerging out of the SC or later appointed by the people of the community through a simple process of voting and not by politicians. We believe strongly in reactivating the human aspects of Indian traditions that have been desecrated by colonization and replaced by bureaucratic chaos.
The Council of Elders will make all the final decisions for the benefit of the community on a daily basis. They will approve and implement what is most urgently need by the community and what should be developed and done on every level of each community. This will speed up the development and upgrading each community infinitely.
Most of the municipalities today are corrupt and bankrupt, and they simply do not deliver the needs of the people. They have to be replaced. The newly appointed Council of Elders can implement the will of the people to take over the governance of their town to move towards prosperity.
Ecological aspects of autonomy
An alternative model for local currency is designed to create a currency which exists in parallel to the national currency. National currencies do not protect local economies but follow the international money market (supremacy of the US$) and globalization. The design features for local currencies include:
- As local currency has no value outside the region of use, it keeps the money inside this region, thus raising the general level of abundance
- A local currency fosters the emergence of new local enterprises and strengthens the existing local economy
- Unlike the national currencies, it actually increases the local money supply
- Its value is based on local production and not linked to the national currency; thus it renders a community more resilient to global financial/economic crises’
- It is issued in a way that gives access to people who are partially shut out of the national economy
- It presents legal opportunities to bring in local government participation
- It offers ways to circulate goods and services that are unsellable for national currencies and employ people who are otherwise unemployable
- It is framed in a way to be non-threatening to civic and financial powers-that-be
Currency Issue and Mechanics
The basic principle is to back the currency with local goods and services. It originates with an issuing entity, which could be a non-profit organization, a community association, or (in a different legal context) a local government. For convenience let’s call the local currency : ‘LC’. The issuer can create it in three ways:
It can spend it into existence (NGO as initiators)
To spend money into existence, the issuer simply buys coupons or gift certificates for local goods and services from local merchants; ensuring that each issue corresponds to goods or services of rough equivalency. The backing of the currency consists of these certificates.
By backing the currency with the promise of future goods and services, the money supply (of national currency plus LC can increase without the danger of increasing the money supply beyond the real economic base. Backing with local goods and services rather than the national currency creates price stability.
It can lend it into existence (government as initiators)
The issuer can also lend LC into existence by extending loans to institutional start ups that are not secured by a pledge of goods and services – an after-school community center in a low-income neighborhood, for example. The organization or business could repay the loan by accepting LC for its services. Alternatively, the loan could take the form described above: the issuer could simply buy coupons for services to be rendered after such-and-such a date. As you can see, the boundary between a loan, a grant, and a claim on future goods or services is blurry.
It can sell it into existence (coop as initiators
The issuing agency can print a certain amount of LC and sell them to participants at parity with the national currency. At the same time it can rally as much local businesses as possible to accept LC. Participating local businesses can either re-convert LC into national currency or pay their suppliers with LC. The more reciprocity is created (= the more LC remain in circulation and are not reconverted) – the less expensive locally traded goods become.
Involving Local Government
Municipal governments can enjoy the benefits of this sort of currency without having to issue it themselves. The issuer could issue LC to the municipal government for public transport tokens, tax vouchers, parking vouchers, or various services provided by the city; taxes later on. Any endorsement at all from local government vastly enhances the perception of value that makes money money.
Municipalities could spend the local money for:
Volunteers staffing semi-official “people’s libraries”
Safety patrols composed of retired police officers, ex-gang members, and mediation specialists who act as a complementary police force in areas where cutbacks have left residents with insufficient police protection (or where the residents don’t trust police to begin with)
Renovation of derelict properties
Volunteer-run day camps, big brother/big sister programs, and tutoring programs
Park maintenance and patrol volunteers
Homeless shelter and soup kitchen volunteers
Give employment to the unemployable
Initially at least, in most cases the LC would be given not in lieu of salaries, but as tokens of appreciation for volunteers, a way to get them involved in the local economy and meet some of their needs even if they lack the professional skills or opportunities to find paid work.
Each town or community needs to establish a bank account into which they will pay the money for all monthly fees like taxes, water, electricity and others. This account will be managed in complete transparency by the people through their own Council of Elders. This money will be used for all the needs of the community : maintenance, upgrading of facilities and to start-up the initial community projects that will become the foundation of future prosperity within the community.
Ecological aspects of autonomy
Energy is easily to be generated by using organic waste and renewable, natural resources – Solar, Hydro-electric, Wind, Bio gas etc.). The BioReSys technology (see attached pdf) combines all the separate bio-technologies into a synergistic whole.
Sewerage collectors can be converted into a bio-gas plant at very little cost to provide everyone with free gas for cooking, heat and even electricity. This will allow the solar panels to only power the lights and other basic appliances. Sewerage and drain water will be purified with advanced green technology and can be used for agriculture and in need of shortages, for drinking too.
Solar energy is the most obvious. The community fund will provide a weekly implementation plan to install solar panels and lights for as many homes as possible. We could for example supply 1 solar panel (to provide 2-4 households with light) every day from the daily funds received by recycling rubbish.
Wind turbines could be erected to add to the electricity supply of the community. This may be specific for some of the community projects.
Small to medium scale hydro-electric installation can transform the power of flowing water into electricity – waterfalls, existing bridges over rivers.
There are various options of new technologies and alternative energy sources that must be explored and implemented where possible.
Water belongs to the people; the access to clean and healthy water is a human right. We have the need and the capacity to deliver water to every household of the community. Instead of using expensive bore wells, ancient traditions of rain water harvesting should be revived.
Additionally supplemented by biologically reconditioned gray water.
It may be advisable to create smaller water tanks that supply several homes at a time, to prevent water shortages if the main supply is damaged in some way. We need to avoid a grid or mass supply system that can go down and affect all the people at the same time.
All water will undergo a natural process called “energizing” which makes the water healthy and even helps to prevent diseases when people drink such naturally energized water.
All conscious architects and designers are aware of the principles of the flow of energy, light and heat in their designs. This vision and understanding must be part of all building and development.
Before any structures are erected or upgraded, we have to evaluate the layout of the town and use the best town planners, environmental experts and civil engineers to redesign the layout of the town for maximum benefit to the people.
This must include the vision of the future and be in absolute harmony with nature. It proves to be very beneficial to the health of the entire community if habitats are designed or retrofitted to be energy efficient, pleasant and non-toxic. Ancient sciences like vastu shastra can be of great help in this endeavor.
The building materials should be local and natural; depending on the availability we can use clay, straw, lime, bricks, thatch, wood, stone, papercrete and so on.
The community will use their initiative and imagination to create all kinds of materials necessary for building houses, factories and agricultural structures needed by the community. In the design process, we value the participation of local artists to create materials that add an artistic flavor to the building process.
The actual construction of houses or retrofitting will be done by experienced craftmen with the help of volunteers – thus the price of construction can be dramatically reduced as the community builds its houses. A good example for that is the Marinelda village in Spain.
This sector will be supported by many people every week since everyone in the community will be contributing 3 hours per week community service – the building sector will be one of the community projects people can choose to contribute in.
If 10% of the people (in a town of 1000 people) do community work in the building sector every week, this means that 100 people will work on construction sites every week. This will speed up the development immensely.
The Council of Elders needs to establish how much land is necessary to grow enough food for the entire community. This is the key starting point in determining what and how needs to be planted, grown, cultivated, bred, or farmed for the full year in any specific community.
This is not a difficult task for those who know how to do this.
Agriculture will follow the design philosophy of Permaculture which has the objective is to plant THREE times as much as is required by the community. This is paramount for the creation of abundance and the ability to supply other communities with food in various ways – to be described.
When needed the CoE may want to utilize idle municipal/governmental land for agriculture to grow all kinds of food for the community. Agreements must be reached with farmers and land owners, government, to do this. This will allow all the people easy access to the lands as part of their community contribution to work in the various food growing programs.
A communal (dining) hall is probably the first project we need to establish to generate and deepen the involvement and the confidence of the people in the project. This place could provide one good meal a day for the hungry, the homeless, the elderly and sick, and for those out of work and all those who cannot afford food – during the transition period before poverty is overcome.
It is also possible to remodel unused public or private buildings in the community to create a functional kitchen with tables and chairs and get some of the jobless and elderly people with the right skills to do the cooking. This can eventually escalate to 2 and 3 meals a day when the community projects have become really productive.
These people will be the ambassadors to create a loving and caring environment for the rest of the community. These community dining halls will not be seen as a place where “poor people” go – but rather as community venue with a great vibes and energy and a place where every member of the community will be welcome to come have a meal – and make a contribution if they can.
Along the same lines we are thinking of a community bakery that can handle large number of breads every day to provide all people with bread at a very low cost. Not just the boring government loafs, but all kinds of breads that can also be sold at the community market. Those that contribute will get free bread.
Another projects may be the establishment of dairy facilities to produce milk, butter and cheese; free range chickens for eggs and meat; fruit and citrus orchards, bee hives – will also have many spin-off products. The community could wish to breed hundreds of thousands of fish in open air aquaculture plants – with the additional spin-off of salad/sprouts production. The husbandry of sheep for meat and wool production.
A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital and/or mechanical fabrication. In it’s simplest form it is a space where the members pool their tools for use by the community. In this way not everybody needs his own set of tools and by the same token, the tools are more efficiently used. The members contribute for the use of the tools and the use of the space. It is also possible that member who pool in special tools can give introductory workshops to teach how to use the tools, thus reducing accidents and breakage.
A fab lab can also take on jobs for the community on a volunteer basis; for example building, renovating houses, repairing cars, changing tires, making furniture…
A fab lab can also take on a more advanced form, when it comes to “mass”-producing parts for prefabricated housing. In this case the fab lab can use wikihouse and sketchup to get plans, use eventually a 3D printer or a DIY CNC machine to fabricate parts which then are easy to assemble by laypeople to build the actual house.
A good example is the fab lab ECTO in Montreal. Ecto | 514 564-8636 | firstname.lastname@example.org
880 rue Roy Est, espace 300 – Montréal (Québec) H2L 1E6. Vous serez accueillis du lundi au vendredi de 9 h à 17 h. Accès aux membres 24/7
Steps to make the project real: Pre-Feasibility Study
This phase is about the collection of all the available data so we can get a first image of the situation.
► Please provide us with available photographic material of the site
► Please look at the tables in the appendix and fill in what data is available; all the data that is not available now will be collected during the first site visit.
► Describe the developments that have lead to the present situation
First Site Visit
During this phase we will familiarize ourselves with the local conditions, people and culture. We will collect the data that was not available in the pre-feasability phase. We will start meeting with the stakeholders to start the collaboration towards autonomy. And we will start establishing the way how to finance the project between the residential community, government resources, fund raising and partnerships in the west.
There are brilliant members of the community who have access to know-how and technology to dramatically improve the lives of all the people by initiating various manufacturing projects, like woodwork, metalwork, building materials, etc. The additional areas of benefit for each community will be:
Manufacturing – building material; metal works; wooden products; fabrics; wool; canned food; and much more.
Provision of services like electricians, plumbers, tailors, builders, and many more.
Factories and workshops will have to be allocated by the Council of Elders for such activities. These could be existing premises or newly established by the community. Equipment will be donated, borrowed or bought by the community with funds from the community account. These activities will allow most of the residents to immediately get involved for their own benefit and to contribute to the greater benefit of all.
The analysis of the political boundaries will endeavor to find the answers to the following questions:
On which level does the project take place?
Who needs and wants to be involved?
Who are the stakeholders (community members, community bodies, local institutions, local governments)? How can these stakeholders be motivated to participate in the process? Is realistic that they will cooperate? How can you facilitate the process of consensus building amongst the involved stakeholders?
The initiative concerns more than one level of action; could this generate problems or conflicts? Can anybody block the initiative? If this is the case, you should consider reducing your scope of action?
- In which political and legal framework is the project supposed to happen? List the organizations etc to be involved in the project. Is the initiative in accord with the existent legal framework? Are there any jurisdictional laws and regulations forming boundaries you have to consider concerning the planned initiative? Does the intended initiative concern any rights of others? Is it realistic that these actors will cooperate?
Economic boundaries will analyze the socio-economic situation in the area; together with the possibilities to use them to facilitate the project.
The first aim for the community is to achieve autonomy in all the things that it can produce. Sometimes certain economic fields may need to be reoriented to fit the new paradigm. For example agriculture will shift from producing for outside markets to fulfilling the needs of the community first – any eventual surplus can be sold on markets inside the bio region.
Community Projects – Community Participation
Each one of these projects will require the following action:
Expertise to establish the project or to take over existing municipal activity and upgrading it;
A small team of permanent workers
Larger team of community workers – each one contributing 3 hours per week
There will be permanent workers in each sector and part-time workers. Permanent workers will benefit by getting a fixed wage but also whatever it is they produce for free – with limits set by the Council.
Community workers or part-time workers will benefit by only paying a fraction of the price for all goods and services in the community. This is where the Community Contribution vision starts to show its true benefit to all the people.
Everyone will be required to contribute 3 hours per week to any of the community projects. The people can choose any of the projects and change regularly to keep things interesting while also learning new skills by doing a variety of things. So in essence everyone in the community will be a “part-time” worker, contributing 3 hours per week to the greater benefit of all in the community.
In a town of 1000 people this will add up to 3000 hours of community work every week by the people on their own community projects to benefit themselves. This is an incredible amount of work done and will deliver incredible results for the community.
Social boundaries are concerned with the cultural aspects of a community.
Religious boundaries – analyze whether an intended initiative will not conflict with any religious beliefs, rules or habits.
Habits and traditions – analyze whether the intended initiative will not conflict with any long existing habits or traditions.
Behavioral change – analyze the capacity and willingness for behavioral change inside the local community. Analyze also the impact of the social life of the planned interventions. Look also at socio-cultural issues (corruption, water conflicts).
Other Beneficial Activities
Community Income Generation During the Transitional Period
This is a list of just some of the products and services that the community will be able to sell and trade with while moving towards a full autonomous community. The money will be used for continued improvements and upgrades on all levels of the town.
Processing the sewerage into fertilizer to fertilize our own lands; cultivating algae for feedstock for the farm animals; using treated supernatant for subsurface crop irrigation.
Making compost from cow dung and other organic material.
Building a small factory for converting used tyres into building material and charcoal and generating energy from the heat. This is also huge solution for the pollution aspect of used tires.
Building a pyrolysis plant to convert plastics into mineral oil, syngas for electricity
Setting up effective literacy classes for children and adults with available teaching tools by members of the community.
- Create a movement of ‘Incredible Edibles’ to plant vegetables and fruits on every vacant lot; when ripe people can just pick and eat – free!
- Restructure the roads and parks and schools and sports grounds for the benefit of all the people according to the model of ‘Edible Schoolyards’.
By implementing the Participatory Fund-raising, soft Eco-tourism is introduced automatically. The innovative technologies (BioReSys waste and water treatment) will quickly become a great venue for education and tourism. Other people from all over the world will want to see how you do the miracle to be autonomous.
Plant trees along all the roads, schools, vacant lots and parks.
Create well planned recreational areas for promotion of arts and culture.
Celebrate local artists by displaying their works along the streets and for sale to visitors.
Promote and revitalize your local history in celebrations, rituals etc.
- The various working farms will be promoted as tourist attractions to city children to learn about life and mother Earth; this approach integrates very well into Eco-tourism using the concept of Farm Vacations.
A farmers market should be established to attract people from the entire region and passers-by. All the goods manufactured and produced in town can be sold for the benefit of the community. This will include: Fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, butter, milk cheese, bread, wooden products, art, etc.
Re-establish a highly efficient health service using conventional medicine along with traditional, native medicine.
- Book « The soul of money » by Lynn Twist
- Animation « The story of stuff » by Annie Leonard