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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Community finance briefing #5: the canvas overview

Posted by steve on April 13, 2013


The community finance canvas consists of a set of community building blocks, each with a set of questions. The purpose of the canvas is to help you design your sustainable community and get to a stage where you can start to produce a financial plan. The canvas can be printed out or copied onto large paper and hung on the wall or spread out over a large table. When going through the canvas we let our imaginations produce a picture of how the community could be when it is fully developed.

To view the full canvas download it here.


New eco-village design

Posted by steve on February 10, 2013

sketch2This new design (Click on it to see a larger image) is a first sketch for the assignment to design a village layout for a project in Brazil, a village that will house a conference centre in the middle of six sustainable farms. The centre and village will get its food (and coffee) from the neighbouring farms on subscription, and the farm will produce biogas and biochar, combining the char with the organic leftovers from the gas process will produce a soil enhancement that goes back to the farmers.

The design is based on the idea of radiality, from my book “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet”. Radiality is the design approach of living arrangements, villages or even cities, being designed in circular form.

Some things to note:

The technical park houses toilets showers and laundry to separate urine and grey water for use in the market garden. The toilets are between the large meeting place and the central plaza.

We put the parking lot outside the area to make the place car-free, and designed it using the permaculture idea of zones to minimize walking. The areas that people would like to be private are separate from the public areas and to keep noise interference down, farthest from the meeting centre.

The central plaza houses a cafe and restaurant, a place to pick the food up (using the eco- unit concept of food subscription) and a place to hang out. Being in the centre it is  a place for chance meetings and to catch people as they go past.

This is just early stages, but to secure a time-share in the village investments are starting at around 20,000 Euros. Contact me if you are interested in getting in at this early stage!

The V2V fund

Posted by steve on February 6, 2013


A lot of people nowadays long for a different lifestyle – a feeling of being close to nature, being part of a community and having somewhere they can enjoy living with a good, green conscience. But making the change is a huge step for many. You need time to get to know what you are getting into and a house or apartment in the village needs  financing.


We are offering interested individuals the chance, by participating in our fund, to visit the amazing range of projects for longer or shorter stays. At the same time, we are offering financing for village projects.

The idea is simple: just purchase a number of units from us. These units come with points that you can redeem for accommodation at any of our participating villages. With units come exclusive offers to try out the sustainable life-style at excellent prices – all accommodation redeemed with points gives you a guaranteed generous discount. And as the money goes in advance to the villages, you know that your money is helping a good cause already from the get-go.

If you purchase more than 10 units you can use them as points against shares in the village initiative of your choice to become a member and even buy/lease a house. Shares are always offered at a discount to unit holders.


But there is more: we offer village initiatives the chance to get interest-free funding as well as access to a wide network of potentially interested villagers. The income from the sale of units is transferred to participating villages for them to invest in developing their initiative.  Villages get the funding interest-free, and in return offer a discount on accommodation.

The idea is at the concept stage just now, we are looking for villages and individuals to prepare a pilot scheme. Contact us if your are interested.


Eco-village hosts post-peak oil Live Action Role-Play

Posted by steve on October 7, 2012

One of the houses in the Village

Last week, our eco-village, Änggärdet, played host to two days of Live Action Role-Play (LARP) along the theme of how life could look in the near future, 2016-2027, post peak oil and economic collapse. Life after Capitalism! Live action role play, as I understand it, (I might have got this wrong, but this is how it looks from being involved this time) is where a story and a situation are created as the framework and players are given roles and scripts to play out, with more or less room for improvisation. There are a series of events that take place, according to a master script. One basic theory being tested was the idea of a participatory economy  or Parecon (link to wikilinks).

It is an interesting theme for people like myself, involved in Transition and the eco-village movement, as both these movements see very little hope for us to carry on the way we are, the changes being driven by Peak Oil and economic collapse.

Check out the 2027 website here.
Our eco-village offers a lot of space, a collection of tools, a few sheds and soil in need of working, so from that starting point the role-play activities were devised – to be part of a larger exploration of the theme. And everything had to be done by hand as fossil-fueled machines (and agriculture) were a thing of the past in 2016-2027.


What I would like to share are my experiences of hosting the Role-Play and being part of the action. This is the “out of role” reflection part, to use LARP language. I will say that these perspectives are entirely my own, with reservation for me having they got the whole LARP idea backwards, the plot designed by the arrangers muddled up and what I thought my role was totally confused. Maybe that is part of the fun and the learning of LARP.
Anyway it was a lot of fun, but at the same time there were some quite profound insights to be had.
It is a powerful thing, I believe, just to give oneself the opportunity to, through play, take a step backwards and consider how the future might play out. They say that so much economics is psychology, and I believe you can’t really understand something unless you get up close to it emotionally, through trying it out, or role-playing. Businesses can gain from the approach, too. You need to put yourself in your customer’s situation, and to try things out from their point of view. And why not politicians and local government officials?


Scenario one was where our eco-village was under the control of the government. Citizens were organized in work parties to help out with the food shortage. My role was farm foreman and I directed the citizens to the field where they had to pick up, with whatever tool they could find, potatoes from very heavy clay soil.
What made the whole thing interesting was the presence of the military. I found myself saying that they were there to protect the citizens from terrorists. In fact they were there to control the citizens. I made up a few stories of how work groups were infiltrated and tools were stolen, work disrupted, etc, and how I was thankful for the military presence and they should be too.

Muttering all the time that the collapse was the fault of the intellectual elite who had not seen Peak Oil coming, I went around encouraging the citizens to work harder as the food was badly needed.
The military players were great at organizing the work details. Without their help I would have had to be running around instructing and advising. If I needed anything I just told a military guy to find a “volunteer” and one appeared.

2019: One of my military crew getting ready to fetch the work detail

As someone who has organized working weekends at the Eco-village and been involved in organizing the members of the village, I can say that if we had five military with machines guns we would have got a lot more done by now, and any potential discussion about the right thing verses the wrong thing or wrong way would have been cut very, very short!
Actually, I saw a spurt of activity when the thought crossed players’ minds that we might be waiting for the potatoes in order to make their evening meal. Anyway, five bags of potatoes, unsorted, were delivered without complaint, and the citizens seemed to be going along with the whole thing.

Citizens are herded into the barn for the warm soup they get in return for their labour

What surprised me is how easily a story like that, believable in itself, can be sold to people when they are in effect being marched from the bus to the field, being interrogated as to their political persuasions and generally harassed by people with guns. It all felt strangely safe and secure and gave me another view of what the military can actually achieve when engaged in civil activities.

Would you want these guys on YOUR farm?

Should the effects of Peak Oil be so drastic that there is civil unrest, I have no doubt that a militarized model where the military are “protecting” could be achieved if the story were made believable enough. To put it another way, as the citizens knew they would be getting warm soup at the end of the exercise, and as everybody was in the same “boat” – the military had to eat with them – they seemed not to be too miserable at all.
There is something in everyone that Aldous Huxley, author of the novel “Brave New World” calls the need for the “good order”. We like to see an effective organization, have everything ordered and even roles divided clearly between us. As long as we are all in the same boat, we will pull together.
On the other hand, if there are large differences, I think that is something that fosters discontent. We didn’t have a huge hierarchy and displays of riches where many were poor in the role-play. If you are going to have wide differences then I think you have to work harder at creating fear, and harder at weaving a plausible story. Was it not Hitler who said that if you are going to tell a lie, a huge one is easier to get across? Anyway, the lack of visible hierarchy was quite a disappointment in a way as I had had visions of me playing the “double hard bastard”. I wonder if the real bastards aren’t the nicest people with the best stories after this.


Scenario two was from a later period, 2027, where peak oil and the collapse of the economy had galvanized people in this part of the world into taking matters into their own hands and creating self-organising communities.

The scene being played out was where a group of people studying our way of life were invited to spend the day experiencing what it was like to be a part of one of these communities.
To make the scene as dramatic as possible, the idea was to hold an opening circle ceremony in the paddock, and to see how far we could go in chanting, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes – that sort of thing.

2027 "study visit" arrives in the Eco-village on foot.

My first surprise came even before we got to the paddock – a guy playing the “professor” was going around stating that we were living chairman Mao’s dream. To tell the truth, the gameplan was based upon one of the pieces of wisdom from Chairman Mao. He had said that the way to change people is to:
1) Take them out of their ordinary life
2) Give them chance to reflect on their past
3) Build a bridge to the future
4) Stimulate a powerful emotional experience
5) (And this step is needed to give all the others meaning) Introduce a way to repeat and reinforce

2027: the self organising community invites course participants to a welcoming ceremony.

We arrived at the paddock for the opening ceremony, which involved everyone holding hands and me reciting the “circle incantation” about how life is a circle, we organize in circles and we play our part in the circle that is the cycle of nature.
Unfortunately, or maybe luckily for the ones who feel uncomfortable with this sort of thing, it started to rain quite heavily so the more touchy-feely part we had to skip.
However I will say from my own view that the opening was rather a sweet experience. There IS something magical standing in a paddock, in the rain, holding hands talking about that which is important and feeling a connection to nature.
Well in the barn, the task was given to the “visitors” to create a healing garden. A healing garden is a garden that heals the soil, heals the air, heals humans and provides a place to be and to reflect.
The way to heal the soil is to make tons of it. We had chosen Hugel kultur, a method that recreates how the forest builds soil: you cut down trees, place the logs at the bottom and pile twigs and hay and then animal manure and finally leaves and grass on the top.
I also set the task out as self-organizing, drew a rough diagram on a large paper that I had hung up, roughly explained the task and pointed them to the tools and invited them to get on with it.
At this point the rain was coming down still quite heavily. I asked the group if they were up to doing it in the rain and they all (or most at least) said YES!
Now, this is the point in all working weekends and in the affairs of man in general that gets quite interesting. The inner “pull” comes and people feel drawn to one thing or another. It’s amazing to watch as people self-select, self organize and/or go through a bit of soul searching and in this case probably confusion as to if they are playing themselves or the role.
So for this bit I basically took a bit of a back seat and hoped.

Building the garden was heavy, muddy work!

The job was tough, especially for those who had decided to dig as the soil was more or less waterlogged and very muddy.
What people learned, what they went through as they scrambled in the mud, I will leave to them to reflect on and look forward to hearing both in-role and out of role reflections.

Logs in the base build soil and retain moisture

What I learnt was that making gardens is a human activity that can and should involve everyone, and that given a task and a general agreement people like to get on with it. It is healthy and you get good exercise and it creates a good feeling. People will self-organise but it is a journey we all need to take to grow to be really good at it, as our culture is more about having things organized for us.
As if by magic, the Hugel mounds appeared in the beginning of a mandala form. As they took shape, the work seemed to go smoother as players got the idea.

The Hugel mounds, in mandala form, emerged!

What really gave the day a golden edge was the weather. After gushing down for the first part, and drizzling during the mud digging, the skies cleared, the sun came out and we were able to meet back at the paddock in glorious October sunshine, the beginnings of a garden behind us.
Holding hands again, we invited the players to the closing ceremony and to express some of what they felt from the day. Sweet, and for me rather too short as the bus was waiting, the final ceremony brought the day to a close.
One thing I reflect on from the day is that the modern way of life offers too few opportunities to get together like we did, doing fun and useful things in harmony with nature. And the opportunities to get together and express anything from how irritated we feel with minutia to celebrating being alive and part of the universe.
The aim of day two was to create a manifestation of a culture of abundance and appreciation. Everything that was on the timetable was presented as an invitation. The various activities were presented as a celebration or expression of appreciation. And life was presented as an opportunity to enjoy, appreciate to have fun. As I overheard one player say – “I think using a scythe is fun!”. I can hear voices saying things like: “Yes, but if you HAD to do it and were very tired and hungry you would see it another way.” But what if we organized society so we rarely had to be in that position? If day one was an expression of a culture that focused on their being a lack of everything, day two was the opposite: surrounded by abundance, you invite people to be generous, to appreciate and to express that appreciation. Maybe, in some little way this role play gave us a glimpse of what an amazing, healing, healthy culture we can co-create together.


Role-play features on local news programme

The 2027 web-site

The Parecon economy: wikipedia explanation.

New course in sustainable living 27 – 30 Sep.

Posted by steve on May 15, 2012

People seek a sense of connectedness to nature. Many want to live in a way that is light on the earth and does not require huge amounts of debt and energy to function.  They want to invest in a way of life that they can believe in, economically and morally.  Since the 1980’s, systems ecologist Folke Günther has been developing a sustainable living concept called eco-units to do just this.
Eco-units answer the question of how we can create sustainable resilient communities that provide a standard of living whilst ensuring future generation can enjoy the same.
This workshop aims to provide you with sufficient insight into eco-units to enable you to convene a group and start your own project.
The course will be held in Southern Sweden later this year. Follow this link to read more and book your place!
I will present experiences from establishing our Swedish Eco-Unit.
Read more here,
DATES: Thursday, September 27, 2012 to Sunday  September 30, 2012 at 2pm
LOCATION: Conference Center, Södra Rörum, HÖÖR,  SWEDEN.

Sustainable, intentional communities: open world villages

Posted by steve on November 23, 2011

The vision is simple: if everyone lived in intentional, sustainable communities – villages, city/town blocks – then the whole world would be sustainable. Supporting that vision is the Open World Villages networking site, newly launched by the Open World Foundation.

Based on the powerful NING platform, the site is bringing together experts in their field (called Academy fellows) with existing villages and initiatives as well as individuals longing to get in contact with like-minded souls to create villages or move into expanding initiatives.

Open World Villages is looking into ways of purchasing land to create a portfolio of initiatives to drive the move to sustainable, intentional living.

But there is more: the site wants to bring together village-scale technology and service providers with people who want to promote and sell what they produce. The vision is a world not of business to consumer or business to business but villager to villager (V2V).

Read more on the Open World Villages site. Membership is free.

Sustainable investment

Posted by steve on August 17, 2011

Sustainable investment is for investors who believe economic growth is close to being curtailed by lack of raw materials, energy shortfalls, restriction on greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of a sustained economic downturn .

The challenges that face many business operations will come from:

  • Rising prices or supply shortfalls of fossil fuels in their supply chains
  • Increasing pressure to eliminate greenhouse gasses from their supply chains
  • Lack of access to capital

Transforming operations towards sustainability, then, means creating resilience by:

  • Reducing reliance on fossil fuels in the supply chain
  • Reducing greenhouse gasses in the supply chain
  • Ensuring energy security from renewable sources.
  • Increasing stability of money supply even when economic downturn persists
  • Concentrating on supplying necessities that will always be in demand even in hard times: chains supplying food and shelter, including woodland and arable land.
  • Increasing social capital: when financial capital fails, communities helping each other solves problems otherwise left to markets in times of booming activity.

How do sustainable investments benefit investors?
If business operations are likely to shrink generally, sustainable investments can provide the investor with things they need that they would otherwise buy. Again, food and shelter are such returns.
Sustainable investments will continue to produce dividend from sustainable food and energy production at a reasonable price whilst operations with a percentage of fossil fuel dependency in its supply lines will meet rising prices. Sustainable operations become more and more competitive as fuel prices rise.

What are the specific returns to investors from Open World Villages?
As open world villages support community development and provide food and housing in a sustainable way, they will increase in value compared to living arrangements dependant on fossil fuel. If you expect massive fossil fuel hikes or shortages, then you can expect higher dividends from investing in Open World Villages and for their value to increase many-fold.
The share –swap scheme. All shareholders are invited to participate in the services for dividends plan: shareholders are. Depending on the size of their investment, may be entitled to up to 50% discount on purchase of homes in an Open world Village.
Share sales. Open world villages start off as letters of intent to purchase land, and mature as highly efficient living arrangements for many families. Your shares have the ability to increase in value as villages mature. And as shareholders get massive discounts, should you not wish to swap shares for homes you will be able to sell your shares to potential homebuyers.

Certain restrictions apply. Please contact Open World Villages for details

Sustainable, intentional communities

Posted by steve on August 4, 2011

Video of our eco-village, the eco-unit

Posted by steve on May 17, 2011

An eco-unit is a type of eco village that aims to have its food produced close by and to recycle nutrients.  I am part of a group that has been workng to set an eco-unit up in Sweden.

Swedish TV were curious about us and came for a visit, making a 2 minute item for the local news program. I was pleasantly surprised how they managed to grasp the essence of what we are trying to do.

Make sure you change the subtitles to “English” on the bar just below the picture, to the left.

Our eco-unit

Second Life Island Perfect Paradise celebrates three years anniversary

Posted by steve on April 30, 2011

A class on sustainability on PP

Perfect Paradise (PP) is virtual community in Second life (SL) focussed on learning about community and sustainability. I joined early on. My aim was to learn about community to be able to transfer the knowledge to my real-life (RL) community, now called Änggärdet.

Below is an account, written for the Island Newsletter, of why I joined and what happend during the first couple of years.

How  I came to Perfect Paradise

For me, it all started when I read Dave Pollard’s blog suggesting that we needed to explore and develop as community beings (or that’s the way I read it.)  His idea was to use the 3D role-playing platform Second Life to, in a safe environment, try things out.

For almost a century western culture has been becoming more individualist, material and money centric. We have been moving away from a culture of community, supportiveness, mutuality.

At the same time we have become mineral and fossil-fuel dependent, and despite the rise of pornography and laxer moral standards – less happy and less satisfied with intimate relations.

More and more people see the need to move forward, but the tricky question is how, when you are so entrenched in your daily life you need to find a temporary escape door. And I mean more forward to create a more sustainable way of life in the emotional, energy, economy and environmental.

Some people “get it”. These are the people to create a tribe with. When financial capital fails, and the bubble WILL burst in our lifetimes if we live to a statistical old age,  when oil leaves us and it WILL in our lifetime, we need to be good at creating social capital. We will be at a point when we need each other like we have never needed people before.  To me, if you “get” this, then you “get” PP.

At the same time I was working to establish a Real Life community, an eco village of the eco-unit type. I figured I could learn stuff in PP that could be applied to the eco-unit.

The parallels were amazing. The first thing was looking for land. I joined Harps and Mira on some expeditions. At the same time we were looking in RL for land.

The other parallel was the prospectus. Our little RL group got together to write one as an exercise in creating a common vision. Harps and Soj and I and several more started one for PP.

And the website of course. I started one on NING for PP and one for the RL group.

In terms of more social inventions the RL community introduced talking stick. We had some fun trying to get that to work in SL. We tried *passes the stick to Mira* and even wearing a Tibetan prayer wheel as the stick.

It was pretty amusing to see the parallels emerge in the two communities. Sometimes SL had come further, sometimes we had established more in RL.

One that sticks in my mind is the introduction of consensus. This was difficult in RL and equally difficult in SL. The material Harps and Sara did for SL though helped our RL community.

The other really difficult thing, probably still not resolved in either SL or RL is division of duties and responsibilities. I have heard complaints SL about “having to go and clear up prims people leave behind” and RL “why is it always me that gets lumbered with cutting the grass?”.

So here we are, three years on and PP is going strong, and our eco-village initiative has resulted in us buying land, forming a cooperative and starting to build an eco-house on it.

Perfect Paradise has been on the radio, and now our RL community has been featured in a radio programme.

There is a lot more to reflect on from my time in PP I will take a break here and leave you with some pictures contrasting PP  and the eco-village.

Looking  at land in SL

Looking at land RL

Self portrait my avatar on Mira and Harps Island the first PP. Me at Eco-unit spraying trees with E.M.
Meeting in SL Meeting RL with talking stick
Group hug PP style Hugs Eco-unit style with clown bonus
Lined up for portrait on PP Lined up on Permaculture course at eco unit
Inspecting biological waste treatement on SL, Etopia Emptying organic waste composter, Sweden
Learning permaculture in SL On permaculture course, Eco-unit
Me giving sustainability lecture at Red Rock in SL Me holding meeting with local villages explaining our plans with the Eco-unit