Alfonso Flaquer, Communication Officer at GEN-Europe Office in Arterra, reports
2016 was a year both celebratory and challenging for GEN Europe on organisational and financial levels. After twenty years, our network is bubbling with myriads of initiatives every year, hundreds of projects pointing towards our main goal: that of a modern and mindful lifestyle based on sustainable and fair communitarian development that cares about all beings. In the following lines I describe some of the actions developed during this year.
The most important project in 2016 for our network has been the RefuGEN initiative. It was the first time that we as communities were involved in directly helping communities in desperate situations. We successfully completed a huge action on the Greek island of Lesvos and later in Northern Greece during the first eight months of 2016. RefuGEN will continue this year, in the form of a training and ecovillage program, specially designed for refugee camps.
On the other hand, the European National Ecovillage Networks (through an Erasmus+ fund), are developing an Ecovillage Incubator programme called CLIPS, a programme to accompany communities and collective projects in their beginning stages. Another inspiring EU/Erasmus funded project is called Bridgedale360: it is a free online toolbox which was created by young members of our network. The purpose of the programme is to introduce youth and youth workers to sustainable education.
In October, ECOLISE, (www.ecolise.eu), the strategic platform that unites us with other mainland networks (Permaculture, Transition Towns, Gaia Ed, ICLEI…), organized a training seminar in Brussels to support members in further understanding of how institutions work, and how we can deliver our proposals and requirements. GEN and ECOLISE also participated in the Commons Assembly, providing concrete proposals on how to move towards policies for the Common Good in Europe.
One of the highlights of the year was attending the COOP22 in Marrakech for the global Climate Talks. More than twenty GEN delegates had the chance to present our work and create relationships and connections with governments. With great efforts from the GEN International team it proved to be a successful event. Take a look at our incredible features here.
Finally, another success was the annual GEN Europe Conference that was held at the Arterra Bizimodu project in Spain. Some of the founders of the oldest European ecovillages and about 300 people came to celebrate our 20 years as a network; the ESTE (an exposition of the best appropriate technologies and invents used in ecovillages), was an innovative initiative that will also continue this year during the Conference 2017 in Ängsbacka, in Sweden.
In a nutshell, we have many ongoing projects that involve our members and we are becoming reliable and successful partners at all institutional levels. We also recognize that there is still more work and improvements that are necessary in order for our network to reach the level we aspire to. For example, a real database of the projects we have on the ground (numbers, our network size, our GDP etc.) Or an inspiring and reliable site, as during 2016, our GEN Europe website was frozen, and almost all our communications had to be moved to our Facebook page. This year we will upgrade to a new and operational system that will allow us to improve our website and communication flow in many ways.
Another issue we will face during 2017 is our economic dimension. Since the rising of GEN International, GEN Europe has lost a part of its wealthy tendency, bringing our numbers back to 2010 levels. Every birth brings a shift and our network is still trying to find its healthy economical base. The ‘Friend of GEN’ campaign’s proposal could help us on this issue if we had a notable success promoting our vision in the outside word. Let’s see what this new year has to offer…