Since its 20th birthday party, celebrated at the GEN+20 Summit in Findhorn in July 2015, GEN has gone through a deep process of transformation and seems to have arrived on a next level of its evolution. Kosha Anja Joubert, the Executive Director of GEN, was asked how the year unfolded for her.
The spark for GEN´s new direction came from GEN´s core funder, the Danish GAIA Trust, who – through the founders, Hildur and Ross Jackson – decided that GEN had so much promise that it was worth tripling their annual core funding to support the organisation.
Kosha: "This was an extremely important moment for us, as you can imagine. It ignited a process of empowerment and professionalisation – stepping up to answer to the needs in the world for inspiration and solution – and now we are starting to harvest the fruits."
One third of GEN’s core funding is directly channeled to the regions of GEN: Africa, Latin America, Asia, North America, Europe and GEN’s Youth branch, NextGEN, all of whose development has gained momentum during the last year, as can be seen in the other articles of this newsletter. With the remainder of the funding it has been possible for GEN to transition from a network which has previously been carried by a group of dedicated volunteers to a network carried by professionals, with an enormous amount of volunteer support.
The process of team building was not without it's trials and errors, but now GEN has a vibrant, young team, that is fun to work with and brings together excellent skills in a variety of different areas.
Kosha: "It is a team that ‘sings’ together – most of our new team members are from the generation that is indigenous to the internet and know how to surf it with ease. I can happily say that in the last year and a half, we have managed to create new structures in GEN that are able to hold and channel a huge increase in energy throughflow and manifestation."
The GEN teams now provide a space that attracts more volunteers than ever. Increasingly, they feel welcomed, and find that their contributions are meaningful, well organised and much appreciated.
Kosha: "There are so many areas of crisis in the world where answers are urgently needed. The solutions developed in ecovillages are being called for more than ever before, and increasingly the call for support is coming from high level decision makers and governments who are needing to implement the SDG’s and Climate Agreements, and looking for creative approaches. I can now say that GEN is willing and able to provide some answers. We have been sitting on a treasure for years, and now we are ready to share."
In 2016, successful programmes were continued, such as the GEN Ambassador Programme. In addition, GEN has initiated new focus areas, one of which is called GEN Education.
Kosha: "Our strong partnership with Gaia Education and the successful Ecovillage Design Education will continue, but there is also the additional strong wish for shorter and more needs-based trainings coming from the villages and neighbourhoods on the ground."
Responding to this need, GEN is now offering the certified ‘Ecovillage Taster’, ‘Ecovillage Introduction’ and ‘Ecovillage Development Training’ workshops, with more 5-7 day trainings to follow in 2017. The newly developed ‘Ecovillage Playing Cards’ constitute a core learning and facilitation tool that is used throughout GEN’s trainings. They offer a visual and playful access to participatory design for sustainability and climate adaptation and mitigation. The cards have already been translated into 12 languages!
During 2016, the core GEN teams brought the cards and new trainings and consulting to support promising ecovillage project in Palestine, Cameroon, the Gambia, Zambia, Ghana, Korea and China.
Kosha: "Particularly in China, a new horizon has opened. In Chinese society there is a surprising interest in ecovillages, and both civil society and the government are willing to invest financially in the development of ecovillage solutions."
GEN’s highlight of 2016 was our participation in the UN Climate Conference, COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. A team of 20 GEN representatives was present. GEN had a very well-visited booth in the Blue Zone (where the negotiating governments meet), and hosted 4 side events and one Press Conference here. We also hosted 2 side events and one workshop, and were present at around 4 more side events in the Green Zone (Area of Civil Society). GEN had a beautiful array of well designed materials to share and conversations with government representatives from 23 countries took place, all of whom are considering the integration of ecovillage development programmes into their international sustainable development strategies. Governments in Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Morocco and Armenia have expressed their wish for direct advice and consulting from GEN.
Kosha: "As a result, we are further developing and adapting GEN’s concept of how to scale ecovillage development across a country – building on the engagement, care and intelligence of its citizens and communities – for a truly regenerative future."
A new scientific research project was launched to help ease global support for national ecovillage development programmes: the Global Ecovillage Impact Assessment Survey. By the end of 2017, the impact of 100 ecovillages on their regions and beyond will have been measured and evaluated. The GEN teams are presently working on defining Ecovillage Impact indicators, as related to the SDG, Global Happiness and Ecological Footprint Indicators. The first phase of the project includes eliciting data from 30 Showcase Ecovillages and was financed by Climate Funds of the Foreign Office of Germany.
Also at COP22, GEN unveiled another new focus area, the GEN Consultancy. The consultancy brings together high level expertise and skills in whole systems design, but also around specific ecological, technological, economic and social inventions and solutions which have been developed in ecovillages worldwide. The consultancy offers tailormade services both to individuals and groups who wish to set up ecovillages, but also to governments, who wish to make ecovillage development a part of their national plans. At least 10% of income flows back to help make GEN more economically independent in the future.
Kosha: "To sum up, we in GEN are in a vital and inspiring phase of aligning our presence in the world with a future of hope. With so much in the world going avoc, we can all feel how much this is needed. We have more space for people to join and contribute, we have strong and concrete visions to manifest, we can have more impact, attract more funding and are gaining positive impact. We might just be getting ready to take off and fly – from caterpillar to the butterfly!"