The Sustainability Mandala and Ecovillage Principles
The Global Ecovillage Network embraces a holistic approach to sustainability, integrating the Social, Cultural, Ecological and Economic dimensions of existence. At the centre, we place the practice of whole systems design.
The dimensions of sustainability and the central path of whole systems design make up the Sustainability Mandala – our road map to the creation of ecovillages – intentional or traditional communities in urban and rural locations, using participatory processes to integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments.
The Sustainability Mandala is made up of 30 Ecovillage Principles – six in each dimension of sustainability. It illustrates and distills years of experimentation and learning within the global network, as well as current research on resilience, sustainability and participatory design.
It is also the fruit of GEN’s longstanding collaboration with Gaia Education, and each organization’s common commitments to develop and promote holistic, community-led approaches to resilience and thriving on planet Earth.
The Sustainability Mandala and Ecovillage Principles provide a map of crucial areas of attention when implementing ecovillage lifestyles for positive transformation. They are the basis of GEN’s activities, and a tool for learning, reflection, dialogue, research and design – usable by individuals, groups, projects, organisations, communities and countries.
These principles can be applied wherever a person is – in one’s individual life, in an organisation, in designing a new project, in formulating community-led development plans and more. They are meant to be an inspiration and road-map to implementing ecovillage lifestyles regardless of where or who you are.
Ecovillagers tend to actively work to build trust, collaboration and openness between people, and to make sure they feel empowered, seen and heard. Ecovillages often provide a sense of belonging through community relationships, common projects, shared goals, and social processes, but do not demand that everyone is the same – unity and strength through diversity is important to the ecovillage movement.
- Embrace diversity and build community
- Cultivate inclusive, responsive and transparent decision-making
- Empower participatory leadership and governance
- Ensure equal access to holistic education and healthcare
- Practice conflict facilitation, communication and peacebuilding skills
- Develop fair, effective and accountable institutions
Ecovillages aim to build or regenerate diverse cultures that support people to empower and care for each other, their communities and the planet. Many actively engage with practices that encourage people to feel deeply connected to each other, to the planet, and to themselves. Celebration, art, dance and other forms of creative expression are often embraced as central to thriving human life and communities. Most ecovillages find their own ways to talk about, connect with, respect and support life and the beings and systems that sustain it.
- Connect to a higher purpose in life
- Nurture mindfulness and personal growth
- Respect cultural traditions that support human dignity
- Engage actively to protect communities and nature
- Celebrate life and diversity through art
- Reconnect to nature and embrace low-impact lifestyles
Ecovillages aim to access food, shelter, water and energy in ways that respect the cycles of nature. They aim to integrate human with the rest of nature in ways that increase biodiversity and regenerate ecosystems, and that give people a chance to experience their interdependence with systems and cycles of life on a direct and daily basis.
- Clean and replenish sources and cycles of water
- Move towards 100% renewable energies
- Grow food and soils through organic agriculture
- Innovate and spread green building technologies
- Work with waste as a valuable resource
- Increase biodiversity and regenerate ecosystems
Ecovillages aim to build economic practices and systems that contribute to sharing of resources, mutual support, and strong local economies and networks that serve the needs of local people and ecosystems. Most ecovillages actively work to provide sustainable alternatives to the mainstream economy and monetary system, and reclaim ways of thinking about wealth and progress that include all aspects of life. Local currencies, sharing, social entrepreneurship, circular economy and collaborative forms of ownership are central to many ecovillages.
- Reconstruct the concepts of wealth, work and progress
- Work for equitable ownership of land and resources
- Cultivate social entrepreneurship to create sustainable solutions
- Empower and strengthen local economies
- Invest in fair trade and ethical systems of exchange
- Generate wellbeing for all through economic justice
Whole System Design
Some principles apply to all dimensions of sustainability, and help bring them together in holistic designs for resilient communities and systems. In GEN, the whole systems approach to design and sustainability is paired with a strong focus on collaboration and participation. This means that the principles of whole systems design are put into practice in ways that actively include everyone concerned and encourage transparency at every level.
- Find strengths, weaknesses, and leverage points in all areas
- Engage all stakeholders in designs for the future
- Identify the right scale for each solution
- Honour traditional wisdom and welcome positive innovation
- Learn from nature and practise whole systems thinking
- Build networks for mutual support