By Nikethana Venkatesan and Kavitha Urvasie Selvaraj
Photographer: Vinay Elumalai
Following the GEN+20 Conference in Findhorn Ecovillage, Scotland in July 2015, the GEN Auroville Desk was established (August 2015) in the Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville Ecovillage, India.
The GEN Desk in Auroville has been gathering energy and momentum. As the team formed early in 2016, there were a flurry of meetings, discussing and outlining our imagined potentials. We had a beautiful series of sharing experiences with visitors from Findhorn Ecovillage, including Michael Shaw, Gill Emslie and Ethan Hirsch-Tauber; GEN board president Daniel Greenburg; GENOA’s Chris Gibbings; Sundar and friends from Schweibenalp; GEN Ambassador and filmmaker Serena Aurora; and NextGEN Korean representatives Norae and Bopha.
The GEN Desk in Auroville aims to build and strengthen relationships with other national and international communities particularly the GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network – Oceania and Asia) network. One of its core objectives is to help develop an effective and relevant curriculum for an ecovillage design education course (EDE) for different contexts, rural and urban, but particularly targeted for the Global South’s challenges using the experiences of Auroville and other bioregional communities as tools for transformation. This will be done by working with other organizations and training initiatives in and around Auroville, such as YouthLink, Auroville Campus Initiative, and the Sustainable Livelihood Institute.
The NextGEN youth branch of GEN, currently led by the younger members of the GEN Auroville Desk, is also being established at YouthLink, our Auroville youth-initiated service. YouthLink has supported engaging youth in the two-day mini-EDE and will play a key role in designing and implementing the planned December 2016 Auroville EDE. YouthLink’s NextGEN team also has aspirations to conduct an India road trip and set up a fund to support youth to travel between ecovillages for conferences and exchange of ideas.
With Ethan Hirsh-Tauber from GEN International facilitating, we held a two day mini-introduction to the EDE in Pitchandikulam Forest with 25 people participating: primarily youth from Auroville and its bioregional area. A very successful workshop, it generated a lot of energy and enthusiasm for a longer EDE later this year, with feedback suggesting the possibility of using this course as a lens to look at some of the issues and workings of Auroville and also more widely, the problems facing India, particularly southern rural India. The workshop ended in a quiet sharing circle, with the participants expressing the potential for inspiration, transformation, and exchange in such a course. The GEN team is now in the process of designing a full length EDE training course for Auroville and its bioregion for December 2016.
Other Objectives in the Coming Years:
Other aims of the GEN Desk in coming year includes the facilitation of funded exchange programs between communities, the creation of spaces welcoming people moving between ecovillages, creating youth-led educational experiences, being a resource point for best practices within and outside Auroville, working towards the 2018 February target (Auroville’s 50th anniversary) to invite GEN International/GENOA to a humble GEN event in Auroville.
Current GEN Auroville Team: Joss Brooks, Kavitha Urvasie Selvaraj, Nikethana Venkatesan, Daniela Boban, Riccardo De Amici, Serena Aurora, Marti Mueller and Ambre Solace
About the Authors:
Nikethana Venkatesan – Nikki joins the team as one of the coordinators of the GEN Auroville Desk, facilitating communication and helping design the curriculum for the potential EDE this December. She previously worked in Camphill Community, Scotland for one year, volunteered for a few months at Solitude Farm in Auroville, and will now be staying and working in Auroville.
Kavitha Urvasie Selvaraj – A third generation Aurovilian, Kavitha is of Indian/Dutch nationality. She studied Sustainable Development in the Netherlands. She has since worked for Auroville’s Entry Service, the New Era Secondary School, and the Pitchandikulam’s project ‘Sustainable Enterprise Development in the Auroville BioRegion’. Kavitha is currently working as a YouthLink coordinator to engage youth in all aspects of our community.