One day a girl realised she is dissatisfied with the lifestyle in the city and started searching on the internet for abandoned houses to create an alternative reality. Together with 3 other people she took a loan of €400k from an ethical bank and bought an old industrial textile factory to transform it to an “eco-industrial postcapitalist colony”. Almost at the same time, just different place 5 persons were searching on google maps places to establish a “democracy inclusive” settlement. After one year of seach, they finally found a suitable place and for €350k purchased a land and buildings complex. Two different stories, two different visions, but having many characteristics alike. During the training course “Think Like Nature: Lifestyle With Alternative Sustainable Communities” in Spain 24 youth workers from 7 countries (United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Greece, Romania, Italy, Poland and Lithuania) gathered to explore those two communities: Ca La Fou and Can Tonal.
According to Alexa Cay, discontent with society historically was a starting point and reason, which led to people creating various types of communes, utopias, spiritual settlements, eco-villages and ‘back to the land’ style settlements designed to create sustainable lifestyles and a stronger relationship to nature, to communities founded with spiritual or idealist visions for transforming human character and creating new blueprints of society. Of course, the ‘cult’ label was never far behind. Many intentional communities have had to fight their own public-relations battles in the wake of negative or sensational publicity.
But regardless of suspicions, communitarian living might even be evolutionarily hard-wired. Some sociologists have gone as far as to suggest that we are mal-adapted in modern society, and that ‘tribal’ forms of life are more viable. Theories of neo-tribalism suggest that instead of mass society, human nature is best suited to small, caring groups. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford claims that humans can comfortably maintain no more than 150 stable relationships, which suggests that communitarian living might not be so much of an ‘outlier’ or ‘experiment’. From an evolutionary perspective, modern society itself might be the anomaly. As the cultural critic Daniel Quinn says, for 3 million years the tribal life worked for us: “It worked for people the way nests worked for birds, the way webs work for spiders, the way burrows work for moles … That doesn’t make it lovable, it makes it viable.”
As Alexa Cay observes, many of the administrative and managerial forces that individuals are running away from within mainstream society are exactly the organisational tools that would make intentional communities more resilient: that regardless of how much intentional communities with utopian aims seek to step to one side of worldly affairs, they succeed or fail for the very same pragmatic reasons that other human enterprises – notably businesses and start-ups – succeed or fail. Malarial infested swamps, false prophecy, sexual politics, tyrannical founders, charismatic con-men, lack of access to safe drinking water, poor soil quality, unskilled labour, restless dreamer syndrome, land not suitable for farming: all sensationalise the rocky history of intentional communities. But the more relevant drivers that cause many communities to unravel sound more like the challenges afflicting any organisation today: capital constraints, burn-out, conflict over private property and resource management, poor systems of conflict mediation, factionalism, founder problems, reputation management, skills shortage, and failure to attract new talent or entice subsequent generations.
Ca La Fou community started in 2010 when four founders initiated discussions with ex-owners, called to their network of contacts and finally the move into the place happened in 2011. The factory is huge (28 000 square meters), thus there was space for many more persons to join. Community was immediately joined by few more persons to form ten people group. It is interesting to note that first came the place, then came the vision. During many years of operation, community has changed its face multiple times and now the original founders already left and community is living a different vision. Community has around 20-30 inhabitants, does not intention to expand, everyone pays a contribution to pay out the factory from ethical bank. Community hires space for festivals, events, parties, and for coomunal businesses, such as beer production. For the new person to join the community, a meeting with community should happen first, then 3-4 months trial period, several months evaluation and based on exprience, the final decision of acceptance is made. During 4 months a newcommer can not offer new proposals, just accept and settle in what already exists. Community members work either inside or outside the community. Opposite to initial impression, community is not environmentally sustainable and not only that – their toilet inside the factory goes directly to the river, which is said to be one of the most polluted (though all factories near the river does the same, because there is no proper sewage system). Besides a nice initiative of a dry toilet and keeping their own chicken, it does not seem that the focus is on environment. Community is politically oriented. After few years of eating together, community also made a decision to eat separately, since it was difficult to follow different diets. Average age of community members is 28 years, community does not accept anymore volunteers, since it is a serious job to manage them. There are no children in the community at the moment. Community maintains a cultural mix – there are quite many foreigners from different countries.
“If you had all resources, how would you like community to look like (dream)?” – asked Alex
“First of all community would like to demoslish the old and disfuctional and even dangerous building, so that something new could be constructed” – answered Ca La Fou community member
Can Tonal formed a group of 8 persons and moved into the land and house in 2011, when Occupy the Wall Street was on. The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The OWS slogan, “We are the 99%”, refers to income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. To achieve their goals, protesters acted on consensus-based decisions made in general assemblies which emphasized direct action over petitioning authorities for redress.
Can Tonal did not belive in the institutions, value of competition, profit. They wanted to experiment, how to see life in a different way. First they wanted to focus on nutrition and thus moved to a clean place with a land to cultivate agriculture. Nutrition, they thought, is sufficient, but not in all aspects. They questioned, what to cultivated and made choices, such as potatoes – yes, shoes – no! “We want to change our lives. We want to live communitarian lives. We want children” – said Can Tonal community member. With some influence from our first training course “Think Like Nature: Emotional Intelligence with Forest School“, community established a local Forest School for children to have a different education with the setting of forest. Now Can Tonal has 9 members, but they are in constant change, and at this moment there were discussions that few members wanted to leave community. Community is based on deep philosophy. They do not want to solve problems only, they want to share good and problems, all as a whole. Communty has a collective economy – shares all the money, like a family. “You learn to be tollerant. It is like a family. Most important thing – extract your fears.” – said community member. In order to manage economy, community has a pot of savings (at the moment €10k) for any person to take some for a certain purpose. They have one bank acount. Community also has savings for a person to take if he/she decides to move out of the community. Community has a complicated life, admits community member, and there should be no illusions of something else. What is important, to share the fears, focus on what is important, not to be productivist, but be calm and be an activist. They ask all the time question, how to empower each other, and that is the way they survive. Visits from other people to see their community, like ours, is a burden, because when people are all the time exposed, and have to be social, they become unsocial in their own families, and in this case community. So why open door policy then? Be inspired. Ideas should spread everywhere. Not to live in a bubble. Do not want to live alone. Healthy lifestyle for everyone. Inclusion of everyone. Community has a division between common space and a private space, where no external guests are allowed – this keeps them more secure of private space. They have weekly invitation to all neighbours around to work on their gardends and share the harvest. Community make decisions in the assembly. If some people think similarly, they have more power. It is not the same person that always has the power. They learned also not to decide all the things: “if i dont care about the garden, then I do not make a decision about the garden, someone else does and i decide in the field of my interest”. Theoretically they work on censensus model. They are at the moment 9 persons + 20 persons from neighbourhood comes to work and share garden, thus community consists of two circles: inner and outter, in total 29 persons. Wider community keep here their gardening equipment. They have tomatoe machine, beer making machine, they make soap, collect medicinal plants, have primary forest school. They like being part of the gift economy, away from monetary transactions. They collect vegetables and fruits frome the garden and everyone is free to responsibly pick up of what they need. They have a storage where they keep all things. Everything works based on trust and it works well for 4 years so far. Assembly meets once a week, work party with all people around is once per month. Every Friday they work with community around in the gardens. They also have summer camps for children. They cook and eat together. A team of few persons are making the dish for all and the team decides what they are going to make to everyone. Every day a different person is responsible for the meals and it became a system. Before it was a flow – whoever wanted, but it didnt work out so now it is a systematic way. The same goes for ceaning – duty is assigned every week for someone. Community supports different ways of love, not only monogamy. Community produces beer, bread and cheese, has 1.1 ha land. They discussed about anymals, but decided not to have them due to a requirement for a care and some people being vegetarians and vegans. Community also applied permaculture, which was a topic in our second training course – Think Like Nature: Sustainability with Permaculture. It is interesting that some farmers gave to community some land for free to manage and grow according to their needs, becuase they value and believe in the community. Community build a house, which is partly constructed on principle of bioconstruction.
After 7 days of intensive living in two alterative (sustainable?) communities and creating their own utopian communities, participants connected and brought home invaluable experiences, which can be also applied by partners of the project: Rooted (Malta), Lythian Pathfinders (Turkey), Eurohugs (Lithuania), Comitato d’Intesa (Italy), ReCreativity Social Enterprise (Hungary), La Víbria Intercultural (Spain), Romania in Transition (Romania).
Think Like Nature consisted of three parts:
- Think Like Nature: Emotional Intelligence with Forest Scool
- Think Like Nature: Sustainability with Permaculture
- Think Like Nature: Lifestyle with Alternative Sustainable Communities
What is for you Think Like Nature? Can you Think Like Nature? What is Lifestyle with Alternative Sustainable Communities?
“Well living in a community is a hard work . Not sure if I want that. I do not know If I can think like nature. ”
“Think like Nature – regenerate everything like in a natural circle there is nothing left without reuse. I like the concept of community that is directed towards natural sustainability and help members of your community in social difficulties.”
“I think I can think like nature and this course did not add much to this in terms of how nature thinks.”
“For me it is something very very new, what I saw in these communities. It is something between minimalism and radical oposite living style. I try some ideas for my personal attitude and professional workshops.”
“I met people who are living with communities to be more sustainable for the nature. Im so happy to catch that opportunitie. After the project, definetly i can think like nature!”
” As a human being ,Think Like Nature is to be a part of nature and able to feel that ecosystem transforms your mentality. Besides, I have been thinking like nature since my childhood. After this training course, I have obtained a variety of knowledges related to nature. Finally, alternative sustainable communities are project of back to the past that modern techniques are being used. ”
“For I think like nature is how to fulfill one’s needs in a more natural and sustainable way; reconnecting with others and your true self. I think I do. I felt it like living in a challenging parallel world, where people are much more open an where so many things are possible. ”
“Living in harmony with nature. Not necessarily living off the grid. But respect it, knowing its and our limits. Not consuming more than we really need preferably from local resources. Lifestyle with ASC: Living out of the so called “normal” society is kind of basic, but “Alternative” is also a relative… in ways of art, agricultural, cultural, etc. Probably living with own rules and principals shared and discucced by the members”
“It’s opening the mind to a different way of life, where nature and the environment comes first. I think I can, but I don’t know if I will necessarily follow it. It’s all about the community and making decisions based on the group. It is a lifestyle based on sustainability.”
“Think like Nature is deeply understanding that we as human beings are not something separate from nature but part of it, thus we have to live within the limits of nature, in respect and harmony with all that surrounds us.Lifestyle with Alternative Sustainable Communities implies trying to live and share with other people developing habits that do not connect with the mainstream society, trying to be sustainable from different points of views, ecologically, energetically, politically, economically etc aiming at the creation reality that is more equal, fair and balanced”
“For me think like nature it is an utopia, you can think about your utopia, when you applied it will be a bit different. It was a great approach about lifestyle in alternative sustainable communities, we could somehow look it from inside how is day by day live
“New useful items for my “luggage”; I very much Think Like Nature; Lifestyle: Great potential, but needs to know who we are & what’s truly priority to ourselves and those we share life & mission with.”
“A lot of elements meeting in one point,being caos,with the same esence but in different ways of being…starting to dance with different melodies in caos..but at the same time in armony,because they’re all in time.”
“It was a perfect presentation on how few we should change in our lives to live in a sustainable way. It is affordable.”
Testimonials by Abroadship’ers
Mantas (Lithuania): “An amazing memories with a lot of beautiful and amazing people. Warm south country sun and beautiful nature. Knowledge about alternative lifestyle and sustainable communities.”
Alina (Malta): “What I get out of this experience is that people around you are beautiful and beauty is in individuality and being different, but we need to have something in common: Loving nature and not treating it as granted, appreciating it and regenerating; and you don’t necessary need to start living in community for that, but if you want: Go for it!”
Atila (Hungary): “to spend more time with friends and family. Experiencing is more important than objects. ”
Agne (Lithuania): “This topic and all training course made impact not only for deeper knowledges about alternative sustainable communities, but also about changes on the attitude level, counscesness and values. Still need time to change living style like these examples or to adopt to own living style.”
Busra (Turkey): “It was a great opportunity to understand deeply Lifestyle of Alternative Sustainable Communities. I met with amazing people and learn their cultures. Thank you for everything!”
Georgiana (Romania): “Meeting a colorful, warm, amazing bunch of human beings, sharing a great time experiencing and learning about this parallel and present world of alternative sustainable communities. I feel richer in so many ways and I find it so much simpler to find sustainable solutions in everyday life.”
Bence (Hungary): “more motivation about building a better world, finding the right people to make it happen, finding alternative and working(!) solutions to live a more fulfilling life in harmony with nature, each other and ourselves.”
James (UK): “A fantastic course run by some great people, I would highly recommend anyone to go on a similar course. It was both fun and enlightening.”
Giulia (Italy): “A stronger hope with respect to the possibility of creating all together a better world; a stronger faith in my own capacities; a bigger desire of living/working in community; and a heart full of new companions and wonderful moments. The journey might not be easy but we know the path”
Saul (Spain): “What I get out of this experience is knowdledge about lifestyle in alternative sustainable coumminities, and also doubts about being part of one. We could see all the problems that appears in the begining and how hard is to build a comunity in the social aspects. I get a lot of knowdledge about day by day life, how they make soups, beers, how they use herbs. And a lot of knowdledge to apply in my job as a trainer thanks to the trainers of the course. Think utopian it is a great approach to think like nature, you should think imposible and try to make it posible. So even if the life in comunity it can be difficult, the ilusion and pasion about thinking like nature should be stronguer.”
Fabio (Italy): “More useful resource in my luggage; more method/s and technique/s to initiate a eco-community with higher potential of success.”
Sofia (Spain): “The meaning of the inner work to be in a community,to share with the others. The essential meaning that have to live in a community to change the system..to live in an armonic sintony with the nature.”
Andras (Hungary): “a certainty that alternative communities should not be different from ordinary groups in terms of the invested goods but in the way they reallocate the produced goods”
Training course: Think Like Nature: Lifestyle With Alternative Sustainable Communities
Location: Ca La Fou and Can Tonal communities in Region of Catalonia, Spain
Dates: 25 September – 2 October 2017
Number of participants: 24
Participating countries: United Kingdom (3 participants), Lithuania (2 participants), Italy (3 participants), Hungary (3 participants), Turkey (2 participants), Malta (3 participants), Romania (3 participants), Spain (5 participants)
Inquiries about this training course: Justinas at email@example.com
Think Like Nature: Lifestyle With Alternative Sustainable Communities
Download infopack here: Think Like Nature – Spain – training course – Abroadship.org
Think Like Nature is an intergenerational long-term project, with the scope to create a framework that would capture/involve/educate a person of all ages: from a three years old child to a pensioner, maximising the benefits of learning with the help of nature. Consequently, this project would offer three training courses, which would address three generational shifts in life, at the same time connecting the individual path through nature.
“Lifestyle with Alternative Sustainable Communities” training course in Catalonia, Spain is designed to experience and learn from the existing alternative sustainable communities in Spain in order for youth workers and youth leaders to create and run local community projects. The ultimate target group of this training are all ages, especially mature persons.
The ultimate goal of this project is to equip and inspire youth workers and outh leaders, educators, partners and other involved parties (especially communities) with a set of innovative methods and tools as part of the “Think Like Nature” framework, so that to develop competences, enhance work with target groups and further spread the non-formal methods. We want to deconstruct, reconstruct and test with the participants the framework, which is based on non-formal nature- and community- inclusive methods. This project is practical, based on real problems and needs, offerng competences and skills that are applicable and transferable in participant’s personal life and work with youth.
- Raise the awareness of youth workers on the influence and importance of nature and outdoor activities as part of the education.
- Promote a non-formal nature-inclusive education as an important way to grow emotional and social intelligence, leading to self-development and stronger community sense.
- Equip participants with the new concepts, innovative tools and methods of “Think Like Nature” framework
- Facilitate discussions and activities to find out together methods, actions and events, which can boost youth’s self-awareness, self-esteem, self-development and consequently community development with the help of nature.
- Develop participants’ competences and skills in learning systems of collaborative consumption, co-distribution, co-working, co-sharing and accompany them with practical examples when and where they can be used.
- Create a collaborative environment, where “Think Like Nature” framework will be both extensively discussed by participants, but also new projects to further deepen, develop or extend the topic be developed during and after the project.
- Meet the representatives of sustainable communties in Spain, find out about the context, aims and also processes of their projects and learn from their practical approaches
Who Should attend?
- You are above 18 years old and from one of the partner countries: UK, Romania, Spain, Lithuania, Italy, Malta, Turkey;
- You have a diverse background, which could be a source of inspiration for others;
- You are eager to gain new competences for your NGO in the field of sustainability, alternative models, personal and community development with the help of non-formal method application outdoors;
- You are youth educator, worker, project leader, facilitator, trainer, NGO representative, teacher, volunteer, staff member or other multipliers, who are already involved in non-formal youth education, outdoors education, environmental and community projects, and social work.
- You want to learn about alternative sustainable communities
- You seek to find new ways how to approach and motivate youth to be active and contribute to their community;
- You want to share experience and help others to see new perspective and opportunities in their environment;
DAY 1 (25 September): Arrival, Intro, getting to know each other, needs analysis, what is sustainability?
DAY 2 (26 September): Meeting and discovering Ca La Fou community
DAY 3 (27 September): Working together in Ca La Fou community
DAY 4 (28 September): Trip to Can Tonal
DAY 5 (29 September): Meeting and discovering Can Tonal community
DAY 6 (30 September): Helping community, Work party, celebration
DAY 7 (1 October): What is next?, follow-up projects, E+ and youthpass, closing
DAY 8 (2 October): Departure
This project is based on non-formal education principles. The working methods will include presentations, expert input, case studies, working in pairs and small groups, team building activities, role plays, workshops, discussions and self-assessment.
Think Like Nature Team
Project initiated by:
- Martin Harrison (UK)
- Bhunesh napal (UK)
- Adrià Sonet (Spain)
- Eva Dumitrescu (Romania)
- Edward Gabriel Moise (Romania)
- Katlier Brigi (Romania)
- Justinas Brikys (UK).
Joined the project:
- Chris Wishard (UK)
- Ionut Badica (Romania)
- Claudian Dobos (Romania)
Trainers of this TC:
- Adria Sonet (Spain) – Trainer with broad experience in non-formal education. This passion comes from his background in the Scouts movement, first as a participant and later on as a mentor-coach for the last 6 years. His work includes design and management of English Summer Camps, volunteering in the reforestation project, facilitating ecology sessions in the alternative boarding school.
- Justinas Brikys (UK) – an entrepreneur and founder of Abroadship.org, a centre of learning through mobility, which is an applicant organisation of Think Like Nature project. He is based in London, lives on a boat and enjoys alternative lifestyle. Justinas is excited to transfer his passion for outdoors in the training course
We will stay in two communities in the region of Catalonia:
- Calafou (2.5 hours train from Barcelona) (location here)
- Can Tonal (2.0 hours train from Barcelona) (location here)
You will have to bring your own mattress, sleeping bag and tent.
How to Get There
You will have to get to Barcelona (Spain) and take a 2 hours train to the Calafou community.
Please use skyscanner.net to find flights to Barcelona
Travel will be reimbursed only up to the limits (see Financial costs slide)
Traveling options must be confirmed at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the purchase of tickets.
When to Get There
Arrival Day: 25 September
Programme: 25th September – 1st October
Departure Day: 2nd October
Allowed to stay in Spain days: You are allowed to come max 4 days before the TC or leave after max 4 days after the TC, but the total amount of the days that are not part of the programme is max 4 days (so it can be 2 days before and 2 days after for instance, in total 4 days). If you decide to stay more than 4 days longer than the official programme, you will have to cover the traveling expenses yourself. During these extra days, you have to find your own accommodation and no other expenses are covered
Practicals – What to Bring!
- Tent, mattress and sleeping bag is mandatory!
- Casual, warm and sports clothes for outdoor (take into consideration rainy weather);
- Small backpack (not necessary, but very practical for the outdoor activities);
- Comfortable walking shoes;
- Bring Passport, ID cards also works for EU citizens;
- Towel and organic personal higiene products
- Sun hat, gloves and working clothes for the practical sessions
- Insurance – this is critical! Please bring European Health Card or Insure in other ways
The average daytime temperatures in the month of September are around 26°C, whereas the average minimum temperatures drop down to 17°C. The summer season in Catalonia generally lasts from June 22nd until September 19th.
Medicine, Allergies and Diet
If you have illness, physical limitations and/or use medicine we need to know about, please inform us. If you are vegetarian or have special diet, let us know, indicating what you can and cannot eat, so that we can arrange the suitable food.
How to Apply?
If you have a question in terms of application, please contact partner organisation:
|Lycian Pathfinders Youth Group||Turkey||Lycian.email@example.com|
|La Víbria Intercultura||Spainfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Romania in Transition||Romaniaemail@example.com|
For information about practical matters, accommodation or how to get to the place, please contact
Abroadship.org at firstname.lastname@example.org