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Small is Transformational

By Penelope Reyes

It is possible to create community with only a few participants.

The Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course at Damanhur this year was very much at risk of not taking place because there were only 7 participants. Despite this, the organisers decided to run the course and it was a good decision as it allowed for an intense learning process for all. The group was international; there were two people from Denmark, a couple from Saudi Arabia, one person from Kenya, one from the Netherlands and one from Italy.

A small course with just a few participants is quite different from a large one. On one hand, it is possible to have more time with and to dedicate much more attention to every single person. On the other hand, every person has a greater “weight” in the community group that is being created. This manifests in both senses of adding positive value and also increasing potential difficulties.

Through intense sharing, the participants learned that we are all so similar and yet different at the same time. Leadership is always an important theme, exploring how to embody enlightened leadership, as well as the themes of conflict resolution and decision-making.

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The visit and meditation in the Temples of Humankind were highly appreciated, as well as contact with community members. Participants had some dinners in the nucleo communities (large community-family groups), a brunch with Damanhurians, and they shared some of their projects in a nucleo.

One of the highlights was the community building experiment in the woods, where participants had the chance to take a close look at themselves and others in relation with the group entity that is formed throughout the course. They explored the question: What is needed for a group of people to live together with happiness and honesty?

Two half-days of art gave the opportunity to discover the artist inside of everyone, and it was a lot of fun. Field trips allowed participants to understand about local food, the collaboration of an intentional community with its bioregion, and valuing ancient traditions and knowledge from the region. The field trip to the Alps was also very much appreciated, as we could admire a crystal clear turquoise waterfall and learn about local wild foods.

The Ecology week gave space to learning how to design according to permaculture principles. The participants enjoyed the hands-on experience of building part of a straw bale house and working in the greenhouses, as a physical counterpart to the social and theoretical learning. The exploration of renewables and best practices gave the chance to learn new tools.

The Economy session explored macro and micro-economy, as well as the importance of complementary currencies and local economy. It also covered the green and blue economy, and how a more just economy can be created in a community connected through solidarity.

Many of the theoretical lessons were followed by design sessions in two different groups. The two projects were created through a Dragon Dreaming circle, and they became more and more concrete while working on them throughout the entire month.

Although small in size, this EDE course led to big transformations for both participants and facilitators.

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