Craig Gibsone & Vera Franco
11 February - 10 March 2017
Co-creating a Regenerative CultureHow do we live in a way that is fulfilling and respectful to ourselves and all life around us? With all the changes, paradoxes, and challenges of our times, where do you and I, as individuals, come in, create change and contribute to re-imagining the future?
Join us in February 2017 for the 18th year of the Findhorn Foundation’s most complete and holistic ecovillage course. Together we will consider personal and systemic solutions that help us address the complex situations we are facing in our society in a creative, nourishing and sustainable way.
Taking a holistic approach, the course takes an in-depth look at a wide range of topics: social and ecological regeneration, economy and energy systems, governance and decision-making, nature, our inner nature, and much more.
Whether ecological design, permaculture, systemic biomimicry, or regenerative design, all these approaches share a design-based methodology that applies life’s operating instructions and ecosocial literacy to co-creating a future where humanity and all of life can thrive. We are the Re-Generation! If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
We will equip ourselves with the skills needed to create a diverse and re-generative culture that connects humans with nature, all life and ourselves. A culture in which we see each other as part of the bountiful and generous natural ecosystem that is the livelihood of every living being. A culture which gives us a greater feeling of belonging to the Earth and the Earth belonging to us.
The course has helped me discover and connect with my own deep truth and honesty, given me space and tools to express it and inspired motivation and courage to act on it.
More about the Applied Ecovillage Living course:
Inspiration for this pioneering month-long course came during the creation of the Global Ecovillage Network and was promptly recognised by UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) in 1998. It contributed greatly to the formation of Gaia Education and the curriculum of its most successful international educational programme, Ecovillage Design Education.
Intentional ecological communities, ecovillages, are cohesive social structures, united by common values. They aim to restore the balance between the four elements: earth, air, fire and water, returning humans to a sustainable relationship with all other communities of life. Working with the principle of not taking away from the Earth more than they give back, they are consciously diminishing their ecological footprint. The ecovillage model can be applied equally to urban and rural settings, in developing and developed countries.
You will Learn:
- Social tools for personal and group transformation, empowerment and community building
- Urban and rural solutions for transitioning to a resilient society
- Local organic food production and right livelihood
- Comprehensive Permaculture design introduction
- Renewable energy systems and energy efficiency models
- Cooperative social economies and complementary currencies
- Holistic decision-making processes, including nature and deep ecology
- Earth restoration projects and biological waste water treatments
- Ecological building and community design
- Cultural and Spiritual diversity practices
Ecovillages aim to restore the balance between the four elements: earth, air, fire and water, returning humans to a sustainable relationship with all other communities of life. With practical tools and living group experience we will cultivate an embodied sense of self and place. This dynamic world work opens you to vision, inspiration and insight into your true purpose in life.
Living and Learning in Findhorn Foundation and Community
We will explore how ecovillages serve as models of environmental, social, economic and spiritual sustainability, meeting the increasingly urgent global need for viable, sustainable human settlements. Our base is the Findhorn Foundation community, a pioneering ecovillage dedicated to co-creation with spirit and nature. This course is an invitation to be part of the community’s unique interwoven tapestry, participating and interacting with all the people who cook, clean, grow, eat, produce, explore, and learn there. You will experience firsthand how an ecovillage and community can provide an enhanced quality of life for all species and how it might reharmonise our relationship with the natural world in an empowering way.
We will use the many activities and businesses of the community/ecovillage as tangible examples of ways to live out sustainability and regeneration in practice. You will see various approaches to how sustainability projects can engage symbiotically with a wider geographical area to foster human and ecosystem resilience.
Within the space of this vibrant community, we will form our own group dynamic and support one another in integrating the rich and diverse content of this course. This is a safe and permeable environment created to value you for who you are and stimulate movement from theory to deep practice. The structure and practical work of the course will empower you with the inner and outer tools to create your own place in the world.
The AEL month in brief
During the first part of the course we explore models for urban approaches to the Ecovillage concept by setting up our living classroom at Cluny Hill, a former Victorian hotel now owned by the community and home for up to 120 residents. The building contributes greatly to the reduction of the community’s carbon footprint and is also located in the town of Forres, part of the Transition Town network.
For the second part we move our living classroom to The Park, the original site where the Findhorn Community and Ecovillage was born. Here we broaden our enquiry in a more rural setting with smaller, dispersed dwellings, using as a case study the restorative process of transforming sand dunes on an old military base into the famous Findhorn gardens.
Week 1 - People Care:
Building Effective Groups, Deep Ecology & Designing For Transition
In this week we introduce ourselves and our projects to one another, co-creating the learning environment we need by building group respect and understanding as a basis for concerted action. Using deep ecology, we place ourselves within the web of life as a creative, accountable species and examine our impact upon the Earth. The embodied expertise in the community and the three permaculture ethics: people care, fair share and Earth care, guide us to our next steps in living a responsible future.
Week 2 - Fair Share:
Economic Sustainability, Right Livelihood & Organic Food Production
n this week we explore how we can live well on the Earth, providing for our needs in a way that respects our own community, communities in other parts of the world and the ecosystems that support and sustain us. We will visit small community farms, studying their production methods, exploring their values and digging more deeply into underlying concepts such as right livelihood and voluntary simplicity that are needed to walk more gently on the Earth. The Findhorn Foundation community provides us with tools and examples, including a large and diverse organic food production network, a community bank and currency, and a range of other social enterprises.
Week 3 – Earth Care:
Human Settlements, Ecological Building & Wilderness Restoration
In this week we explore the design and construction of ecological settlements that fit harmlessly into the landscape and into different climatic regions, engage in hands-on learning about our biological waste water treatment and a diverse range of renewable energy systems, explore the Scottish wilderness and support the restoration and protection of our wild frontiers.
Week 4 – Next Steps Design:
The Principles of Permaculture & Designing for the Future
With celebration and ritual, the final week weaves together the various threads we spin during the first three weeks, grounding the experience and preparing our onward steps. Working on projects in groups and drawing on the human, physical and spiritual resources of the Findhorn Ecovillage, we create practical designs for new initiatives that can be implemented in your home environment. Integrating and harmonising our human footprint starts at home.
Week 5 (optional) – Grounding and Integrating
After the end of the course, there is an optional fifth week to further integrate the experiences of this intensive month. It is an offering to those who wish to immerse themselves more fully in the Findhorn community, with time for deepening practical knowledge and having more space to feel into and plan next steps. The week has no set schedule other than the daily rhythms of the community, but there will be plenty of opportunities for completing projects, gardening, beach walks, sharing, and eating together. This week does not need to be booked in advance.
You can view a draft schedule for the month here.
Testimonials from the AEL 2016
AEL 2016 fun group photo. We had 17 participants from nine different countries, aged between 18 and 73.
It has helped me know what I want from community. And it was very helpful and inspiring to be with others sharing the same values. And it has been a very useful way for me to experience Findhorn.
AEL reveals how far removed our culture is from the richness and diversity of nature.
Thank you for this opportunity to learn, grow, dream, refocus and heal.
Exploring the self in relation to the world, exploring the world in relation to yourself. Magical mystery tour :) It was really helpful and I am thankful, also for the honesty and transparency of the focalisers and of the place itself.
It helped me to cultivate my discernment (my process) alongside an (outer world) focus. Best educational experience I’ve ever had in my life. It is truly transformative.
Overall I thought it was great, I really liked the combination of education/information sharing, group work and applied experience. It was very helpful in exposure to a wide range of thoughts, emotions and experiences.
I loved it, it is a course that more than a course it feels like a journey into the being, the self, life and the current situation of the world. The change starts from within, it is a statement often used and rarely experienced, this journey applies it 100%. I connected with myself and understood that the change truly comes from within.
This month was a very powerful and exciting experience because of the passion and knowledge and I am sure it changed my coming life in a positive way.
Craig Gibsone and Vera Franco are currently responsible for organising and holding the overall learning journey of the AEL.
Craig Gibsone is a feral elder of the community and artist, and is one of the creators of this pioneering programme. He lives permaculture and has created a little paradise in Findhorn where his whiskey barrel house and garden inspire all those who wander there.
Vera Franco is a young educator and an alumnus of the AEL. She is passionate about spirituality and connection with nature, education as a holistic journey of empowerment of the learner through creativity, and is a firm believer in human spirit and potential.
We also bring a wide team of experts and educators, inventors and inspiring people to express the vibrant diversity of our community and the richness of life.
May East is a sustainability practitioner, educator and designer and has a diploma in Climate Change Diplomacy and an MSc in Spatial Planning. Based at the UN Habitat Best Practice Designation Findhorn Ecovillage since 1992, she has been leading a whole generation of sustainability educators delivering capacity building activities in 41 countries in many different stages of development and in both urban and rural contexts. Recognised as one of 100 Global SustainAbility Leaders three years in a row, she currently serves as Gaia Education Chief Executive and a UNITAR Fellow. An accomplished facilitator of international think-tanks, roundtables and training programmes, May is an inspirational teacher for many. With cross-cultural experience in both Global North and South, she specialises in working with intergovernmental agencies, educational institutions and the United Nations in the creation of policy guidelines for sustainable development.
Alan Watson Featherstone founded the award-winning charity Trees for Life in 1989, and has been its Executive Director since then, with overall responsibility for the charity and its strategic direction. His work includes a special focus on media and public relations, major donor fundraising and biodiversity research at their Dundreggan Conservation Estate.
Alex Walker has lived in the Findhorn Community for more than 25 years during which time he has been a sustainability consultant and a social entrepreneur in a variety of fields both in Findhorn and elsewhere. He has lectured widely on the prospects for a low carbon economy. He is currently a director of Findhorn Wind Park, and chairman of Ekopia Ltd, which operates the local Eko currency and supports numerous local social enterprises, including those providing affordable housing. He is also a board member of Development Trusts Association Scotland.
Eveline Rodenburg is a herbalist, functional nutritionist and gardener. She helps people choose a healthier life style and makes herbal remedies for the community using plants growing in The Park and surrounds. Eveline's website.
Graham Meltzer PhD has a deep, abiding passion for shared or communal living, having lived two years on Kibbutz, eight years in Australia's largest commune and 11 years at Findhorn. In Australia he worked as an architect, academic and photographer. His doctoral research focused on cohousing - looking specifically at the link between social cohesion and effective environmentalism. Graham currently organises conferences in the Findhorn Foundation, teaches eco-architecture in the Findhorn Foundation College and has recently moved back into designing and developing buildings and infrastructure for the Foundation and the Park Ecovillage.
Mathis Rosenbusch is a food grower with 10 years' experience in bio-dynamic farming in Germany. In 1994 he founded Earthshare, the first Scottish Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (CSA), near Findhorn. In 2004 he founded La Jimena in Spain, a supplementary CSA scheme cooperating with various other schemes Europe-wide, seeking a CSA way of supplying the 'Mediterranean aspect' of food. His specialty topics are biodynamics, CSA and sustainability.
Maria Cooper, born in Scotland but raised in Sweden, has always been close to nature. During her university years she discovered the Transition Movement and became very involved in a local group, in particular community gardens, local currencies, deep ecology and behaviour change projects. She is now involved in the Transition Network, looking at how we can use permaculture design to reinvent local communities and social relationships, especially on the edge between conventional academic education and sustainable living. She is currently living in Findhorn and, when Maria is not lost in her garden, she works for the Global Ecovillage Network, as well as on sustainable refugee projects.
Jason (Jay) Caddy, is a director of local ecological construction company Green Leaf Design & Build. From idea to completion Jay has a strong grasp of the process of delivering ecological structures into the world. Using local foraged ingredients for brewing medicinal beverages that sooth the soul and enliven the senses is also one of his passions.
Javier Rodriguez, M.A. Clinical Psychology, trained for four years as a Gestalt Therapist, a year in Cognitive Behaviour therapy, and has different in-depth trainings in Process Work, Non Violent Communication, the Transformation Game, Frameworks Coaching process, and different tools related to spiritual and personal growth. He has been working locally for 15 years as a therapist, mentor and coach supporting people in times of transition, crisis and change. For four years he was with the Foundation's Spiritual and Personal Development department responsible for the Foundation Year Programme, and mentoring and coaching potential staff members.
Britta Schmitz PhD has been with the Foundation for the past eight years, five of which were living and working at the Foundation's satellite community on the tiny Isle of Erraid before moving to the Park where she currently co-focalises Cullerne Garden. Her passion is community life and the focus of her work is 'People Care'. Her spiritual path has taken her on a shamanic journey and she is a firewalking instructor and moondancer. Prior to living on Erraid she worked at university. Her research for her PhD focussed on how men develop gender identity in our challenging times.
Credentials and Certification
The Applied Ecovillage Living now has a Gaia Education certified Ecovillage Design Education Curriculum, is currently recognised by UNESCO, and a contributor to the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development.
Findhorn Ecovillage is an ever-evolving, living demonstration of creative solutions for the future.
- The largest single intentional community in the UK
- Linking spiritual, social, ecological and economic domains
- A pioneering ecovillage since 1985, receiving Best Practice designation from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)
- A major centre for holistic learning serving 9,000 visitors a year from over 50 countries
The Findhorn Foundation has one of the lowest recorded ecological footprints for any community in the industrialised world, just half the UK national average, and has birthed more than 50 businesses and social ventures in the local region.
- Over 60 ecologically benign buildings
- Three wind turbines with a total capacity of 675 kW
- A biological Living Machine sewage treatment system
- Numerous solar water heating systems
- Biomass boiler heating system total capacity of 250 kW
- Comprehensive recycling and composting scheme
- Published UK’s first technical guide to ecological housing
- Our own community currency and community investment fund
- Is served by a car-sharing club that includes zero-emissions electric vehicles
50+ Years of Embodied Knowledge and Wisdom:
The Findhorn Foundation participates in the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organisation, actively sharing our knowledge and experience of integrated and sustainable development.
Tiered price: £2440 / £2010 / £1840
Before you book your place, please take a moment to consider that the Findhorn Foundation is a Charitable Trust. We believe that the benefits of holistic learning should be available to everyone regardless of their financial or life situation, and that the transformational journey is enriched by a diversity of participants.
We recognise that what is affordable for some can be a financial stretch for others and offer a tiered pricing structure. When you book, please select the price that feels appropriate for you.
Pay it Forward Price covers the cost of your workshop and includes a contribution to our bursary fund. This will make participation possible for one or more people who otherwise would not be able to join our transformational work in the world.
Sustainable Price covers the cost of your workshop and helps us to sustain our learning and guest facilities.
Supported Price reflects a partial bursary toward the cost of your workshop and is intended for those with minor financial need.
Convert to your own currency using The Universal Currency Converter.
- If you cannot afford the full fee, you can apply for a bursary when completing the Application Form. A limited number of bursaries, funded by trusts and the Findhorn Foundation itself, are available to suitable applicants. Applications for financial assistance should be made as soon as possible. This will enable us to assess all applicants and allocate funds in the fairest possible manner.
- If you can afford to pay more than the full fee for this programme you can make a donation to the bursary fund when completing the Application Form. Your donation will be gratefully received and used to help those who cannot afford the whole fee.
For more information send an email to
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