Building the “Relational Commons”, Envisioning Peaceful Futures: The Role of the Ecovillages Movement in Promoting Grassroots Resilience in Crisis Areas

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Ana Margarida ESTEVES, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, ISCTE - IUL, Portugal
This paper makes an exploratory analysis of the potential and limitations a form of activism which so far has been understudied by the social sciences: That of the intervention of the ecovillages movement in crisis areas, with the purpose of promoting solutions to conflict in the form of regenerative models of human settlements based on synergies between humans and nature. Such intervention takes the form mainly of support to the building of support networks of solidarity among individual actors and organizations in the field, namely through advocacy, networking and the introduction of social technologies for regenerative community-building. It also takes the form of transfer of knowledge and technology on regenerative farming, as well as the promotion of autonomy in the fields of renewable energy, water and food production and consumption.

The analysis, supported by a review of literature and multimedia material on this topic, is based on fieldwork carried out in 2015 at Tamera – Healing Biotope I in Portugal, as well as among partner projects in Israel-Palestine, in the framework of its “Global Campus” initiative. The data has so far brought forth the following conclusions, which open paths for future research:

- The absence of favorable political conditions for the development of physical commons (natural, agricultural, buildings) in crisis areas limit the implementation of the knowledge and technology transferred by ecovillage partners;

- However, the advocacy and networking activities, as well as the introduction of social technologies for regenerative community-building, promote group resilience despite the political and material pressures for dispersion. That happens through the development of what is hereby defined as “Relational Commons”, composed by feelings of identification, belonging and trust, reinforced by shared norms and values, which promote group consensus and the development of a common vision for peaceful futures, including perspectives for building the physical commons.