REALS, ECOLISE and the Starting Point of the Global Transition

Reflections on the partnergroups travel to Freiburg, Germany by Alisa Sidorenko, masterstudent at CEMUS

Over time and space the world repeats the same patterns in different scales. Since long ago till now and further in future we go through similar circles of history all knotted in one tremendous flow. Our memory is short, limited by the experience of our lifespan. We forget the lessons of the past and each journey we take as a new one. But our intangible knowledge is deeper and longer, it overflows from life to life, from generation to generation, tying together the milestones of our chronicle …

REALS Steering Group Meeting

The power and meaning of meeting in person is indescribable. It is not simply an exchange of information and thoughts, it is transferring feelings and ideas. Meeting in real we get closer through each hug, talk, each cup of tea together. Gatherings are also tied with the environment which people meet in. In February thirteen of REALS members met in Freiburg, in the south of Germany. The town is known for its “green” and liberal attitude. For some REALS participants getting to know Freiburg started from one of local communities — a co-housing projects inside the city. That community, called SUSI, was born out of old military barracks which have been renovated and painted with surrealistic images by local inhabitants. 20 years ago the barracks were supposed to be taken down, but instead local people bought the land and embodied their ideas into this colorful settlement. Between the barracks new huts were constructed of old circus wagons, trucks, wood pieces and all kind of available materials. Both primitive and sophisticated these constructions strike with its ambience, the triumph of chaotic order is present. It gives home to about 260 people and brings more guests to its festivals, club and café. It is a living example of how an initiative is implemented, if people get the right for places they live in. This ambience of initiatives and community filled each moment of the upcoming 3 days.



The first day, a sunny crisp one, was dedicated for REALS meeting. We spend it discussing our visions and experiences, presenting the projects done within REALS, getting closer to the differences and similarities of our countries and for the excursion around the area Vauban labeled as “the most sustainable suburb” of Freiburg. Nadin and Masha told about their projects in Belarus, Igor made a presentation about the variation between eco-villages and Russian movement of kin estates. Lina shared the experience of Estonian ecovillages movement. But first of all, it was important to define what REALS is for the participants and what our future vision is. “I feel like this is embedded in me” noted Emilia describing the REALS as a network between Permaculture, Transition and Ecovillages movements. I believe, many of the participants feel the same, as the goals of REALS, helping local initiatives for sustainability, are embedded in our values. Like Lina mentioned, a lot of people in ecovillages are not aware of the global peak oil, but they build their communities naturally, because it is meaningful for them personally.

REALS is a continuous effort to help to and join together local ecological initiatives in our countries. However, it is not a separate project, but a part of the big process evolving globally. The development of REALS and initiatives that it covers is a circle in larger circles— national, regional and global circles of the transition. As an alive evidence of this idea, Robert Hall, the Managing Director of GEN-Europe, joined our meeting and drew a connection to the bigger circle: the European network ECOLISE. Alike REALS is an umbrella for permaculture, transition and ecovillages regionally in Sweden, Russia and Belarus, ECOLISE is such umbrella on the European level.

Having conversations on Skype, which most of REALS participants are used to, is one thing; having a lunch all together in a nice local place is completely different. Together with Robert, REALS members discussed the dynamics of our project and larger scales of the movement — like GEN and ECOLISE. We got then a clear picture what for we are here, in Freiburg, and become prepared for the evening and the next two days of ECOLISE General Assembly, which brought us great experiences, as you may read further. My mind recalls now the line “Our individual actions are meditated and magnified through the growing network of global institutions” [1].


The Network ECOLISE bridges together initiatives within the Ecovillages, Transition and Permaculture movements and moreover includes ICLEI — the global network of Local Governments for Sustainability, which connects cities, towns and metropolises committed to building a sustainable future. All European countries, from Sweden to Italy, from Portugal to Romania are included in the concept of ECOLISE — “the coalition of community-led initiatives on sustainability and climate change” [2]. Why is it important to join the networks of Ecovillages, Transition and Permaculture movements and ICLEI together? If you think of four boats going simultaneously through the ocean, and that their crews have different knowledge but the same destination, the cooperation would bring the resources and crews’ skills together and make the journey safer, faster and more amusing J. Having similar objectives and approaches, these three movements are parts of the whole. By building strong cooperation, we can magnify the efforts of creating more resilient and sustainable alternative of the society, economy, resource use and the way of living.

Besides creating such cooperation, ECOLISE has the following goal of outreaching and building a constructive dialogue with policy-makers in Brussels. The European Governments have already realized the call for more sustainable world. But the goal is not easy to achieve as to change the existing paradigm of production and consumption is a highly complex task. The profound knowledge is needed for applying power to the goals. The three movements of Ecovillages, Transition and Permaculture are the tanks of knowledge about local resilience and global sustainability and are able to contribute to the shift to a better world. Thus, ECOLISE aims to bridge the political actors in order to re-create the European policies.

The cooperation of multiple initiatives, with all knowledge and ideas of the people involved, creates tremendous potentiality for ECOLISE. Moreover, the Ecovillages, Transition and Permaculture movements bring another level of thinking about the problems as they ensure close connectedness to local environments and thus heuristic understanding of the problems’ context. It evokes values and feelings and provides the insight of local opportunities and resources. Bridging the policy-makers, ECOLISE is able to shift the processes in Europe from frustration to creation.

ECOLISE General Assembly

The term General Assembly sounds very formal. Meanwhile, the gathering in Freiburg was full of authentic warmth and friendliness. It was the embodiment of cooperation and co-creation. Its significance was in building the common vision and establishing the tools for its future implementation. However, the essence was in becoming friends: we witnessed the emerging affiliation, which is the core of any fruitful network. The atmosphere was one can never expect from a political meeting: warm-hearted and peaceful but cheerful and enthusiastic.

During the two-days gathering we went through different stages of the Assembly and built precious connections with each other. We discussed many topics during the open space — from alternative education and mapping of our success stories to funding issue and policy working groups. We elected the council and president and decided upon the working groups. We tried to vision the future which will be born out of our relations, made proposals for further actions and cooperation, and, not the least important, had wonderful lunches, dinners and talks together. It was a lot to do in a short time and in the afternoon of the second day the atmosphere became less enthusiastic, but people were keeping the sense of cooperation and emerging community. All activities of the meeting were filled with all-inclusive and anti-red tape nature. Even a simple university room, where the meeting was held, became cozy because of hosting by facilitators and openness of the participants. We also got to know together some other Freiburg places with good vegan food J.

ECOLISE is an outstanding turn in global transition as on one side it is connected with local communities while on the other side it has the power of international network. If you look at the global movements pattern, you will see the steps occurring in it. Imagine it as a huge spiral, where the first turn is local initiatives, the next turn is networks of the initiatives, than the regional networks, followed by the international networks… Finally, it becomes a global shift, tremendous movement in people’s awareness and mindset. It has occurred many times throughout the human history. Think of historical shifts in paradigms when people were changing the existing way of thinking of the society. It was like that with heliocentrism theory, with the abolition of slavery and the abolition of serfdom, with woman rights, with expanding from mechanics to quantum physics. All these movements and enlightenments changed the world globally even though the most of the mass had not believed it is possible. The changes were possible to occur because there always were dedicated people, standing by their values despite opposing the power of existing system. This is where the next turn occurs: the global movement becomes a milestone of our chronicle.

But there is the starting point in this spiral, the starting point which makes possible theSpiral evolution of the whole spiral. This starting point is the inner transition, occurring personally. Re-consideration what is valuable for you, what do you want to bring in this world. Commitment to your beliefs and values is the core of any change. The distance between the personal decisions and the global shift is only time and efforts. Having strong commitment to your values, you embody your inner transition into the global movement.
















[1] Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski , Betty Sue Flowers (2004), Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society.

[2] ECOLISE web-page,


The links: