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ReGENerative Communities for All

The «ReGENerative Communities for All (ReGEN4All)» project provides insights into the ecovillage practitioners’ perceptions of research conducted within and about ecovillages, as well as their expectations towards the scientific community. It serves as an example of how researchers and practitioners can connect and form communities of practice. This helps to reflect on various roles that scientists can perform in sustainability transformations and to understand which contributions of science can be useful for change makers in their efforts to drive societal transformations.


Enhance the accessibility of knowledge on sustainable life styles

The project aims to enhance the accessibility of knowledge regarding sustainable lifestyles and regenerative practices gained in and through ecovillages and to foster conscious, resilient, and sustainable communities throughout Europe. It aims to support scientists, practitioners, educators and policy makers at all levels.

Output: Connecting scientists and practitioners
The project aims to create four different channels for connecting scientists and practitioners and for fostering the exchange of knowledge regarding ecovillages and related research.

  • Six online colloquiums where ecovillage researchers and practitioners present and exchange information regarding a focus topic (e.g. one of the colloquia discussed the topic of ecovillages and refugees).
  • Shared database in form of a freely accessible Zotero library where everything that has been published about ecovillages (including field material, articles, books, magazines, thesis’ etc.) will be made accessible to practitioners and researchers alike. The database will be promoted at the European conference about ecovillages and its use explained in an extra online session.
  • Co-creation of a Community of Practice on regional, national, and international level, which allow for sharing new knowledge, best practices and discussing common concerns, problems or topics.
  • Creation of a platform that assembles access to the Community of Practice, provides colloquium recordings, a library and a match making system that connects researchers and practitioners.
EcovillageImmagine: GenEurope

Ecovillage practitioners’ expectations towards science

An online workshop entitled «Bridging the gap between research and ecovillage practice», aimed to connect ecovillage members, researchers, learners and activists to discuss how research on ecovillages could have a greater impact on society. Specifically, the discussion centered around two questions: What kind of research ecovillages practitioners, activists and educators on the ground need for initiating or driving change? And how can research findings be made more accessible?

Four clusters of expectations
A great diversity of ecovillage practitioners with different experiences and needs contributed to the discussion. However, the articulated expectations can be clustered around four main topics:

  • Provide data and evidence for legitimacy: When interacting with policy makers, ecovillage practitioners are often required to provide data that «proof» the added value of alternative practices (such as agroecology or dry toilets). By co-producing evidence on a specific topic or practice in ecovillages, researchers can support practitioners in legitimizing their practices towards policy and decision makers who often ask for «hard facts». Further, the evidence can be useful for the adjustment of the practices and can be inspiring for other ecovillages, too.
  • Act as bridge-builders and communicators for funding and policy-making: Ecovillage practitioners often need financial or political support for the implementation of regenerative practices. Researchers can use their knowledge, skills and contacts to support practitioners in writing policy reports or in drafting proposals for funding institutions.
  • Share data with ecovillages and other researchers: Some ecovillages are confronted with a high number of researchers. Many ecovillage practitioners would appreciate it if researchers shared their data so that they can be passed on to other researchers. This would allow a clearer picture of what has already been researched and would enable researchers to build on the already existing evidence and avoid asking the same questions to practitioners again.
  • Disseminate research results in adequate format: Disseminate research results in adequate format: Some ecovillage practitioners draw on past experiences in which researchers did not share their research results or only shared a link to their extensive thesis which is written in an incomprehensible academic and theoretical language. They would appreciate another form of dissemination where the main findings are explained in an accessible language and simple graphs so that practitioners can make use of the produced knowledge. The adequate format of dissemination shall be identified in direct exchange with ecovillage practitioners.

Implications for scientists

The case of ReGEN4All shows that different contributions of science can be helpful for ecovillage practitioners (change makers). Scientists can support them by generating data and evidence, which possibly show the added value of ecovillage strategies or practices (reflexive scientist (Pohl et al. 2010), professional expert (Oberlack et al. 2019)). They can also share their knowledge, skills and contacts that enable practitioners to raise funds or engage in advocacy work (advisor, teacher/facilitator (Oberlack et al. 2019)). Moreover, scientists should find adequate forms of sharing results that are suitable for practitioners (intermediary (Pohl et al. 2010), science arbiter (Pielke 2007), as well as advisor, teacher/facilitator or professional expert (Oberlack et al. 2019)).

This is a preliminary conclusion and does not claim to be exhaustive. The REDIRO project is precisely about further reflecting and discussing different roles of science and thus exploring the spectrum of roles.

Ecovillages build communities that are more environmentally conscious and socially resilient than mainstream society. Thus, this case example is about a transformation towards other forms of societal organisation that promote a sustainable life styles.

What are ecovillages?

Ecovillages are intentional communities that strive to live in harmony with nature and promote sustainable living practices. They are characterized by their focus on ecological principles, social cooperation, and a strong sense of community. Ecovillages aim to create holistic and regenerative systems that encompass various aspects of life, including housing, food production, energy use, waste management, and participatory decision-making processes. These communities often emphasize self-sufficiency, ecological restoration, and the preservation of local culture and traditions. By fostering sustainable lifestyles and community engagement, ecovillages serve as models for creating more environmentally conscious and socially resilient communities. Ecovillages can also be considered as real-world laboratories for sustainable change and can provide important impulses for the broader society and drive sustainability transformations.

The ReGEN4All project was co-created at the European Ecovillage Meeting 2022 and is the result of ecovillage research, networking and advocacy work carried out and catalyzed by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) research group, GEN Europe, ISCTE-IUL (Center for International Studies, University of Lisbon), ECOLISE (European Network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability) and LOES (Danish Ecovillage Network).

Global Ecovillage Network: What is an ecovillage?

ReGENerative Communities for All project launch, 12th April 2023:

Ecovillages as Incubators for Sustainability Transitions (EVIST):

Pohl, C. et al. (2010). Researchers' roles in knowledge co-production: Experience from sustainability research in Kenya, Switzerland, Bolivia and Nepal. Science and Public Policy, 37(4)

Pielke, Jr, R. (2007). The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Oberlack, C. et al. (2019). Theories of change in sustainability science: Understanding how change happens. GAIA – Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 28 (2)

Compiled by Franziska Marfurt, in exchange with Rebeca Roysen (ReGEN4All)

September 2023