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Unschoolers Ecovillage

Through the Unschoolers Ecovillage we transform…

Education monotony into learning with intrinsic motivation, joy and creativity

Loneliness into belonging and meaning

Economic slavery, inequality and consumerism into a new sharing economy

Climate crisis and violence into sustainable ecological design

Confusion and frustration into deeper alignment of values and action

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This is our invitation for families with children who are already on the journey of unschooling or who are just beginning the unschooling path to come live with us as a part of the Swaraj University family on our campus as “Anchor Family Members” for a minimum of 2 years. It is a fantastic opportunity to get your feet wet, learn, experiment and help build a new model for humanity.

We are located amidst the scenic Aravali mountain range near Udaipur City in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Our space features a 12-acre campus with lush green micro forest and organic farm, herbal nursery, and an ayurvedic healing center. There is accommodation for 60+ adults, many of the buildings are eco-friendly. The campus is 12 KM away from the noise and pollution of the city and 20 minutes from bus/train station and 40 minutes from airport. The space offers a serene and beautiful environment for reflection, self-exploration, creative experimentation and natural healing.

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The Invitation

Trust — Our learning ecovillage is involved in building trusting relationships that nurture interdependence and care, share power, learn from conflict and create mutual benefit for all. We trust in both the wisdom of each individual (children and adults alike) and the wisdom of the collective.

Regeneration — Our learning ecovillage is involved in regenerating healthy and ecological lifestyles and a new economic model based on localisation.

Liberation — Our learning ecovillage is involved in co-creating the learning resources and opportunities that are needed for people of all ages to thrive

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The Unschoolers Ecovillage Vision:

We are joining together to create a vibrant intergenerational learning ecovillage for unschooling our children and ourselves; for experimenting with more healthier, happier and ecological lifestyles; and in service of a powerful and just transformation of our world. We welcome diversity of perspectives while celebrating the Oneness of all life.

Unschooling represents a pedagogical, spiritual and political philosophy that is based on self-designed learning and swaraj. We recognise Life and all its surprises/challenges/opportunities as the best guru. We don’t follow school textbooks or exams. We also recognise children as partners in the decision-making process. Unschooling is not only intended for children. It is equally important that parents receive support for unschooling themselves and unlearn some of the harmful conditioning (such as fear, competition, scarcity, violence, etc) that comes from a culture of schooling. While unschooling can have many different approaches, our vision is deeply connected to living with community, with creativity, and with the land and the rest of nature. We live and learn with many daily ‘learning-serving-earning’ activities such as natural farming; taking care of cows and goats; slow food, raw, solar cooking and solar baking; mural painting, drumming circles, jewellery making, pottery and photography; nature walks, trekking, snake-catching and birdwatching; eco-building, upcycling and carpentry; soap-making; nature cure and massage therapy, etc.

By the phrase ‘learning ecovillage’, we are referring to groups who live, learn and work together in such a way that there is ‘interdependence’. This is a key concept — that at some level each of us relies on each other and we share our talents, gifts and resources with each other for the benefit of all. We recognise that the learning ecovillage should not function in a bubble; rather, it should have dynamic relationships with the surrounding wildlife and villages, the city of Udaipur and other learning communities around the country and the world. We will continue strengthen our international co-learning alliances with groups such as the Global Ecovillage Network, Auroville, Slow Food network, Organic Farming Association of India and tribal villages.

’Intentional’ is another key word in our understanding of community — that we consciously choose to be together with some shared intentions and agreements. Community is the belonging that at some level we all long for. We had it once and, in part, we’ve still got it. It is as if we almost remember it, perhaps, from hundreds of years back. In a way, we’re trying to go back to find those connections and that belonging and to find new and relevant ways to live it in a new kind of spirit of joint family.

We are also trying to limit our dependence on the global money system and rebuild our local economies. We believe that at least 80% of our time should go into things we love doing, with the remainder in service of the collective. Lastly, we recognise that there is a limit to individual behaviour change in the current dominant system so we believe that coming together can help to create more possibilities for systemic change and new social imaginations.

https://www.moneycrashers.com/communal-living-cohousing-types-benefits-intentional-communities/

Some Learning-Serving-Earning Opportunities:

The Ecovillage will function as a cooperative with various units run by different teams. We expect families to be involved on a daily basis in helping to run/support several of these teams and activities to sustain the Ecovillage and local community and ecosystem:

  • Children’s Learning Hub

  • Community Kitchen/Cafe

  • Organic Farming/Nursery/Reforestation

  • Animal care

  • Nature Cure Healing Centre

  • Food-Herbal Processing Unit

  • AirBnB

  • Welcome Guests Team

  • Unschooler Teenagers Winter and Spring Camps

  • Tribal Village Engagement Programme

  • 2 Yr Khoji Programme

  • Workshops Coordination

  • Jail University Programme

  • Accounts/Purchasing/Fundraising Team

  • Campus Sustainable Innovations/Repairs/Maintenance/New Eco-Construction

  • Restorative Justice/Conflict Transformation Team

Teams are open to any member of the community to join. If the team has too few or too many members or does not have the appropriate resources (time, information and skills) to accomplish their work the team should notify the Ecovillage Parliament.

In the cooperative economic model, the Anchor Families are members, not employees. We anticipate that all profits that are generated by the teams (after expenses) will be shared quarterly amongst the Anchor Families.

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Process of Decision-Making

The land and infrastructure of Tapovan Ashram is legally and financially part of a registered Trust. There is a board of trustees who are responsible for the overall management of the place (Manish Jain is one of the trustees). There are also other learning programs which are being run by Shikshantar Sansthan on the campus. Shikshantar is also a registered Trust with its own board of trustees. These two bodies have a sense of the larger whole and hold a longer term version for the space.

We are experimenting with a shared power model. All new policies, projects, activities, adding/removing core members, budgets, facilities modification, and non-negotiables must be shared with the Wisdom Council (Shikshantar Sansthan and Tapovan Ashram) for prior approval.

The Anchor Family Members, along with appointed representatives of Shikshantar Sansthan and Tapovan Ashram, will constitute the Ecovillage Parliament. They will have decision-making power over over daily campus operations, implementation of learning programmes, guest management, conflict resolution and finances. We will attempt to make decisions by consensus, loosely based on some of the principles of holocracy.

Commitments and Non-negotiables Agreements:

These are some collective commitments, intentions and non-negotiable agreements which have been made in the name of safety, mutual respect and diversity. We invite you to please list on a piece of paper those things, situations, and systems that must be or must not be present before you will seriously consider going forward with the community. For us us, it is the following without any judgement:

  • We are committed to building a vibrant ecosystem for learning, unlearning and exploring for our children, ourselves and our friends.

  • We are committed to conserving water and electricity, composting waste and shit, increasing biodiversity, upcycling and trying to make the campus zero waste.

  • We are committed to making the community safe for all of the members and will take strong steps against sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour with children and discrimination on the basis of caste, disabilities, etc. We are committed to exploring other ways of conflict resolution outside the official legal and police systems. No fire-arms or weapons are allowed on campus.

  • We are committed to experimenting with transparent and participatory decision-making and expect all families to participate in the weekly Ecovillage Parliament meetings as well on different community teams.

  • We are committed to the idea of building an alternative economy through gift culture, commoning (common kitchen, washing machines, cars/scooters, library, tools, clothes swap, emergency fund, etc.), cooperative and exploring alternative currencies, time banking, local investing, etc.

  • We are committed to exploring the joy of simple eating. No meat, eggs, processed junk food or fish are allowed on campus. Those who have occasional cravings can go and eat in town.

  • We are committed to co-creating natural highs and having beautiful spaces to delve deeply into our emotions and needs. No alcohol, tobacco products or drugs are allowed on campus.

Cooperative members are expected to refer to this list. They will be able to add to this list from time to time based on recommendations from the Ecovillage Parliament and support of the Wisdom Council.

Membership:

The main categories of people coming to our community are as follows:

  • Anchor Family Members — these are the 5 anchor families who are making a 2+ year commitment to building the Unschoolers Ecovillage. They will serve on different teams and on the Ecovillage Parliament. They will contribute a yearly learning cooperative membership fee towards costs of living on campus. They are expected to live full time on campus for at least 10 months per year.

  • Intimate Guests — a member’s friend or family who could stay for maximum 2 months with no payment required.

  • Short-term Visitors — someone with no personal contact with Core Members of the community who pays Rs1000 per day.

  • Volunteers — who work 30 hours a week for full room and board. Initially they are given 14 days and then reviewed, they can then extend for a week at a time.

  • Temporary Residents — new exploring families can rent an available accommodation in the community (with no objections). They are expected to undertake similar team responsibilities as members. Suggested contribution for residents will be Rs25,000 per month for room and board and access to learning programs. They can apply to be Anchor Families.

While the categorisation of those coming to the community may seem bureaucratic, it enables us to give clear guidelines to those coming to the community about what is expected of them. It should also be remembered that they are categories for our convenience and we can change them at any time.

Suggested Co-investment for Anchor Member Families:

We are proposing that each of the Anchor Families make a suggested contribution of Rs1,50,000* per year to cover basic food, stay and collective learning expenses (these funds will be directly spent on the Anchor Member Families by the Ecovillage Parliament). In addition, Anchor Members will be asked to contribute Rs1,00,000 deposit (which will be refundable within 1 year of leaving the community).

Are you excited by this opportunity? Here are some questions to move forward with. Please email your thoughts to manish@swaraj.org

  1. What do you want more than anything? For yourself.

  2. What do you want more than anything? For your children.

  3. What do you want more than anything? For the world.

  4. What kind of learning environment do you want to co-create with your child? What kind of activities would you like to see?

  5. What are your daily/monthly living requirements/needs?

  6. What do you fear?

  7. What makes you mad?

  8. What do you think you need to unlearn for this project to succeed?

  9. If you could go back in your childhood and change your mother (or primary female caretaker), what would you change?

  10. If you could go back in your childhood and change your father (or primary male caretaker), what would you change?

  11. If you could make something in your childhood better, what would it be?

  12. What do you need to feel safe, loved and happy?

  13. What specific skills, talents and knowledge can you offer?

  14. What new skills and experiments would you like to explore and engage with?

  15. Which teams/projects in the ecovillage would you like to be involved with?

  16. What are your accommodation requirements?

  17. Do you have any special food requirements?

  18. Anything else you would like to share?