From 24 to 26 January the Ecovillage Torri Superiore hosts the winter meetup of the RIVE – Italian Network of Ecological Villages. Between the desire for expansion in a wider and global network that includes other movements and the need to return to the origins of the values ​​of the Italian network, the voices of the representatives of the ecovillages in Italy meet and wonder. The experiences of the past and present of the present, guide us in planning the future.

Text: Cristina Evangelisti

Pictures: Lara Fontanelli

Preparations begin!

For a few days running at Torri Superiore, historical community of the Italian Ecovillage Network (RIVE), there is something in the air. The beds have been made, the pantry full, wood stoves burning, and the main hall warm. The medieval village is getting ready to warmly welcome the participants of the winter meetup of the RIVE dedicated especially to residents of ecovillages and their projects, with the supporting presence and energy of members.

Among yellow mimosas and the winter sunshine, the first participants arrive. People gather, share hugs, they recognize each other right away. One breathes that intense air of closeness that one feels among people who share a common ideal, in this case, community living.

The secretary’s welcoming aperitif with musical accompaniment helps to melt the last bit of shyness among the newly arrived and those who are curious to discover the wide world of ecovillage living. Among the participants, we would like to point out two very young residents of Corricelli and the elders of Bagnaia, showing us how the RIVE spans generations and life experiences.

The meeting

The topics addressed during the gathering were diverse and intense. Together, we discussed the perception that the RIVE is going through a process of reevaluating its objectives due to a growing number of members and activities. These are a source of energy but have also brought out fears that the guiding that the origins and values of the association will be overshadowed. Riccardo Clemente, president of the RIVE suggested an in-person discussion regarding questions that had been sent out as an email questionnaire to members. And so, together, we took the pulse of the situation, getting familiar with the positions of different polarities present and getting ideas on how to find, if possible, a shared direction.

Full speed ahead! Let's slow down!

Saturday morning began with a sharing circle among ecovillage residents, who were asked to share the current status of their projects. They shared with heart, deeply and earnestly, while supporting members listened. Together, we created a precious atmosphere, laughing and crying together. Even the supporting members, who do not yet live in ecovillages, spoke and it was touching to hear their desire to become more aligned with a community way of life.

Another issue we confronted in these days is satisfaction with the direction of the RIVE. There has been debate between two positions: Full speed ahead! and Slow down! – While some would like to see the association expand, to network with other organizations, and to take inspiration from large-scale ecological movements, others have advocated for the need to return to our origins, and focus on supporting and incubating ecovillages and projects already in the RIVE, giving the difficulties they have been facing.

Questions, doubts, proposals...

Many questions arose from this conversation. Are we all walking in the same direction? Which is the direction most shared by the group? These will be important subjects of discussion in our next gathering.

The guiding council, the beating heart of the association, then expressed its fatigue, recounting its experience of having just been elected when it had to face the complications that led to the cancellation of the 2018 summer gathering, followed by the great challenges posed by organizing the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Europe conference and the 2019 summer gathering one after the other. This clear, sincere moment of sharing was inspiring and created an atmosphere of unity in the group.

Finally, we discussed which economic model that we would like the RIVE to adopt in the future. Until now, all the work of the organization has been carried out on a volunteer basis, but the load is so great for some that it has become unsustainable.

So what should we do? Three different proposals emerged. 1) Continue operating exclusively on a volunteer basis, 2) Adopt a structure similar to GEN, with a salaried central office, and 3) Ask each working group to carry out potentially remunerative projects, to be divided between the individual group and the RIVE as a whole.

The debate, in this case like many others, remains open while we ponder all the doubts, uncertainties, enthusiasms, and desires for newness that have emerged.

Depth with lightness into the future!

In the final feedback, special mention should be given to the group of Piumani. Born spontaneously during RIVE gatherings, today they have become an important group in the world of Italian ecovillages, growing and ready to create new projects of community life. Their motto, for those who don’t know them, is “depth with lightness”. Their experience, for the RIVE, is even more important when existing projects are struggling to flourish and new ones are dying prematurely.

Lucilla Borio, a well-known face of the ecovillage Torri Superiore, said she was happy on behalf of the community to welcome the RIVE family. A family that takes out into the world the spirit and value of the great work done at Torri Superiore in all these years.

We are waiting to know where the next meetings will take place and what exciting discussions will take place. Stay tuned!

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