The Narara Ecovillage is located on the beautiful Central Coast, just over an hour north of Sydney. Nestled in the bush and not far from pristine beaches, the Ecovillage is located just off the freeway to the city, minutes from modern conveniences and the train station, yet surrounded by magical Strickland State Forest.
By Lyndall Parris
The original and key aim of Narara Ecovillage is to, among other things: ‘research, design and build an intergenerational, demonstration ecovillage’.
Currently of the 190 Nararians, 37% are under 50 years of age (20% of these are children); interestingly, no one in their 20s, perhaps for very explainable reasons. We recognise the importance of intergenerational living as embedding the principles of sustainability and providing a regenerative environment in which all ages can flourish.
With this in mind, we are putting more focus on ways that we can make living at Narara Ecovillage more accessible for young people and families. In Stage 2, which is now ‘open for business’, we are actively exploring many exciting, leading edge, models of living collaboratively and utilising the creative energy of current and future Nararians, as well as leading associated professionals.
We hope to inspire and share knowledge around innovative, inclusive and more affordable housing options by:
- encouraging designs with granny flats (potentially available for long term rental as well as short stays),
- enabling the co-location of a tiny house on a lot with a primary residence
- setting aside some larger lots in Stage 2 for a group of people to collaborate with design and reduce individual footprint
- sharing existing designs and experience gained through Stage 1
- exploring the collaborative possibilities within the current planning regulations,
If you fit this demographic or know young people and families who might be interested, we welcome you especially to our Open Day this Saturday, and/or one of our family–friendly summer events.
And if you would like to talk through your specific circumstances, please contact us directly, mention Collaborative Living at Narara (CLAN) and we will inform you of our progress in this area and more importantly hear some of your ideas and dreams.
- General contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or specifically:
- Scilla Sayer email@example.com
- Jo Lamb firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lyndall Parris: 0419 279 711
How do we make decisions?
This is one of the most frequently-asked questions from anyone interested in living at Narara Ecovillage.
Our answer: “With a strong commitment to Sociocracy” – a governance model based on the insistence that everyone has the opportunity to be heard and that processes are transparent. When all members’ needs and concerns are heard and taken into account, and decisions are made in a way that is truly collaborative, there is high ‘buy-in’ and acceptance from all. This also generally ensures high quality, creative decisions, as the wisdom of the group is pooled and solutions do not depend on just one or two leaders ‘getting it right’.
How does Sociocracy work?
- We generally meet in a circle, to represent that we all have a valid contribution to make
- All sociocratic circles have an appointed facilitator, whose job it is to maintain the integrity of the process
- We hear one another in rounds, and give each other the opportunity to question, clarify and object to a proposal
- We reach ‘consent’ around ideas that support our agreed overall vision (a sustainable world) rather than our individual preference
- We welcome creative and constructive input through ‘picture forming’ (a bit like brainstorming – but more focused and calmer!)
- We see considered objections as opportunities to refine a suggestion and add ideas that otherwise may not have emerged
- We use predictable, respectful ways to navigate difficult issues
- We seek solutions that are ‘Good Enough for Now’ and ‘Safe Enough Try’
- We insist on being open to new information and learning by building in a review plan with a timeframe for each decision made
- We struggle against our old habits, and keep trying … and
- We are committed to continuous learning ourselves, and hope to share our learning with other individuals, groups and organisations who are interested in Sociocracy.
Does Sociocracy help in Conflict Resolution?
Sociocracy in itself is not a ‘conflict resolution process’ per se. However, the conscious application of its principles and practice steps in day-to-day communication and decision-making are showing us that even long-standing misunderstandings can be resolved.
We bring very varied personal histories to our shared community journey here. We are drawn by a shared vision, but our interpretations are diverse. Inevitably there is controversy and sometimes seriously upset feelings. Hindsight is increasingly showing us that reaching a restorative resolution is strongly connected with implementation of solid Sociocratic practice.
Sociocracy therefore strongly informs our conflict prevention as well as resolution approaches. After all, if we learn and practice a ‘habit of interaction’ where all members concerned can pool concerns, share needs, be heard in an environment where a serious effort is made to understand one another’s perspective, then differences that triggered disharmony generally dissolve with new understanding. This often comes with a stronger sense of connection and deeper commitment to our shared intent – the creation of a more sustainable world for both the present and the future.
In some ways, we continue to provide our own incentives to be clearer and more effective in our processes of decision-making.
Does Sociocracy influence the Narara Ecovillage Organisational Structure?
Our organisational structure supports, and is informed by, Sociocracy. The pattern is more like a flower than a pyramid with inter-connected circles passing information and feedback between different areas of responsibility – from the Board making legally-binding policy decisions to a working group managing day-to-day issues such as the market stall at a Village Day.
Narara Ecovillage is currently the largest and most complex intentional community in Australia to be using the principles and practices of Sociocracy on a daily basis in our groups and gatherings. We are always learning and implementation is ongoing. We are fortunate to have Gina Price, who is one of the lead trainers of the model in Australia, on our Board.
As with other aspects of our project, we are part of a global movement towards a better way of working together. Sociocracy is increasingly being adopted in ecovillages around the world. It is often called Dynamic Governance in the USA. There are a number of training organisations offering introductions in easily-understood ways.
We’ve had a great Winter on the build of this round recycled home, with plenty being done to get us from a bare slab to a roofed and walled light-straw-earth and cob home, thanks greatly to the help of some pretty awesome workaway volunteers (big shoutouts to Euge and Fran, Lois & Koen) and our designers/natural builders Will & Kenney of Integrated Biotecture in particular.
At the end of August, we held a workshop to fill our walls and we totally exceeded expectations. Massive thanks to the 41 people who came for one or up to six days – we smashed it! The external walls were filled using the light-straw-clay method, amongst tunes, dancing, and conversation, and the internal walls were cobbed with the addition of some unique mixing methods.
It’s been rather humid since then, so the walls are still drying – we’re keeping an eye on it. and once we think it’s ready we are intending to hold a rendering workshop. In the meantime, we are building some hanging stairs, windows, and doors of recycled timber and a cob bottle wall.
And then we will get onto the earthen floor too (another workshop!). We don’t have dates yet, but if you are interested in any of the aforementioned building techniques, or volunteering on a natural build, get in touch and we’ll keep you in the loop. Benjamin (email@example.com)
Building Linda’s house
With the end of the year only 2 months away, it’s been all-hands-on-deck at 21 Syncarpia Crescent to ‘lock up’ the ‘Cobbit Studio’, with more wall rendering planned and the final earth floor layer. This follows a successful workshop, led by Will and Kenney, with so many applicants we had a waiting list.
There’s also much progress on the octagon house (the main residence). Living spaces are now framed, curved walls laid by professional block layer, Jimmy, and – most exciting of all – the installation of sturdy bamboo beams for strawbale infill and much anticipated reciprocal roof.
Over 200 people: crew, volunteers, members, have helped on my build in the past 12 months. Everyone’s contribution echoes in the walls and floors and roof, and are appreciated.
With the earth berming around the studio well underway, much gratitude goes to neighbour Tracey for allowing us to store earthen materials on her lot. It’s a timely reminder that to build natural houses, much more space for materials is needed than mainstream house building.
Our next workshop Octagon Strawbale wall raising is Tues 17, Wed 18, Thurs 19, Fri 20, Sat 21 November 2020. For more details, and to join our emailing list contact: Linda (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Narara Ecovillage website: