R:ekobyn is an ecovillage in rural Sweden.
Part I. Project Description
R:ekobyn is a cohousing project ready to purchase a large property in the outskirts of a village. The name is a portmanteau word eko=eco, by=village, and the R: indicates it is connected to the village of Röstånga.
- Vision – “A sustainable life in community to enrich our world!”
- Mission – Create an enjoyable place to live with meaningful learning, creative spaces, livelihood, community and biological regeneration
- Aims – Share a common house, share transportation, work with local businesses
As an ecovillage, R:ekobyn starts from Permaculture around cultivation and food supply. When it comes to “money”, they are involved in the local economy and what sustainability looks like.
R:ekobyn encourages local businesses and plans to lease part of the land to new businesses to bring back daily social life to the village, reduce the need to commute. As part of the development phase, they are also working with questions about Financing – looking for investors – and the form of lease for housing to create a more diverse community.
Somewhere between 2013-2015, an initial group of four couples began to form around the idea.
Between 2017-2019 they applied for, and were granted, the European Union Rural Development Grant for the cohousing project. The grant requires that the organization collaborate with a rural village (for which they are connected to Röstånga) and collaborate with a business (for which they connected with an architecture firm in Malmö, who are to build the cohousing buildings).
In 2020, they are negotiating the price with the municipality for 8 hectares of land (.08 square kilometers) on the outskirts of the village, and are currently in the development phase, looking at sustainable building solutions with an emphasis on energy-saving.
In 2020, an energy cooperative, a sister project, was started by members of R:ekobyn along with members from the neighboring village. They have just received a truckload of solar panels and will help each other with installations.
Buildings and Activities
The goal is to build a series of houses organized along a sheltered spine along with the common house, served by sustainable energy and materials.
The community intends to share many activities: planting vegetables and selling them, sharing cars and electric bikes, collaborating with new businesses (some on-site), and fostering connections with the rest of the village of Röstånga.
Part II. Working with Sociocracy
“We train in Sociocracy as a structure and process for decision-making and Non-Violent Communication to deal with conflicts and interpersonal situations.”
Early on in the project, the members consulted ongoing cohousing projects and learned that governance by consensus breaks down pretty quickly, and governance without it tends to lean towards a strong person taking major responsibility. Thus, they met with some experts in nonviolent communication and sociocracy and integrated these practices into their project: sociocracy for self-governance and NVC to deal with conflicts and interpersonal situations.
Current organizational structure
Today, in 2020, there are 13 members representing 8 households. There is a general circle, a communication circle and a membership circle. The current roles include a leader and facilitator role in the general circle, and a leader, facilitator and delegate for the communication circle. All of those are on 1-year terms.
Secretary roles are selected at the beginning of each meeting, and an external delegate for communication with the village is appointed as needed.
Communication is done online in Google Drive, to which all members have access. Meeting minutes and agendas live in a rolling document, like the SoFA template we use.
Meetings are structured by rounds. Proposals are brought by members or by sub circles, and amended before being presented for consent.
The main financial proposal was made during the time of the grant application. It has been amended and consented to by the general circle over the years.
Material on sociocracy is sent out to anyone, who shows interest in joining. It is part of the 24-page R:ekobyn ‘starter pack’. It is a requirement for all new members to learn the sociocratic meeting structure and the decision-making process.
Children are welcome to attend meetings, although 7 out of the 8 children in the community are still under the age of 5.
Projected organizational structure: 40-100 members
In 2019, they designed a projected organizational structure, with the capacity of growing into an organization of 40-100 members. They did this with the guidance of Ted Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez.
They aim to keep groups small and autonomous.
Note: When there are older children, they have discussed forming a children’s circle under Community.
Based on our correspondence with members of R:ekobyn, some things that went well are the use of rounds to ensure that all voices and ideas are heard, checking in and closing rounds at meetings, and aligning the governance with the vision of the project.
- What could be better is the integration of feedback, specifically in role reviews
- And a lesson learned, quoting an interviewee, is that “the most important thing is that all voices are heard.”
“R:ekobyn creates innovative community-building, both in physical and social form: a little bit of social innovation in our place on Earth.”