Defining Membership in GENSEN


Important issues
In a country with scarce resources and 14,000 rural villages, most of whom could claim to be "ecological," issues of fairness and authenticity arise if there is no clear definition of membership. Three major issues are:

1) Fairness - it would be unfair for member villages that work hard to meet ecovillage standards to be bypassed by program opportunities, such as microcredit, and to have these opportunities made available arbitrarily to new, villages that might exhibit few or no signs of ecovillage living.

2) Knowledge and comitment - a sizeable group of influential residents of a traditional village that has the status of an ecovillage need to know that their village is indeed an "ecovillage," to understand ecovillage concepts, and be committed to growing and developing according to ecovillage principles. If only one or two people know about the concept and there is no ecovillage group energy, then there is no justification for calling that village an ecovillage.

3) Flexibility - we make comparisons between hunters, who persue immediately when they site game, and farmers, whose work follows predictable procedures according to planting seasons and harvests. We are hunters when we bid on grants, win markets and seek strategic partners. We need to avoid restrictive, time consuming procedures that prevent villagers from obtaining benefits, and at the same time, we need to follow good procedures.

Evolving membership procedures
Since villages first started becoming members in 2001, GENSEN headquarters has run into difficulties applying a consistent approach to accrediting member villages. Funds for accreditation visits have been unavailable.The first accreditation system developed by the founders is difficult to apply, explain and calculate. The type of educational materials appropriate for teaching pre-literate villagers are just now being developed. In the meantime, project opportunities become available, dynamic new leaders propose excellent ideas at the last minute. Non-member villages - hosting our partner Peace Corps Volonteers, for example - have opportunities to share with member villages, giving them a good argument for GENSEN membership. We are thinking through the process.

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The original accreditation process:

In May 2001 the founding villages of GENSEN held a workshop to develop the accreditation assessment forms used for educating and admitting new members. They agreed that an objective person (not a member of the village) should visit each prospective village with the four forms below. During the visit, the accreditor should fill in the forms, while educated the villagers on each topic in each form. By August, eight villages had been visited and four accredited, creating a total of six founding members. A second workshop crafted membership forms, and procedures. And a third larger group meeting on September 6 ammended and validated these administrative forms. Accreditations continued, bringing to 12 the number of members at the first general assembly.

  The accreditation forms
The original accreditation forms in English are as follows: E1 for Natural Resources, E2 for Habitat, E3 for Economy, E4 for Culture and Society.
  The ecovillage registration form
A local association - with formal association status - is supposed to represent each ecovillage. In most cases, this works and is to be maintained, although very small villages may not have a legally registered association or development committee. The chief and other adult village members may be the only ones available to represent the ecovillage. The ecovillage association should fill in and submit the ecovillage registration form.
A new accreditation process?: During the Living Routes 2008 3-week January term on microcredit, faculty and students began to test an educational procedure that has potential for ecovillage accreditation. Following the norms for non-formal development education for pre-literate communities and for new adult literates or primary school graduates, these teams worked with ecovillage microcredit loan recipients to destiguish between "developmental" microcredit projects that help the whole village to advance, and projects that create dependency, and to propose new "developmental" loan projects. This process of dialogue with the villagers is presented on the page on ecovillage training. The new idea for accreditation is that villages that wish to preserve their accreditation status might be asked to hold sessions discussing pictorial flip charts and adult literacy materials on ecovillage concepts a certain number of times per year.