Innovation Stories: The NomadTown & S.T.O.P. Project from Finland
In this week’s innovation story, Finnish organization Maaseutuyhdistys Sydänlanka ry presents their The NomadTown & S.T.O.P. project aimed at building a small sustainable and resilient settlement.
The NomadTown in Joensuu is Finland’s first ResilienceHub* and a direct result of using the S.T.O.P. tool.
After understanding that our “normal” lifestyle is not safe for our offspring to copy, we started to make use of the “S.T.O.P.” tool every fullmoon approximately two years ago. We understood that “more sustainable” alone is not enough and that much bigger steps are necessary.
During summer 2018, some friends of Sydänlanka ry organised a 1-month sustainability experiment of not using fossil fuels, not using money and not making rubbish.
The results of this experiment motivated us to go further and in November 2018 the decision was made to look for a piece of land and start a ResilienceHub.
Less than one year later, in August 2019, we had found a suitable piece of land at the edge of town and the first inhabitant was ready to move in with an off-grid yurt.
By the beginning of 2020, we had revived the deserted and overgrown land with communal pioneering efforts, aiming to be ready to host visitors, courses, meetings and other events as soon as possible.
We see a big need for places like NomadTown all over the world.
It is a daring venture to start something new which might actually work and it seems risky, but in our opinion the risk of not trying is much greater.
The funds we received through Bridge 47 are allowing us to develop and share solutions for communities and connect with other projects to our mutual benefit.
You may ask who the we is? We are men and women, and some of us have Finnish backgrounds, but some also have other backgrounds such as German. We come from a range of sub-cultures with rural backgrounds, some being activists and some academics. We are part of Bridge 47 as it is an education project and we do want to explore synergies with others interested in community education.
Our projects are strongly influenced by the natural environment which we interact with culturally. This biocultural landscape in terms of education can be described in our case as Waldpädagogik (german for Forest pedagogy). In fact in some german Länder (federal states) it is enshrined in law. This forest pedagogy does not just mean going in a forest to learn, it additionally includes movement education, social learning and general education. Such an approach can be transferred to urban areas too for example. And in this project purposed for global citizenship education or global service learning.
Our ResilienceHub has a mobility component built in. Since all our infrastructure is mobile, we can move the NomadTown to another location if needed or desired, ideally leaving a well developed permaculture behind for other people.
This allows for flexibility in terms of growth and makes it easier for new inhabitants to move in / try living here. This connects with the philosophy of nomadology, which is that of ideas not tied to place, but shareable and generalizable.
The overall size of the NomadTown is thought of not to exceed 18 inhabitants. So it is a very small settlement, much like a lab engaged in action research, or in terms of existing settlements a hamlet.
Individual inhabitants should take care of their own accommodation, but certain infrastructure like group kitchen, storage, guest rooms, sauna, greenhouse, compost, toilet, etc. can easily be shared.
Being a ResilienceHub, we are actively including others to participate in the NomadTown by providing space and by hosting a variety of courses, workshops, clubs and events; themed around sustainability, resilience and culture repair.
The S.T.O.P.- survival tool played and plays a crucial role in the development of the NomadTown.
To our minds a very important thing is that we took what was a survivalist tool, that was used by individuals and have developed it as a social technology that can be used at a community level.
You can see an example in the book “The Prepper's Pocket Guide” by Bernie Carr (2011:pg 20-21) #3 Rethink your mind-set "When faced with a disaster, remember the "STOP" rule: STOP THINK OBSERVE PLAN" - which is what we are doing. Note that the book is called Prepper's and NOT Preppers' - it is aimed at individuals not communities. Yet we know that communities are the strongest form of resilience.
Our tradition of the “FullMoonFullStop” has also shown to be highly successful in terms of inclusion, relevance, scalability and speed.
For the above reasons, participation in the “FullMoonFullStop” is always open to everyone and we educate about the use of this tool in a co-creative process. As we have developed it the mnemonic S.T.O.P. stands for:
S. = Stop, sit down, go on strike
If we maybe don't know what to do and how to do it, doing nothing for one day every month can be a good start. The Fullmoon marks a global and neutral event for reflection once every month.
T.= Tea, Thank and Think
Tea and gratitude open the mind for positive thinking. We think about our six survival priorities (food, water, air, shelter, health, community) and evaluate if these are covered in a truly sustainable way. (“Survival situation yes or no?”).
O.= Observe, orientate, options and opportunities
We look at our lives and surroundings and identify possibilities that can be adopted, developed or shared.
P.= Positive, Plan
According to the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is the way”. By choosing happiness and positivity, we dramatically increase our chances of survival.
We then make a plan for only the next month, allowing us to achieve our goals.
Instead of pushing others into specific actions, the S.T.O.P. tool helps finding individual and local solutions for a global situation. The S.T.O.P. is also independent from borders, religions, genders, … and unites us independent of the “climate change symptom”.
In the last month we were mostly busy doing work on the land and ground to allow for spaces to be used in the coming years. This includes collection of materials, repair of a valuable building found on site and also the acquisition of a big group tent to run courses and workshops. We also created a schedule with courses, workshops and events for the spring and summer of 2020, reaching out also to local experts of relevant fields. In the coming months we continue with building infrastructure and growing spaces, as well as reaching out to the local community and others.
We also continue with our series of courses, workshops, lectures and events.
ResilienceHubs are places of minimal impact, minimal dependence and maximum resilience and outreach. They provide space for participation and experimentation. Indicators of high level sustainability are constantly being monitored and ways of self sufficiency are being applied and further developed. ResilienceHubs are not necessarily mobile but are almost always off-grid. All ResHubs provide similar shareable infrastructure and thus allow for easy moving of inhabitants between ResHubs.