Community Learning Incubator Programme for Sustainability – CLIPS

CLIPS is a solution oriented programme to guide community-led projects in their initial steps – and for existing initiatives that struggle with problems or simply need revitalisation. The purpose of CLIPS is to suggest and explain a framework for approaching community development. It also points out specific tools found useful by existing community-led projects.

The CLIPS guide, explains a model for community development created by the CLIPS team. The guide is accompanied by workshops, mentoring and trainings, as well as an online platform with resources, links, examples and tools for both projects and trainers engaged with supporting communities to grow.
CLIPS is based on learnings and insights from established ecovillage projects.
These insights have been distilled into concepts and methods applicable to any group that recognises the value of community. As it was developed, the CLIPS package was tested  and evaluated by community initiatives from nine European countries.

What is ‘community’? When we say ‘community’, or ‘community-led project’, we refer to a group of people connected by worldview, vision and goals, sharing at least some parts of their non-professional lives. This can include both eco-communities, co-housings, NGO’s, civil initiatives, business collectives, community schools, ethical banks, health circles, co-operatives, community-supported agriculture projects etc.

Founding a community is a very exciting journey! Founders have to take responsibility for:

  • Getting the idea
  • Believing in it
  • Inspiring a handful of people
  • Defining the scope of action and the vision to which the project should stay true
  • Implementing the most appropriate form of governance
  • Outlining an economic model
  • Finding and developing the land, building or other common assets
  • Choosing the right inspiration and guidance along the way
  • Resolving disputes in a transparent manner when they occur

The list of tasks and processes could be much longer. The most important responsibility is to grow the project in a way that builds community and keeps up hope and purpose.

Good projects live on while different people come and go. In projects that survived longer than a decade, many people who thought they found ‘the’ place ended up leaving. Not all collective projects suit all people interested in them. Beyond that, moving towards more collaborative and collective ways of living can be challenging in unexpected ways. Sometimes it requires more adaptation, transformation and commitment than people are willing to deal with. Herein lies an important lesson: when incubating an initiative the project and collective have some priority over the individual.

What is incubation? To us, it is a facilitated process supporting a group to identify tensions, solutions, resources and methods, applying appropriate measures at appropriate times. This is the domain of CLIPS facilitators. Like midwives, facilitators assist groups during the delivery of their project, and check in on it as it matures. Noted that incubation requires attention and care, but should never be authoritarian.

Who are we? The authors of CLIPS are both senior and junior members of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) from nine European countries. Most of us live in ecovillages. We have rich experience in applying community principles in a wide variety of groups, and we have seen communities both thrive and collapse. Maybe we have seen too many collapse, and too much constructive energy go to waste. We responded by designing CLIPS.

We see CLIPS in the context of a clearly perceivable shift towards increased connectedness, cooperation and community where all kinds of collaborative projects and shared economic systems are emerging – from small to big and local to global. We think this emergence of ways to cocreate a more just and sustainable future is necessary to address the challenges of our time. Our hope is that CLIPS can be a support in this important work.

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