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Envisioning our utopias
This short workshop is intended to provide an opportunity to investigate our own utopias: "don't dream about your life, live your dreams".
There are many utopias and some people have written their ideas down and they have become quite well-known, such as Owen, Marx, Bakunin and "p m" (author of Bolo bolo). But everyone has a view of their own utopia and while some of our ideas are similar, in other things we differ. Often we know nothing at all about our dreams and our political visions of "another, better society".
But what actually are utopias and why do we need them? And how does my utopia look? I asked these questions as the starting point for a session during a three-hour workshop.
- To encourage the first contributions from participants, I gave four cards to each participant and asked them to write their names on each.
Then I wrote four questions down on a big poster: Do utopias promote or restrain change? In your opinion what is the relationship between analysis and utopia? What do you expect from a utopia? How are your visions linked in with your life? These questions are suggestions to help us think about our understanding of our own utopia.
- The participants wrote their individual responses down - one on each of their cards.
- When everyone had finished (after approximately 20 minutes), they were asked to take their cards and talk with different people in the group. In each encounter they discussed one of the questions together in pairs and using a small bell I limited the time for their exchanges and with each of their cards.
- They then had to find a new person to talk with and discuss the second question, and so on. It is good to allow three to five minutes for each question. This introductory session enabled us to identify our future discussion material: what utopias are for us and where they can lead to.
- identified the important points from the discussion and wrote them on a flipchart. Already we were in the middle of our utopias discussion! Which topics and ideas now belonged to our utopias?
- In addition I asked the group to divide into small groups of 4-5 participants. Their task was, with the help of a "mindmap", to collect the many different concepts of utopia expressed by participants. We then carried on together as a whole group. In this workshop it was obvious that most of our images of utopias represented quite different types of societies than the current ones. The second part of the workshop looked at how we link our daily lives with our visions of utopias. Because utopias are not for some future existence, but are for living now, and so many people in so many places have begun to turn their utopias into reality.
- Using a brainstorming session, we easily identified many small projects the participants knew about. But when we saw them all on a large piece of paper, then we could see that many people were already working on their utopias.
The following is a list of geographically diverse intentional communities, eco-villages, and co-operatives which represent a wide range of visions. Also included is basic contact information for each community so you can learn more about them.
- Rainbow Family of Living Light (International). Unofficial website: http://www.welcomehome.org/ rainbow.html tel +1 212 560 7111
- Findhorn Foundation (Scotland, Britain) http://www.findhorn.org/ tel +44 1309 690 311 fax +44 1309 691 301
- Wholelife Housing (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) email infowholelife@ michellcomputing.com tel +1 403 276 4296
- Tamera (Colos, Portugal) http://www.tamera.org/ email email@example.com tel +351 283 6353 06
- Pacha Mama (Costa Rica) http://www.pacha-mama.org/ pachamama/ email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ecovillage at Burdautien (Eire) http://www.ecovillages.org/ ireland/burdautien/ email email@example.com tel +353 47 522 95
- Eco Carabane Center (Ziguinchur, Senegal) http://www.ecovillages.org/ senegal/ecocarabane/ email firstname.lastname@example.org fax +221 91 22 56
- Clays Lane Co-Operative (London, Britain) http://www.clays-lane.org.uk/ tel +44 20 8555 9182
- Auroville (Tamil Nadu, India) http://www.auroville.org/ email email@example.com
These sites each offer a wide range of information and provide numerous utopia-related links:
- Society for Utopian Studies, http://www.utoronto.ca/utopia/
- Utopia on the Internet, http://users.erols.com/jonwill/ utopialist.htm
- Ecotopia, http://www.ecotopia.com
- Utopia: The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World is a New York Public Library online art exhibition celebrating the women and men who have "imag-ined, depicted, described, and cre-ated" ideal societies throughout history. http://www.nypl.org/utopia/
- Utopia Builder teaches utopian concepts in a fun and inventive way. Visitors create their own virtu-al "utopia" by answering a series of questions and selecting various images, http://utopiabuilder.org