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Forming Our French Network of "Grouped Habitats"

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By Anne-Françoise Gay, translated by Ursula Nadler

Members of Réseau Habitat Groupe celebrating the end of a work party at a forming-community site in Marseille.

On July 1st, 2006, we launched the French network of grouped habitats, Réseau Habitat Groupe, at an inter-regional network meeting.

A grouped habitat, our term in France for an ecologically oriented intentional community, brings together people who no longer wish to live in individual housing, but want to collectively design and live in eco-neighbourhoods. We are motivated to do this to restore the social fabric — experiencing a sense of trust and connection between neighbours. This way of life balances the autonomy of private lodgings with shared management of common spaces, and enriches our lives through the practice of daily solidarity with others. This is accomplished through shared resources such as energy, transportation, and local exchange systems; repair and maintenance of our dwellings and shared tools; our community culture; our participation in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm, and so on. These dynamics help give rise to new human attitudes — in particular through a sincere search for ecological harmony — as well as fostering innovative answers to the social, economic, and environmental challenges of our time. A grouped habitat can be an ecovillage, an eco-hamlet, an eco-neighbourhood, a cohousing community, or a housing cooperative. It can be organized in town or in the countryside, in apartment buildings or houses, or in low-rent housing. The legal status needs to be adapted to each project; i.e., joint ownership, a private building management organization, or a residents’ cooperative association with Bylaws.

Since 2006 we have met several times to create five regional networks: Southeast, Southwest, Ile de France (in the Paris area), Northeast, and Northwest. This interregional dimension makes it possible to extend beyond national borders.

The Goals of ‘’Réseau Habitat Groupe’’

One task was installing new plumbing.

Our network’s aims are:

  • To define a working model of habitat groups (charters, histories, evaluations of experiments in the field)
  • To connect interested parties (people looking for habitat group opportunities and project developers)
  • To create solidarity between projects (sharing tools, trainings, helping each other in various ways)
  • To represent the movement to the general public (raising awareness, informing, promoting)
  • To cooperate with other networks (about sustainable economy and/or fair trade, ecobuilding, other collective habitat projects).

We have chosen an inter-regional “work in progress” operating mode, putting action and experimentation before formalizing our organization, and in general respecting diversity and openness. The interregional network and each informal regional network will create their own legal structures as a function of their specific local needs.

(We’re using an inter-regional language in our network, and thus use the Occitan term Workoum in progressou when we speak of our “work in progress.” The Occitan language, also known as Provençal, is a Romance language spoken in Southern France, Monaco, the Occitan Valleys and parts of Calbria in Italy, and in the Aran Valley in Catalonia, Spain.)

Our Evolving Charter

The group practiced some natural building techniques, too.

One of the principles of a grouped habitat is collective production. During the meetings of August. 2007 in Longessaignes, France, the participants wished to write a document which would serve as a working common text (and in particular, a charter). The latter is intended to be taken further, supplemented and completed by all the groups. Here is the text which the group produced:

A habitat group is a shared relationship which calls for listening, sharing, and creativity, in a spirit of respect for life. It preserves an individual space while making it possible for each one to take part in mutual enrichment and exchange of competencies in a spirit of solidarity. It tends to promote ecological living, simplicity, autonomy of the inhabitants and the place, and the whole contributes to reduce the ecological footprint.

Regional Networks

Participants share a vegetarian meal.

The regional networks facilitate the meeting of people seeking to live in a habitat group and those involved in habitat group projects. These meetings should be often enough to maintain convivial and regular relations among the participants. They demonstrate this endeavor in public events and operate independently. Regional networks are formed at the request of people working towards these goals in each region. Certain regions still need to be organized. This will happen by meeting with members from other, already-organized regions in order to pass on what has been learned so far.

—Anne-Françcoise Gay is a founding member of Réseau Habitat Groupe in France.

See this website for more information about a Réseau Habitat Groupe meeting in Corcellie, France in 2008.

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Also in this issue:

Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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