Putting the Vision of Sustainable Community Economies into Practice
Viki Sonntag, PhD is a practitioner, activist, and researcher in alternative economics and founding director of EcoPraxis. Her current projects include participatory action research on the operationalization of community-based economies and the power of networks in community building. From 1997 to 2003, Viki did research in the Netherlands, working with the leading practitioners and theoreticians of transition management, a policy approach to structural/system change adopted by the Dutch Ministry of Environment to guide their sustainability initiatives, (arguably the most progressive policies in the advanced industrialized world). Her PhD thesis examined the relation of over-consumption in the highly industrialized countries to changes in production technologies. Viki is also a Buddhist whose spiritual practice informs her work in sustainable community development. She is seeking insights on over-consumption and social inequality as root causes of ecological/economic collapse.
EcoPraxis works collaboratively with community-based businesses and organizations to put the vision of sustainable community economies and sustainable resource use into practice through grassroots research and community learning projects.
Grassroots Research or Community-Based Participatory Research is a collaborative approach to research in which community members participate fully in all aspects of the research process along with the researchers by training. It is an iterative process, incorporating research, reflection, and action in a cyclical process. Grassroots research requires sharing decision-making power, resources, credit, results, and knowledge, as well as the reciprocal appreciation of everyone’s gifts.
Community Learning describes the process by which communities transition from business-as-usual to more just and sustainable ways of living and doing. The idea of community learning is not to achieve fixed goals, but to gradually work towards common ambitions through innovation, integration, and transition processes. Community learning is premised on the idea that the outcomes of any social change process are highly uncertain and thus require collective experimentation — learning-by-doing and doing-by-learning. Community learning involves community conversations and project-based experiments in new ways of doing things. The power of community learning is that everyone can contribute in his or her own way and in doing so the search itself becomes the process of sustainable social change.
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