Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ecovillage Education Redux

I have a friend named Kurt. He and his wife Alline live with me at Dancing Rabbit, where they operate the Milkweed Mercantile—which is a unique combination of down home cafe/bar + eco-B&B + green general store. They've been open for business since 2010 and were among the first brave folks to launch an internal business in the ecovillage.

Kurt sums up there near-term profit potential with the witticism, "We're making tens of dollars."

I tell that story because my wife, Ma'ikwe has pulled together an internal DR business of her own, Ecovillage Education US, with more or less the same prospects for remuneration—which is to say, if we said we were doing it for the money you'd accuse us of not paying attention. 

Last summer I was part of the faculty that delivered EEUS' inaugural 37-day immersion course in sustainability education, most of which happened in a classroom only a three-minute walk from where we live. This year we're hoping to do it again.
Last year we had 10 students. This year we're aiming for at least 12. To help us get there we're conducting an Indiegogo campaign—going on now through February 6. Our goal is to raise $14,000, the lion's share of which will be used to create a scholarship fund to help deserving students bridge the gap between their thirst for knowledge and the limitations of their pocketbook.

If we reach our target, there will be enough to also fund professional videography of the 2014 program and to purchase additional course materials. If you're inspired to help make this training happen, I invite you to click on the hyperlink above and make a donation. While any amount will be helpful, donations of $27 and above will earn you free perks. In fact, for $352 (I'm not sure where these numbers came from) you can even get two hours of phone consultation with me about anything having to do with cooperative group dynamics.

Working for Love and Money
When Ma'ikwe first offered the EEUS program in 2012, the budget called for paying faculty and staff at the rate of $10/hour. It would have gone up some if we'd had more students than the minimum, but we didn't get enough enrollment that year and the course got canceled. Last year, we had just enough students to make it happen, and teachers got paid $12/hour.

Now I realize that if we get a $2 bump in hourly compensation each year, the numbers will start to look pretty handsome by the time I'm 104. But I'm not counting on that to finance my old age. 

When Ma'ikwe showed her budget to European experts who'd already delivered a number of these courses in other parts of the world, their first response was, "Well, here's your problem: you're paying teachers." Huh? One of the components of this training is economic sustainability. What's financially sustainable about working for nothing? What kind of message does that send students?

While it's great to have teachers with fire in their bellies for delivering the curriculum—in fact, I wouldn't want it any other way—we also want teachers with money in their pocket for delivering the curriculum.

This isn't about anyone getting rich (excepting in experience); it's about right relationship, and having the delivery convey a message that's congruent with the curriculum. We figure it takes a village to raise a sustainability program, and we're hoping that you'll be part of our virtual village.

P.S. It turns out that the Indiegogo campaign just happens to end on Ma'ikwe's 44th birthday, Feb 6. So if you're needing ideas about what to get her, how about… a $44 donation. Just a thought.

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