An investigation in the sustainable economic practices of ecovillages
About the project
The aim of the initial phase this exciting seed-funded research project was to explore the mix of local and introduced practices that support the development of emerging sustainable ecovillage economies. Understanding the business research aspects of an emerging ecovillage economy is significant, as it has enabled the team to identify appropriate pathways for sustainable economic growth for Narara Ecovillage. This project seeks to transform lives and regions through social change towards more sustainable lifestyles.
As ‘intentional communities’, ecovillages endeavour to explicitly live ‘lighter’ on the planet through diverse and contextualised approaches to economic, environmental and social sustainability. In Australia there are about 20 ecovillage communities, with NSW being the site of three. This project focuses on industry partner, Narara Ecovillage. Following a review of the literature on the economic practices of ecovillages, primary data collection activities were undertaken with Narara Ecovillage members and within the ecovillage including: an anonymous online survey, individual interviews, a focus group, field observations, and documentary analysis.
The research findings highlighted that whilst ecovillages were once seen as an alternative way of living, their economic practices have somewhat converged with those of the modern economy. Indeed, successful ecovillages rely on a symbiotic relationship with the communities and economies beyond their physical boundaries. The development and sustainable establishment of ecovillages requires a huge investment of time, social, and often financial, capital from members.
This initial phase of research has established a strong, and mutually beneficial, working partnership with the Narara Ecovillage community. The team is actively seeking further funding to continue to conduct research with Narara Ecovillage in order to follow their development as an incubator for sustainable living, education and business.
About the researchers
This project brings together several disciplines.
Dr Belinda Gibbons, Faculty of Business – Belinda is the Australia and New Zealand Chapter Coordinator for Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) and sits on the United Nations PRME Advisory Committee which focuses on the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in higher education. Belinda is an ECR at UOW.
Dr Oriana Price, Faculty of Business – Oriana’s research is informed by a relational ontology, taking practice as the foundation of social life. Her research has focused on understanding the interplay and tension between business and non-business practices and how these may be implicated in diverse ways of organising work, learning and innovating in the not-for-profit sector.
Prof Simon Ville, Faculty of Law, Humanities - Simon’s main research areas are Australian and international economic and business history, comparative economic development, and international business. He has written widely on big business, industry associations, innovation, social capital, the Vietnam War, and the rural and resource industries for major publishers such as Cambridge, Oxford and Melbourne University Presses and leading international journals including American Economic Review.
Dr Emma Heffernan, Sustainable Building Research Centre – Emma is a Research Fellow with expertise and interest in energy efficient design in residential buildings, sustainable communities, sustainable construction, and climate change adaptation.
Mr John Talbott, Narara Ecovillage - John is the Project Director of Narara with a background in engineering and brings a rich knowledge of sustainable community development as former Director of the Findhorn Ecovillage, Scotland for 20 years and founding member of the Global Ecovillage Network.