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Sustainable Living Network
Where We Work: National and Urban

Using EDE Curriculum for the Training of Facilitators—A Path to Enlightenment and Sustainable Living

By Freda Ng (Programme Coordinator, PCD)

“Learning” has a core place in PCD’s programmes. Using varied methods such as training and exchange, PCD provides our staff and partners, as well as communities and individuals taking part in our programmes, with learning opportunities on different and numerous issues such as farming, ecology and health, culture and arts, and approach to work as well as skills in youth development and education programmes.

Learning is important not only because one can do things better if one's knowledge and capacity are strengthened: what is more important is that learning enriches one’s inner being and helps one gain inner peace. By knowing ourselves better we see the connection between ourselves and others and the links among all things on earth. We believe that this is a basic attitude of “sustainable living”. In this kind of learning, apart from using one’s mind and intellect, one is also required to feel and to cultivate one’s empathy as well as to use one’s hands to create and to practice [1].

Insights from EDE Curriculum and Relevant Initiatives

A primary approach of PCD is to train facilitators. We believe that people are the key to change. All positive change in society relies on the seeds sown by local community facilitators. In an exchange in Thailand in 2008, we came across the “Ecovillage Design Education—Comprehensive Course in the Fundamentals of Sustainability Design” (EDE Curriculum). The curriculum of this course provides fundamental principles and holistic approaches for community work and enables us to explore ways of sustainable living with the community through facilitator training.

There are four main areas in the EDE curriculum—the Worldview Key, the Social Key, the Economics Key and the Ecological Key. The section on world view has the biggest impact on participants. By looking back over the history of modernisation resulting from two centuries of technological development and industrial revolution, the participants are led to reflect on the idea of development in mainstream capitalist culture and to explore the questions of money and material gratification by asking questions such as 'what is happiness?'. This process enables participants to rebuild a spirit and values that respect nature, local culture and community relationships as new world views and to build ecovillages based on these values.

Apart from the above, the EDE curriculum attaches importance to unique training elements, such as experiential learning, self-awareness training, integration into everyday life and building learning communities with the goal of bringing about spiritual changes and transformation of values.

People used to say that it took over 200 years for the West to industrialise and modernise while it has taken only 30 years for China to complete the process. The changes have been so fast and drastic that we do not seem to have enough time to digest them and to reflect on how such changes affect our lives and those of future generations or how the ecological environment on which our ancestors depended has been affected. Still less do we consider how we should respond to these changes. What is happiness? In the face of the current global ecological crisis, what should we do to rebuild the relationship between human beings and nature? What should we do to develop a sustainable lifestyle and culture? These are questions that we and our partners are concerned with.

Since 2010, we have been localising the EDE curriculum and have held two EDE training sessions in Guizhou and Sichuan respectively, attended by more than 60 people,among whom were some eco-farmers. They were good at observing and learning and were passionate about experimenting. There were elderly men and women who were enthusiastic about community affairs. There were young people who loved their home villages. There were parents and teachers concerned about the education of the next generation. There were urban consumers and NGO staff who were engaged in community work.

The EDE curriculum is an educational programme developed from the experience and practice of members of the Global Ecovillage Network in building ecovillages or eco-communities in countries around the world. Their experience can help us address problems arising from rapid industrialisation and modernisation in mainland China. In our EDE training, the four main areas of the EDE curriculum were all covered and training on each area lasted for a week. Mr. Pracha Hutanuwatr, a member of the EDE network and an experienced facilitator from Thailand, and his team of workers, were invited to conduct our training.

A Holistic Learning Experience

An important concept in EDE training is the belief that every person is the designer of his/her own life. The curriculum ensures that participants explore principles of sustainability and learn relevant skills. For example, in the week on the Worldview Key, participants reflected on the relationship between human beings and nature or the interaction between individuals and society. In the week on the Social Key, participants learnt skills of community facilitation and how to nurture team spirit and leadership. In the Ecological Key week [2], participants learned about appropriate technology, local food and ecological principles. They then explored ideas of sustainable economy and modes of living that are ecologically sound and equitable in the week on the Economics Key. Training methods include group activities, team challenges, scenario games, reading groups, community surveys, hands-on practice and meditation, among others.

Many participants told us that the training had been a profound experience for them. Some ingenious and challenging team games enabled participants to explore themselves and to reflect on issues of interpersonal relationships, such as leadership and cooperation under a safe environment. Participants also learnt to communicate in non-violent ways and to treat the needs and feelings of others seriously. They also gained insights from nature and reflected on the relationship of interdependence between human beings and all things. Reading The Book of Dao was an everyday assignment. Studying the classics in a new light, we look for insights on sustainability from traditional wisdom in interpreting the meaning of “leadership”, “knowledge”, “wealth” and “happiness” in the classic texts. There were also, of course, exchanges of experience and sharing of emotions which were often filled with laughter and sometimes with tears too.

EDE training emphasises not only the transmission of knowledge and skills, but also a holistic way of learning that rallies all the senses of the body and connects learning with experience. It also emphasises the importance of nurturing one’s effective power. The spirit and principles of ecovillage string together all the activities of a learning process in which the individual undergoes a transformative re-evaluation and recognises the value of sustainable living.

A Single Spark May Start a Prairie Fire

After the training courses in Guizhou and Sichuan, all the participants returned to their homes and work, and tried to practice sustainable living in their everyday life. Some participants planned to make use of what they had learnt on youth training or on programmes on urban sustainable living. Others were inspired to explore ways from traditional culture and farming for practicing the spirit of ecovillage. A group of participants coming from the same region planned to develop a curriculum on sustainable living together. Learners have also formed a learning network among themselves and we hope that this platform will allow more friends who share our ideals to exchange knowledge and experience and to provide psychological support to each other.

We believe that the training will enable community facilitators to experience a profound personal transformation and to recognise the importance and urgency of building ecovillages. They may go on to build such ecovillages locally, promote sustainable living or train other facilitators in their own communities. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the practice of sustainable living and to bring about positive changes in society by igniting a prairie fire with a few single sparks.

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PCD staff and partners at the EDE training in Thailand, April 2013.
Group photo of PCD staff and partners at the EDE training in Thailand, April 2013.
The Thai senior facilitator from the EDE network, Mr. Pracha Hutanuwatr (in white T-shirt), leads a group of EDE training in a learning exercise.

  1. In ideas of “holistic education”, the importance of using “hands-mind-heart” at the same time is emphasised. Please refer to a talk by Dr. Satish Kumar on “Learning with Your Whole Being” at the University of Hong Kong on November 8th, 2011 hosted by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWo1k4jrbgk
  2. The training in Sichuan in 2012 only covered three areas: the Worldview Key, the Economics Key and the Social Key.