Micelio

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Micelio
FormationMarch 1, 2020; 2 years ago (2020-03-01)
FoundersZsofia Vidak
Founded atBarcelona, Spain
TypeNGO
Region served
Barcelona, Spain
Official languages
Spanish, English

Micelio is an ecological community-led initiative in Barcelona, inspired by Hungarian and other foreign examples. We are engaged citizens building a platform to promote local eco-communities and their best practices, providing space for connecting, learning and experiencing alternative and sustainable lifestyles. We want to inspire, motivate, encourage and empower citizens to find or create their own sustainable projects and communities.

Overview

The project was founded in March 2020 inspired by the founder`s research experience, being a member of the Hungarian Small Communities Programme between 2014-2017. The initiative was launched in May 2020 by the first promotion and dissemination of the project idea on different online and offline forums, events and channels. We had a kickoff workshop in June 2020 for a smaller core group, since that we were not able to organise events for more than 6 people due to the new restrictions. In September 2020 we launched our Facebook page and group where we started to share our message and content, besides building the online community. In the end of the year we started to design our own logo and develop our website. While having regular (formal and informal) meetups, we started to organise events in collaboration with local experts and communities (online events and post-Covid programs like field visits, retreats, workshops and mini festivals).

Besides the event organisation, logo and website development we are constantly building a comprehensive database with links to useful websites, communities, projects and experts in the region which is the main pillar of our online Portal. Until we are setting up a dedicated research team and are allowed again to organise field visits in Barcelona, we translate and share good practices identified by the Small Communities Program, as part of our international collaboration. The examples have been gathered by them during their (already 10 years long) research activity in Hungary. These short, practical action tips are translated by us to English and Spanish, and shared on our online platforms to promote community-led solutions for complex ecological challenges. We are not only looking for local examples for these best practices but - in case they don't exist yet - we are also examining their possible transferability and adaptability in the Barcelona region.

Purpose of Micelio

Barcelona is a melting pot of many cultures and people with different backgrounds. After attending several sustainability-related events and making new connections, it has become clear for the founder that there is a huge interest among expats about local eco-communities, but they find it challenging to connect with them and engage in local projects. One of the main reasons is the lack of an up-to-date, multilingual and comprehensive platform of the Catalan sustainable transition movement: most of the existing platforms are out-dated, only written in Spanish or Catalan and are focusing on specific issues or topics. This makes it difficult for foreigners to navigate in the Catalan ecological movements, find updated information about ongoing projects in English, tools for developing new ideas, or entry points to communities. The other problem is that the existing main global platforms (like the Global Ecovillage Network) often provide content and events which are only available for money, or for those who are members of GEN (i.e. an officially recognized eco-village). This model excludes those who are not members of any formal community or project yet but they have the intention, motivation, and often even skilss to take joint actions. The third reason may be sought in the deficiency of the existing social media channels and groups: the members are often changing, the topics mostly focus on individual waste reduction, and regular events are rare and occasional. This type of online groups can be useful for making new connections and knowledge sharing, but they seldom catalyse further the improvement of real (physical) ecological communities that aim at realizing complex lifestyle alternatives.

Our mission is t fill in these gaps by creating an (online and offline) platform embracing all possible projects and ideas of local individuals and groups, providing tools and space for peer learning and collaboration. The website will serve as a multi lingual central knowledge and networking hub (based on our constantly expanding Database) where we share useful information in an organized and user-friendly way. Understanding that modern citizens are having a desperate need for belonging to a community, we also want to place a great importance on the networking features of our platform. Taking into account the important fact that people started to feel overwhelmed at the number of (unsatisfactory) channels sharing knowledge, we are also mapping and examining existing portals or platforms in order to avoid duplication and find synergies between them.

History of Micelio

The idea of Micelio project emerged by a Hungarian cultural anthropologist (Zsófia Vidák), who was a member of a similar project in Hungary between 2014-17. The Small Communities Programme is a research and action based initiative, founded in 2008 by András Takács-Sánta PhD, ecologist, associate professor and director of the MA in Human Ecology at the Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest). About 20 volunteer experts (from different fields) are working together and doing field work, supporting forming and existing communities, writing a book, organizing summer camps for children and adults and providing human ecology course. They launched an online Portal in 2019 which Zsófi considered as a good example to follow when she created Micelio.

The project idea has been formed and improved for years. After moving to Barcelona in 2017, the founder was trying to find a similar group like SCP, or an up-to-date and comprehensive platform about local initiatives and best practices, however, it seemed quite challenging. She decided to elaborate her project idea based on the Hungarian example, taking into account the local needs and the social-ecological characteristics of Barcelona. The idea began spreading among like-minded people who the founder met on different events, and their feedback has been used for clarifying and improving the project plan.

The name was inspired by the documentary movie Fantastic Funghi, which presents the nature of the huge underground mycelium systems. By embracing the concept of the fungal mycelium (in Spanish: micelio) we are reflecting on the great importance of - and urgent need for - connection, collaboration and the co-creation of sustainable, regenerative cultures and ecosystems. The mycelium - being super-resilient - brings new life by regenerating the land and “dead” organic materials. It develops into huge complex networks whose elements are nurturing, connecting and supporting each other and the living beings around them. Micelio therefore is a symbol of our shared vision, a sustainable human culture created by the joint collaboration of engaged and empowered citizens.

The project idea was first presented online in May 2020 on different forums. The initial goal was to raise awareness about the project idea and engage a supporting circle. The next step was creating a core group and organising brainstorming events to further develop the project plan and clarify our goals, vision and mission. We organised our first kickoff workshop in June 2020 for a small group of collaborators where we drafted a shared vision of a sustainable future and discussed the project topics and activities. We kept meeting regularly (although mainly online, due to the Covid restrictions) with a smaller group who was helping with the initial steps, like launching our Facebook page (September 2020) where we started to share our message and useful content, besides building the online community. We also developed our first design and logo ideas and the first version of the website, which would serve as our main online knowledge platform. Since January 2021 we host regular monthly meetups, also welcoming new members (community hikes with forest clean-up, meetups in bars, online meetups), however, we still need to keep the offline events small. While having regular and ad-hoc events for the smaller circle, we are also collaborating with local experts and communities to co-create bigger online events and post-Covid programs like field visits, retreats, workshops and mini festivals.

Currently the community consists of a core team of 6-8 people and an expansive support circle of collaborators. We are looking forward to being able to organise bigger in-person events again and build the Micelio community. We are also really keen on finding a way to provide physical opportunities to practice new skills in a community environment. The escalating Covid crisis was a great challenge in point of community development, as it was mainly built upon the power and energy of the personal meetings and gatherings. We needed to adapt quickly to the new situation by acquiring new online skills (using collaboration tools, new platforms etc.). At the same time, the long months of the pandemic also enabled us having time for deeper clarification regarding the project goals and activities, taking into account the new trends and changes around us.

Scope of Micelio

The main activity of Micelio is providing and improving an inclusive ecological platform for the citizens of Barcelona. Our online platform is a knowledge sharing portal which is fueled by an expanding database (knowledge common). In order to develop a comprehensive databse, we conduct (desk and field) research on local communities, their networks and best practices. We also try to present failures and give value to them, providing an opportunity to lelarn from mistakes.

Beside developing and maintaining the online portal, we organise events to connect people interested in sustainable lifestyles, especially those who have difficulties with approaching local communities (expats). Focusing on knowledge sharing and network building, we organise meetups, online discussions with invited experts, workshops, social gatherings and visits to existing communities (community gardens, rural eco-communities etc.) but even abandoned villages. Our intention with the community visits is to raise awareness about sustainable lifestyles and provide opportunities to experience the world of small communities. The other purpose is to build trust and offer collaboration: if the community is open for it, we would continue the visits as a field research, including conducting interviews with community members. The research results would be used for mapping local initiatives, understand their community culture, identify best practices and discover if (and how) foreign examples are transferable and adaptable. These findings would be then interpreted into data and public content to be shared on our platform and events. By researching local initiatives we also want to understand what are the local needs and how could Micelio become a supportive element of the system.

Until being able to organise group visits and do our own research, we are promoting local and foreign examples we have found so far and which are available. For instance, as part of our international collaboration with The Small Communities Programme (HU), we translate and promote the collection of more than 60 best practices identified by SCP during their 10-years-long research activity. We translate the action tips in English and Spanish (Catalan translations are also planned) and share them on a regular basis on our Facebook page, and other sustainability-related social media groups. Besides trying to motivate people with these practical tips, we want to find local examples for them.

In the long term our goal is to find or co-create a place where people can practice together bio-construction, permaculture and other sustainable solutions while developing a community. We would (re)build communal and residential buildings which would serve as accomodation for volunteers, and later maybe common spaces and homes of community members. The place could be an eco-village, a transition town, a rehabilited abandoned village, an ecological education center with an eco-hostel... this idea is still being formed and may be developed into a business plan in the future. Therefore we are also seeking existing permaculture demonstartion sites, socio-ecological innovation hubs or any physical place in the region where people can reconnect to nature, experiment, and practice together new skills while having fun.

Membership

The membership is currently open, free and informal. One can become a member of the core team (organisers and coordinators), or the collaborators` circle (by following our online pages, subscribing to our newsletter, joining our whatsapp group or our events). If you are interested in collaborating with us, please send an e-mail to micelio.portal@gmail.com or send us a message on Facebook.

Initiatives in numbers

Some key milestones

  • May 2020: first publication of the project idea on an online meetup
  • June 2020: first workshop
  • September 2020: launching our Facebook page and group
  • November 2020: first community hike & clean-up in Collserola National Park
  • December 2020: the first (non-official) logo versions were created and presented by volunteer collaborators. On the 2nd of December Micelio project was presented to the Ecolise community on the third CfF Session (Communities of Practice project) and has begun streaming into the European transition movement.
  • January 2021: the web development and conceptualisation of our online platform (portal) has begun.
  • February 2021: the first Micelio Tea Party has been organised (monthly meetup every first Sunday of the month)


Links to key examples

Numbers of people involved, and indirect beneficiaries

Impacts of Micelio

Ecological impacts

Communities and their joint actions can have a higher ecological impact than individuals, especially if they are realising a complex lifestyle alternative. For example, you may reduce your ecological footprint by radically reducing and selecting waste in your household - however, if you still commute by car every day to work for a multinational company which has a destructive or polluting activity, and then travel back home in an energetically insufficient and wasteful building, and participating in a political system which generates huge inequalities, pain and sorrow for most of the humanity, you may re-consider the efficiency of your day-to-day efforts. Personal choices and behavioral change is inevitable for a sustainable transformation, however, we also need to switch to circular economy, a more just (self) governance system, reform our traffic, production and consumption systems, our housing problems, respond to the mass atomisation and alianation in our societies and so on - on a global scale and within a very short time. Understanding and witnessing that politics failed to resolve this complex challange, and individual behavioral change is too slow (and too limited by the capitalyst system we are embedded in), we believe that grass-root, bottom-up and community-led initiatives have a great potential to become the seeds of a new, sustainable human culture. By experimenting with ideas, understanding interconnectedness, developing alternative solutions and sharing experience with other communities they support the creation of new sustainable systems and models, which can be spread and applied by other initiatives. As these new models have a circular and holistic approach, extending to several areas of life, they have a multilevel effect and ecological impact.

Social impacts

Our desired social impact on local-regional scale is the increasing number of local ecological communities, and a higher level of inclusion of expats into local communities and projects. Several foreigners who live in Barcelona are interested in the transition movement but they don't know where to find information (which is often provided only in Spanish or Catalan), communities or partners for initiatives. We want to support every citizen to engage in local collaborations, therefore we also aim at connecting expats with the local community and provide them entry-points to existing initiatives.

On a national and global scale, we aim at involving as many citizens in the transition movement as possible and contribute locally to the global joint action which is being taken in order to overcome the ecological crisis.

Economic impacts

Impacts on job market (future business plan)

Impacts on the local economy (connecting offers and needs)

References