The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability
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You may wish to have a look at this. I think that we could can both learn from and possibly with them. - http://www.feasta.org/about.htm Any thoughts on this? Eric Britton
Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmaid?
Tá deireadh na gcoilte ar lár.
What will we do in the future without wood?
The end of the forests is come.
The word feasta (pronounced fasta) is taken from an old Irish poem that laments the decimation of the forests. It means 'in the future' and Feasta sees itself as a collective thinking process about that future.
The organisation was launched in Dublin in October 1998 to explore the economic, cultural and environmental characteristics of a truly sustainable society - and to disseminate the results of this exploration to the widest relevant audience.
The position Feasta has adopted is that many of the world's problems are caused not by bad people but by dysfunctional systems and it sees its purpose as designing better systems. For example, the economic system demands continual growth if it is not to collapse into a catastrophic depression, and this leaves politicians with little alternative but to pursue short-term economic growth more-or-less regardless of the damage that that pursuit might be doing to longer-term environmental and social sustainability.
Feasta has spent a lot of time examining the reasons for this growth compulsion to see if an economic system can be devised without it. Feasta has also looked at money systems, taxation systems, rationing systems, land tenure systems and democratic systems and come up with ideas for these.
Our definition of sustainability is that a society is sustainable if it can expect to survive for several hundreds of years without being forced to change because it is currently destroying or undermining something on which its survival crucially depends. That is not to say that such a society would not change, just that it does not expect to have to do so as a result of its own activities. Indeed, to be sustainable, a society has to be able to change because the environment in which the society finds itself might change itself and the society needs to be able to adjust to that. Beyond this, Feasta has no dogma. We have no party line. We welcome differences of opinion among our members because diversity is crucial if our thinking is to evolve.
While most of Feasta's members live in Ireland, people from other countries have joined because they have found that its form of "hard sustainability" is not being discussed in any depth in their own circles. This has turned the organisation into an international network with an Irish office and efforts are currently being made to reflect this more in the way we are structured and in our activities. We are trying to change Feasta from being a place-based body to one which is of equal value to its members wherever they happen to live in the world.
Our thinking is normally carried out through working groups which form to explore a topic. Often a project, such as organising a conference, brings a group together. Some groups start, run for a year or so and then go dormant when their goal has been achieved. Others are active for longer although they will go through phases, as their members' interests and circumstances change. In our earlier years, these groups tended to meet in person, usually once a month, but increasingly the discussions are carried out by e-mail, with groups developing their own e-lists.
Feasta consciously designed itself to be non-hierarchical and have a flat system of governance, with the minimum passing through the office. Almost every activity has started because someone was enthusiastic about a particular topic and was prepared to work on a project unpaid, at least until funding could be found. Feasta's role, and thus that of the Executive Committee and the office, is to enable these people, or groups of people, to do things which they would find it harder to accomplish on their own. Part of this role entails putting them in touch with people with similar interests who might like to get involved.
The board of directors is elected by the members at the AGM. Apart from their duties under company law, the directors' role is to keep an eye on the general working of the organisation to make sure that it stays true to its aims and works in the interests of its members. Directors cannot be paid under Irish charity law. The day to day running of Feasta is undertaken by the Executive who are appointed by the Directors. People are invited to join the executive because of their interests and experience. Anyone leading a major project will be on the Executive for at least the period that the project is being carried on and another member of the Executive will be asked to keep a close eye on the project on behalf of the rest of the Executive, so that two opinions about it are presented to the committee. The Executive meets every month except August and December for about 2.5 hours, although its members will be in touch with each other by e-mail and phone much more frequently. It works by consensus and has never taken a vote. Of course if there are problems the Directors can step in and remove an executive member or arbitrate on a dispute. This power has never been needed to date.
Meetings of the Executive are not primarily designed to explore ideas or for strategic thinking about the role Feasta is playing and should play. A significant part of this is done instead each summer in Co. Kerry, where John Jopling, one of the co-founders, has a seaside cottage. He invites around 18 people, some active in Feasta, others not, to come to stay for five days. At least half would be from outside Ireland. The open space technique is used to decide what is to be discussed and there are usually two or three discussions going on at the same time. These stays have played a crucial role in developing our thinking in key areas, particularly on systems thinking, democratic techniques and climate change. A more focussed whole-day meeting is held each January to plan the activities for the year.
Most detailed ideas are developed in the working groups and these get conveyed to other members and the public through events, publications, our printed and electronic newsletters and the general Feasta e-list. A once-a-month evening discussion group began meeting in Dublin in Autumn 2006 and our intention is to encourage similar groups to set up elsewhere as, whatever the internet can do, face-to-face meetings are still very important.
The following are the directors of Feasta:
Retired public servant
John Jopling (chair)
Economist and Writer
Architect and Valuer
Deirdre de Burca
Feasta is nothing without its members. Their commitment and energy has achieved a lot with with very little money. While we would like the membership to grow, enabling existing members to deepen their thinking and achieve more is our first priority; quality is more important than quantity. The Executive Committee is working to ensure that, even if members never attend a Feasta meeting in person, they will still be able to participate in meetings using Skype or speaker telephones. The annual planning meeting held in January 2006 and a meeting of the Energy and Climate group the previous day used both techniques. There are two levels of Feasta membership: full membership, which is paying, and associate membership, which is free. A password-protected area of the website has been developed to enable full members to contact others with similar interests or living in the same part of the world. Associate members can participate in many, although not all, of the online forums. You can register for associate membership here, and apply for full membership here.
Feasta currently has around 300 full members. Subscriptions are kept low so as not to exclude the less well off. The normal rate is €20 and the concession rate is €10. We encourage members who can afford it to make regular monthly donations by bankers standing order and we hope that this will become an increasing source of funding. You can find out more about Feasta membership on our membership page.
Non-members can subscribe to our free E Bulletin. Currently there are over 1400 subscribers to this.
You can read about Feasta's activities in more detail, and find out how to join in, from the links on the left-hand menu of this website. You can download many of Feasta's publications for free, including online books, briefing papers, government submissions, and multimedia material. You can also read about the research and education projects that Feasta is currently involved in, and participate in our online discussion forums.
The Anne Behan Community Sustainability Award was first given in 2005 in memory of a member who died in 2004. It is given every second year. The award goes to the community in Ireland which, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has done the most during the previous few years to build its economic self-reliance to strengthen itself socially and culturally and to protect and enhance its natural environment. The first award went to the Truagh Development Association. The winning group gets a trophy. It and two runners up are offered assistance by Feasta volunteers. You can read more about the award here.
Feasta is changing as an organisation. In some areas of our work, we feel that we now know in broad outline the systemic changes that need to be made if the world is to become more sustainable. As a result, the emphasis for the groups working in those areas is shifting from analysing the problems and devising solutions to attempting to put their ideas before the public and get them considered by those with the power to implement them.
Getting our ideas out is therefore becoming an increasingly important part of our core function. We want to be able to publish our ideas in different forms for different types of people. This will mean using several types of media. We have therefore expanded our website to incorporate far more multimedia material, including videos of Feasta presentations, such as those from the food conference in 2005. We wish to make the website as participatory as possible, and so have introduced a variety of discussion forums, a full members' area and a wiki. Comments and suggestions about improvements that could be made to the website are very welcome.
Feasta is gradually becoming more influential, partly due to a growing public realisation that radical changes are needed if the crises facing humanity are to be overcome, partly to the record we have established over the years and partly to the contacts we have built up. Two members of the Executive serve on the 20-person council of Comhar, the Irish Government's National Sustainability Partnership and on monitoring committees overseeing the National Development Plan. Two executive members have been invited to contribute to a newly founded Irish think tank for rural issues, Tuaithe. A Feasta member is also a Director of the EENGO, the network body of Irish ecological environmental NGOs, which has been tasked with channeling state support (very limited) to the sector. Following a Feasta initiative, the EENGO has started the process to get full social partnership status for the environmental / sustainability sector. We have also inspired the founding of similar organisations, one in the Czech Republic, the other in South Africa. The only two groups meeting regularly in Sweden to discuss the effects of oil and gas depletion were set up by Feasta members, both of whom have joined in the discussions in Kerry.