Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd. (SPIL)

Incorporated in 1999, Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd, trading as ‘The Village’ is a registered educational charity run along co-operative principles. The company provides its members with fully serviced sites which have either outline planning permission, or full planning permission for certain buildings. All buildings are built by members in line with the overall Master Plan design, and with our Ecological Charter specifications.

As a community we aim to share out the rights and responsibilities of making this project work successfully. Our evolving decision-making processes are founded on the Consensus Model, with practical structures in place to ensure that we achieve our aims.

Our mission statement is: ‘To serve as an education, enterprise and research service resource for all’

Consensus Decision-Making

The members, staff and directors of the Village use the process of consensus decision making to arrive at decisions. Consensus decision-making works creatively to include all persons making the decision. Instead of simply voting for an item, and having the majority of the group getting their way, the group is committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with.

This ensures that everyone’s opinions, ideas and reservations are taken into account. But consensus is more than just a compromise. It is a process that can result in surprising and creative solutions – often better than the original suggestions.

As an organisation and community that has been using an evolving structure of consensus decision-making for many years, decisions that enjoy popular support are arrived at within a very short time-frame.

Key milestones in the Ecovillage’s history

  • 1999 Formation of Sustainable Projects Ireland. Prospectus launched to attract members
  • 2002 Identification of Cloughjordan as the possible location of the Ecovillage
  • May 2003 First in a series of town hall meetings with residents of Cloughjordan
  • 2003 Ecological Charter completed and agreed by membership
  • 2003-2004 Drafting of the Master Plan and other key documents
  • June 2004 Submission of application for planning
  • 2005 Grant of Outline Planning Permission
  • 2005 Purchase of the 67 acre site
  • 2006 Securing of loan finance for infrastructure works
  • 2007 Commencement of infrastructure works
  • 2007 EU Concerto Grant for Energy Centre
  • 2008 Completion of infrastructure works
  • Spring 2009 Launch of the house build phase
  • Christmas 2009 First residents move in
  • 2010 Fibre optic cabling installed for telecommunicatons and broadband
  • Early 2011 Planting of 17,000 trees in the community woodland
  • May 2011 Eco-hostel opens to public
  • June 2011 Construction begins on Eco-Enterprise Centre
  • July 2012 50 homes built or under construction
  • December 2013 Winner of International Award for Liveable Communities, the Green Oscars, hosted in China
  • 2014 Selected by Milesecure academic project for the European Commission as one of Europe’s 23 most successful ‘anticipatory experiences’ of the transition to a low-energy society

Background

Founder members of the ecovillage first came together in 1999 to incorporate Sustainable Projects Ireland Limited, which trades as The Village.

The Village is a company limited by guarantee but with articles of association ensuring that the group operates in much the same way as a cooperative. A members agreement defines members’ rights and obligations. In addition members subscribe to an ecological charter which sets out guidelines for the design of the development and which will continue to affect all future operations.

Much of the early years was spent developing the structure and ethos of the company and raising finance to buy land for the ecovillage. Capital was raised through the members putting in their own money and through a loan from an ethical bank.

In 2003 members adopted the idea of shared purposes and principles: shared out responsibilities. Since then members have adopted a revolutionary organisational system which gives maximum autonomy to all participants. It represents a shift towards the new paradigm of self-organising adaptive systems instead of command-and-control ways of organising.

In 2005 we purchased land in Cloughjordan and received Outline Planning Permission for a sustainable community of 130 homes and work units. We began infrastructure work in February 2007 and construction of the first homes began in March 2009.

The first residents of the ecovillage moved into their new homes in December 2009.

Organisational Structure

Sustainable Projects Ireland has a commitment to sharing out responsibilities amongst its members, rather than following the more usual ‘chain of command’ approach.

Since 2007, the Village has been working with two internationally renowned VSM experts, Jon Walker and Angela Espinosa, and has adopted the Viable Systems Model as its organisational structure. VSM is a non-hierarchical model that supports organisations in maximising the freedom of its participants, within the practical constraints of the requirement for those organisations to fulfill their purpose. Modelled on the central nervous system, VSM creates an adaptive and resilient organisation that preserves the autonomy of members and working groups within a structure of support and accountability.

VSM is a tool that can be used by organisations in maximising the freedom of their participants to act and respond, whilst maintaining the cohesion required for those organisations to fulfill their purpose effectively. Modelled on natural systems including the central nervous system, VSM aims to create an adaptive and resilient organisation that preserves the autonomy of members and working groups within a coordinated structure of support and accountability.