Editor’s Note: Not too long ago we shared on our blog a “State of the Village, 2016” piece from Thomas, who serves the village on the Oversight Team. Now we offer a similar retrospective from the Executive Director of Dancing Rabbit’s non-profit branch. Enjoy!
First things first: Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture (CSCC) at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage wants to express our deepest gratitude to everyone who supported our work in 2016. You helped us exceed our fundraising goal for the year, with a final total of over $32,000! Your contributions allow us to keep developing a more connected, cooperative, and compassionate culture, and continue leading us all toward a more sustainable future through radical hands-on education in our unique ecovillage setting. Thanks again for believing in the possibility of a truly liveable planet, and creating ripples of change with us!
Transition and new beginnings… As 2016 falls away and 2017 begins to embrace us, these words best describe last year here at the Center. This was a year we were glad for our bike helmets, as the bumpy unpaved road of events had us throwing our hands up in the air to celebrate at certain moments, and at other times clenching the handlebars with white knuckles. You can clench and cheer along with us, as I recount some of the defining events of the previous 12 months…
We expanded our capacity this year with two brand new programs: a women-only visitor session, and an Ecovillage Immersion Study Program for urban youth from St. Louis. Both surpassed our expectations for success!
Our first ever women-only visitor session this past June brought 12 women to Dancing Rabbit for two-and-a-half weeks of learning how sustainability can be applied in so many areas: personal, social, environmental, economic, and more. As a feminist ecovillage, Dancing Rabbit promotes women (and all people) being able to define themselves on their own terms, independent of society’s norms and expectations. This group of visiting women formed close connections with one another, and many of them remarked on how safe and free to be themselves they felt. One woman from the group, Dorothy, has since moved to Dancing Rabbit and become one of our newest residents!
The session was such a success that we’ll be offering a women-only visitor session again in 2017. For any of you women out there (or if you know women) who feel called to dive deep into sustainable living in a setting that empowers women to live their truth and their values, come join us September 3-17 for our second annual women-only visitor program!
In 2016, CSCC also offered its first immersion program geared toward urban St. Louis youth. We received two grants that allowed us to offer this program free of charge to student and youth groups who would otherwise not have the chance to see community and sustainability applied as radically as we live it here at Dancing Rabbit. It was hands-on and heart-full: for many of these young people it was their first experience of milking goats, and speaking directly and vulnerably with their peers.
They learned how humanure, solar panels, and food preservation are part of social and environmental justice, and each participant came up with a project they could implement once they returned to their school or community. This shows how even our rural Midwestern ecovillage can be relevant to folks living in other settings.
When people visit Dancing Rabbit, as these students did, they experience the innovative nature of sustainability. Seeing so many examples of how imagination and inspiration combine with available physical resources causes new ideas to bubble forth that are adaptable to any environment, whether you live in a house or an apartment building, on a farm or in a crowded downtown area.
We also said goodbye to two beloved Board members this past year. Lydia Olchoff stepped off the board due to health reasons at the end of July, and her enthusiastic energy and unique business insight are greatly missed. Board member and Dancing Rabbit member Dennis Hoffarth passed away on July 15, from brain cancer.
Dennis set a shining example of service and living one’s values, both in the seven years he lived at Dancing Rabbit, and in his previous hometown of Atlanta, GA, as the founder and head of the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign. He was surrounded by community and loved ones as he passed, and was buried at Dancing Rabbit. The outpouring of song, service, emotion, and community during the time of Dennis’ passing was a testament to a good life lived in community. CSCC and the village of Dancing Rabbit will continue to miss Dennis’ thoughtful perspective, genuine care for his neighbors, enthusiasm for sustainable living, and the excellent puns that inspired many eye-rollings and lightened many meetings.
2016 was also a year of great transition and new beginnings for our staff here at the Center for Sustainable & Cooperative Culture. We welcomed Lucas as our tour guide coordinator, Brent as a new Communications Team member (and resident tech guru), and Vick as our new Correspondent. Brooke stepped into the position of Development Director, and Tereza’s title changed from Communications Coordinator to Communications Director, as we re-organized the chain of collaboration amongst our staff.
One of the biggest staff changes came when Ma’ikwe Ludwig, hired as CSCC’s first ever Executive Director three years ago, decided to pursue new adventures, leaving Dancing Rabbit and moving to Laramie, Wyoming last autumn. We remain so grateful for the clarity of vision and direction she provided to the organization, and wish her the very best in her new endeavors (which include working on a new book, as well as continuing to speak about community, climate change, and the hopeful intersection between the two).
Hired as her replacement was CSCC’s former-Correspondent and Programs Director, yours truly, Danielle Williams. I’ve been in the Executive Director position for four months now, and despite the big shoes Ma’ikwe left for me to fill, I’m excited to guide CSCC to greater prosperity and mission fulfillment as we reach more folks in 2017 with our community-grown brand of education for sustainable and integrated living.
Finally, 2016 was the year we officially changed the nonprofit’s name from Dancing Rabbit, Inc. to The Center for Sustainable & Cooperative Culture. We feel that this name articulates the essence of what we promote and teach, and provides for a clearer distinction between the village of Dancing Rabbit and the nonprofit branch that is the village’s central channel for outreach and education. Our mission and location remain the same, as we continue to spread awareness and amplify the message of living lightly.
In reviewing the last year, I am reminded that every challenge carries seeds of learning and new possibility within it. Awareness and careful tending allow these hidden gifts to sprout and become the dreams of tomorrow that we can choose to live into. Our dream of a vibrant, healthy earth that we can pass on to our children and the next several generations has been enriched and informed by the transitions and new beginnings of 2016. We’ve learned ever more about how to collaborate and come together to honor endings, celebrate new beginnings, and nourish ourselves and each other through it all.
As part of our extended community, we hope you’re on board to keep living lightly and sharing about it, in whatever ways you can in 2017. As we all know, change must come from within, but knowing others are out there making radical changes to live in accord with this beautiful planet certainly helps.
You can stay connected with us and with your own dream for a viable earth this year by watching our webinars, coming for a visitor program or workshop, or celebrating from near or far the very exciting 20th Anniversary of Dancing Rabbit’s founding, in Fall 2017. Whatever you do, know that we are in your corner cheering for all your choices, large and small, towards more sustainable living.
For all of us, may the new beginnings of 2016 lead to strong, resilient sprouts of 2017 that know a little more, and a little better, about collaborating in the name of a sustainable world for all.
Center for Sustainable & Cooperative Culture
at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage