Work-shopping Co-operate WNC:

A Learning Circle And Participatory Design Series

Session 1: A Forest Economy

Date: March 17

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm


Earthaven Ecovillage

Black Mountain, NC

In this opening session we'll delve into the practical design lessons we can learn from the biological imagery of Co-operate WNC as the "mycorhizae" (symbiotic fungi that support healthy plants) of a regional mutual aid network, acting to carry "nutrients" and information between existing community centers and therefore reduce barriers to success. 


With this ecological pattern in mind, we'll then introduce and game out the dynamics of several co-operative economic tools, including experiential pieces on asset mapping, savings pools, credit unions and timebanking.

We'll aim for you to leave the session understanding how you can get involved in co-operative economics that can lead into deeper levels of mutual aid, both in your neighborhood and also in relation to the regional scale vision of Co-operate WNC. The tools introduced in this session will be a basis for the integrative conversations in the later sessions.

Session 2: Climate Resilience & Regenerative Agriculture

Date: April 21st

Time: 3:00-6:00 pm


Earthaven Ecovillage

Black Mountain, NC

At the core of Co-operate WNC's mission is the need to generate the resources, ecological ingenuity and co-operative attitude that we believe are necessary for our species to survive the unfolding mysteries of climate chaos and other converging ecological crises.   

Climate resilience inherently requires an integrative approach, as made clear for example by Project Drawdown's identification of "education for women and girls" as one of the most effective strategy for sequestering carbon.

As suggested by our diverse ancestral histories of mutual aid, the co-operative management of land at a large scale and inter-generational time frame has been a highly successful pattern for millenia, allowing our ancestors to resiliently respond to social and ecological change. 

So, in this second Learning Circle, we'll bring the big Story as well as the details into focus of how Co-operate WNC can work through a transformational mutual aid approach to enact regional scale Permaculture.  

We'll explore the most important agro-ecological land use strategies, both for carbon sequestration and for adaptive production of yields as the climate (radically) changes. We'll examine the barriers and limiting factors to widescale implementation of these practices, including land access, real estate dynamics, capital access, knowledge distribution, social isolation, government policy, and the broadscale patterns of our region's economy and employment trends.  Then we'll look at these challenges from a design perspective and chart out ways that Co-operate WNC can integrate the addressing of many of these barriers at once through a mutual aid approach.

Finally we'll use group processes to apply these insights both to your own life and local community, and to your participation in the larger project of Co-operate WNC.

Session 3: People Care- Re-Humanizing Our Communities With Mutual Aid

Date: Sunday, May 26th

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm


Earthaven Ecovillage


This Learning Circle session focuses on the deep caring and spirit of creative collaboration for human well-being that is at the heart of mutual aid, and some tools for beginning to make our daily lives better, richer, maybe even a little bit easier.


Whereas the first 2 Learning Circles explored technical details of Co-operate WNC's economic and climate resilience strategies, this Circle is about people: understanding what we need, and how this regional mutual aid initiative can help us to meet those needs.  Basic survival needs, support for living meaningful and joyful lives, access to purposeful work, strategies for self-determination and empowerment in the face of major existential challanges, and a feeling of being part of a beautiful thing that's bigger than ourselves.


We're complex creatures living in a mostly broken society, and of course no one single organization or modality can do everything for us and heal everything at once.


But the vision of Co-operate WNC is proceeding based on the belief that through the ancient cultural pattern of mutual aid, applied through a network of physical multi-functional community centers, we can be part of addressing some major weak links in our modern lives and communities: things like racial equity and cultural inclusion, healthcare access, affordable and high quality childcare and perhaps schooling, co-operative business development and living wage employment, social connection and mental health.

This session will be more participatory than previous sessions, gathering your input on what daily support you would want to receive from being part of Co-operate WNC, what you think you could contribute, what service and functions you think your local hub might provide, and what priorities Co-operate WNC staff and volunteers should be focusing on in the next 3 years.

In addition to Zev Friedman and Courtney Brooke facilitating, Dr. Graeme Potter of Dogwood Health Center (Jackson County, NC) will be presenting to us on research she's done around options for establishing a regional healthcare co-operative which could prove holistic healthcare through mutual aid hub locations.

Session 4: Living Design For Your Community's Needs: A Patterns Language for Mutual Aid

Date: June 16th

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm


Earthaven Ecovillage

This session invites you to begin thinking tangibly about how to grow mutual aid practices and infrastructure in your local community, with its particular needs and conditions.  It would be really good if you can come to both Session 4 and Session 5, as they are designed to work together and lead to action in your life and community.


There are so many possibilities and forms that exist for mutual aid and co-operative economics, so how do we choose the right core model and design features for a regional mutual aid network, or for a local community hub?

In addition, with the challenges we're facing, we think it's really important to get moving and not get paralyzed by a cumbersome design process, so how do we figure out the essential pieces of what we need to do, then get moving on it, even before it's perfect?

In order to sort this all out, we're applying a tool called a "patterns language" to the universe of mutual aid and co-op economics.  The phrase "patterns language" was coined by Christopher Alexander et al in the 1970's to describe a gathered set of the most proven and successful practices from a given arena (in his case, regional and urban planning and built architecture), that are summarized by short phrases which can then be strung together to quickly create design outlines for new projects that are grounded in hundreds of years of accumulated experience.

At this session, we'll be breaking out in public for the first time an evolving mutual aid patterns language we've been working on, and using small group process to explore it, allow each participant to develop their own ideas for mutual aid in their life and community, and create feedback and improvements for the patterns language.

We'll start with a quick overview of the patterns we've identified including their historical context, introduce how to use the system we're creating, then jump into a series of breakout groups to play with it.

Session 5: Grounding It Down:

First steps in creation of Mutual Aid hubs in WNC

Date: July 21st

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm


Earthaven Ecovillage


This session builds on Session 4's comprehensive approach of using a Mutual Aid Patterns Language to design your own mutual aid community hub, and starts to get practical with work-shopping your own first/next steps based in insights from the patterns language process.

We encourage you to bring 2-3 members of your community who you expect to be involved in forming a local hub where you live, so you can work together and share ideas in this context.

We'll then use a variety of group processes to help define exactly what you think needs doing in your community, to create an initial holistic management framework  to manage your work, and to identify priorities, next steps, help you need, so you can get started.

This session is designed to lead naturally into participation in the WNC Mutual Aid Summit Aug. 28-31 (see our events page on this website), where we'll have more time, people, keynote speakers, and facilitated processes to continue deepening the collaborative design of Co-operate WNC and your role within it.