Living Heritage Sustainable Community
Returning land from private to communal ownership under a secure and permanent legal structure, supported by training and guidance to develop holistically sustainable communities.
How do you rate this example?
- What’s the solution?
- What makes it smart?
- How is the solution implemented?
- In what local context has it been applied?
- Who was behind the implementation?
- What was the local journey?
- What have been the main outputs & results?
- What does it bring the village/community?
- What’s needed
- What to do…
- and not to do.
Where and when
Region or village : Tärkkilä
Country : Finland
Population : 3
Date : 2016 – Ongoing
Find out more
Contact person : Selma Kilpi
E-mail : email@example.com
Last updated : 11/03/21
What’s the solution?
This solution involves the creation of a permanent legal structure to take communal ownership of land in order to secure it for the creation and use of sustainable communities.
A key feature of the solution is that ownership of the land is held by a Foundation or other legal structure that is required to ensure it remains in use for a sustainable community in perpetuity. This secures communal ownership of the land for future generations, ensuring that it does not fall back into private ownership due to the departure or death of individuals within the community (for example, people inheriting part ownership who are less committed to the idea of maintaining a sustainable community). Rather than land or property, what children inherit from their parents is the right to live within the sustainable community and to carry on their work serving healthy soil, air and water and enjoying the fruits of this service.
The living heritage sustainable community approach can be used to create Ecovillages or other forms of local sustainable community based on the commons approach.
Alongside the ownership structure of the land, the integrated solution typically involves the provision of guidance and training for supporting people to make the transition to life in a sustainable community.
What makes it smart?
Living Heritage Sustainable Communities are a smart solution in that they provide a secure long-term model of socially and environmentally sustainable living - connecting rural land with people who are willing and skilled enough to live sustainable and self-sufficient lives, but who may not have money to invest in their own land.
Based on the concept of ‘living heritage’, they overcome the challenges that many sustainable communities face due to conflicts that arise as a result of the ownership structure – particularly where residents in the sustainable community are divided between owners and non-owners of the land. Ultimately, such ownership structures tend towards situations in which owners have power over non-owners and/or in which ownership passes to less committed individuals – through inheritance or sale. This undermines the very principles of community building and can jeopardise the long-term future of the sustainable community itself.
By securing the permanence of the sustainable community and by taking the land out of the traditional money economy, living heritage sustainable communities provide:
A socially smart approach:
• based on genuine equality of all residents within the sustainable community;
• providing a secure base for community building and conflict resolution;
• enabling the community to plan initiatives based on principles of social justice rather than a profit motive;
• enabling the community to plan and deliver a long-term vision with confidence; and
• ensuring individuals who no longer wish to live within the sustainable community can leave without causing significant disruption to the community project.
An environmentally smart approach:
• allowing self-sufficient and regenerative lives and lifestyles with the sustainable community relying on the immediate natural surroundings, rather than overexploitation of natural resources (permaculture);
• allowing practices to be developed within the community based on principles of environmental sustainability rather than a profit motive; and
• supporting local biodiversity through active land management using environmentally friendly practices.
An economically smart approach:
• enabling people who lack the financial resources to buy and manage their own land to devote their lives to a sustainable way of living.
How is the solution implemented?
- Implementation of the smart solution requires the following actions:
- Identifying suitable land providing the conditions for the self-sufficient lifestyle of a small sustainable community based on ecological and communal living;
- Creating an appropriate legal structure – such as a Foundation – to manage the legalities connected to communal land ownership for the purposes of a sustainable community;
- Encouraging people to donate or pass on land to the legal structure for the purpose of creating a permanent sustainable community;
- Attracting and vetting interested residents who are truly committed to the principles of a self-sufficient life within a sustainable community based on principles of democratic decision-making;
- Developing guidance and providing training to individuals as they make the transition to life within a sustainable community.
In what local context has it been applied?
Tärkkilä is a relatively new sustainable community based on 10 hectares of farmland by the Sovijärvi lake in southern Finland between Tampere and Jyväskylä – and next to the village of Haavisto with a population of a couple of hundred people.
The land was donated to start the Ikikaiku Foundation which manages the living heritage sustainable community in Tärkkilä. It contains a protected courtyard, a permaculture forest garden area and lake side forest where flying squirrels are nesting. Four hectares by the lake will be officially protected.
Who was behind the implementation?
The creation of the Living Heritage Sustainable Community in Tärkkilä depended almost entirely on one motivated individual, the local initiator, Selma Kilpi.
What was the local journey?
Selma Kilpi bought the 10 ha Tärkkilä farm estate in 2016 with the idea of starting a living heritage sustainable community.
Since then a flow of volunteers has been hosted there, which has provided the volunteer labour to start sustainable local initiatives of agricultural production and construction work. In parallel, the community became a Learning And Network Demonstration ‘learner community’ (LAND-learner) as recognised by the Permaculture Association – which involves developing into an excellent public demonstration of permaculture design in practice.
This has provided Tärkkilä with a very good learning journey in terms of social sustainability. Now there is a small community laboratory inspiring a handbook of holistic sustainability and a newly developed permaculture plan based on the principles of regenerative agriculture and community resilience.
In parallel, Selma Kilpi undertook the steps to create the ‘Ikikaiku Foundation’ to manage ownership of the land. She was able to engage 14 motivated founders from different parts of Finland who donated a total of 2110 EUR to start the Foundation. The Ikikaiku Foundation was officially registered on 13 October 2020 and Ms Kilpi immediately donated the 10 ha of land she purchased to it.
The model defined by the Foundation is that the land is owned by the Foundation. Continuity is taken into consideration by first granting the children of community residents the right to continue their parents work, once their parents pass on.
Another aspect of the model is that old farmers can remain living in their homes on land that is taken into communal ownership. In this case, community members agree to take care of both the land and the person, providing for their physical and social wellbeing. This arrangement also allows for the transfer of knowledge from current older farmers to the community in a natural way.
It is still early days in the development of the Tärkkilä living heritage sustainable community and an important challenge is to pass the message about the opportunities of Ikikaiku communities. But the tradition of communal use of land in our “every man’s right” legislation still exists in Finland, so there are reasons to be hopeful. Already there are two more people living full time in the community, in addition to the ongoing flow of volunteers.
By the end of the year 2020 the community’s permaculture plan will be published and it will open application procedure to find more community members to take care of all the ten individual sites with building possibilities for community housing. It is planned to build new buildings for housing as well as communal buildings like a sauna by the lake – funding will be sought for such work.
We would also like to hire permanent staff. All work to date has been done by volunteers.
In addition, the Ikikaiku Foundation is already working with schools and neighbouring local people and has the ambition to support additional ‘Ikikaiku communities’ in other appropriate locations in Finland. The plan is to use the permaculture plan as a model and discussion opening for Ikikaiku guidance for similar sustainable communities. There is now an active group of about 10-20 people from all around the country working for the Foundation and looking for potential land donors in other locations.
The Foundation is supported by a growing network of volunteers who, whilst not resident in a living heritage sustainable community themselves, are motivated to contribute their skills and knowledge to the creation of such communities and to training others in the skills and practices of sustainable living.
What have been the main outputs & results?
- The process has already generated a well-planned start for the Tärkkilä living heritage sustainable community, offering an important channel for like-minded people to connect and work together for this fundamental purpose of returning land to commons to be taken care of. Tärkkilä is a LAND-learner heading to becoming a recognized permaculture training centre open to everyone.
- The Tärkkilä community already has three members and expects to start accepting more from 2021.
- On adjacent land, there is another 10 ha where the Tärkkilä Rune Village is starting to take shape: a sociocraticly governed community of teachers of sustainability skills with a proposed site for the building of village saunas by the lake.
- The Ikikaiku Foundation has already received a lot of positive feedback about the possibility of receiving donated land and finding skilled and responsible community members to take care of it in other locations of Finland.
What does it bring the village/community?
- A permanent and secure sustainable community ownership structure in Tärkkilä expects to provide real opportunities for people who lack the financial resources to move to rural areas and undertake socially and environmentally sustainable ways of living.
- Not only will this provide individual opportunities for people to pursue their personal lifestyle dreams, but will provide for ecological sound land management approaches in harmony with nature and biodiversity.
- In summary, the sustainable community expects to:
- research and promote ecologically, economically, socially and culturally sustainable ways of life;
- strengthen the vitality of the countryside by populating estates and reviving small-scale farming;
- foster local cultures and traditional methods of building and landscape management;
- support sustainable transport, living, artisanship and technology.
- The initiative also hopes to inspire other Ikikaiku communities – including in larger population centres - and promoted permaculture and more sustainable ways of living more generally. The activities of Ikikaiku Foundation are open to anyone interested in a sustainable way of life.
Main types of cost:
Set up, administrative and legal costs of the Foundation (for example taxes for landowner)
Otherwise the model is predominantly based on volunteer contributions in the form of both land donation and volunteer time of individuals committed to supporting sustainable lifestyles.
Future renovation of buildings and the paying of support staff may also require additional funds at some point, but this is not a pre-requisite to start delivering the smart solution.
Set-up costs: € 2100
|Money donated by founders||2,110 €||Registration of the Foundation|
Volunteers to develop and teach sustainable living models
Volunteers to undertake administrative and promotional tasks .
In future years we hope to be able to hire paid staff.
The primary need is for land – which needs to be donated.
Beyond that, the community can explore ways to make use of all and any existing building and other infrastructure.
What to do…
- Take the time to understand the national legal context and the most appropriate legal structure to manage communal ownership of the land.
- Create the community structure first and start to develop the sustainability plans with volunteers and experts. Find the permanent community members later.
- Co-operate with similar entities who already have experience in the area. In Finland the Natural Heritage Foundation is one example.
- Understand that a single person moving to a rural area cannot become self-sufficient overnight. Building sustainable communities is a long, joint learning journey.
and not to do
- Good things take time so do not rush. Mistakes (such as typos in the rules of the Foundation) are sometimes hard to fix or adjust later.