Seasons of Village Hosts

Simona Mancusi

April 21, 2023

#rural visions #community building #scaling up

Text: Dominika Majewska & Simona Mancusi

Through a journey across Europe - one of the many places worldwide where the Village Host phenomenon is emerging from the rural ruins - we wish to share the tales of those who bring out the rural potential. These tales see their protagonists planting seeds in forgotten places and decaying communities, nurturing and expanding beyond what was before, and sharing the harvest with those who call those places their homes. We follow their journeys through different maturity seasons, seeking to understand their needs and allowing ourselves to get touched by their beautiful visions for thriving rural areas. 

Photo by Sikes Photos on Unsplash

Tale 1: Sowing 

The first tale brings us to eastern Europe, to pine-coated mountains. It starts with the melting snow and a visit that changes the trajectory of an abandoned rural farm. Andrew, our village host, fell in love with the farm, the peaceful surroundings, and the welcoming community when visiting his friends. Shortly after, he committed to giving the farm a new future. Building on his past experiences as a researcher and artist, he wishes to repurpose the property and create a valuable resource for the village. The vision for the place weaves the threads of culture, art, and tourism. The sowing stage is full of passion, hope, and possibility, but as with any idea, it needs fertile soil too. The Open School for Village Hosts training is one of the opportunities for creating fertile soil as the environment will allow learning from experienced rural pioneers and experts in the area and put theory into practice in the pilot phase. 

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Tale 2: Nourishing 

Traveling to Northern Europe, we witness windy coasts and green moss contrasting with dry grasses. Our host Christian lives in an intentional community inspired by the blooming eco-village movement. Born in the area, he sought to use his regenerative farming skills and give back to the region he felt so strongly connected to. As the 6th summer of the village approaches, Christian's garden is blooming as much as the community that grew around the project. What helps them thrive is the shared vision to live in harmony with the land while realizing their many passions. They have a community space where they host diverse activities, from yoga, and community dinners, to permaculture courses. As the community matures, they wish to scale its existing initiatives and increase economic sustainability. The vision is to create an ecosystem where more and more inhabitants can work part-time for the village as the community becomes increasingly self-sufficient. By participating in the Open School for Village Hosts program, they hope to discover a new framework for involving the broader community and get inspired by alternative business models. 

Photo by Andrea Cairone on Unsplash

Tale 3: Harvesting 

The last tale unfolds in a small southern Italian village, at the top of a rocky hill overlooking lush landscapes. Over the years, our third Village Host, Tiziana, co-initiated various cultural and architectural projects by weaving the area's valuable local resources, culture, cuisine, and crafts with fresh perspectives and new international opportunities. She built a close-knit group of community members and visiting artists, designers, and scientists who nurtured the village and surrounding landscape while experimenting and learning regenerative practices. Now that the social and economic fabric of the place is sound, Tiziana is looking for ways to make the community more self-leading so that she can focus on spreading the impact to the entire regional ecosystem. To broaden her focus, she hopes to gain more knowledge in systems change and resilience. 

Each Village Host tale hides a unique potential intrinsic to the place in which it unfolds, the unique story of the village host, and the stages that their projects are in. Nevertheless, some shared characteristics can be identified across time, people, and distant regions. The village host is someone who is the glue that brings the community together through generous facilitation; they all find new ways to rethink how to apply their knowledge and skills, feel strongly connected to the place, value its natural surroundings, connect the narrower community to the broader international network, and turn ideas into reality. 

More about Open School for Village Hosts program you can find here >

Main image by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash.