Youth Exchange in ZEGG, 2018

The seventh youth exchange of the international project “Yes to sustainability” took place this time under the name “Youth on Earth: Yes we (c)are” in ZEGG. Thirty young people from France, Slovenia, Spain and Germany met from 25 August to 3 September at the ZEGG Ecovillage in Bad Belzig.

The aim of the project is to enable young people in Europe to learn about alternative and sustainable lifestyles and to establish contacts with like-minded people. Therefore, these meetings are organised in different eco-villages in Europe. They are funded by the European Union’s Eramus Plus Programme.

The ZEGG meeting focused on social sustainability. On this occasion, one of the focal points was “Contact”.

How can I be in touch with myself, my needs and my feelings?

How do I put them in contact with others and learn to shape my living environment together with others (contact with the world)?

In the morning, the young people gathered to start the day together: dancing, singing, with a “weather report” or with short warm-up massages. The mornings were spent with the Community. The group helped with permaculture, gardening, landscaping, cooking and grounds maintenance.

In the afternoons, themes and issues of social sustainability were discussed: examples were deep ecology exercises, the ZEGG Forum, work with feelings, non-violent communication or experiences with nature. One day was organized by the participants themselves. The afternoons were spent with contact improvisation, music sessions, sauna or simply in the village pub.  In the end, there were many other ideas for networking across Europe. As a summary of this meeting, many felt inspired to live a more sustainable life and praised the fullness that such a community life can offer.

 Colibri Article:
The Ecovillage of ZEGG (Zentrum für experimentelle Gesellschaftsgestaltung or Experimental Social Design Centre) is located 80 km southwest of Berlin. Founded in 1991 on a 15-hectare site, it is home to an intentional community of about 110 people. Since its creation, the community has been exploring innovative approaches related to deep ecology, and developing original tools for self-expression and confidence building…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Among them, the FORUM.

ZEGG’s eco-village develops and experiments with socially and ecologically sustainable lifestyles. For its inhabitants, this means personal development work, the establishment of a supportive and cooperative living environment, as well as participation in collective decisions. It also means that the site is equipped with phyto-purification, a CO2-neutral heating system, a large organic garden that allows the community and the reception kitchen to be 50% self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables all year round, buildings built in straw clay, a meditation room, a children’s house, artists’ workshops, seminar rooms?

ZEGG and young people

A “Youth Exchange” was held at ZEGG from 25 August to 3 September 2018. This “youth exchange” was the seventh organized by the international project Yes to Sustainability. Thirty young people between the ages of 18 and 30 from France, Slovenia, Spain and Germany participated.

The aim of the international Yes to Sustainability project is to promote alternative and ecological lifestyles among young people by giving them the opportunity to experience life in European eco-villages. These meetings are funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. They allow young people to go out at any price to network on a European scale.

This exchange at ZEGG provided an opportunity for in-depth reflection on the issue of social sustainability. How can I be connected to my needs and feelings? How can I connect with my environment? And finally, how can I make my life more coherent by listening to what I feel? To answer these questions, the days proposed several activities:

a collective awakening, with songs, dances, sharing the indoor climate or short warm-up massages;

community work time (in the garden, in landscaping and permaculture, in the kitchen or in the maintenance of the land);

afternoons dedicated to the issue of social sustainability: deep ecology exercises*, the discovery of the ZEGG Forum, the expression of feelings, non-violent communication or exercises in the forest;

moments of sharing to anchor reflections, learning and questioning.

An original facilitation tool: the Forum

ZEGG’s raison d’être is to create a new common culture, in line with fundamental human needs: to be connected, to experience one’s own emotions, to feel safe, to feel safe, to love… Among the tools developed within ZEGG to establish this culture of life is the “Forum”. This tool strengthens the cohesion of the group by offering spaces for emotional transparency that create trust between people and contribute significantly to conflict prevention.

The forum invites participants to sit in a circle. Within a framework of trust and security, individuals can then explore personal issues and receive feedback from other participants. To this end, everyone can stand in the centre of the circle and be accompanied in his or her speech by the facilitator.

“When I enter the circle, I show the part of myself with which I identify (called the public area). As I move through the process, accompanied by facilitation, I reveal my hidden area, that part of myself that I am the only one aware of and usually dare not show. When I receive feedback mirrors, I realize my blind zone, which I don’t know about my personality but which is perceived by others. This process has the consequence of revealing the unknown personal and collective zone, expanding the limits of the personality and culture of the group, increasing the capacity to be with internal and external diversity”.


Planning 2019

2019 is starting and we are happy to share that many Youth Exchanges and Trainings and being planned. During our last Networking meeting at Sieben Linden in December 29 young people met for 4 days to plan and create Youth Exchange for 2019.


We had a nourishing and inspiring week dreaming and collaborating together to create great projects for 2019. Please find below our plans and crossed your fingers for our projects to be approved.

2019 Programme


  • From I to We Angsbacka, Sweden: 1st – 10th of May 2019- UK, SPAIN, FINLAND & SWEDEN.
  • Training: Creation of Youth Exchanges. Sunseed April 2019. Only for people that already participated in a YestoSustainability Youth Exchange.
  • From I to We. Tempo di Vivere Ecovillage”, near Piacenza, Italy, 3-17 June 2019. NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, SPAIN, GREECE AND ITALY
  • Theater and Arts in Sustainability: June 2019, Valdepielagos Ecovillage – Madrid.


  • Youth on earth ZEGG intentional community: 23rd of August- 5th of September 2019. to be confirmed.
  • Iceberg. to be confirmed
  • From I to We. Arterra Bizimodu, August. to be confirmed.
  • Social Entrepernership. to be confirmed
  • Bringing Sustainability to the Balkans. to be confirmed
  • Nature and Movement. to be confirmed
  • Body, Mind and Sustainability. to be confirmed

TRAININGS- Not confirmed

  • Training for Youth Leaders, place to be confirmed. October 2019
  • Training on Brigdedale toolkit for Youth leaders in Ecovillage. to be confirmed.
  • Training for Youth Leaders in Facilitation Skills. Zavod Veles. October 2019. Only for people who have already participated in a Youth Exchange. to be confirmed

Training for Youth Leaders in Ecovillages

In the middle of october on a forested mountainside in Euskal Herria, in the spanish state, a group of young people met. They came together in the ecovillage Lakabe to follow a training to become Youth Leaders for EU funded Erasmus+ Youth Exchanges. This training was part of the Yes to Sustainability project, which is an international programme that aims to share knowledge amongst and bring together young people at ecovillages around Europe.

In this training the main goal was to explore how we can step in at the role of Youth Leader (YL) through different activities like inner exploration and group dynamics. We arrived on the 16th of October and climbed uphill to find the village, we settled down for a bit, finding a cozy room for sleeping in a big house named Xuscal. Then we did a mini tour of the village, to know where the toilets are, the showers etc. Some of us arrived late and had to seek in the dark to find the ‘kakaleku’ (compost toilets)! Fortunately we had a warm welcome and dinner waiting for us when we were all there. After the late dinner some chose to stay up for some time to catch up with friends from previous YE’s and then it was time to sleep because all of us were tired of our journeys across Europe.

On our first day we got to know each other and created a safe space by expressing our personal needs and group needs, building the base for a group culture. It was also important for us to define our learning goals for ourselves so we can see our own progress.

We got an introduction to the content and our daily flow was depicted as in the pattern on the picture. It was strict but of course there was space so we could manage the time to fit the group needs.

“Trust the process!”


To get some more insight in how a YE functions through Yes to Sustainability (YTS) we got information about YTS, the Erasmus+ framework and about the work of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) that supports every day ecovillages and intentional communities world wide. Furthermore we had inputs about facilitation and graphic facilitation and the differences between formal and non-formal learning.


Since a big part of living in an ecovillage or intentional community is community living it was important to for us to get to know the people and the place that was hosting us. Therefore we took part in a chores- rota- where we all did our part to help the community with tasks like cleaning the compost toilets, cleaning the showers or helping out in the dining room. We also did a tour of Lakabe with some of the locals where they showed us around and told us about the history of Lakabe and how everyday life is within the community.

To assist in the training we also organised ourselves into six working groups: Singing birds (communication team), Kolibris (beauty team), Colibris (caring for the group team), Viva la fiesta (celebration team), Kikiriki! (callers and gatherers) and taking notes team. As an example the beauty team was responsible for beautifying the space, keeping it clean and doing things like bringing flowers etc.

Because birds of a feather fly together.”

A good training experience we had was hosting our own sessions. We divided into groups by shared interest and then had half a day to prepare our session. We had 75 minutes to facilitate the content and do activities with the group. This experience was really helpful for us because it was the realisation of the theory about facilitation.

“Stop thinking. Listen”

But we did more, because as a YL your task is to not only help guide the participants and guide the flow of the group but also to work together with the other YL’s in designing and creating the programme for the YE. To assist us in doing so we went through the theoretical design process and then did another practise in actually creating a YE by dividing up into groups once more and taking up a possible YE project for the future.

Since almost all of the trainees have experience with participating in at least one or more YE’s we had a strong base to help us design our own. After choosing which possible project to participate in we went out in groups of about 4 people to brainstorm and come up with a programme. Some of the things we had to think about:

–         What is the main theme in your YE?

–         How will you organise yourselves as YL’s?

–         How are food, accommodation and transport arranged?

–         How long will the YE last?

–         Will you bring in external experts?

–         How much theory vs practical work?

–         Etc.

We had an afternoon, evening and early morning to finish up our work after which we had to present our progress to the rest of the group. Some really great work had been done by that time which lead to interesting ideas and presentations. It is great to see what can be done when willing, empowered and like minded people come together to create something and I’m certain some of the projects will actually come to reality the coming year.

“To get out from your comfort zone is a way to feel very uncomfortable.”

Something that also has to be held into account is the emotional process a participant can go through during a YE and how you can create a safe space within the group to help guide this process. This is very important since the YE’s organised by YTS want to help create a more sustainable world by connecting and empowering young adults. This is not only done by sharing knowledge or doing hands on work on ecology or arts and crafts but also by learning on how people interact and live together. For some people interacting in such a way with others can be very much out of their comfort zone, for others it can make them see the world or themselves in a new light and they have to find a way to incorporate the newly learned into their lives. By offering a safe space to experience and share with the group and through tools like sharing circles, checkouts, meditation, games and offering structure through the day by having a clear schedule and plenty of breaks you can help guide people in this process and give them some space to breathe.

All in all the training was a great journey and I’m glad we were able to participate in it. We learned a lot, came up with new insights, made new friends and we now feel confident enough to share our knowledge with the world as YL’s. Thank you Clara, Lara and Ena for being our hosts and thanks to all of the future YL’s for making it such an awesome group.

“Be brave-Take risks-Go for the problem- Don’t postpone- There are no shortcuts- Find your rhythm.”

A Youth Exchange of Wilderness and Spirit

Finding our path in the Tyrolean Alps – a youth exchange of wilderness and spirit

Can we learn to navigate our lives and find our hidden strengths, when connecting with nature in a very special setting? In July 2018, seven young people travelled from Finland to a remote valley in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria to find answers to this, and other, questions. SKEY ry (GEN Finland) co-organised this youth exchange between Finland, Germany, Austria and Spain. It was hosted by the wilderness and survival school Native Spirit and supported by the Erasmus+ programme.

Native Spirit school building stands in a lush alpine valley overlooked by sheer cliffs. As you wake up in one of the wooden teepees, you can hear the magnificent Inn river, “grandmother Inn”, coursing by. The courses are largely based on native, indigenous and aboriginal skills and world view. Participants learn how to navigate, find food and shelter in the wild nature. Connecting with nature furthermore helps people in getting in touch with their inner self and spirituality, whichever culture or religion they arrive from.

During ten days we practised both practical wilderness and survival skills as well as meditative nature connection methods, which supported us to gain confidence and clarify our vision in life. The practical and the spiritual were oftentimes weaved together. For instance, one morning we would make fire without using modern tools, a deep experience as such. In the afternoon we would talk about fire in a symbolic sense, what it means to nourish “the fire in ourselves”. We learned how to use an ancient tool called the Medicine wheel, a concept originating from various Native American cultures. It a tool used to recognize when something is out of balance and to work on our inner peace. During the week, each of us meditated daily in one self-chosen spot in nature.


Tuomas Lilleberg (28), teacher from Helsinki, discovered a new awareness of his life situation. “Using the medicine wheel from Native Americans, I learned how to figure out my dreams more clearly and ways to get there. This realisation has brought awareness to various challenges I currently have in my life… teaching me how to grow. The exchange helped me visualise forthcoming challenges and see how to overcome them. In our imagination, we are free!”


Annemari Salminen (25), occupational therapist from Turku, found that the exchange gave her a place to rethink her connection to nature. “One memorable moment for me was the sweat lodge ceremony. Going together into this underground lodge, singing in the dark and making wishes for peace together felt really good. Afterwards, going out and seeing the beautiful night sky full of stars, listening to the river and smelling the earth connected me to the moment in a special way. All my senses were open and mind quiet, I could truly enjoy the moment.”

The “Life and Nature Youth Camp” was the seventh international exchange in the “Yes to Sustainability” programme, coordinated by NEXT-GEN Europe, the youth branch of the Global Ecovillage movement. Read more:

Native Spirit:

Youth Exchange at Native Spirit Camp

“Life, Empowerment and Youth. From Nature to Local Actions”.

Yes to sustainability.

ERASMUS+ YOUTH EXCHANGE at  Native Spirit Camp, Tyrol, Austria.

“Life and Nature Youth Camp” was the seventh project of “Yes to Sustainability” international project from NEXT-GEN Europe that aims to bring together young people from different regions of Europe by organizing Youth Exchanges in different ecovillages and rural projects, funded by Erasmus+ and supported by GEN-Eu ( Global Ecovillage Network). Participants from RIE ( Spain), Germany ( Ecobasa), Finland ( SKEY) and Sunspirit ( Austria) join for 10 days to learn together about wilderness education and indigineous worldviews.

The aim of this Youth Exchange was to support people in: remembering people to their own vision, helping them to strengthen their trust in themselves, encouraging people to follow their heart, their intuition, their wisdom and their spiritual self, helping to rekindle the connection to nature, teaching knowledge and skills that help everybody to fully use their own potential.

Activities included  the wisdom of the wilderness, the ancient knowledge of indigenous people, the millenniums-old techniques of survival: making fire, making a shelter in the woods…the direct contact to nature and it’s powers, the medicine wheel as a map, the universal, shamanic knowledge, cleaning and earth-connecting ceremonies.

Wilderness and Survival: This exchange was for people who want to learn more about living and surviving in nature. By learning the basic techniques of survival, we gain confidence and security in situations where we are confronted with nature and all forms of life. We experience that nature is our home and provides us with everything we need to survive. No fight for survival, but a gentle introduction into new dimensions of experiencing nature and yourself.

Medicine Wheel: With the principals of the holy directions the medicine wheel gives us a tool to find our middle and keep ourselves and our surroundings in balance. It contains the millennium old knowledge of indigenous people. On the one side it can give us support, orientation and answers to personal questions about life; on the other side it strengthens us in a really practical way: by working with the medicine wheel we can find new qualities in ourselves and gain trust in our own power.