Exploring Full Potentiality – 30th Birthday, Day 20

Posted on November 21, 2017 by

Nébesna Fortin is a member of NextGEN North America among other affiliations, and serves on the Council for the Global Ecovillage Network of North America.

For more 30th blog posts click here. 

I grew up in an ecovillage in Canada called La Cité Écologique. This project was born out of a child’s dream. At the age of seven, Michael asked himself if it would be possible to create a learning environment in Nature. He dreamed of creating a village centered on empowering children to reach their full potential. In his dream, skilled workers, craftsmen and professionals would collaborate synergistically to manifest their shared vision. The village would blossom with opportunity at the confluence of business, innovation, and mindfulness. The soil from which his dream village would grow is respect and the recognition of the divine in all beings… Would this be possible? Did Michael’s dream come true? YES in 1984, he founded the ecovillage La Cité Écologique. This manifested dream became home to over 30 families. I was one of the lucky children born in this visionary adventure!

La Cite Ecologique has helped me reach my full potential by challenging me to take on ambitious projects, while supporting me to succeed. Already at the high school level, my friends and I were invited to engage in meaningful roles in village businesses. Internships and practical hands-on learning classes were given in all domains. We learned to cook locally harvested meals for over a hundred people. We helped balanced the books for an international import business. We sowed and harvested organic food. We sewed clothes out of sustainable fabrics. Of course we didn’t want to grow up too fast, so we organized theater plays, played lots of music, and did various games and activities to connect with arts, Nature and different cultures.  

Being fearless of failure is a skill that can only be learned through experience! I will always remember one of those learning moments: in high school our group was trusted to manage three 5,000 square ft greenhouses. Green houses get hot, really hot. So after enthusiastically planting the vegetables we went back to playing games. Time passed and soon our greenhouse turned into a desert. At our next visit we panicked and unleashed a flood, by letting the windows open during a storm… Another day as we were taking care of the plants we accidentally chopped off all the tomatoes plants’ heads! We had much of those responsibilities through different projects, and not all of them could be qualified as ‘‘successful’’, but we weren’t scolded or revoked of privileges; instead, the adults patiently let us digest the harvest of this invaluable life lesson.

To celebrate our class graduation and to pursue our project-based education, we lifted off to visit communities in Europe. After connecting with friends in France, we traveled to some of the most inspiring sustainable communities and ecovillages of that region including Damanhur in Italy, Sieben Linden and Quartier Vauban in Germany. At that time, a first inkling rose in my imagination; it would be so nice to have more bridges between existing ecovillages… Reflecting on how unique and exceptional each of these communities are, I started questioning myself: what exceptional potential could emerge from more collaboration? What could be my role in this new paradigm shift?

When I turned 18 years old, our ecovillage created a partnership with an intentional community in California, Ananda Village. This community also had businesses and a school with which we did an exchange program. It was an eye-opening opportunity, getting to talk with young adults that had a similar childhood. We connected at once becoming best friends. We were sharing so many experiences, reflections and dreams…

As the years passed by, I was called to change jobs to explore different facets of my ecovillage and eventually I was involved in public relations. My dream then became clearer; I wanted to create links between ecovillages in order to better support the transition toward a more beautiful, respectful sustainable lifestyle.

In the fall of 2010 I started my work as outreach program coordinator, particularly around projects for interns and visitors. The highlights of this position were guided tours, open house days and starting connections with the ecovillage movement. During summer 2011, we hosted the General Assembly of the Canadian ecovillage’s team.  This event got me hooked: I wanted to work more with the network. In 2012 I accompanied a group of high school students in an inspiring communities’ tour in the US. We visited The Farm, Sirius Community, Twin Oaks and Earthaven.

The next step in my journey to bridge communities was when I was introduced to NextGEN at a meeting in Schweibenalp in Switzerland in 2013. This group emerged from the Global Ecovillage Network as its youth empowerment focused subset. It aims to foster the greatest potential of the next generation of communards to inherit the movement. With NextGEN I discovered my new global family! It was so invigorated to be standing on the shoulders of giants with peers who shared the same passion as me. From there, everything quickly came together; I joined the NextGEN NA core team and later that year, traveled to Twin Oaks and Acorn for an FIC meeting. Next, there was the Canadian ecovillage’s team meeting at Whole Village in Ontario. And, shortly after, I was invited to give my first ecovillage’s talk at a youth event in Montreal. Once again, my dream gained a little more resolution; we need more people informed about what ecovillages can offer. We need hope… Hope and examples showcasing fulfilling high quality, low impact lifestyle.

My aspiration of sharing ecovillage lifestyle with young people brought me to become involved with Gaia Education. As a NextGEN representative, I wished to create learning opportunities for youth to explore their full potentiality and co-create community in their day-to-day environment. The EDE course offered by Gaia Education seemed to me one of the best ways of making this happen. Once more I was brought to Europe, and this time in the oldest ecovillage, Findhorn, to participate in the EDE training. Wow! Being there was so energizing! I could feel the support, the work invested in the creation of something new, something big and beautiful. During my stay, I came across people from many great initiatives and NGO.  There were also mayors and delegates from villages and towns wishing to engage in the creation of sustainable politics for their municipalities. It gave me the confirmation that time for change has come! If all of us were aware that so many people are out there moving towards a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, no one would longer feel alone.

Back at La Cité Écologique with a group of friends and the support of all our community, we set up a Learning Center. In July 2015, we offered the first Canadian EDE course. Since then, I have been doing my best to pursue this dream of sharing hope. Now, I am working more and more to connect projects, networks and people. Together we share the best tools supporting the transition toward respectful, fulfilling, sustainable lifestyles. Doing that, I feel it is my turn to manifest my dream: supporting others in developing their full potentiality!  


Nébesna Fortin

Ecovillage La Cité Écologique ( www.citeecologique.org )

Learning Center CAP Eco-Community ( www.capecocommunautaire.org )

NextGEN representative for North America, Canada ( www.nextgenna.org )

GEN ambassador for North America, Canada ( www.ecovillage.org )

Giana for Gaia Education ( www. gaiaeducation.org )

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