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Prifysgol y Cyfreddin Cymru, The Communiversity of Wales

Prifysgol y Cyfreddin Cymru, The Communiversity of Wales is a learning exchange network for Welsh communities and individuals involved in the transition to more sustainable, low-carbon lifestyles. Its activities include themed discussions and site visits to community sustainability initiatives.

on this page: what is a communiversity? | the Communiversity of Wales | meeting records & documentation
What is a Communiversity?
The Communiversity is a communal university, or, as the Welsh Prifysgol y Cyfreddin puts it, a university of the commons. The Communiversity concept is one of freely sharing knowledge and learning between communities and individuals involved in the transition to more sustainable, low-carbon lifestyles. It has emerged from grassroots action for social and environmental justice all over Britain, stimulated by the need for relevant, accessible, action-based, holistic and integrated teaching, learning and research. A Communiversity is organised along cooperative, mutual, not-for-private-profit lines, and is owned and operated by its faculty and students for their own benefit rather than to serve state or business interests. Whenever feasible, a Communiversity operates on a low- or no-cost basis. It is non-bureaucratic, non-hierarchical and offers equal access to all regardless of race, gender, religion or education. Its course materials, research outputs and the software it uses are all ‘open source’ – freely available as a shared commons for all. It neither requires nor bestows qualifications except when students, rather than funders, require them. It caters for every level of post-16 learner in integrated, multi-level groups. Its preferred method is action learning; it offers short courses designed around the needs of persons leading lives as activists and change agents in their communities. It integrates vocational and academic learning, physical and mental activity, skills-based, cognitive and emotional development, and takes place in classrooms, at sites of transition action, and in the great outdoors.

One of the most highly developed examples of this approach to sustainability learning is the Stroud Communiversity in Gloucestershire, England. A joint venture between Stroud Commonwealth and Transition Stroud, it was developed as a response to the growing stream of people visiting the town to learn from innovative economic, cultural and social projects such as Stroud Community Agriculture and Springhill Co-Housing. These visitors want to share what they are doing, their learning and their questions about how communities can make tangible differences in their affairs and take responsibility for their own present and future needs. Learning is through practical talks, discussions, workshops and visits to local projects, with the opportunity to develop personal projects and visions through action learning. The programme allows time for reflection on as well as Open Space for networking and exploring common questions. The aim is to build a community of practice for sustainable livelihoods and a local living economy. So far there have been two annual three day events, regular single day workshops and occasional evening seminars, and ongoing development of national and international partnerships. A report on the Stroud Communiversity of August 2008 can be downloaded here. An academic paper by Molly Scott Cato and Jan Myers discussing the Stroud Communiversity and other forms of non-traditional learning is available here.
Prifysgol y Cyfreddin Cymru, The Communiversity of Wales
In early 2010, following on from a series of Community Action for Climate Change Network events jointly organised by the Welsh Assembly Government and Science Shops Wales, a proposal was put forward by Steve Harris  (SSW & The Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems) and Usha Ladwa-Thomas (WAG) to form a Learning Exchange Network for low-carbon initiatives in Wales. The impetus for this proposal was the award in 2010 of major UK grants for renewable energy/low-carbon initiatives to a number of community organisations around Wales, alongside the Welsh Assembly Government's establishment of new eco-friendly planning guidelines, marking the beginning of a new phase of national community-level action for sustainability in Wales. The model proposed for the Learning Exchange was that of the ‘Communiversity’, a cooperative, action-based approach to learning advocated by transition groups in the UK and US.  Steve and his partner Sue had been participants in the Stroud Communiversity of August 2008. The briefing paper written by Steve Harris for the Communiversity of Wales pilot is available here. Presentation slides for the briefing are available here.

The first meeting of the Communiversity of Wales Learning Exchange Network was held in Swansea on April 14th 2010. 11 delegates represented organisations which were recipients of either (a) UK Department of Energy and Climate Change ‘Low-Carbon Communities Challenge’ awards or (b) National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) ‘Big Green Challenge’ [more]. The second Communiversity session took place on September 30th 2010 at Lammas, Glyndwr and the Old School, Hermon, Glogue, both in Pembrokeshire, with a theme of ‘Scaling Up’. The WAG Minister for Environment, Housing and Sustainability, Jane Davidson attended the afternoon discussion session [more]. Most recently the third Communiversity of Wales meeting took place on January 20th, 2011 at locations in and around Llangattock, Powys [more]. Further meetings are planned for 2011.

Agendas, full reports and some photographs of the Communiversity sessions to date can be found below

in this section: 1st meeting April 2010 | 2nd meeting September 2010 | 3rd meeting January 2011


1st Communiversity of Wales meeting, Swansea, April 14th 2010
An initial meeting of the Communiversity of Wales Learning Exchange Network was held in the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea on April 14th 2010, chaired by Steve Harris. 11 delegates represented organisations which were recipients of either (a) UK Department of Energy and Climate Change ‘Low-Carbon Communities Challenge’ awards (Lammas Low Impact Initiatives Ltd, Pembrokeshire; Cwmclydach Community Microhydro, RCT; Awel Aman Tawe Community Energy, Swansea; Glogue, Hermon and Llanfyrnach Community Energy, Pembrokeshire) or (b) National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) ‘Big Green Challenge’ (The Green Valleys, Brecon Beacons National Park and subsidiaries, the Household Energy Service and Cwm Harry Land Trust).  There were also representatives of the Welsh Assembly Government, Science Shops Wales and NESTA in attendance.

The main topics discussed at the meeting were: (1) benefits and challenges of forming a Learning Exchange, and possible formats for such a network; (2) descriptions of the participants’ individual projects, progress to date and obstacles and opportunities; (3) common needs, priorities strengths and weaknesses of the community organisations and their projects; (4) possibilities for future events and collaboration across the network.
Numerous commonalities across the projects emerged, especially in terms of their focus on self-reliance, energy generation and re-investment in the community.  Common needs identified included: information sharing on regulations, legislation, funding and tariffs; high-level skills sharing; access to legal services; insurance; energy retailing / wholesaling as a consortium, possibly Wales-wide; raising finance and access to capital funding, possibly through a Welsh Eco-Investment bond; state subsidies for green manufacturing; jobs training and skills through a 2-year training scheme aimed at bringing young people to work in rural communities; and interacting with local authorities and quangos, particularly with regard to their public accountability.
It was agreed to take the Learning Exchange forward through a series of meetings to be hosted by each participating organisation in turn, the first of these to be at Lammas in the autumn of 2010.

Download: meeting report | Communiversity briefing document | powerpoint of briefing

2nd Communiversity of Wales meeting, Pembrokeshire, September 30th 2010
The second Communiversity session was hosted by Lammas and Cymdeithas Cwm Arian and took place on September 30th 2010 at Lammas, Glyndwr and the Old School, Hermon, Glogue, both in Pembrokeshire. It was chaired by Steve Harris. Previous participants were joined by representatives from Moel y Ci Environmental Centre and Cynnal Cymru. The morning site visit involved a tour of Lammas eco village led by Paul Wimbush. The WAG Minister for Environment, Housing and Sustainability, Jane Davidson attended the afternoon discussion session, which addressed the theme of ‘Scaling Up’.

download: meeting report | meeting agenda | scaling-up microhydro | scaling-up low-impact development | community renewables investment fund

3rd Communiversity of Wales meeting, Powys, January 11th 2011
The third Communiversity session was was hosted by Llangattock Green Valleys and The Green Valleys and took place on January 20th, 2011 at locations in and around Llangattock, Powys. It was chaired by Chris Blake, and the discussion theme was ‘Responding to the greenhouse gas emissions reduction challenge in Wales’. The group addressed the issue of developing a common voice for the community renewable energy sector in Wales, and what support was needed to overcome the barriers to widespread adoption of community-owned renewable energy initiatives.

download: meeting report | meeting agenda | additional notes on refinancing

photos: click on an image to enlarge (opens in new window)
Morning session - Llangattock
Morning session - Llangattock
Morning session - Glanusk Estate
Morning session - Llanover microhydro
Morning session - Llanover microhydro
Morning session - Llanover microhydro
Morning session - Llanover microhydro
Afternoon session - Wern Watkin Bunkhouse








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