The Hub Explore Italy this summer — Eco-educational-style

Explore Italy this summer — Eco-educational-style

Have you ever wanted to explore Italy’s Old World Tuscany countryside from a New World, eco-educational vantage point?

Athabasca University, in partnership with The Synergia Institute, is providing an opportunity for interested students to do just that from July 10 to 21.

Summer school you want to attend

The Transition to Cooperative Commonwealth: Pathways to a New Political Economy is an intensive two-week program that links global with the local through the diffusion of transformative ideas, models, and practices that advance solutions for progressive change in the following key areas:

  • Co-operative Capital & Social Finance; Alternative Currencies
  • Co-op & Commons-Based housing & Land Tenure; Community Land Trusts
  • Renewable Energy; Community-Owned Energy Systems
  • Local & Sustainable Food Systems; Community-Supported Agriculture
  • User-Controlled Health & Social Care; Social & Community Service Co-ops
  • Co-operative and Commons Governance
  • Platform Co-operatives, Digital Commons & Peer-to-Peer Productions Systems; and
  • Convergence and the New Political Economy; Principles, Propositions, and Practices

Come along for the ride!

italian family with dogs

The July eco-adventure takes place in Monte Ginezzo, Tuscany, Italy — an area famous for its co-operative systems, including solar energy, sustainable farming, and elder care.

“The Synergia Institute is excited to be launching its first face-to-face training program July 2017 in Tuscany,” says John Restakis, executive director of the Community Evolution Foundation, on Synergia’s website.

“It’s for change-makers everywhere,” he adds, noting the course excursion will explore “real pathways to system change with leading experts in their fields.”

Co-conceived by AU’s Dr. Mike Gismondi, professor of Sociology and Global Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS), students can take part in an exciting, 12-day excursion to gain global awareness from some of the brightest minds in the field of international social co-operatives.

Visitors to the Italian summer school will get an up-close understanding of alternative and innovative enterprises and the practical factors that help to nurture ecological and social innovations. Meeting with members of local cooperatives and visits to local enterprises are planned. Factors that might enable the transfer of local food, energy and social cooperatives that work well in Italy or Europe to Canada, British Columbia or Alberta will be explored.

“The July eco-adventure takes place in Monte Ginezzo, Tuscany, Italy — an area famous for its co-operative systems, including solar energy, sustainable farming, and elder care.”

small italian home in countryside

Students taking part in the Italy summer school will learn about cooperative development, social enterprise and social finance, along with community-owned initiatives from alternative energy, local food, social care, digital commons, and peer-to-peer networking,” says Gismondi, co-author of the book Scaling Up (AU Press, 2016).

Twelve days of fun co-created by AU prof

The summer school will comprise about 15 to 20 people from around the world — of which Gismondi hopes AU students will take part.

“If a couple of people are interested and they’re Canadians and happen to go to Athabasca University — that would be great!” he remarks, adding that while the trip has a lofty price tag, the opportunity itself is well worth it.

“There are a lot more pluses — Students are going to learn tonnes of material about how to be a successful community development person,” says Gismondi.

“It’s organized and led by smart, globally connected people. And if you’re really into exploring sustainable alternatives to the current economy, this will be a great experience for you.”

He remarks that anyone interested in these types of eco subjects would “get a lot out of it”  — the first, he explains, is having the direct access to a network of like-minded people who are passionate about sharing practical knowledge and building supportive networks.

“If a couple of people are interested and they’re Canadians and happen to go to Athabasca University — that would be great!”

– Mike Gismondi, AU Sociology and Global Studies professor

More than a farmer’s market — Now a NEW MOOC at AU!

Considerable material on the docket for Italy happens to draw on research conducted and curated by the Synergia Partners as well as many members of the B.C.-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance.

Even more timely, Gismondi and Athabasca University have been working with the Synergia leaders to incorporate the same research materials into a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) hosted by AU.

Entitled Towards the Next System: Transition to Co-Operative Commonwealth, this 12-week MOOC launched this week (April 3) and goes until July, leading up to the Italy summer school.

For more information on attending Synergia Institute’s Italy summer school (and to inquire about integrating this free-standing summer school experience with future AU course work) or to request information about the related MOOC, please contact Mike Gismondi at

  • April 4, 2017