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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

School of Living Retreat

We just finished the School of Living (SOL) Strategic Planning Retreat – Reaching In, Reaching Out - held at Julian Woods Community on July 10-12, 2009. It was a unique event in the history of the SOL. The SOL was founded in1934 by Dr. Ralph Borsodi in Suffren, NY to teach people how to live the "good life" in trying times. His vision was carried on and expanded by Mildred Loomis at Lane's End Farm in Ohio and later Heathcote Center in Maryland . The SOL was the leading organization for the "green revolution" and inspired such people as J.I. Rodale, Adele Davis, Paul Keane, the Nearing and many, many others. It pioneered many movements including organic agriculture, permaculture, alternative currency, alternative education, intentional community, “back to the land,” community land trust, etc. The recent history of the organization has focused on maintaining 6 community land trust communities and less so on “green education” (although each community is engaged in educational activities). What made this retreat so unique is that it is the first time in memory that the SOL has held a retreat with the specific purpose of reevaluating its mission, vision, and goals. The event marked a unique opportunity in the organization’s 75 year history to determine its future direction.

The retreat used the Future Search method of strategic planning and was skillfully facilitated by Grace Potts and Alice Leibowitz of Insight Unlimited, a nonprofit that helps organizations “be the best they can be.” Over 50 people attended the 3 day event that featured looking at the past, present, and future. We are living in extraordinary times and are on the cusp of a major paradigm shift culturally, physically, spiritually, and materially. We feel the SOL can play a critical role in this transition as it did in the past. Our thinking is that at this moment in human history that the time is right for the SOL to reinvent itself in the spirit of Borsodi and Loomis but with a focus on our times and world situation. A new SOL will seek to teach people not only practical living skills but also social, cultural, spiritual, and communication skills that are as important as practical skills for living in the new paradigm. We hope to have a report from the retreat soon. We will post a summary here.

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