A new model of self-sustainable eco-tourism is enjoying great success thanks to online supporters from around the world. From Fiji and Sierra Leone to the heart of Italy, these are locally managed communities that welcome motivated visitors to take part in both the fun and the work at incredibly beautiful sites.
It all began in 2006 with an online community or “tribe” called TribeWanted started by social entrepreneurs Ben Keene and Filippo Bozotti. Their mission was to build a sustainable tourism community on the Fijian island, Vorovoro, in partnership with villagers.
The campaign caught fire and within a few weeks 1,000 people from 21 countries supported the project with on average $250 each. Over the next four years, a rotating group of 15 tribe-members, built the cross-cultural island community together with the landowners and 25 Fijian employees.
This success story soon led to the creation of new eco-villages in John Obey Beach, Sierra Leone in 2010 (check their beautiful videos here) and Monestevole, Italy in 2013.
These communities are funded by worldwide members, starting at £10 ($12) per tribe member per month. Members can then vote online for new locations and distribution of any surplus money, connect with sustainability experts, and reserve a stay at any TribeWanted location at a discounted rate.
In the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy
Over a few, rainy days in early October I traveled with my daughter and a group of 15 other people (mostly Germans) to the new “eco-tribe” in Italy to experience this communal living experiment.
We helped with farming activities and hearty meal preparation, played music together and spent time wandering and marveling over the beautiful scenery.
It's a collaborative, social experiment based on a simple truth: another world is possible, here and now. When you build a sustainable business model around conviviality and sharing, people can actually put into practice a new lifestyle around this belief.
Here is a video introducing the TribeWanted Monestevole community, near Umbertide (Umbria, Italy). To learn more check their Facebook page.
“Where We Feel at Home”
Co-founder Ben Keene explains in his personal blog earlier this year how the overall structure of the community influences the experience of visitors:
Each project has had its successes and challenges. But what has connected them all is a sense that, together with our local partners and supportive members we’ve created places where we all feel at home. Like a part of us has always belonged there – even though the language, diet and culture may seem very different to the place we might normally call home. And because we feel ‘at home’ we’re open to engage with different ideas, foods, experiences, and people as well as rejuvenate and play. With the leadership of our local teams and communities we’ve been able to reinforce the importance of protecting cultural heritage as well as the natural environment and resources.
To underline their commitment to improving local quality of life in “tribe” locations, 30% of all membership fees go towards community projects for health, education, conservation, enterprise and clean energy. Members and visitors are also encouraged to engage in these issues during their stay and when they return home.
The next step will be to expand TribeWanted with 10 new locations, through partnerships with other eco-tourism projects and by scaling the innovative membership model.
A crowd-funding campaign for equity in TribeWanted Ltd is currently underway on a new platform called Crowdcube, and there is already planning underway for new communities in Mozambique, Laos, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Bali.
If successful, this crowd funding effort will help push forward a broader approach to eco-tourism and toward a more participatory culture across the globe, as Filippo Borzotti says in an update on the crowd-funding campaign:
We also think this goes beyond tourism, we are investing in a lifestyle. We like to think we are ahead of the curve: living sustainably and promoting green energy and green architecture, local food, public water, minimizing waste and minimizing our carbon footprint; we want to be an example for how hopefully we will all live in the next 50 years.