INGO Research Center – Creating Taiwanese “Transition Towns”
When Sylvia first heard about the INGO Research Center, she was a design student at Asia University.
“I had previously been working as a financial analyst, then I went back to university.” She explained. “I realized volunteer work and social work was what really interested me, and then I was invited to the INGO Research Center.”
The INGO Research Center, a pioneering project by Asia University, works to transform Guangfu Village into a “transition town” – a concept coined by British environmental activist Rob Hopkins in 2006.
A “transition town” refers to a village where a grassroot community project is underway to increase community self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of climate change, economic instability, and oil shortages.
“Guangfu Village was chosen to become a transition town for a number of reasons.” Local cultural expert Xiao Mao explains.
“As some people know, Wufeng District is the cradle of Taiwanese democracy – as it was where the provincial government was originally based. It’s also where the Lin Family Mansion is, so Wufeng certainly plays a very significant role in Taiwanese democracy. It’s a very special place.”
Mao explains that the INGO Research Center has five ways of making Guangfu Village into a “transition town”.
“Firstly, we want political transition, so we need to educate young people about the importance of politics. Secondly, we want cultural transition, so we need to educate all people on cultural differences and restoration. Thirdly, we want community transition – which involves empowering the community to envisage what they want their environment to look like.”
“We also want agricultural transition – so we’re promoting young people working on organic farms, and local agricultural development. Finally, we want environmental transition – which involves educating people on the importance of the local environment and figuring out how to live in harmony with the wild animals in this area.”
Both Mao and Sylvia are passionate about using the INGO Center to educate people about their environmental impact, and the importance of community.
“We have free community lunches every Friday which use locally sourced food.” Sylvia explains. “We also run a “Karma Kitchen” every Saturday, where you pay what you can for the meal of the person who will come after you. This is all about moving from a share economy towards a gift economy, and heightening community awareness.”
Sylvia says she hopes in the future that the Center can make Guangfu Village into a successful transition town.
“I hope the project is successful, but if there’s one thing I want to achieve, it’s having people come and talk to us about what they want to see in the Village.” She says.
“I want to create some ideas, have people come and talk to me, join us, and take it seriously. We want the whole community to be like a family – so that one day, even if one of our experiments fails, we won’t be afraid of it because we have that support.”