We need innovative approaches to find sustainable and socially supported solutions to the challenges of our time. That is why real-world labs – a new, intensive form of interaction and cooperation between science and society – are more important than ever before.
The ECO CiVi is a real-world laboratory for the development of a functioning and healthy local ecosystem, in which science, business and administration work together with citizens to develop holistic solutions – cross-thematic, trans-disciplinary and oriented towards the common good.
As an experiment in co-creative synergies, ECO CiVi identifies, initiates and expands upon the potential for sustainable transformation. In line with the demands of the 21st century, existing resources and structures are preserved and developed even further.
„The Flecken Steyerberg is a community open toto constant change.change. WithWith thisthis idea, we can make the worldworld ofof todaytoday andand tomorrowtomorrow aa betterbetter placeplace together.”together.”
Jürgen Weber, Mayor
as a Model Space
The village of Steyerberg in the district of Nienburg / Weser is located in Lower Saxony, about 60 km from Hanover and Bremen. It has about 5200 inhabitants and is surrounded by nature and landscape conservation areas, some of which are home to highly endangered plant and animal species.
The ecovillage, Lebensgarten, has influenced the town since 1985, playing a significant role in making Steyerberg a pioneer in the field of sustainability. Comprehensive measures in regenerative energy production, e-mobility and energy efficiency are already being researched and implemented here.
Steyerberg’s energy is 100% climate-neutral – three wind farms, solar roofs, biomass, and geothermal energy. A mill from the 13th century even supplies the adjacent sawmill with water. The citizens’ bus and the municipal e-service fleet also use regional green electricity.
Besides energy efficiency and renewable energies, Steyerberg is committed to climate protection and sustainable ecosystem management. For the sequestration of CO2 and the long-term preservation of soil fertility, for example, independent permaculture centers are planned, which will make existing knowledge of low-resource and circular agriculture available to the entire region. After all, 63% of the area is dedicated to agricultural use.
Citizen-oriented decision-making processes and extensive education and awareness-raising for sustainable cooperation are a matter of course among the climate protection community.
Thanks to Steyerberg’s climate policy model, which has been funded since 2016 as a master plan township by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, it is ideally suited as a model region for a real-world laboratory.
With the ECO CiVi, we are pursuing sustainable spatial planning, the goals of which correspond to those of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020, German spatial development planning, the cross-sectional goals of Lower Saxony spatial planning and the Leine-Weser regional action strategy.
At ECO CiVi, the three-pillar model of sustainable development is extended to include the pillar of culture. We view culture as the foundation of society that transcends interpersonal barriers and creates space for new developments.
The four-pillar model of sustainability
Economy can also function as a cycle; regional value creation, the shared use of resources and the development of complementary currencies are central components of an ECO CiVi.
In the north of Steyerberg, a green technology and research park is being created on the site of a former gunpowder factory. The “Green Silicon Valley” is intended to generate jobs and training positions for the professions of the 21st century and to establish the district of Steyerberg as a competitive business location.
Our goal is the perpetuation of permaculture principles in all the green areas of ECO CiVi, large and small. This means both holistic, ecological food production and the promotion of permaculture front gardens and green spaces. We also design and research models for implementing integrated water, nutrient and waste systems. Together with closed-loop energy systems and a climate-friendly mobility strategy, the real-world lab can become a model for sustainable spatial planning. This will turn the district of Steyerberg into an example of ecological cycles, in which these interrelationships and interconnections will be accessible to visitors and learners.
We are developing the concept of a vibrant village center with a new approach to living in rural areas. This includes intergenerational neighborhood designs and a variety of services for the residents. A futuristic wooden hybrid building will be built, which will provide a marketplace for local and regional products as well as be a space for new ideas, workshops and other services. The permaculture centers and futurelabs will be meeting places for social and cultural exchange and will include not only seasonal and regional cafés and restaurants, but also places for co-working and sharing.
Meaningful work design is based on the possibility of adapting work to life circumstances. All ECO CiVi educational sites facilitate lifelong learning and support the development of a living curriculum.
For us, aesthetics is the guiding principle in all areas of design and life. With this guiding us, we are creating a center for culture and creative industries. In addition to spaces for art, culture and play in all areas of the city, we are also planning cultural venues and workshops for the future. Culture enables understanding and exchange and offers the opportunity to broaden our views, question our boundaries and to liberate ourselves from archaic norms.
The cultural education programs include formats for personal development, political education and social participation.
Based on the integrated development plan of the municipality of the district of Steyerberg, we have defined three focal points that we are constantly developing:
Circular economy and innovation
Environment and climate protection
We understand life, research and development as one organism that cannot function without the other interrelated aspects. Here, each topic grows multilaterally and in connection with adjacent areas. The emerging technology and research park, a “Green Silicon Valley”, therefore accompanies the scientific and globally connected theory to the practical developments in permaculture, agriculture or in the research center for green hydrogen technologies. The training and innovation spaces Academy, College and Campus not only teach skill in environmental awareness, but are also places of social interaction. The Steyerberg area is a local recreation area and holiday destination, brings environmental and climate awareness together with a high quality of life and invigorates rural areas.
Circular economy and innovation
Technology and research park
Ecological cycles exhibition space
Laboratory for 5R strategy
Development of a local complementary currency
Test track for autonomous driving technology
Education, New Work and Modern Neighborhood Concepts
Food Hub and Regional Cuisine
Campus and College
Direct bus connections to Hanover, Bremen and Hamburg
Integrated, sustainable and low-impact tourism strategy
Environmental and climate protection
Gardens for social change
Permaculture Centers & Permaculture Front Gardens
Terra Preta Research & Precision Farming
Development of e-mobility
Research center for green hydrogen technologies
the ECO CiVi
Some focal points of ECO CiVi have already been established by the municipality and serve as the foundation for further development. These include the climate office established in 2018, the perpetuation of permaculture principles, and e-mobility concepts. Other key priorities are currently being designed. Concrete plans are already in place for the creation of the Technology and Research Park, the exhibition of Ecological Cycles, and the three educational sites of the Campus, College and Academy.
The focus of ECO CiVi is to transform the system by developing, evaluating and disseminating all emerging approaches. For this reason, we will define the educational goals from the onset.
In cooperation with universities, research institutions and NGOs, a modern infrastructure for education and cultural change is being created.
The challenges are global -- thethe solutionssolutions areare local.
The CAIA Academy e.G. represents the continuation of Lebensgarten’s seminar center. Here transdisciplinary conferences, seminars and workshops take place in the thematic spectrum of research on New Work, movement, sustainability, health and consciousness.
The CAIA e.G. Campus is an innovation hub with entrepreneurs and companies from the community, project developers and investors. It’s a Think Tank and start-up incubator – all under one roof. Here, the “young talents” of tomorrow can find their orientation, a network and comprehensive training in the field of sustainability.
As part of the CAIA College, an extracurricular learning space for children and young people is being created. The project begins with the conversion of an old primary school in the Deblinghausen district into a holistic education center for sustainable development. The core topics are new learning and experience-oriented education.