Blogs >> Life After Schumacher College - by Paul Pizzala

Life After Schumacher College - by Paul Pizzala

Paul Pizzala studied the MSc Holistic Science at the College and writes about his experience at the College and what it has led onto.

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Well it is truly a story of change having taken the plunge and quitting my job in the City I didn’t know what to do next with some vague idea about pursuing corporate and social responsibility. I’d taken a look at some University courses and it felt like the same old same old and then remembered someone telling me about this place where you could study what you wanted to in a way you wanted; although at the time I recollected a University in Austria called Schumacher. Well “what the heck” I thought and for the price of a Google I took a look. Lo and behold there was a shining vision of freshness set in beautiful grounds and I knew this was the place for me. It was a totally new style of learning and a new way of being in relationship with people and the wider world and such a relief to find others searching a more meaningful life and being up for doing something about it. It wasn’t all hugs and kisses though and at times ‘doing the work’ was an uncomfortable experience coming face to face with an ecological reality both inside and outside myself whilst quietly and slowly embracing the complexity of an uncertain world.

My dissertation was an exploration of living with uncertainty held in a loose framework to allow for situations to emerge, navigating the balance between freedom and constraint. I called it the “Art and Craft of Organisation” and set myself the discipline of being located in place and working for a ‘company’ that was ready for change. I made the choice to settle here and then spent some time not knowing what to do and wondering how to turn this experience into something and remembered Philip Frances, who teaches Holistic Science, saying smilingly that the MSc was in fact a “two year course” allowing time for settling.

It took a few months for ‘another first step’ and I contacted Jay from the Reconomy Centre and we met for coffee. It so happened that Totnes Reneweable Energy Society (TRESOC) were looking for a Finance Director and the story started to unfold again. I met the Board and accepted the position and before I knew it was helping present our strategy at the Civic Hall. Six months later we are now launching a community share offer to raise finance for local projects.

This isn’t a clarion call, although it is an invitation to take a look at what we are doing at tresoc.co.uk, and more a short passage on how life has been emerging for me after Schumacher College.

Share Offer

I became interested in co-operative organisations and markets that are more local after completing Enterprising Futures, an elective facilitated by Tim Crabtree who teaches Economics of Transition at Schumacher College.

Two of their principles are that each member has an equal say in matters of governance whilst return is restricted to the payment of interest and the retun of capital. In other words it is not a company that is so prone to market speculation and the management team are able to operate on generaional or at least longer term horizons.

Just as important are the members who share the vision of the co-operative and who want to see it succeed because they believe in its purpose. It could mean becoming a member of a food co-op that sells locally grown produce and supports land based apprentices. In our case, Totnes Renewable Energy Society, the mission is to invest in the development of local renewable energy assets.

The obvious ‘selling point’ is that it helps harness abundant sources of energy from the sun, wind, rivers, waste and so on whilst reducing pollution and keeping money flowing locally. We have a series of six projects, in addition to two installed ones, and as a portfolio it is relatively secure. The estimated returns are not sky high and in fact are rather modest partly as a result of previous operating costs. The majority of the cash flows are under written by government feed in tariffs as well as selling some energy at market rates.

Overall, it is a marriage of social and financial return as well as taking risk and organising ourselves and communities in different and more ‘democratic’ ways. This is possibly the less obvious ‘selling point’ and personally I feel that it is part of a movement towards an active and participatory citizenship (where one may consider politics to be mired in the middle right and seemingly speaking to less and less people) as well as stacking up financially and environmentally doing the right thing. As a caveat I need to say that we are by no means perfectly organised and don’t live in ivory towers.

If you are interested in what we represent and are trying to achieve please take a look and download our prospectus at www.tresco.co.uk. We are aiming to finance £1.5 million in projects which will put us on to sustainable footing and provide room for more renewable projects, community engagement, local jobs and investment here in Devon.

In the longer term we hope to generate and distribute energy via the grid or micro generation to our members and thereby help to close the loop and make better use of recycling local resources.

The share offer is open to all and membership starts at £20 with a ceiling of £100,000. Please feel free to contact me at paulpizzala@mac.com whether you are a ‘serious’ investor or feel affiliated in any way.

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