The Synergia Programme – Transition To Co-operative Commonwealth

The Synergia Programme – Transition To Co-operative Commonwealth

Key Info: 
  • Comprehensive exploration of economic democracy and sustainability as viable bases for system change at local, regional and international scales.
  • Unique combination of history, theory, and practice.
  • Strong focus on personal & professional experience & participation as key elements of the course.

John Restakis, Molly Scott Cato, Michel Bauwens, Rob Hopkins, Cilla Ross, Tim Crabtree, Pat Conaty

£ 1 395.00
Includes private and simple accommodation with shared bathroom, all meals, field trips, materials and teaching sessions from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure.
We recommend attending this course as a fully residential participant however you may choose to book as a non-residential participant. Please call 01803 847237 for more details.

An intensive two-week study programme with Schumacher College and the Synergia Institute

What is the ethical economy and how does it work? Synergia Programme Brochure

The course will provide a critical overview of the contours of this new political economy and the mechanisms required for its realization through radical systems change.

The program focuses on introducing and integrating a range of social innovation models for harnessing sustainability transitions in applied contexts, including co-operative business models, social finance & democratic capital, commons and co-op solutions for housing, local & sustainable food systems, renewable energy, user-controlled social care, the commons, open knowledge systems, and many other topics.

A key purpose of the program is to provide a global context for these issues and to link models, practices, expertise, and action horizontally across these fields. The program has a strong emphasis on translating theory and scholarship into applied contexts and is delivered by experts with a strong emphasis on the importance of applied scholarship in the context of sustainability transitions.

The creation of new networks, relationships, and action alliances among change makers and program participants is also a primary objective of this program. The course also combines lectures and workshops with site visits to leading co-operatives and commons activities in the region.

Participants will gain an
• Understanding of the basic history, theory and practice of economic democracy as the foundation for transition to a new form of political economy.
• Understanding of what a political economy for people & planet means and how it functions.
• Overview of best practices and models of system change in key sectors (food, land & shelter, labour, energy, social care, knowledge).
• Understanding of how the perspectives and best practices of key movements relate to each other and comprise a holistic approach to system change.
• Opportunity to share experiences & ideas with other practitioners and to forge new relationships & alliances.
• Understanding of how to apply the theory & practice of progressive system change to one’s personal work and context.

Participants will create linkages both to participants and facilitators who have been part of earlier course offerings – both in-person and online.

The Synergia Programme will include

The Problematic with John Restakis
How might we frame the historic moment in which we find ourselves from a political economy perspective? This session presents both a historic retrospective on the movement for economic democracy and how the current configuration of global capitalism demands new perspectives, models, and action strategies for change makers world-wide. 

The Partner State with John Restakis
The current crisis of the welfare state is the culmination of a process of de legitimation that has been in the making for more than a generation. For many, the very notion of the state as a force for the good is untenable. But is there a way to reclaim and re conceptualize the state as an institution in service to the common good? This session introduces the concept of the Partner State as an extension of the principles that characterize co-operative economic democracy as a political, economic, and social ideal.

Labour and the Precariat with Cilla Ross
With the emergence of revolutionary digital and informatics technologies, traditional forms of labour are rapidly being replaced with the rise of a new class of precarious and atomised work that threatens not only the livelihoods millions but also the very meaning of work itself. This session examines the implications of this revolutionary shift in the forms of labour, what this entails for the well-being of workers, local communities, and society, and how co-operative and human-centred models of work can challenge the dominant paradigm. 

The Commons with Michel Bauwens
Over the last decade, the idea of the commons has emerged as a powerful antidote to the prevailing private property and free market notion of how economies, markets, and social relations might be organized. In particular, the rise of digital platforms and the restructuring of online work through the operation of peer-to-peer networks has offered a revolutionary re think of how co-operative and commons-based principles are redefining both economic and societal relations in service to the common good. This session examines what the idea of the commons means for re visioning models of political economy as alternatives to the status quo.

The Transition movement with Rob Hopkins
Rob Hopkins is co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and the Transition Network. We will have the opportunity to visit some of the projects in Totnes, and also to hear about the experience of over 1,400 Transition groups in 50 countries. These initiatives begin with a focus on respecting resource limits and create resilience, and embrace inclusivity and social justice, alongside self-organisation and decision making at the appropriate level.

Land and Shelter with Tim Crabtree
Access to land for housing, and other uses such as farming and workspace, is a critical element of a new economy, but increasingly difficult to secure. Land has become a speculative commodity, with prices exacerbated by the financialisation of the economy. We will explore ways in which land can be secured and held in trust, ensuring affordability in perpetuity.


John Restakis, Molly Scott Cato, Michel Bauwens, Rob Hopkins, Cilla Ross, Tim Crabtree, Pat Conaty
John Restakis

John Restakis

John Restakis is Executive Director of Community Evolution Foundation and former ED of the BC Co-operative Association in Vancouver, a position he held for sixteen years. His professional background includes community organizing, adult and popular education, and co-op development. He is Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Simon Fraser University, BC and is Research Associate for Co-operatives UK. John was Research Co-ordinator for the FLOK Project in Ecuador on Social Knowledge and the Social Economy and developed policy on Social Infrastructure and Institutional Innovation. He also advised the Greek governmental party Syriza on the development of the social and solidarity economy in Greece.

John does consulting work on international co-op and community economic development projects, researches and teaches on co-operative economies and the social economy, and lectures widely on the subject of globalization, regional development, and alternative economics. He is a founding member of the Advisory Committee for the MA Program in Community Development at the University of Victoria and was co-founder and Co-ordinator of the Bologna Summer Program for Co-operative Studies at the University of Bologna. John is the author of “Humanizing the Economy - Co-operatives in the Age of Capital” (2010).

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato has been the Green Party MEP for the South West of England since 2014, and is currently the Green Party’s speaker on both Brexit and Finance. She is also a green Economist at the University of Roehampton.

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens is the founder of the P2P Foundation, and an internationally recognized theorist and educator on the commons and the emergence of peer-to-peer systems as a key feature of the digital global economy. Michel travels extensively giving workshops and lectures on P2P and the Commons as emergent paradigms and the opportunities they present to move towards a post-capitalist world. Michel was Primavera Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam and external expert at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (2008, 2012). He writes on peer production systems, governance, and property and was Research Director of the FLOK Research Group in Ecuador.

Building on his experience in the FLOK Project in Ecuador, Michel has crafted a Commons Transition Plan for the city of Ghent in Belgium. For the next three years he is also adviser to SMart, a fast growing European labour mutual for autonomous workers, seeking welfare reform (commonfare), while looking into bio-capacity-based, contributive accounting mechanisms.  He is co-author with Vasilis Kostakis of “Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy” (2016).

Rob Hopkins

Rob Hopkins

Rob Hopkins is co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and the Transition Network. He has many years’ experience in education, teaching permaculture and natural building, and set up the first 2-year full-time permaculture course in the world in Kinsale, Ireland, which was also the first community to develop an Energy Descent Action Plan. Futhermore, Rob set up the Hollies Centre for Practical Sustainability in Ireland. He is author of The Transition Handbook and The Transition Companion, and publishes, recently voted the 4th best green blog in the UK.

Cilla Ross

Cilla moved to the Co-operative College in Manchester as Vice Principal in 2015. Cilla is an educator and work sociologist and was employed in UK higher education including at the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds for over 25 years. In addition to working with and supervising students, Cilla has been responsible for designing and managing innovative projects including teaching, research and blended learning initiatives throughout the European community and in working class communities in the UK. She has taught, written and researched extensively on union and labour education, globalisation and the changing nature of work as well as all aspects of adult education. Cilla has also acted as a national and international evaluator for agencies such as the ILO and has delivered programmes in Sri Lanka and East Africa on the informal economy and co-operatives. She is a SA8000 social auditor.

At the Co-operative College Cilla has overall responsibility for the triad of co-operative education, research and future thinking and the intersections between them. Decent work, livelihood building and co-operative placemaking are priorities but wider research interests include popular education methodologies and the changing nature of co-operative education. Recent publications include research on the degradation of work – see: and with CUK colleagues on precarity, see Working Together,

Most recently Cilla has been working on re-imagining the first UK Co-operative University, see: and on a post-employability paradigm in education.

Tim Crabtree

Tim Crabtree

Tim Crabtree works part-time as Senior Lecturer in MA Economics For Transition at Schumacher College. He has been involved as a practitioner in “new economics” for over 30 years, after studying economics at Oxford University and then working for the New Economics Foundation for 5 years. He has experience in policy development, local economic development and business advice, and was the co-founder of a number of a successful social enterprises including the Wessex Reinvestment Trust group and Dorset-based Local Food Links Ltd – where he was responsible for developing farmers’ markets, food festivals, community gardening projects, a specialist workspace (the Centre for Local Food), a vocational training programme for young people and then a school meals catering service which now supplies 35 schools.

He continues to work with one of the Wessex Reinvestment Trust social enterprises - Wessex Community Assets - which co-ordinates the UK's largest programme of community land trust housing, as well as supporting community share issues in areas such as renewable energy. Tim is Chair of Dorset Community Energy which raised £0.5 million to install solar PV on 16 schools and community buildings. Tim has worked with international organisations such as the Resource Centre for Philippine Concerns and the International Institute for Environment and Development, for national organisations such as the Cardiff University and the Development Trusts Association, and for South West based organisations such as the Bristol & Avon Community Enterprise Network, Dorset Community Action and the SW Protected Landscapes Forum. He was a founder Director of the UK Social Investment Forum. Tim has a particular interest in reflective practice, both in the field of economics and also in mindfulness related disciplines (meditation, aikido and shiatsu) which he has engaged with since 1984.

Pat Conaty

Pat Conaty

Pat Conaty is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and has worked with NEF since 1987. He is also a research associate of Co-operatives UK. He specialises in action research, education and development that focuses on successful methods of social economic innovation. During the 1990s he led work at NEF to introduce to the UK Community Development Finance and other forms of co-operative and mutual banking. From 2000 to 2010 as a research associate of Community Finance Solutions at the University of Salford, he played a leading role in researching and developing Community Land Trusts nationally. This led to the successful development of the Community Land Trust Fund and the National CLT Network trade body. Inspired by the work of the late Elinor Ostrom, Pat has specialized in innovative work on commons solutions since 1999.

In recent years he has been working on introducing other innovative forms of co-operative economic democracy, social co-operatives for care services and co-operative solutions for self-employed workers. He is co-author with Mike Lewis of “The Resilience Imperative: Co-operative Transitions to a Steady-state Economy” (2012).

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A place can not be guaranteed unless we receive your deposit or payment on your chosen course. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please do this before making your course application.

Short Course Bursaries create an opportunity for an individual to experience the powerful transformative learning by joining a course that assists the participant to inspire their wider community and benefits from the participant’s own unique contribution. It is our hope that our bursaries support a wide cross section of participation on our short course programme. The number of bursaries available is limited, competition is strong and funding is not always available for every short course. Please be aware that most bursaries are in the region of 10% – 20% of the course fee so please be prepared to raise funding from other sources.  A bursary award is not intended to cover travel or incidental expenses.

Applications are viewed on a case-by-case basis and we are unable to enter into discussions on any decisions. We generally have many more applications for bursaries than we have funding available. We can only offer one bursary per person per year and priority is given to those who have not attended the college or received a bursary before. To help us support as many people as possible, please only apply if you would be unable to attend the course without a bursary.

How to apply for a bursary

Six weeks before the course is due to start all bursary applications will be considered and responded to.  If successful you will be required to accept our Bursary Terms and Conditions.

Please answer the following:

  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
  2. How will your attendance on this course benefit the wider community?
  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?

Please be prepared to supply an appropriate reference in support of your application.