A Brain Spa for Creative Optimists: The CO Project Portugal
Building a unique creative retreat facility Transforming an old olive farm into a living learning lab social entrepreneurs.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO BACKED US! WE HAVE MOVED OUR FUNDRAISING TO OUR WEBSITE COPROJECT.CO PLEASE SUPPORT US HERE
Down a winding unpaved road lies an abandoned olive oil mill from the turn of the century, dilapidated and roofless, with strong stone walls still standing. Steeped in history, this Quinta (farm) is being regenerated into a new retreat space for creative and cultural experiences: a Brain Spa and we want you to be involved right from the start.
CHECK OUT OUR FARM CONSTRUCTION UPDATE VIDEO!
Meet the CO Project, a Brain Spa for Creative Optimists.
This is a one-of-a-kind creative playground that doubles as an all-inclusive brain holiday for inspired change-makers.
A brain spa is a place where you go to get your neurons recharged. So many burnt out creatives and world-changing types try get their energy back by having their bodies worked on (who doesn't like a long massage?), it's often our brains that need the recharge through inspiration and connection.
The CO Project Brain Spa is filling gap in between travel destination and cultural experience. We are creating a space for refreshing contemporary sustainability and regeneration of the mind and creative capacity building. The best bit is it's in an incredibly beautiful part of the world filled with sunshine, nature, local produce and wine and of course olive oil!
The brain spa experience is a curated program of events, workshops and retreats where we invite incredible people, provide nourishing organic food and creative inspiration to revitalize your busy productive change-making life. Learn new skills, connect with other purpose-driven humans all whilst getting all of the regenerative benefits that nature has to offer.
With your help, my team and I are creating a regenerative retreat space and campus for creative change-makers in an incredible old olive mill and farm in Portugal. I have been working to help activate change globally for over 15 years and after being named Champion of the Earth by the UNEP, I was even more inspired to create a place that can activate positive change-making for others.
The world is full of people who want to actively make a positive impact. They want to use their creativity for good, and are actively working towards challenging the unsustainable and inequitable status quo.
Creative optimism and collaborative opportunity for positive change are what the CO Project is all about. I have been personally designing and restoring this beauty over the last 10 months and after much hard work I am almost ready to start inviting people to programs. Help me and the team get the final touches and showcase sustainability initiatives implemented so we can open the doors in May!
The CO Project is located in the mountain town of Serra, 20 minutes from the charming town of Tomar, in central Portugal. We are 5 minutes from the incredible Zêzere River, and close to rural delights of wineries and farmers markets. Just 1.5 hours from Lisbon and 2 hours from Porto, property is easy to reach from many parts of the world.
Why did we pick Portugal?
Aside from the incredible sustainability initiatives in Portugal such as solar and wind power, this region is filled with ancient ruins and rolling hills of cork, olive and orange trees. The river is a perfect respite from the summer sun, and the local area offers some of the world's best produce and wine. As a social enterprise, there are many reasons to invest in areas that have been economically repressed, and finding ways of bringing new sustainable development opportunities to the area and the wider concept of rural renewal is part of this initiative.
With your help we can make the following magic happen:
Regenerate the once-abandoned farm into a beautiful retreat and regeneration space for creative change-makers.
Kick off the Mill restoration to renovate the huge old stone olive press building into an incredible boutique hotel style accommodation space hosting programs of up to 20 people.
Help us build a shocase of contemporary sustainability initiatives into the project as a showcase of design-led change.
Host retreats, run workshops and develop a series of creative summer camps in 2018
This project is about Creative Optimism (CO) and building an incredible retreat space where visitors explore how to activate positive purpose-driven change.
Many companies, organizations, and universities design in workshops, off-sites and learning programs that require a space to hyperfocus, collaborate, and develop creative ideas.
The CO Project combines sustainable design and architecture to meet this need while also demonstrating best-practice ways to facilitate learning experiences. We offer programs in systems thinking, sustainability sciences and design as tools for redesigning a future that works better for all of us. The circular economy and post disposable design movements are helping to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and we want to equip more professionals with the tools for creative changemaking.
This is a cultural destination for creative change-makers, the CO Project is not only an experiment in rural regeneration but also a living example of systems change, sustainable design and ambition in action.
BURNT OUT CREATIVES
One downside of being a social entrepreneur, sustainability pioneer or creative change-maker is that it's easy to get burnt out. Finding ways to build creative resilience for hyper-productive people who get exhausted from constantly investing energy into the world can be difficult.
The professional environment has changed dramatically and for many people, there is no "off" switch. Working non-stop for things you love is rewarding, but it can also be depleting. Delayed feedback loops can result in people getting so run down that they deplete their purpose fuel and crash.
This is what a brain spa is there for: to help restore and regenerate creative energy and find ways of activating the neurological resilience needed to forge new paths and challenge the status quo. All of this, surrounded by the best therapist around, Nature.
Globally there are 1.1 billion acres of abandoned farmland, productive cultivated land that is left to go fallow. One of the questions that CO Project is seeking to explore is: How can we regenerate these lands in sustainable ways, by generating economic and social benefits? The CO Project is a broader initiative in experimenting with the possibility of mixed-use rural regeneration and farming techniques that reduce impacts and increase returns.
The best way to learn anything is to experience it. But the mainstream education system has led to a global lack of experience in understanding how nature works.
We have built a linear system that maximizes waste, whereas nature is designed to be regenerative. This is a simple and powerful principle for creating things that meet human needs, without degrading the natural systems we need to survive and thrive. Nature is a design leader and a powerful inspirer of creating positive change.
That's why we are developing a living laboratory, where we are observing, engaging, exploring, and learning how natural systems sustain themselves, solve problems and collaborate to achieve a common goal.
The CO Project facility is made up of several main areas. It is located on a 10,000sqm olive and citrus farm, with 150 trees (some 250 years old) that we are regenerating. We are building a food forest, an organic vineyard and a living laboratory for learning about systems and sustainability from the best teacher around: nature.
Attached to the farm is a 400sqm 150-year-old stone olive oil mill that has been abandoned for over 50 years. Despite its roof collapsing some years ago, we have grand plans of restoring and building an incredible brain spa retreat facility inside the mill, with 8-10 rooms, accommodations for 20 people, a library and conservatory, cafe/bar and meeting rooms for running off-sites and creative retreats.
We are working with a team of highly skilled local builders and craftspeople to restore the building and create a unique architectural outcome with a solar passive walkable green roof, a glass geodesic dome above the mezzanine library, and a cellar-door style cafe for selling local produce and CO Project Farm products, (like wine and olive oil!).
The CO Project facility is made up of 4 buildings. We have already lovingly restored the 120-year-old farmhouse into a 4-bedroom guesthouse, transformed a small cottage into the managers' quarters, built an amazing outdoor living area, converted the grain storage into a classroom, and built a sundeck.
Establish the organic vineyard
Convert the downstairs area into a winemaking room (locally called Adagars)
Build an indoor maker lab for exploring natural systems, and experimenting with new material and product development in the old barn
Convert the old windmill into an energy-generating windmill
Set up solar energy systems
Start the Mill planning and design process
- Build 3 more triangle sleeping cabins
Imagine artists and scientists working together to explore complex problems and designers of all disciplines hacking at the un-sustainable systems we have created. There are infinite possibilities for positive change when you create the conditions that allow this to happen.
This project has several stages. We are asking our community, and the wider world, to help us get this incredible beauty up off the ground.
We are extremely ambitious in what we want to create here. We believe in the type of leadership and creative potential that it will help unlock, both in the abandoned space and in the people who come here to learn, connect and recharge.
We need to raise what is technically called "a shit ton of money" to make this project happen in a sustainable, ethical and super respectful way. Each backer will help us on this creative journey, and be a part of bringing a truly unique project to life.
Leyla is renowned for her cutting-edge approach to sustainability and systems change, and this project is all about experimenting with different technologies and applications. We will be sharing this journey with you through the CO Club, articles and videos over time.
Your support will help us create cutting-edge sustainability initiatives on the farm, ranging from bio-digesters, to wind turbines and solar car charging stations. We are committed to finding beautiful and tangible ways of making sustainability a part of our everyday lives.
The ethos is: beautiful design, seamless integration of sustainability, local, handmade, zero-waste, post-disposable, collaborative community and optimism.
Stage 1 | Regenerating the CO Farm allowing us to host programs, build community, and ignite change throughout 2018. We need 50K to:
Finish building the natural swimming pool (so close!)
Set up the living, eating and working spaces (almost done!)
Start the architectural planning process for the mill, specifically getting all the documents and plans to the local council and getting the green light for the build *(architects hired and waiting to start!)
Develop creative direction plan for the mill project (team assembled!)
Set up solar-powered electric vehicle charging station on the farm (so when you come to visit you can hire an electric car)
Start the process of converting the old water windmill into an energy-generating windmill
Complete the triangle sleeping cabins
Finish the organic vineyard and set up the winemaking and tasting room
Establish the food forest
Commission local artisans to create handmade and unique vessels for our olive oil and farm produce
Develop programs and on-farm activities, like Sunday Sessions, where we host fascinating people for a farm lunch and brain sharing sessions during the summer (the local tourism board is very excited about this)
Build the Maker Lab in the old barn. We will convert our crazy, old, under-house barn into a lab for exploring multiple uses of farm materials (olive leaves as packaging material? citrus for cleaning products?). We'll set it up so that we can make products and invite visitors to make their own body and cleaning products to take home with them.
Stage 2 | Architects plans and building permits for the Mill Complete by end 2018 | Cost: 25K
Commission the local architects to design the full specs for the project incorporating all the sustainability initiatives and getting local approach for this (some nontraditional buildings require extra demonstration to the council to get them approved)
Establish full design direction and sustainable design details
Restore the old stone walls of the building to prevent any further deterioration
Establish the plans for all the cutting-edge sustainability initiatives for a closed-loop building system (water, waste, energy, etc.)
Our team, headed up by Vincent, our amazing local builder, is keen to get the roof enclosed as soon as possible to prevent further decay. This extra stretch would make it possible to build the metal structure we need to protect the building.
Stage 3 | Build the Millhouse so we can be open for full operations by Summer 2020. Offer boutique accommodations for 20 people | Cost: 250K
Establish cellar-door style cafe facility (in the mill)
Create 3 multi-use communal creative spaces for indoor and outdoor learning and working together
Build the library/conservatory upstairs in the mill, as a Bucky-inspired geodesic dome roof for astronomical observations (and to hire an astronomer in residence!)
Build a glass greenhouse for winter food production and beautiful learning space
Develop all the bedrooms, workspaces, library and entire interior fit-out by commissioning local artists and designers
Future forward sustainability initiatives and experiments to be incorporated into the entire project include:
Conversion of old water windmill into an energy-generating windmill
Set up off-grid solar car charging station for electric vehicles charging on farm
Set up practices for zero-waste and post-disposable design
Explore different solar designs to create mixed-used energy production systems
Walkable green roof for the Millhouse
Solar passive design features for the mill
On-site biodigesters for turning food waste into cooking gas
Vermicompost for solid organic waste composting and phosphorus collection
Water collection and reuse
Zero-waste and carbon sink farming practices
Have ideas for us? We are very open to collaborating on these initiatives, so please reach out and let us know what thoughts or possibilities you have in mind!
Post-disposable policy: Most of our rewards involve experiences and knowledge-building, not products. For the products, please note: we have done crowdfunding before and found the packaging and postage to be a sustainability nightmare. So, for this campaign, we are only offering the pickup option for our physical products. We will arrange a collection point in Lisbon, and of course, at the farm. So plan a trip to Portugal!
Duration: All of the new products will take time to produce (nature takes her time too!) so you might as well plan a visit!
If you back any of our levels that include the CO Club, you will be included in our digital clubhouse (housed on Facebook as a closed group) for 12 months following the completion of the Kickstarter campaign. There we'll share exclusive content and weekly farm updates via live videos, photos, info about our design process, and the full development schedule. The CO Club will also form the foundational community of creative change makers who all share a similar passion for contributing to these types of creative initiatives.
Vegetable-Centric Farm Cookbook
We are creating an extra special and beautiful perk in the form of a vegetable-centric cookbook that shares our delicious vegetarian recipes, developed through years of running and feeding many people at the UnSchool.
This beautifully illustrated cookbook is being made through a collaboration between Leyla and Emma.
On Farm Experiences
We are ready to accept small groups of people for our curated on-farm UnSchool learning programs and creative residencies.
Accommodation is set up in our beautifully renovated guest house and our cute little A-frame sleeping pods. You can hang out under an olive tree on the farm for a few days!
We already have a calendar of events for 2018, and will keep adding more opportunities to visit the CO farm. If you opt for an on-farm experience as one of your perks, we will reach out with a list of offers for you to sign up for.
We are experts in experience design. If you select a perk with this offer you can come for a custom-designed experience for your next off-site or workshop. Packages are for 2018 or 2019 and range from 3 to 5 nights, for a maximum of 10 people.
We'll design a beautiful knowledge and food experience for you and your group (you all have to get yourself to the farm but then we take care of everything else once you are there).
Many of our perks invite you to sponsor a thing (or animal!) as part of the project, from handmade tiles to chickens and entire rooms.
We will contact you and ask what name you would like to give whatever it is that you're sponsoring. The name could be yours, a friend's, a loved one's or a place (we reserve the right to refuse anything that could be inappropriate – although we do have a habit of calling the farm 'farmy-mc-farm-face).
You can hire our entire facility for your off-site corporate retreat, executive training or team building sessions. We will work with all like-minded organizations who are committed to building capacity in sustainability and positive change-making.
We work with partner organizations and like-minded entities to develop specific programs using our unique methodology and experience design techniques to develop a program specific to your community. This could be for another academic institute wanting to run a program, or a company wanting to branch out into social innovation, you name it.
As long as you want to discover systems, sustainability and design, we can design a beautiful and amazing experience for you.
This project is a labor of love and community activation. The UnSchool has been built by the incredible humans from around the world who have participated in programs run in 12 cities since we started in 2014. We currently have over 350 alumni from 42 countries.
We have a thriving global community of humans from all professional backgrounds, nationalities, and economic standing – this diversity is what helps us flourish.
We do cool shit to design a world that we want to live in. The systems thinking and sustainable design tools we teach in the UnSchool are being taken up by organizations and individuals around the world. The content is a scaffolding for understanding complexity and learning to work within the natural systems not against them.
The CO Project is all about advancing creative change-making as a profession and helping to activate a shift towards a more sustainable, ethical and equitable future.
Our goal is to help people gain the tools and energy to make significant changes in their communities, companies and personal lives. We need more activated, engaged and participatory change-makers contributing to the different challenges we, and our planet, collectively face.
Your support will help us invest in the local community, hire sustainable designers, and develop more unique programs and resources for our growing global community.
We actually need a total of 250K to make this mill project happen. We would love to be able to raise this through our first Kickstarter, but as realistic optimists, we're taking this staged approach to get the ball rolling on our 2018 plans!
Risks and challenges
This is a hyper-ambitious project and thus there is an ocean of possible fuckups and issues that could be encountered along the way. Thankfully, our team has a problem-loving mindset (thanks to all our UnSchool training!) and so no problem will be left unchallenged and eventually solved, or at least evolved.
We have already encountered many construction challenges that we have overcome collaboratively with our incredibly skilled team of local contractors – from how to build the natural swimming pool without the plastic liner to integrating water-recycling technicals into the plumbing.
The future is undefined and we are figuring out how to make it happen as we go! We are fortunate to have a kickass global community and are not adverse to crowdsourcing ideas to integrate into the fabric of the project.
If you opt to support us and join the CO Club, then you will get live weekly updates from the farm, and will be invited to help develop ideas and solutions to any problems we encounter. This process is meant to be collaborative, sustainable and enjoyable.
Access to certain materials has been a constant struggle, but our main man, Vincent, has been amazing at finding ways to get us recycled content and natural products and at designing for durability in all that we are creating. There is also an incredible community of craftspeople here in this region who have been and will continue to be hired to come and design unique and creative things for the farm.
Your support will help us make this happen. The more we can raise, the more local people we can hire and the more efficiently and sustainably we can build out this project.
It takes a community to make positive change and we believe that there are many like-minded creative optimists out there in the world, willing to invest in micro or massive ways in making this initiative possible.
Yes, this is a crazy project, and for sure we will encounter many hiccups and roadblocks along the way. It's almost certain that some things will cost more than we originally budgeted for, and people will run late on delivering us things we commission or need. There will be technical issues and human labor ones too. There will be tears and whiskey and some stress in between. But this is basically what every successful project is like, and the way through this it is transparency, contingency planning, and some seriously good systems thinking. We will do everything we can to deliver on what we have promised here, but if we can’t we'll be honest and upfront and offer you something else instead.
We will need to be flexible and we kindly ask that you are too. If you have a crush on creativity, then you should be a part of this experiment in creative optimism.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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