Toward Co-operative Common Wealth: Transition in a Perilous Century


Synergia’s Mandate

Course Overview & Structure

Today, political, economic, social and ecological crises are deepening, putting life at risk on a global level. Many of us are working toward solutions, that are socially just and ecologically sound. Advocacy for a new economics is growing. But as calls for systems change grow we often work in silos, unaware of each other’s thinking, tools and strategies. Too often, we are missing opportunities to work together.

As practitioners and community educators looking to pool ideas, methods, and efforts, we’ve developed a MOOC—a place filled with contemporary content where like-minded people can come together to discuss and strategize systems change. And we want you to join us.

Towards Co-operative Commonwealth is a free, massive, open, online course offered by Synergia Institute with support from Athabasca University that sets out what effective systems change means, and the most promising ways to secure our communities’ basic needs in increasingly difficult times. It is a master class in movement building for a new model of political economy that is sustainable, democratic, socially just and based on the principles of co-operation and the common good. It is suitable for newcomers to social change work as well as veteran activists, practitioners, policy-makers, students, and researchers. Individuals on their own and people working for social change through organizations, networks, and movements can use the course material and the accumulated expertise of the Synergia team, and that of fellow participants, to advance their own work.

Eight Thematic Modules

Our thematic modules cover essential elements of integrated system change and address the major fields of action necessary for transition.

Segment 1 – Four Weeks starting March 11 (TBC)

1. Framing the Journey: Capitalism, Planetary Limits & The Struggle to Restore & Share our Common Wealth

2. Stewarding Land & Resources for the Common Good

3. Ecological Resilience and a Just Food System

4. Precarious Livelihoods: Pathways to Solidarity

Segment 2 – Four Weeks starting May (final date pending)

5. Democratizing Social Care: From Welfare State to Caring Society

6. Democratic Ownership: Pathways to a Resilient Energy Future

7. Democratic Financing Solutions for the Great Transition

8. Synthesis: Building the Politics for Systems Change

The eight course modules shape a unifying perspective based on key strategies for systemic change across a diverse range of solution-focused practices and models in key sectors. They weave together complementary themes of resistance aimed at protecting the common good and organizing aimed at regenerative solutions – both necessary prerequisites for advancing systems change.

Synergia Institute is offering this course as a vehicle for both individuals and groups to increase their knowledge, and to deepen their critical understanding and day-to-day practice for social change in ways that both draws from, and contributes to, a politics of change globally. This includes a mechanism for group study on specific issues, or the formation of action circles in which groups of like-minded people can adapt ideas, strategies, and technical expertise to further their work on local issues or common projects.

Following the course, the Synergia team of facilitators and specialists will remain available for three weeks to facilitate further discussion and feedback with participants and groups wishing to focus their synthesis work in Module 8 on applications to their local context or project. This will be at no cost.

The Synergia MOOC offers a certificate of completion and three graduate credits applicable to Athabasca University’s MA Interdisciplinary Studies in the Community Studies or Global Change streams. The course is free at the certificate level. The cost of degree accreditation is 269 CAD.

To register: 

For further information on the MOOC, contact: Mike Lewis,

For university credit, contact: Professor Mike Gismondi,

You can read the description of the Study Circles and Action Circles, testimonials, Synergia’s mandate, and the report on the 2019 MOOC:

For updates, follow Synergia on our Facebook page

About Synergia Institute


Transition in Perilous Times

Perilous times call for courage, vision and above all the sense that another world is possible. The shape of this world is already with us. We aim to bring this shape into view.


There is everywhere a growing awareness we are living through an unprecedented moment in human history. Never before has the need for systemic change been more obvious or more urgent – for people and for the planet. The next 20-30 years portend grave implications for scores of generations unless human systems are radically reshaped to function within ecological boundaries and to foster a far greater measure of social and economic justice. Humanity needs to recover and renew its common bonds. This is the frame within which the Synergia Institute is crafting its contributions to positive systems change.

Several questions guide our work.

  • How can citizens, communities, organizations, institutions, movements, progressive businesses, co-operate to craft and execute strategies that can oppose the current destruction and propose a real alternative?
  • How do we diffuse and amplify the impacts of existing models of system change that demonstrate pathways out of our local and global dilemmas?
  • How do we engage institutions like local governments, universities, foundations, faith communities, and NGOs as allies for change?
  • How can we meet our basic needs in ways that advance fairness and resilience where we live and also regenerate the health of the planet?
  • How do we shift the narrative from the mantra of endless growth to one of well-being, sufficiency, solidarity and living within the natural limits of the planet?
  • The Synergia Institute

Synergia is an international network of senior, lifelong practitioners and community educators committed to progressive system change. We are a small co-op that unites academics, activists, practitioners and policymakers in a common effort to articulate and implement models of economic, environmental, and social practice that transition societies to a new model of political economy – one that is sustainable, democratic, socially just, and based on the principles of co-operation and the common good.
How do we do this? Our contribution to this global call for system change is threefold:
a) Designing accessible, high-quality educational resources and training programs that can be leveraged by change agents everywhere to create system changing solutions fitted to local contexts. Our online learning platform offers in-depth discussion and the exchange of practical knowledge and strategies for action leading to systemic change and the provision of basic needs.

b) Providing training and education programming to changemakers – whether individuals or organizations – through intensive, face-to-face courses and symposia that fit solutions and strategic thinking to solving key issues in strategic sectors, in local contexts, and at multiple levels.

c) Providing research, advice and expert technical support to policymakers, governments and NGOs on the development and implementation of transition models for system change.

Synergia’s education and training work focus on constructing a regenerative political economy directly relevant to these questions. We combine rigorous analysis of context, critical theory, and a diversity of proven practices and models that not only generate concrete impacts, but also point the way for accelerating systems change in strategic ways.

We also believe that pedagogy for social change must empower citizens, organizations and institutions to critically reflect on attitudes, values and practices that help or hinder the change we seek. Changing social consciousness is critical. Peer-to-peer learning is thus central to our approach. We believe this contributes to shaping a community of learning and mutual support that reduces isolation and strengthens solidarity – a vital resource for sustaining the difficult work of forging meaningful change.

Online Training (The MOOC – Massive Open Online Course)

In April 2017, Synergia piloted its first massive open online course (MOOC) in collaboration with Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. Entitled “Towards the Next System: Transition to Co-operative Commonwealth”, this seven-week course attracted over 540 registrants from four continents.

Co-designed over a two-year period by an international team of experts and practitioners, the course brings to bear a carefully curated trove of resources that assembles cutting-edge ideas, models, and practices that drive change across key sectors – renewable energy, land reform & affordable shelter, sustainable food systems, secure livelihood, inclusive social care, and democratic capital and finance.

Linking the content of these diverse sectors is a unifying vision that centers on economic democracy, social and environmental justice, and the common good. An updated offering of the MOOC is planned for March 2019. The course offers a certificate and is free.

Two Week Intensive – Synergia Summer Institute

In the summer of 2017 the first Synergia Summer Institute was offered in a hill top residential training center at Monte Ginezzo, high above the Tuscan plains of Italy.

This two-week program brought together twenty individuals from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Spain, Malta, and Italy for an introductory but intensive dive into leading models and thinking relevant to our priority themes and their relationship to system change. Just as importantly, the insights and personal experience of participants significantly shaped the dialogue and learning process.

You can view our video of the 2017 Synergia Summer Institute here

To view photos of the Summer Institute, visit our facebook page:

Weaving the Story: The Importance of Narrative.

The crafting and sharing of a transformative vision that captures the meaning and direction of systems change in our protean times is no easy task.

In the past, powerful visions that fired the imagination and gave meaning to action were the propulsive force of social change. But, for forty years the movements that drove progressive change in the post-war period have been weakened. Broad-based solidarity has been fractured. The globalized reach of neo-liberal ideas and the corporate power and wealth they have fostered have stymied our collective imagination to envision alternatives.

This is changing. Powerful new pathways, practices and political formations are emerging. Alternatives with implications for profound change are succeeding. Communities are discovering how to live together in ways that maximize common benefit and replenish the living systems we all depend on. By helping connect the dots between actors, issues and movements into a more self-conscious, connected and mobilized web we are committed to making a modest but strategic contribution to the kinds of changes we need to advance – urgently and collectively. Inclusivity, diversity and unity of purpose are the hallmarks of the movement we seek to strengthen.

We invite you join us…