Creating A Sustainable Community by Michael Heng

Apr 18, 13 Creating A Sustainable Community by Michael Heng

Global Lessons from Damanhur

by Michael Heng President & CEO, Energycorp Global

From an EcoVillage Community located in the picturesque Alpine mountains near Turin, Italy, several useful global lessons are discovered for other local communities aspiring towards sustainable community development.

Creating a sustainable community goes beyond green building designs, renewable energy deployment, energy efficiency, sustainable mobility and environmental alignment. Sustainable communities have personable characters reflecting their pioneering creators. Present efforts to improve the sustainability of our social and cultural habits have so far ignored the vital human and spiritual components of enduring patterns.

In September 2012, the Speaker visited The Federation of Damanhur, an eco-village and sustainable community. Damanhur was awarded in 2005 by the United Nations as an innovative model of a sustainable society. An intentional community, Damanhur is where about 1,000 men, women, and children focus their existence on the arts, environmental stewardship, and sustainable living. Damanhur is an eco-society founded in 1975 based upon spiritual values and comprises many smaller “nucleo-communities” of 15-25 people, each with its own specific thematic focus which also defines its varied community building projects. It fashions itself as “A Laboratory for the Future of Humanity”, a center for spiritual, artistic, and social research.

Damanhur promotes community engagement through active participation on a spiritual foundation based on core values of co-operation, consensus, co-creation and co-spirituality. The co-creation of community value promotes entrepreneurship, innovation and the sharing of common assets. A proprietary currency, called the Damanhur Credito (having a par value to the Euro), was also invented to facilitate economic exchange inside the community.

A key lesson from Damanhur is that a creative and idealistic pragmatism is essential to guide the journey beyond what is obvious for what is wise in accordance with core sustainability values, so as to realize the limits of creative possibilities. A key guiding belief is to transform “dreams into reality”.

A sustainable community is capable of moving our hearts. The heartbeat of sustainable communities refers to the aspirations, dreams, passions, distinctive cultures and ways of life of its members that configure the community and empower our community to move our hearts and affect our lives. They provide social construction to the meaning of living and loving. They consist of places we love and enjoy, and where we are most fervent. Sustainability requires a true transformation of our basic values, the development of a spiritual core to our lives and society, and a building of institutions that direct our actions in harmony with these values as we engage the environment and stakeholders.


Michael Heng, EnergyCorp

About the Michael Heng:

President & CEO, Energycorp Global Pte Ltd (Formerly Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University) Singapore

Michael Heng was conferred the CSR Leadership Award 2012 on World CSR Day 2012 in recognition of his contributions which has made a difference to people and the community. He also received a Global CSR Leadership Award at the Global CSR Summit 2012. Active in grassroots participation and community service for the past 30+ years, Michael Heng was recognised on the National Day 2002 Honours List and awarded the Public Service Medal (PBM) for community service by the President of Singapore. He is an Advisor to World CSR Day 2014.

He is currently on the Management Committee of OnePeople.SG (, the national racial harmony NGO with the mission to promote and celebrate the value of ethnic diversity and communicate the mutual benefits of cross-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic communities.

Michael was a Keynote Speaker at the Global CSR 2011 and 2012 Summits held in The Philippines and a Speaker at the International Singapore Compact CSR Summit 2011. He has various undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of Singapore and the London School of Economics. He will be speaking about Damanhur at the 2013 Global CSR Summit: Click here for more information.