Adena: Mission Statement and Origins

Spiral Time: Where We Come From


The gods send thread for the web begun

- Lief Smith


Adena is a network for weaving together several threads of research, community, and action:

bullet a "networking organization" providing a venue for organizations and individuals to connect and collaborate.


bullet a "community based research institute," pursuing issues and inquiries which emerge from and inform the work of creating sustainable communities.


bulleta "storyteller's collaborative" to gather and share those ways in which individuals, communities, businesses, researchers and others are learning in the course of building sustainability.

 Sustainability is the fabric we weave. Sustainability is in many ways the practical application of the human project, the unfolding  of human potential and the creation of more intentional communities within the natural world.  We do not define sustainability narrowly, but rather embrace the transdisciplinary nature of this work, drawing on a variety of research and development resources in the social, biological and physical sciences.

Beyond sustainability, it is the creation of new possibilities which inspires us. Individually and collectively, we engage in the realization of whatJean Houston has described as the "possible human". We work with networks  of "generative prosperity": individuals, organizations and businesses  whose values, relationships and community economies are based in abundant creative expression, humanistic concern and  renewable, living systems.

In recent years, the  sustainable communities movement has been mainstreamed in many ways. Many thousands of  experiments across a great range of scales have given rise to initiatives in every sector and community. What's next? Moving the sustainability agenda from the phase of "pilot project" or "initiative" to widespread adoption and daily practice.


Experience and Learning:

Adena is involved in a several  transformational sustainable community development projects. Part of our optimism in this work comes from prior experience. The history we draw from includes participation in a variety of such initiatives.  Among the many threads of that history a few are worth noting here:

The Sustainable Communities Environmental Education Network (SCEEN), a pilot project for the National Sustainable Development Extension Network proposed by the White House Inter-Agency Task Force on Sustainability. This approach uses multi-sectoral  transformation, community communications, brokering and networking strategies for  sustainable communities organization, investment and development.

The SCEEN project exemplifies experience with similar initiatives:

A Sense of the Sacred


Community Communications Project

Jobs in Energy

Coalition of Neighborhoods

Inter-Neighborhood Coalition

Sustainable Business Incubator

National Black Business Report

Universal Health Care Access

Citizens Energy Council

Paddlewheel Alliance

Synergy Radio


and others.

The archives for Adena provide a glimpse into some of this history. The bibliography provides access to some of the broader intellectual and historical roots we draw from.


Why do this work? The entwined threads of our experience and learning continue in the lives we weave and the work we choose...


But who will yield to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and my vocation

As my two eyes make one in sight.

Only where love and need are one

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future's sakes.


Robert Frost

"Two Tramps in Mud Time"

Adena: Origins

Adena is the evocative name of the people and region of the Ohio Valley of North America.

 Adena was the culture of the mound builders, who flourished on the banks and tributaries of the Ohio River some 400+ years ago.  While no utopia, Adena was in many ways the most sustainable high culture ever developed in the American heartland.

In the 1970's, writer and teacher Leon Driskell founded the JournalAdena to celebrate the history and culture of the Ohio Valley through fiction, oral histories, and scholarly essays. Through Adena, an influential band of writers, artists, academics and holders of community memory helped to weave together the story of these places along the river.

Leon and his family were a huge influence on my life, from his participation in my first 'zine and community teach-ins to his role as principal investigator on my National Endowment for the Humanities media projects, to his wry but always kindly observations on the folly of my heartbreaks.

Our last conversations revolved around  possibilities for creating new media projects to support regional sustainability. We talked of co-editing a special issue of Adena that would be devoted to documenting work towards an Ohio Valley Bio-regional Congress, and to telling community stories in the then-new medium of the web.

In the way of the world, I was pulled away to other places and projects. When I returned to Louisville nearly ten years later I learned that Leon had passed on. But I and others continue to  learn from and share the ideas and sensibility we were exploring a generation ago. Indeed, the need for a voice likeAdena is even more urgent today. 

After some consideration, we've come back to "Adena" as the natural name for the sustainable communities Institute and communications network we envisage.  If all goes well we will even produce an e-journal with a similar mission, along with  other means of storytelling which borrow from Leon's legacy and build on what he taught us.

- David Silverman

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