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Communiversity trend catches on

Gainesville’s educational hub duplicated across US, world

POSTED: August 23, 2014 12:38 a.m.

An idea that started in Gainesville has begun to grow.

Featherbone Communiversity co-founder C.E. “Gus” Whalen, Jr. said Featherbone has inspired several communities around the world to form communiversities of their own. Now they’re make their connection official with an association of communiversities, which was inaugurated in Idaho last month.

A communiversity, Whalen said, is a space where educational institutions can work together without being competitive, with a shared goal of community enrichment.

Featherbone, which was founded in 2006, is connected with four area colleges, the two local school districts and a children’s museum. The communiversity includes a business incubator run by Lanier Technical College in cooperation with the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech; the nursing and occupational therapy programs of Brenau University; a career skills program for high school students in Gainesville and Hall County; and the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids children’s museum.

“What comes from that is a wonderful sense of collaboration,” Whalen said. “What communiversities do is bring communities together.”

The concept, he said, can take many forms, and it’s beginning to do just that as more collaborative institutions form under the name communiversity.

Whalen said several groups have toured Featherbone to see how the collaboration works. Several decided to form communiversities of their own.

In the U.S., there are communiversities in Georgia, Idaho and California. Internationally, communiversities have been formed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and in the Provence region of France built around the region’s mistral winds, which have made it a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts.

“We saw that this was of interest to many people, and we thought a good way to get the world out was to form an association,” Whalen said. “The purpose is to enable other communities to learn about communiversities and to form one for their community.”

The association’s first meeting was held by Bonner County Communiversity in Sandpoint, Idaho, where Bonner County Communiversity is located. The meeting was attended by about 40 people. Next year’s meeting will be held at Summit Communiversity in Milledgeville.

Whalen said the association plans to create a website and make resources available to communities interested in starting a communiversity.

“I really think that in years ahead there will be many, many communiversities all over the U.S.,” Whalen said.



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