The Zurich Retreat Project: Prototyping a New Society Model

By Martin Hohn for Enlivening Edge Magazine

What is my life purpose?

The answer to that question lead me two years ago to quit the corporate world for good and to commit myself to a project that would allow me to finally fully merge my true self with my job. My insight was basically that I want to support humanity´s transition to a new paradigm of co-existence, and I believe that the vision for the ZurichRetreat project could be a part of this quest.

After having had that vision, literally sitting on a mountain top, I realized that it would allow me to combine all topics that I am passionate about and to create something hopefully useful and impactful out of it.

ZurichRetreat is a concept for an innovative and sustainable campus that provides knowledge and solutions for the pressing issues of our times. The project is supposed to become a leading competence center, developed in the surroundings of Zurich, integrating co-living and co-working as well as an educational offering for organizations and individuals. And last but not least, it should become my actual home as well, as it will be community run and operated.

In the era of digitalization, holistic gathering places gain great importance, as they create safe environments, which allow people to be authentic and whole. My team and I want to create a space that fosters human connection and inspired learning, supporting people and organizations to acquire relevant skills for the paradigm change.

We see ourselves as an incubator and prototype for new social technologies, disruptive business models, innovative modalities of personal development and healing, new forms of living and working.

In order to increase impact, we plan to scale the concept and make our knowledge, best-practices and operational know-how available open-source with the intention that similar centers will spread around the world. Therefore, we see ourselves as part of a global network of like-minded people and organizations, fully embracing the power of co-creation and collaboration.

Everybody in our team shares the same motivation that is to go to the root-cause of things in order to be as effective and impactful as possible in what we do.

When we were contemplating the state of our civilization, we noticed our frustration to see the apparent inability to efficiently tackle the big issues; despite of the fact that viable solutions, tools and knowledge are already existing and are readily available. Without looking any deeper into the causes for that situation on a systemic and collective consciousness level, we concluded that two elements are key to achieve fast and effective change: they are inspiration and experience.

Humans have to see in order to believe, at least in the realms of the material aspects of daily life.

This especially applies when it comes to new ways of sustainable living and social technologies, that are often dismissed as utopic and theoretical.

This is the first element of the transformative experience concept; being able to physically experience these novel concepts and ideas in a fully functional and professionally run setting. So if the campus sets the stage, the second level of the experience, is the energetic one. If an operation is run with the latest, teal inspired tools and methodologies, putting strong emphasize on the element of personal wholeness as its organizational foundation, this will be felt by the visitor. Making use of smart experience design and didactical methods that apply to all senses, a transformative and insightful learning experience will be provided.

Thanks to these powerful experiences we want to entice inspiration. Inspiration that fuels hope; hope that there are ways and alternatives to create the more humane and sustainable future that we all desire. In a time where resignation, despair and disillusionment are a comprehensible response to the seemingly unsurmountable problems, we desperately need to awaken a new sense of hope that is driven by an inspiration for audacious goals.

So how are we planning to achieve our goals and what will this campus look like?

As we want to facilitate and support the transition to a new paradigm, a holistic and integral approach is necessary in order to address all relevant layers of society.

Therefore, we propose a new form of educational competence center that brings all levels and dimensions together, addressing individuals, organizations and societal structures at the same time. The campus is designed as a living community based model-village, serving as a proof of concept, being resilient and sustainable but still dynamic and innovative.

Making use of modern architecture that blends aesthetics with the latest in sustainable building technology, we also display different types of tiny houses, a permaculture garden and sustainable energy sources.

Based on three pillars

Purpose-built environment
Our modern eco-infrastructure and its natural surroundings are a sanctuary for body, mind and soul. We are building an immersive space for healing, inspiration and experiential learning through all the senses, filled with positive collective energy to facilitate deep connections and transformation.

Conscious co-creation
We commit to cross-generational, multi-disciplinary collaboration and welcoming of diverse viewpoints and creative insights. We provide the soil and space for incubating and birthing innovative ideas, new business models and organisational systems that lead to systemic change.

The separations between our minds and hearts; purpose and organisational systems, need to be healed in order to build wellbeing in our societies. We invite individuals and teams to re-discover and re-learn how to connect to each other and the environment from a place of self-awareness and empathy.

Overview of our model:

But what will our content be?

In the spirit of co-creation and cooperation, we intend to work with established institutions to provide cutting edge programs for our customers.

We want to create a unique curriculum that is built in a very modular way, geared towards an extended learning journey where we can support lasting transformation.
Our signature curriculum is developed together with established content providers that are leaders in their respective fields and with that program we plan to create half of our revenue.

The other half will be split about equally between courses from our preferred content providers who rent out space to run their own programs and third party providers that offer trainings and seminars which are aligned with our vision.

Currently we are working on an extensive content mapping in order to identify key topics and potential partners, as well as to draft first curriculum outlines for major organizational clients.

Ideally our appealing site and the self-organizing governance model will attract a vibrant mix of employees, freelancers and partner organizations that will continue to co-create the magic atmosphere of the place and help us to provide the highest levels in our service and product delivery.

In order to engage the local community, we plan to create a wide offer of courses that explain our concept and it´s underlying philosophies to the population. Furthermore, there will be guided walks through our permaculture facilities as well as sustainability tours for children and families.

The current status of the project

After the initial concept design, we are now getting ready for the next phase where first major milestones like seed-funding and finding an ideal building site should be reached.

We are currently still operating as a volunteer-based team in bootstrapping-mode, driven by a lot of passion and enthusiasm.

Finding an ideal space is quite a challenge, as the campus will need at least 2 hectares (20´000m2) in order to host all the necessary infrastructure and house the intended 150 people. In that surface we have already a first expansion phase integrated, as we want to make sure to have enough room to adapt our infrastructure to the needs of the community and the customers.

Obviously funding is a recurring topic, where we are exploring different approaches, being mindful of the fact that we are creating a business model to manifest the new paradigm whilst still working with the old energies that are very ROI focused.


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Our presentation is here.

Martin used to work in the international luxury hospitality industry until a burnout sent him on a quest for purpose seven years ago. In the following years he worked for several start-ups, co-created the Teal-Camp in Switzerland and then, two years ago launched his own company where he does holistic hotel and project consulting.

ZurichRetreat as a concept was born out of his work for other retreat centres and based on his experiences at many other centres that he visited around the world.