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People’s Institute 2018

The 6th annual People’s Institute is a retreat to bring neighbors, activist leaders, and organizers together to ask questions, share wisdom, and inspire each other with stories.  During this 4-day, overnight program our speakers and participants will work together to explore topics such as simple living, composting, repair sharing, time banking, co-op start ups, community investment clubs, bee keeping, gardening, and other ways to reduce your reliance on working for money. Local action is the focus: visioning a world where we all thrive.

People’s Institute is open to everyone. It will start Thursday, August 30 and continue until Monday, September 3.  Some work exchange and scholarships will be available.

People’s Institution is a program organized by Circle Pines Center, an educational and recreational cooperatively governed camp with the mission to model cooperation as a social and economic system. There will be three learning sessions per day, with time to enjoy camp life at Circle Pines’ 294 acres of rolling hills, forests, meadows, and ¼ mile of frontage on a spring-fed lake. Activities available include swimming, boating, hiking, art, singing, campfires, and other leisure activities. And, of course, socializing and laughing with the social justice and intellectual stimulation.

Our meals are homemade and delicious, with many ingredients from our garden or locally-sourced. They will be served family-style in the dining room. There is always a vegetarian alternative and attention given to dietary needs. Each participant assists with meal set-up and clean-up once each day. Optional programming for families or children to be determined.

Circle Pines offers one and two-week sessions during our five-week summer camp for children between the ages of seven and seventeen. We offer family weekends year-round, including Cider and Maple Sugar Making Weekends, Get-Away weekends, and topic weekends. We also rent our facilities out to like-minded groups.

Confirmed Speakers To Date


At People’s Institute, newly-graduated Greg will lead us through the wonderful microbial-world of compost. The earth’s expertise, average jo organisms turning trash into treasure, is expertise we can co-opt!

Greg, Urban Roots Compost Coordinator, graduated in May 2018 with a degree in Sustainable Business from Aquinas College. For the last two years, he has been composting in his backyard and making discoveries of the complex systems of micro and macro organisms interacting with one another. He applied to be an Urban Roots social media intern but at his interview revealed his true passion when he pulled out a bag of homemade compost!




Mlado will grace us again this year! Sharing with us his success stories with immigrant and refugee food sovereignty. Hopefully his friends from Humanitas, a student-activist group from GVSU, will share their refugee support stories as well.

A professor at Grand Valley State University, Mlado Ivanovic’s primary interests concern opening up new possibilities for moral and political relations between and within communities and cultivating a sense of responsibility that empowers, rather than ignores, the myriad ways that humans interact with each other and their environments. He feels strongly about interdisciplinary collaboration and brings a passionate voice to the challenges posed by the demands of social equity and inclusion. Combining his passion for immigrant and refugee integration with practical demands for cultural, economic and political empowerment, Mlado and his colleagues Kelly Parker and Elizabeth Arnold are currently working on an ecological initiative “E- Habitat” (an organic garden and education project) designed to offer opportunities for education and work to asylum seekers currently located in refugee resettlement centers in Greece and the Balkans.


Remi Harrington says we need to decolonize, well, everything. Including our food systems and our understanding of food, environment and each other. At People’s Institute she will share her methods for decolonizing food in Kalamazoo.

Remi addresses diversity, equity and sustainability in the Kalamazoo food system through her work with the KVCC Food Innovation Center and the Urban Folk Art Exploratory.






Naim Edwards, Detroit activist and Circle Pines member, will join us again this year leading a discussion on healing our addiction to systemic destruction and injustices, highlighting tangible and achievable antidotes. 

Among his many talents and community positions, Naim is co-chair of Keep Growing Detroit‘s board, and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of farming with an emphasis on ecological restoration.  Naim holds a master’s degree from University of Michigan where he studied biodiversity in urban gardens, specializing in beneficial insects and recently completed a course in Permaculture.  Naim has worked with numerous organizations to address both political and cultural obstacles to achieve food sovereignty and is a staunch advocate for land, water, housing, and education rights.




FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER contact Circle Pines Center at 269.623-5555 or

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