I did my first PDC at a point when I was considering a new direction in my livelihood. Permaculture captured my imagination, particularly around people-based designing, partly as a way of deducing and designing this new direction. Facilitation and teaching has always been something I have had an aptitude and enthusiasm for and I have been involved in numerous alternative learning situations, although never as a full-time job.
When the People and Permaculture Facilitators Training Course came up I was thrilled as it perfectly met the two functions I was after in one go – namely increasing my People and Permaculture and my facilitation knowledge, experience and skills, as well as being a gateway to this as a right livelihood. Enthusiastic as I was, I still went into the course without the self-confidence that I was anywhere near this becoming a reality. The journey of the course and this design have taken me a long way towards realising my dream and building my confidence.
This design was a ‘requirement’ of the course, but it is one I would have almost certainly started anyway.
I decided to follow the pattern of the anchor point sessions that we were having on the course so that I could harvest and use the inspiration that came from each of these. As I had used the design web several times myself already I wanted to try out some different techniques too.
So I started with reflecting on my current situation. I wasn’t sure what to reflect on, but in the end reflected on my experience so far. I also reflected on a question suggested by Pauline looking back on where I was exactly one year ago.
I then took the time to appreciate everything that had bought me to this point. I also came up with a couple of actions to show appreciation to myself and others.
I took quite a lot of pause time at the beginning of my design as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the course and was concerned about finding time to do this design. It felt good to be able to count this pausing as part of my designing, so I could still consider myself as making progress!
I was struggling to clarify the vision for my design, feeling like what I was coming up with was really vague and therefore not very motivating. I shared my frustrations with Demian and he introduced me to the idea of the Golden Circle, where the why of your vision is the most important followed by the how and then the what.
I had been very much focussing on the what so I took some time to digest this advice and have a think about my why. I found it a really useful approach and came up with lots of different whys, but getting them into one succinct sentence was challenging! So I decided to let it go for a while and whilst I was out on a walk the perfect sentence came to me, encapsulating my inspiring vision. I have still kept the details around the edge.
For the helps anchor point I wanted to try something different from just brainstorming with a mindmap, so I used one of the session suggestions and tried drawing things which represented each help. I found this a bit broad though, so I also annotated the drawings with how they could help. All this drawing also inspired me to present all of my other anchor points beautifully too. This helped increase my creativity and my positivity towards the design.
I found doing the helps really beneficial as at that point in the course I was feeling a bit at a loss as to how I was going to carry this on when I got home, but I found it really easy to come up with lots of helps, so realised that I did have a lot of resources I could draw on.
I started capturing my limits quite early on as the course was stretching a lot of my edges, making them pretty clear! So I noted down all the ones that came up. The context also meant that the focus of my limits is very personal, rather than physical.
I was interested to find that one of the limits linked back to my reflection on where I was a year ago and I wonder whether it might have been that start of that pattern.
I had been noting down any inspiration and ideas I had as I went along, but I also sat down and spent time blue sky thinking too, trying really hard as Peter suggested to think outside the box and explore the marginal, using the anchor points I had already done as inspiration. I had a revelation during one of these sessions when I realised the design was not just about me delivering courses, but also my pathway of growing and developing as a facilitator (which seems obvious now!).
A lot of the patterns were captured during the sessions on this anchor point, I came to writing them up after a session on the shadow side and handling emotions. We had had a discussion that it is not helpful to label emotions positive or negative, as they are all valid reactions to experiences and situations. So similarly I realised that I did not want to label my patterns spirals of abundance or erosion, but merely considered them in two different directions.
My approach to the principles anchor point was inspired by Angela sharing that she always put all of her ideas through all of the principles and ethics and if they didn’t meet them then she discarded them. So I gave this a go with all of the ideas that I had come up with so far. I found it a very interesting process, I wasn’t always sure if an idea did meet a principle, but I was pleased at how many of the principles they did meet. It was also great for inspiring me on ways I could take ideas forward using certain principles as guidance.
I found that on the ethics Earthcare and Peoplecare came naturally, but I hadn’t always considered Fair Shares and so I drew circles where I wanted to explore the implications of this ethic further.
I noticed a pattern as I was doing this that with this design I really wanted to integrate it into my life, taking advantage of the opportunities that arise rather than having to start completely new things. This shows in the fact that nearly every idea meets Integrate rather than Segregate.
This was as far as I got on the FiT course with the designing. Although I did have a reflection session by presenting my progress so far to the rest of the course.
After I presented my design everyone reflected back phrases that had landed with them. I found this really powerful so wanted to include them here.
- Started slowly and gained momentum
- Helped me feel less lost
- Feeling a need for functions
- Limits into bubbles
- Letting go, my vision fell into place
- The vision came together on a walk
- Meeting and integrating my needs in the community
- Understanding why it is permaculture
- Took time for pause
- Making my design pretty
- Where was I one year ago
- Enjoying and getting into it
- Using pause
- There are loads of helps
- Realising I have to work on myself as a facilitator, personal development
- Noting down the limits in an ongoing way to capture them when they are noticed
After the course I took one of my actions, which was to give myself time to reflect on, digest and write up all of my learnings into a form I could easily use in the future. I am very glad I did this and it has been so useful already.
Example of notes written up – design web learnings
After I had organised and digested all of my notes I went back through my design so far. I was so excited about the possibility of actually making part of my right livelihood from being a permaculture designer and teacher that it rather overshadowed all of my other diploma designs for a while!
I reflected on the design as I went through it and added a few more things onto the Helps anchor point, but then I was at a bit of a loss of what to do next. I decided to brainstorm possible next steps, which really helped me see the way forwards.
I decided to start with counting up the principles and ethics score of each of my ideas, but I discovered a certain resistance to the results that emerged. I realised that some of the ideas were important for other reasons, or if they didn’t contribute to all three ethics they definitely didn’t contravene them! For example, setting up a local permaculture facilitators group did not actively support Earthcare, but it didn’t cause environmental harm either!
As I still wasn’t any clearer on which ideas I should take forwards I decided to try and adapt the action chart that Diego and Demian had shared in their design presentation. So I ranked all of my ideas against time (when they should happen) and the amount of effort they required. It was an interesting exercise, mostly to discover that I had already mentally ranked them and put those that would take more effort further into the future!
I still wasn’t that clear on my way forwards, but I thought things might become a bit clearer if I worked out what the main functions of my design were. This turned out to be a lot more straight forward than I was expecting, due to Demian’s golden circle of vision, the purpose of my vision was more or less my key functions too, plus a couple of other things which had emerged as important.
I wasn’t completely sure whether ‘Further integrating my life’ was a function or just something that was an overall aim of permaculture designs, but I decided to leave it in anyway.
As I had got a bit fixated on the challenge of working out which were the key ideas to take forward I decided to try some colour coding. So with a different colour for each function I went through all of my ideas adding the colours of the functions they met (see previous ideas photo). When I finished doing this I still wasn’t sure what it had shown me, but it came in useful later.
I also started a further ideas sheet to capture others that came up.
Next I decided to write some SMART or WISE goals for each of my functions to help to ground them and make them measurable. I made a really good start on this and it helped make it feel more real. I didn’t manage to complete all of them because I didn’t have the explanation of WISE goals with me and I was having a day off of computers. I was recommended WISE goals when I started a discussion on the diploma facebook group about the challenge of writing SMART goals for people-based designs.
This was the end of my first major session on the design after which I went away and did other things, but it was always there in my mind. One of the key things which I realised over this time was how much I needed to visit the momentum anchor point! And how I needed to build myself a support system around this design, like I had around my whole diploma.
I took the initiative before my next focussed designing session and asked if people wanted to have a regular contact group, which I was hoping to use to check in with others on how my design was progressing. A few people said yes, but even I didn’t get round to emailing the group my update, although the half finished draft of it has been very useful for this write up!
I started my second big session on this design with the momentum anchor point, as I felt this was really important. I found it really useful to think about and to go through the momentum questions in People and Permaculture.
Next I went back to Integrate and worked out that there were three main systems I needed one for delivering courses, one to support me and one to continue developing myself as a facilitator. Then the colour coding of ideas came in useful by letting me see which ideas met 3+ functions. I used a combination of this, the results of running the ideas past the principles and ethics and also my intuition and common sense on what would make a successful system to select which ideas to take forwards. This still felt relatively random, but I had to make some decisions and I tried to take as much into account as I could.
I mapped them out with how they interlinked (green) and which functions they met to try and ensure that each function was met by multiple elements and each element supported multiple functions. The functions were definitely all supported by multiple elements, but not all of the elements supported multiple functions, such as putting aside a pot of money for training courses, but I felt they were very important elements to the success of the system and therefore I included them anyway.
From this I then put together an action plan of when things would and should happen. I found that there was not too much that I could put on to it to begin with as it depended how things evolved.
I then moved on to implementing the design for a while, although not in a particularly structured way. So rather than trying to plot all their progression chronologically I will explain the remainder of the design process I have gone through and then explain some of the outcomes individually.
In January I reviewed the actions I had written on my action plan for that month and aimed to complete them.
After a while of actions I used the opportunity of a train journey to have another review session. I was pleased to discover that despite feeling like I had been ignoring it, quite a few things had actually happened and quite a lot of progress was being made! I discovered that there were quite a few things that had changed in my situation, making some of the ideas not relevant any more. For example, I had given up writing for the Transition Social Reporters blog and we had decided to give the Nearly Wild Explore days a break until the Summer. And other ideas and opportunities had also arisen.
After reflecting I wrote myself a rather large list of next steps! But I made a start on them straight away by doing do a Reflection and Appreciation on my progress. This was lovely because I had discovered I was doing much better than I thought!
A few weeks later I set aside a whole day for focussing on this design. It was great to spend some time focussing on it and I managed to complete a lot of actions. I also did a reflection on the limits I was experiencing and my subsequent needs on my People and Permaculture Facilitator pathway. This was requested by Looby, but was really useful for me to reflect on personally too. I would really like to work on these limits for the next design cycle to help build more momentum. I also updated my timeline and reviewed and updated my list of actions.
I then went back to my goals and filled in the more intangible ones that I had left for using WISE goals. However, on looking at the WISE goals again, I found that they were actually more outlining essentially a permaculture approach and wouldn’t serve the same function as SMART goals. So I attempted to devise SMART goals for all of my functions. I still haven’t manage to properly record my baseline for some of these goals, which means they are not very useful for evaluating progress at the moment!
Through the process of writing this design up I have again reflected, updated my list of actions and made a start on recording my baseline for some of my goals.
A People and Permaculture course in Norway
An idea arose from a discussion on facebook around the possibility of running a course in Norway. A group of interested people had a Skype call, which was quite nebulous and broad and a second skype just seemed to raise more questions. One of the challenges being the large number of people interested in being involved. After this there was a long pause until I reinitiated the discussions a few months later. This resulted in a meeting of just three of us who took the decision that we would be the core organisers of a two week course running in Norway next Summer 2015 and other people would be welcome as guest facilitators. Since then we have been having regular meetings and are following the design web to make this course a reality.
Getting support and sharing my thoughts
Over Christmas I took the momentum action of sharing the design so far with my mum to help her understand the process and my plans and I also shared it with a couple of friends who were interested in it. It was really useful to talk through my plans with others, but hasn’t actually led to me checking in with them on it.
The email support group also never got off of the ground, but I do now have a support buddy following her request for one and my enthusiastic response. We just have a chat when we feel the need for support and so far it is working well, although the unstructured approach is not necessarily encouraging me to get on with things.
Further training and experience
I started with some research into the different training courses I was interested in attending. One of them clashed with another plan I already had, and the other two combined still came within my annual budget, so I decided to go for them both. So I have now arranged to shadow Aranya on a PDC he is running in October and following a lot of research and organising I am attending a one day Non-violent Communication course with my friends in July.
Since then Looby has also extended the invitation to get involved with a course she is running before the UK Permaculture Convergence in September. So I am still exploring how I can be involved with that.
One of my main ideas for integrating this design into the rest of my life was to run sessions at Underhill Farm and as part of Nearly Wild. There was a school group of Korean WWOOFers visiting Underhill Farm and I planned a session for them, but it never came about as the way they needed to work was so different from what I had anticipated.
I have also made progress on developing ideas for Nearly Wild courses. I had a stroke of inspiration in March as to how it could all work together and I have talked to Steve about it. I now just need to find the time to work up the Exploration Courses as an ‘approach’ to market and then get people to choose what topic they would like to have within that! There is also the potential for running an Introduction to (People) Permaculture course of some kind at Underhill, but I also need to find the time to work this idea up.
As a linked idea I am also going to look at running Nearly Wild experiences based on People and Permaculture at the Nearly Wild Camping location I am going to be running where I live.
Making links through Shropshire Permaculture Network
I had already offered to host the Shropshire Permaculture Network at my house in March and so I offered to do a workshop for anyone who was interested. I sent a list of possible topics for people to choose from and the answer came back as a ‘Wild Edges’ workshop. I based a lot of the ideas on Glennie Kindred’s Wild Edges book and it went down very well, with 13 participants wandering around barefoot, observing nature, foraging and thinking about the rhythms of nature. I managed to capture some feedback from a few participants too, which was very useful.
From this I have also met other permaculture facilitators in the Shropshire network and have an avenue for promoting courses through.
Investigating diploma mentoring
One of my ideas which I wanted to explore further was offering some kind of mentoring for people pre- or early diploma, particularly with people-based designs. This was in response to a leak I had experienced. I decided to moot my idea on the diploma facebook group and I got a varied and interesting response and discussion. It helped me to clarify that the two areas I could offer mentoring in would be support after a PDC on which pathway to follow next and also people-based designing guidance. I still need to investigate the potential for these further.
On my People and Permaculture Facilitators course we also did a big group design on our collective future as People and Permaculture Facilitators. I was part of a group of participants who at the end of the course volunteered to carry on this process and make it happen.
To begin with this felt very broad and not easy to use or link to this design, but in the last few months it has clarified itself into a collective of People and Permaculture facilitators with methods of collaborative promotion and support, called Thriving Ways. So suddenly it is very relevant and useful to this design and will definitely be incorporated into future action plans.
Links with other designs
One of my other diploma designs is around helping to manage the change of ownership of a local garage. The pathway forwards has not been decided yet, but if they do follow the employee owned route then I might potentially have paid work giving them some training around People and Permaculture topics.
Design Framework Evaluation: Design Web
I really enjoyed using and exploring the Design Web as part of this design, especially as I started it on a course where it was being taught.
I felt it worked really well and I often found that moving on to a different anchor point helped to overcome any challenges or obstacles I was experiencing.
I did however once again get a bit bogged down in the Integrate anchor point and making it into an action plan. I think this is partly because I feel this a pivotal point in the design where you make decisions and shape the onward path, therefore I really want to get it right and master it and I am not happy with uncertainties.
Tools used Evaluation
Design Process Evaluation
What went well?
- Trying lots of different tools and techniques
- Had lots of interesting insights and revelations along the way
- It has set me on my path and there are quite a few actions in the offing
- Designing while on a permaculture course and therefore immersed in permaculture and lots of inspiration
- Having a group of other people on a similar pathway
What was challenging?
- Deciding which ideas to take forwards, understanding what is permaculture and what is just designing
- Maintaining momentum, finding regular time to check-in
- Establishing a support system
- Deciding what were realistic goals
- A lack of clarity in the bigger picture design, made it more challenging to integrate it into my personal one
- Being a pioneer in people-based permaculture facilitation – less examples to follow or opportunities to apprentice
- Establishing something locally
What would I do differently next time?
- I would transfer my action plan into a mind map and also schedule tasks directly into my diary
- Give more priority to actions which enable and support other actions, which one do I need first, eg support system
- Make sure I had some small, easy actions to get me rolling
- Explore my limits around earning money, so I can better allocate my time between paid and development work
- Spend time finding out how others approach creative ideas weeding using permaculture
- Try and incorporate more multiple intelligences into my designing to enhance creativity
Quite a lot has moved on with this design since I wrote it up. I would like to revisit it maybe as part of a wider livelihoods design after I have handed in my portfolio.
Facilitating on the 7 ways to think differently course
The course in Norway was postponed for a year, as the host would have had a few month old baby so it wasn’t very practical. I have, however, apprenticed on the 7 ways to think differently course with Looby and Peter and then co-facilitated it with Looby this March, which went really well and has really motivated me to continue down this livelihood path. I hope to run more 7 ways courses in the future. I have also been approached by a couple of other people about running courses with them and will be apprenticing on the Social Permaculture course this year, so hopefully this design will continue to evolve and grow. I am also still an active part of Thriving Ways and I hope that we will start seeing lots of yields from it soon.
As well as apprenticing I have continued my training with a course in compassionate communication, a year long programme in nature connection and cultural repair and lots more experience through my diploma!
I have discovered that once I have completed my diploma I can become a diploma tutor and that is definitely an option that appeals to me, so I will be looking into that option as well as considering other forms of mentoring that I might be able to offer.