Critical Analysis

To evaluate the depth at which I am consciously designing solutions, I’m going to review my diploma unit output against Holmgren’s twelve design principles. These principles are a thinking framework that facilitate whole system solutions using an integrative approach.  Through this analysis, I aim to show that permaculture is not just about growing food in raised beds. Instead, permaculture thinking is design led systems thinking focused on creating regenerative solutions based on the need at hand.

1. Observe and Interact

I have particularly enjoyed the human interactions during my teaching stints. As an apprentice, much of what I did was observe the teachers and analyse their interactions with students. I witnessed the calm manner in which Aranya was able to take student interjection. He would unpack it for the audience and then integrate it into the taught material, no matter how obscure at first glance, the comment might be.

2. Catch and Store Energy

Human energy is a powerful resource. At Green Pepper Orchard where we ran our first ITP, we recently organised a follow up working bee with the students. This event reconnected the students while Les got the assistance of many pairs of hands. We will be setting up more volunteer days into the new year.  Additionally, I encouraged the students to support each other, by sharing their successes via an electronic forum that I set up at Big Tent.

Hi everyone, thanks for all your help and see you in the new year – Les Coupland

3. Obtain a Yield

For our practical session, we rebuilt some planters into which Les is going to relocate his soft fruit shrubs. Here, we see a mutually beneficial relationship, the students spent some time outdoors while offering something of immediate benefit for Les. This effort will will lead to an increase in food production in the orchard.

4. Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback

After I completed my forest garden presentation, Patrick Whitefield critically analysed the content for me. One key aspect Patrick advised me on was to translate any technical language into layman’s terms. I observed this in Aranya’s teachings too, rather than describe Holmgren’s twelve design principles, he taught the ecological principles on which they were founded. The ecological principles are easier to relate back to real life experience and therefore more readily understood by the students. Patrick encouraged me to accept that rewriting a presentation three or four times will pare down the message conveyed to the essentials and is a good practise to get into!

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

I’m not making effective use of this principle at this moment. We advertised a course at the end of the year but the take up was too low to run the course. I need to put some design effort into the advertising and marketing.  I will develop a strategy that can be recycled for a greater efficiency.


6. Produce No Waste

I made a conscious decision that we would not supply the students with a lot of printed materials. Often times these printouts become ragged, folded or lost. It’s smarter to take advantage of electronic media and there are so many options. It’s very quick and easy to set up google groups, to set up online collaboration using skype and google docs, and share files via dropbox. In future, I will create a document download list, so the students can familiarise themselves with the materials before the course commences.

7. Design from Patterns to Details

I have split my strategy for my pathway into teaching into three phases. I hadn’t actually considered myself as a potential teacher until recently, instead I got involved in projects and gained in experience. Once I had made the decision to follow this path, I set up a number of apprentice and teaching opportunities. So by firstly creating  the framework, following through with the events and then reviewing the work done, I’m using pattern thinking.

8. Integrate Rather then Segregrate

By setting up a London based permaculture teaching collective, we are looking to create a sustainable income stream for all. It’s an interesting mindset shift to share in order to succeed. All the teachers involved have had similar negative experiences of trying to generate courses individually. We are designing the collective so that we can pool resources, build a brand, create a consistent and high quality proposition. I’m going to add more design work into my diploma in 2012 as this is an interesting edge that I’m exploring.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

I believe I have the capability to lead a permaculture design course (PDC). I have set out on this journey taking bite size steps. Each apprenticeship opportunity has given me the chance to present course material which I followed in close succession with a co-taught weekend course. On each occasion, my confidence has improved and my experience increased. I will build on this in 2012.

10. Use and Value Diversity

During Aranya’s PDC, I offered a permaculture careers advisory service. I had eight students approach me and for twenty minutes each, we discussed where they were at, where they would like to get to and how permaculture could be weaved into their lives to support their goals. This was a rewarding experience, and it struck me how diverse the range of students were in age, life experience and differing desires. In a powered down economy we are going to have to engage with peoples’ energies and passions to create a more harmonious and inclusive culture.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

I feel I need to bring some design focus here in 2012. Although, we taught the ITP on a council estate in Camden, London, not one of the students was from the estate. Food poverty in the UK continues to rise and as permaculturists, we can deliver the greatest impact working with those most in need. We offer concessions and time bank credits, indeed one of our students will be cashing in her credits to work with Les at the Green Peppers Orchard project on the estate. Les’s experience is that the local community don’t want to engage. In my future work, I plan to collaborate with the disadvantaged in the community and school children too.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Creating the teaching collective is an adaptive response to the combined failure of not generating a consistent stream of ITP courses in London. I will write more on the deliberate design for a more cooperative approach to developing an income stream, while earning right livelihood, and sharing this work.


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