Comments

  • From Sue on In Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E06)

    Enjoying your podcasts.
    This was particularly insightful and has pointed me in good directions for exploring permaculture more as I was starting to feel there was a lack of credibility in the design field…….aka put in a swale 😀

    Go to comment
    2018/02/21 at 12:41 pm
  • From Anna Kingsley on Some Recent Email Conversations

    Thank you so much for posting these insightful comments Dan. I love the respect and kindness that the permiculture community affords each other.
    In my own experience I see a lot beautiful design plans from professionals bleaching in our ozone deficient sunshine on friends coffee tables in the ‘gunnado’ pile for years, while the reality outside the window remains an enormous lawn with a borer ridden lemon tree and a rotting rabbit hutch in the corner. While such features are often imbibed with their own subtle charms, they usually result in a plethora of mournful looks and dispirited sighing from the garden owner who gazes wistfully at the yellowing design under their coffee cup.
    I wonder if the long term stalling is an engagement issue between the designer and the land owner. I am guilty of it myself – friends will enthusastically ask me to visit and give them some ideas for their garden. Armed with a glass of wine I start pontificating at great length, waving my arms around enhancing vista’s with imagined plantings, vege plots, orchards etc, and will even write quite a bit down on a tomato sauce stained serviette. A year later they have one small distintergrating flax sogging in a mound of clay. It wasn’t their vision – it was mine. They weren’t engaged with it, they couldn’t see what I could see and it probably just didn’t resonate with them.
    I doubt many of us started with our entire garden plan laid out in front of us, the reality was probably baby steps, a lot of experimentation with what works best where and lots of mistakes (I like to refer to mistakes as ‘adding compost to the soil’ rather than ‘oh crap it died again’). And then there is the incredibly valuable years of relaxed evenings strolling around the garden discussing what we could do with this fabulous whatsit we just picked up for free, and would it work over there as something really useful and how it fits in with everything else. Surely that is the fun part, the evolution, the learning and doing it on the cheap. To me the idea of having a professional design your garden from scratch takes away a lot of that engagement, enjoyment and satisfaction.
    I find the concept of ‘professional’ permaculture designers a tiny bit of an oxymoron. I, perhaps naively, assumed that permaculture was all about the love, sharing knowledge, community building and gently trying to disrupt the world – not about charging $50 an hour. Personally I find it much more valuable to be part of a rich vibrant permaculture community of friends who visit, and with a glass of wine in hand, say “Oooh, have you thought about growing beans over that whatsit.”

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    2018/02/22 at 5:32 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Some Recent Email Conversations

      Thanks for your reply Anna – love it – you had me chuckling away merrily. I hope you’ll write more comments or a guest post some time and I am going to have to quote your words – you are able to make important points in such a fun and accessible way (are you a writer, per chance?).

      Now I shouldn’t reply here without owning the fact I regularly charge people a fair bit more than $50 per hour for something that might seem an awful lot like professional permaculture design (where I feel GREAT about the value I bring). It isn’t though. It is more like process mentoring or facilitation where permaculture is one important influence. Furthermore, there is zero time spent creating magnificent grand plans for the coffee table. It is all about being present to what is going on then honing in on a sensible next step, making it, then repeating. The sorts of rock-solid beginnings and continuings such processes generate in my experience are not possible over a casual friendly glass of wine. Invariably, however, in working this way we soon (maybe in the 6-12 month frame) become friends and the financial exchange gives way into a gifting space of friends helping each other out (when now the wine works wonders :-)).

      I realise as I write this there is an important discussion point here. My belief, which I’d be interested to have contrasted with that of others, is that is is HARD, as in really, really HARD, to kick off and gain momentum with a process of design and development or creation that deeply honours permaculture’s core aspiration to mimic natural process. Process that generates the flavours of deep beauty and life we feel in other healthy natural systems. It is easy to pepper a wish list of apparently desired elements around the place but hard to authentically unfold an organic system that manages to exclude all the imposition and mechanical thinking our culture is made of. That said, it is only hard because we’ve forgotten how easy it is, but that is a topic for another time.

      I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this!

      Thanks Anna and I hope to be in touch with you again – ideally to share good conversation over a wine in a beautiful garden :-).

      Go to comment
      2018/02/22 at 8:58 am
  • From Catherine Dunton-McLeod on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

    Dan and Dave
    I really appreciate you sharing your lively conversation. It’s a delight to listen in on two colleagues leap frogging into deeper territory. I am changed by hearing it.

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    2018/02/25 at 6:04 am
    • From Dan Palmer on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

      Thanks so much for sharing Catherine :-). I sure come out of every chat with Dave changed (though I might have to do some some leg stretches before I play leapfrog with him again…).

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      2018/02/26 at 4:28 pm
  • From John Carruthers on In Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E06)

    Undertaking a permaculture design is a very intentional act of personal responsibility. David Jacke’s assertion resonated powerfully with me. Working with you Dan, I’ve learned as a client just how integral is that wisdom to your practice. You can’t outsource design; you can outsource decorating or drafting: but they’re not the same thing at all, I’m coming to understand. Can’t wait to listen to part two. Colourful, super high-energy interview Dan.

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    2018/02/25 at 3:08 pm
  • From Tim Hill on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

    Just finished the podcast- theres a great chemistry there for sure.
    My only observation is that there is very little explicit discussion of the role of strategy in design- either strategy without design or design without strategy. How might strategy be different from process and influence the final design? I just compared the cover page of permaculture one and two and there is a shift towards design in two whereas it is suprisingly absent in one- maybe this is where your fundamental answers might be found. However, as someone who is transitioning from full time employment into the permaculture space over the next 5 years I value your contribution and efforts. Thanks again.

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    2018/02/26 at 12:43 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

      Greetings Tim! Hey before I reply would you mind clarifying what you mean by strategy, maybe with an example. Many thanks!

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      2018/02/26 at 4:23 pm
      • From Tim Hill on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

        https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Strategy

        Also consider one of the oldest works on strategy- The Art of War by Sun Tzu

        look forward to your thoughts…..Tim

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        2018/02/27 at 11:03 am
        • From Tim Hill on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

          Hi Dan
          This TedX talk is relevant to farming- not war.

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          2018/02/27 at 11:17 am
          • From Tim Hill on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

            Hi Dan
            A fair point you make. My reflection is that Design is for the production of something which is relatively fixed in time (a watch, a hospital, a car) but for most of us meandering our way through a permaculture journey there is no fixed point or product- unless its the point we opt out of permaculture or leave the property. I was thinking of the ways we apply strategies in our business and personal lives and how they might also apply to permaculture.
            For example working with nature not against it could be seen as a permaculture strategy- there might be some instances where working against nature is a strategic decision to achieve a broader goal. ‘Diversification’ is a good strategy for some contexts but not others -particularly those with significant monthly outgoings.

            I chose to place my house lower than my septic trenches in order to maximise solar and wind access- but it means I needed an electric pump to move wastes up hill. In doing so I also freed up an area of high ground for a future market garden and flower nursery. So working against nature was a good strategic decision I made.

            I have recently joined a seed savers group- I will provide a small amount of plants/ seeds for free (a strategic loss) but will access an equivalent amount of plants/ seeds- which as a strategic investment will be massive and in line with my 5 year permaculture goal of a somewhat diversified perenial greens market garden.

            I just don’t think you need a masterplan or equivalent deign if you continually apply strategic thinking…

            Look forward to your next podcast.

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            2018/02/28 at 3:00 pm
          • From Dan Palmer on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

            Thanks Tim and sorry for the delay in delivering my promised reply! What you’re calling strategic thinking is highly reminiscent of the strategic planning approach that David Holmgren learned from his design process mentor Haikai Tane. Was also alluded to here under the title David Holomgren.

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            2018/04/23 at 9:44 am
          • From makingpermaculturestronger on A Second Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E08)

            Thanks Tim though I would need a sentence on what you mean by strategy before replying – amongst your links there the word strategy is used/defined in so many different ways that it only amplifies my original motivation to ask for clarification as to what exactly you are talking about.

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            2018/02/27 at 8:45 pm
  • From John Carruthers on Hannah Moloney on Permaculture Design, Business, and Life (E07)

    What a lovely interview: Hannah was wonderful. Commonsense and joyful. The discussion about working with clients and saving them from being too hasty was very grounded. It was an effective counterpoint to other (albeit interesting) metaphysical discussions in this series around permaculture design process. Leavening! The design images and photographs filled out the the story beautifully too.] Good work.

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    2018/03/07 at 5:53 pm
  • From Chris Smyth on A Delightful Day of Designing with Dave Jacke

    Thanks for taking the time to share! I know what it takes to encapsulate such exhilarating and messy processes.

    I love the flexibility of the design process, and in particular, Dave’s work with it. Happy to learn what a whirlwind of a design day might look like.

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    2018/03/14 at 5:43 am
  • From Alexander Olsson on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

    Great post Anthony, I really enjoy reading this knowledgeable response to Dan’s many inquiries.

    I totally agree with you that the design scale is a gradient from generative to fabricating, but I still feel strongly about winging it being an end-point on the scale of more arbitrary to less arbitrary. I recognise that there might be other areas of design where a fabricating approach might be warranted, but I am staring to feel like it doesn’t belong in permaculture.

    I see winging it as a step down a black hole. You are either in its grasp and sucked down or you are well aware of its potential pull and stay on the design path. There is a singularity that defines the point at which you are in the winging it zone. And about fabricating it, as I pointed out in my post here on MPS recently “Perhaps surprisingly, these fabricated designs, if not given plenty of time and flexibility for the implementation, have more elements of winging it than does the generative design approach.” and it feels like we are just “afraid of going too far in the process away from fabricating into the dangerous land of generating (a feeling I totally relate to)”, and that is the reason we so desperately want to place winging as an extreme of generative.

    What I think it boils down to is this: How does the implemented design make you feel when using the space that has been designed? If you are in a garden that has been winged, then you will feel the total randomness of stuff in wrong places. If you are in a garden that has a fabricated design, then you will feel the disconnectedness between the elements although you might find the master plan really pretty, when the owner or designer no doubt pulls it out to explain away why the garden has a certain bad feel about it (it is just not ready yet according to the master plan). When you are in a garden that has been generatively designed, then you will feel that someone was in the garden when it was designed and the physical details are not blurred by the scale of the drawn map (because there is no drawn map).

    If you did wake up every morning on a new farm with new animals and climatic conditions, winging it would still create a mentally uncomfortable place to be in. Hopefully, you would instead develop an adaptive attitude to the constantly changing environment, and generate a response to this peculiar situation.

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    2018/03/18 at 12:13 am
    • From Anthony Briggs on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

      Hi Alexander,

      I think the core is that I disagree with the “more arbitrary” to “less arbitrary” scale. If a situation is clear and easy to understand, then it makes sense to be closer to the fabricating end of the scale – it’s not an arbitrary choice. Similarly if you don’t know which way to proceed, and wing it with something that looks promising – that’s not arbitrary either.

      I think mostly what you’re focusing on is “Fabricating gone wrong”, ie. where it’s been used in very changeable situations, and “Extreme winging it”, where you literally put things in at random. If your master plan has disconnection between the elements, is that because of the fabrication process? or has it just not been done very well?

      Say that you’re thinking of starting an organic market garden. That’s a well-trodden path: what to grow and how to lay it out, composting, market and competitor research, distribution, etc. are all pretty much solved problems. Lots of books, blog posts, Youtube videos, etc. You’re unlikely to gain much by dealing with any of that in a generative fashion (and if you did in that context then it would definitely be an arbitrary choice).

      If you plan it out, including the finances, wages, how much you’ll sell, how many polytunnels, seeds, compost, water, irrigation equipment, etc, you’ll make a lot of (cheap) mistakes on paper at the planning stage. While researching, you might even find it’s not viable at all, and save yourself a couple of years of pain and suffering.

      Of course, once your plan is “done”, then you monitor how it’s going as you implement it and prepare to deal with issues as they arise. But the act of planning ahead is not necessarily going to wreck a design, and is 100% necessary in some cases.

      Go to comment
      2018/03/18 at 6:29 pm
  • From John Carruthers on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

    Great post Anthony. Good things will come from Permaculture making itself and the design-and-execution process thoughtfully porous to other domains of expertise. Your software pollination was a great example.

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    2018/03/18 at 9:50 am
  • From Alexander Olsson on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

    I don’t agree with the “solved problem” statement. That’s only true if you are imposing a market garden on nature. For example, it is a known fact that you “need to drain your soil” if your soil is water-logged and you want to grow vegetables or even fruit trees. But what about working with this? How about growing things when the soil dries up or using the water to grow water-loving plants and animals? How about digging a pond and turning your veggie market garden into a aquaponic market garden? If we are stuck on one solution, then we always have to go to the text book of solved problems and force nature into this. I think you may have drifted away from permaculture design here somehow… the design starts well before you decide to start a market garden and that’s where it get’s interesting.

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    2018/03/20 at 3:57 am
    • From Anthony Briggs on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

      I think you might be missing the point a bit here. It’s still a similar problem: Where will you sell your fish? What sort of fish grow well? How much will it cost to dig ponds and install pumps/filters/infrastructure? What foods will local restaurants buy? Are there even any local restaurants nearby? Talking to an established aquaculture person (for example) will give you tested answers to a lot of these questions.

      If your context is that you’ve bought a piece of land and you’re wondering what the hell to do with it, then sure, the solution has to fit that context too. Do aquaculture or whatever works for that land. But given a particular personal context, that land might not be right for you, and planning ahead will show that up *before* you put any money down.

      Go to comment
      2018/03/21 at 12:30 pm
  • From Paul d'Aoust on Jascha Rohr on the Field Process Model (E10)

    Heh, I recognise those books! How far have you gotten into them, Dan? How have you found them so far? I started on #4, The Luminous Ground (only because it was the only volume my library has), but I found it a bit dense, like the Silmarillion. I got through the Silmarillion… wasn’t so successful with The Luminous Ground. I’m happy people like you are distilling it for people like us.

    Looking forward to this interview; I’ve downloaded it into my podcast reader already!

    Go to comment
    2018/03/24 at 2:45 am
    • From makingpermaculturestronger on Jascha Rohr on the Field Process Model (E10)

      Hey Paul! I’ve read them all carefully and I’m a different designer and person for it. I would absolutely not recommend starting with The Luminous Ground – it really doesn’t make sense outside the context of the first three books. So I would say it is a good thing you didn’t get through it and hopefully you quit sooner rather than later :-). Volume Two, The Process of Creating Life was by far the biggest game changer for me, though Volumes One and Three were important also. But I agree that there needs to be more accessible introductions to them – something I’ll be putting more and more effort into in the coming years. Do let me know what you make of this episode by the way – is one of my favourites so far for sure…

      Go to comment
      2018/03/24 at 10:11 am
  • From makingpermaculturestronger on Jascha Rohr on the Field Process Model (E10)

    Thanks to Ed Christwitz for permission to pass on this comment he made on the episode (originally in the Pattern Science Community facebook group):

    Thank you for this relevant inter-dynamic generative metaphysical genius. The crystal melts, opens to re-informing, and re-crystallizes more in tune with the environment.

    Go to comment
    2018/03/25 at 7:51 am
  • From Angie O'Connor on In Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E06)

    Love this, Dan. Thank you so much – as much as Dave nuances that rationality and feelings are inextricable, I am very grateful that you call out permaculture for being afraid of feelings. I agree that the tension between adversely manipulating the natural landscape to service human needs and desires, really could resolve better if we intuit with humility, love and gratitude the “desires” of that landscape and all the living ‘elements”, while employing the rational analyses. Permaculture takes us closer to the Care ethics than other design processes, but sometimes it seems that our delight in clever intradependent generative systems can blind us to the hubris and sometimes even cruelty of our solutions. I’m thinking here of the occasions where we look to mechanistic animal services (say tractored pigs or chooks, and cell grazed animals left without protection from our harsh weather).
    I dunno, I love permaculture. But it is difficult indeed to achieve a balance between the Rightness of a permie livelihood and the ethics of care. I guess in the end there are as many subjective interpretations of the ethics and principles as there are practitioners 🙂
    Congrats on this venture. A philosophy of permaculture that will hopefully actually inform future practice! Wonderful!

    Go to comment
    2018/04/13 at 4:14 pm
  • From Angie O'Connor on Rosemary Morrow on Permaculture Design Process (E01)

    Dan,
    Rowe has the wisdom and compassion of a sage. Bless her.
    I hope she publishes again.
    Bill seemed to arrive at a similar place. He speaks of the importance of protecting the profound beauty of life in his Intro to PC text. He even exhorts us to refrain from taking animals’ lives unless absolutely necessary.
    As we can hear with Rowe at the end of your podcast, holding this position publicly is problematic and actually takes more courage than even Rowe, and certainly the rest of we mere mortals in permie-world dare admit.
    My own feeling is that if we raise young people to care for the plight of the ant in our path (when possible), let alone the forest and her communities, we raise a generation that could turn this clusterfuck around. Empathy, not rationality, is the human experience that could elevate us to a place of true stewardship.
    Really enjoying your podcasts while I knit my stepdaughter a jumper :), You’ve got me thinking about the “design” of our community of elements (teen students) in Drew and my Sustainability project at Templestowe College. Hope to touch base with you about it. It’s pretty amazing for lost young guys with some grouse sustainable building, plumbing, forging, duckaponics, micro-enterprises etc as well as very bad language when they think you’re out of earshot!! They’re fantastic! As are the girls of course
    Angie

    Go to comment
    2018/04/14 at 6:04 pm
  • From Jason Ross on Video Update from Dan (April 1st, 2018)

    Thanks for the video Dan, good to see the face behind the words again! Keep up the stoking!

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    2018/04/22 at 6:04 am
  • From Jason Ross on Jascha Rohr on the Field Process Model (E10)

    Epic! I now find it useful to imagine this field process model in the form of a sweet round fruit when approaching a project. For example a couple upcoming projects, both suburban gardens with an already established gardens but with new owners wanting to make changes. The whole of the property as it is, the people that live there, myself employed to facilitate this evolution, the plants and animals already there; I can visualise as participateurs together in this evolving field, coming together for the tranformation that is required at that time. A node in a continuing process.

    That particular field (project) swells in significance in the lives of the participateurs for that time, linking & merging with the other fields of our lives also evolving at the same time (family, home, personal projects, other overlapping jobs!).

    Again these enquiries illuminate the value of working the the unique qualities of the place and the people, including myself employed as the ‘professional help’. Jascha’s point that there has not been a quality process unless all of the participateurs have been transformed is both empowering and freeing of conventional restraints that I impose on myself in an attempt to provide a ‘professional’ service. The best result will emerge through my participation being natural, honest and subjective. All great stuff to highlight and to work on.

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    2018/04/22 at 7:25 am
  • From Jason Ross on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Commentary from Anthony Briggs (Inquiry 2, Post 25)

    Hey Anthony, thanks for this. Being a visual rather than wordy person I appreciate your diagrams a lot.

    The “act of planning ahead is not necessarily going to wreck a design”, true, except if you then follow the plan without constant reassessing of the site context as you move along.

    I am glad you mention different scenarios, we need to talk about specific projects otherwise this is all very abstract!

    All projects and people start with a history, “winging it” is impossible, we all carry knowledge and cultural norms and influences into whatever we do.

    Is our goal in Permaculture is to enable humans to lead productive, enjoyable lives engaged with the beauty and life energy of nature? We invite nature in, we humbly work in co-creation of landscapes. Perhaps this is the most important ‘yeild’, to be engaged in the ongoing process of of doing, observing while doing, being active, making decisions, tweaking the system we are a part of.

    We aim to be engaged, see Ben Falks ‘Habits of the Mind’. I saw a book recently titled “Know Maintenance Gardening”, haven’t read it but that title says so much about the mistake we make in trying to design ourselves out of the system (low maintenance gardens) when we want to be engaged, as in chop and drop systems. To know plants/animals etc intimately, what a pleasure.

    Experiencing the evolution of a system is a yield. Allow it in. Overwhelming Fabrication/Construction excludes this also. Therefore in your Actual Control diagram we would want to guide the actual control of our situation towards ‘Changing’ to allow for the ongoing yield of experiencing system evolution. To move into chaos or predictability reduces this yeild.

    Thanks for the space to articulate thoughts Dan!

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    2018/04/22 at 10:06 am
  • From Peta Hudson on Rosemary Morrow on Permaculture Design Process (E01)

    I am listening to this sometime after it was recorded and many years since I studied with Rowe back in ’91. I have since taught and designed both in Oz and Aotearoa NZ and I am hearing much of what she taught to us which is very heartening! There have been so many developments of the permaculture approach and I have often wondered if I am too ‘old school’ but the foundations are strong and Rowe has always been clear on them.
    It was interesting when she talked about teaching micro climates as it brought back the very simple walk she took us on over the road from the Blackheath Neighbourhood Centre in the Blue Mountains where we found an avocado growing against a brick wall with a tarred road alongside and with bamboo growing on either side. One example after all these years and it’s as if I saw it yesterday! I am eternally grateful for her teachings.

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    2018/04/24 at 6:12 pm
  • From Grifen Hope on Jascha Rohr on the Field Process Model (E10)

    Wonderful! Thank you

    Springs to mind sympoiesis and sintropy – as Nature.

    I can see in the model internal and external, mind-like and matter-like emerging entities. I see culture and nature, and landscapes. Beautiful!

    Great! Aha 🙂

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    2018/04/26 at 12:22 am
  • From Will Heffernan on Weak Link Analysis – What is it?

    Dan,
    It is so bizarre to end up here where it began with regards this ‘project’ and see you referencing bodybuilding. I have been reading about permaculture whether it be under that label or not and watching videos on youtube on homesteading, composting, farming, organic farming etc etc etc for around a year and about a fortnight ago almost simultaneously stumble across your involvement in VEG and Wicking Beds from completely different angles. This past week I have been driving to and from work listening to your podcasts and thinking about you examination of permaculture and smiling at the huge number of parallels there are with sport science which like permaculture is quite a young ‘science’.
    Listening to your discussions made me think about all the new practitioners that come into the ‘science’ getting exposed to all these new processes, procedures, tools and wanting to use and experiment with them all. Wanting to race forward and put them ALL into practice immediately….and I know this because it is EXACTLY what I did when I started 🙂
    The thing is the more time that passes the fewer tools, the more basic and stripped back the process becomes. If you compared programs that I write for full time professional athletes operating at the highest level and compared them to the programs that newly qualified personal trainers write for beginner trainees I am sure that most people would think them reversed.
    I look forward to talking to you in the future as I see so many intersections and similarities in the relationships between permaculture and sports science and permaculture designers and coaches.

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    2018/04/28 at 9:30 am
  • From John Carruthers on A Taste of the Fourteenth Australasian Permaculture Convergence

    Brenna’s lyrical drawings will make a fabulous complement to your thoughtful musings in your forthcoming book. Bring it on! Slowly.

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    2018/04/29 at 7:46 am
  • From Ian Lillington on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

    In response to http://makingpermaculturestronger.net/making-permaculture-stronger-at-ipc17-india/

    A great read, quite poetic, but also level-headed when it comes to the 20 numbered dot points. In SE Australia we have a Permaculture Educators’ Guild {PEG} with 71 p’c trainers on the mailing list and 20 active teacher/trainer/mentors who meet and actively address these points. Not all of them, yet, but most. The PEG approach could be replicated as a ‘guild’ of teacher/trainer/mentors in any area. Practically, for us, it works best for people within about 200km of Melbourne, and why not similar for 200km from any other metro area as the hub. Or in other areas where there is not a dominant hub, other patterns apply.

    Of course there are more than 20. No denying it, and I dont deny that there are culture-wide issues such as patriarchy and colonialism. But i do question whether they are being “problematically perpetuated within the permaculture community.” Altho not at IPC I have talked to many who were there and they almost all seem to repeat this as a stock phrase. It is possible that culture-wide issues such as patriarchy and colonialism are being problematically perpetuated within the permaculture community. But when I ask for examples, none are given. Nor do I see much evidence that Holmgren’s suggestion that ‘self criticism is essential ‘ …is being … ‘balanced by affirmation and recognition of self worth’. Did u not hear about the women and men of p’c in Africa, Asia and latin america who are doing the very opposite of perpetuating the problems that we have worked so hard to counter? Is there not a risk of a p’c dogma developing here that amounts to unhelpful and destructive self-flagellation?

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    2018/05/07 at 2:14 pm
    • From David Hursthouse on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

      Kia ora Ian,

      Thanks for the feedback! A similar Permaculture Educator’s Guild exists in New Zealand as well – likely inspired in part by you and your peers. Many thanks for your great work. There was also a focused Hui (Convergence) last year in NZ involving education-oriented Permies focusing on improving Permaculture Education in NZ – part of that involving conversations around PEG and standards/Code of Ethics etc. I am wondering if your PEG and our PEG are in touch at all?

      It is good that you question that idea. That is the intention here – to question. As stated ‘we haven’t even touched’ on those questions yet. At this stage, I personally am not prepared to say definitively either way whether Permaculture as a whole is perpetuating or breaking down some of those patterns. I can share that in New Zealand there is an ongoing struggle to make Permaculture relevant to indigenous peoples and to engage them in the movement. Our Permaculture population is overwhelmingly of European descent. There is an ongoing discourse here around those themes, and I know in many other places around the world – plus active online dialogue. If this is something that interests anyone, I encourage them to seek those conversations out.

      I sure was fortunate enough to meet and speak with a number of people from the places you mention – Africa, Asia, Latin America. No one could deny the brilliant work being facilitated in countries all over the world. Remembering as well that this event was deep in the heart of rural India – I lived and worked with a multi-cultural team for many months. I also witnessed large-scale conversations about ‘Decolonising Permaculture’ both at the IPC and in a number of other locations, attended by a diversity of people including those doing such great work in Africa, Asia and Latin America (among many other places). If nothing else, these sessions demonstrate that there is energy for these conversations.

      I don’t think this comment thread is the place to unpack such enormous and nuanced topics (they really need a space of their own), but I encourage you to continue asking those questions, to ask a diversity of people and to listen to the answers. Maybe you could share with us one day the reflections that emerge!

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      2018/05/07 at 3:51 pm
      • From Ian Lillington on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

        Hi David; thanks. Aside from the content of this discussion, I am becoming increasingly focused on WHERE IS the place to unpack such discussions. I had been somewhat involved in the Global Colab and the PIRN, but not sure they have the right space either. Meanwhile I do my bit to save [on my computer] some relevant threads of conversations; hopefully to be useful later.

        Go to comment
        2018/05/07 at 4:28 pm
        • From Paul d'Aoust on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

          Ian, I like the idea of a permaculture database. I know a lot of people have tried it before, with varying levels of success… Lots of years ago, I was part of a group that forked from the permaculture mailing list on ibiblio. Lots of talk, but we didn’t get anywhere, because there were so many diverging ideas about what it should be. For now, we have PFAF, Appropedia, the wiki at Apios Institute, and a couple others whose names I forget.

          So the question is, is this a valuable resource? Are the existing tools enough, and we just need one more wiki to map out the nature of permaculture itself? I think the biggest problem with creating a resource like this is, how do you get a critical mass of participants, actively co-creating the content? I think the problem is twofold:

          Critical mass always the problem of new initiatives, especially digital shared spaces. What sort of energy does it take to get this resource snowballing?
          The best permaculture designers are busy out there, building stuff and regenerating ecosystems of all sorts. They would rather not be tapping away on the computer. Is there any way to connect into the processes they’re already part of, to make it as frictionless as possible for them to contribute?

          Building the software is easy, and fun. Building the community is hard. But I for one ache for that sort of resource.

          One question I have is, how does one make that resource mimic natural systems? It seems like having one monolithic resource, no matter how open it is to contributors, leaves little room for diversity and neglects the excellent resources that already exist. If there were one resource, it’d be nice if it were at least in part an aggregator of existing information. Fortunately, the killer feature of HTML is the humble hyperlink, so this might not be all that hard.

          One of the reasons I’ve been out of touch with the MPS conversation is that I’m part of a team building Holochain, a platform for distributed applications that are governed by their users. It’s exciting stuff, lots of biomimicry and systems thinking going on in the minds of the core dev team. (It’s as if some permaculture designers got together and decided to redesign the Internet.) I wonder if Holochain could provide a platform to help solve some of these problems of governance and cultural norms in the permaculture community — and perhaps even some of the problems of designers not being able to make a dignified income.

          If anyone is interested in this but has come away from the above websites more confused about what Holochain and Ceptr are all about, I’m totally happy to have a conversation here about it.

          Go to comment
          2018/06/05 at 3:47 am
          • From Dan Palmer on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

            Paul thanks and I for one would LOVE to hear a few paragraphs explaining Holochain and Ceptr for dummies and especially how they draw on and embody biomimicry and systems thinking.

            Go to comment
            2018/07/16 at 2:30 pm
        • From Ian Lillington on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

          In answer to my WHERE question – I’m thinking that we may need an Independent Permaculture Data Base {IPDB} like imdb, where each topic can have an on-going space for ‘review’.

          But also considering that perhaps MPS is The place for IPDB?

          Go to comment
          2018/05/09 at 8:07 pm
          • From Paul d'Aoust on Making Permaculture Stronger at IPC17 India

            Ian, I like the idea of a permaculture database. I know a lot of people have tried it before, with varying levels of success… Lots of years ago, I was part of a group that forked from the permaculture mailing list on ibiblio. Lots of talk, but we didn’t get anywhere, because there were so many diverging ideas about what it should be. For now, we have PFAF, Appropedia, the wiki at Apios Institute, and a couple others whose names I forget.

            So the question is, is this a valuable resource? Are the existing tools enough, and we just need one more wiki to map out the nature of permaculture itself? I think the biggest problem with creating a resource like this is, how do you get a critical mass of participants, actively co-creating the content? I think the problem is twofold:

            Critical mass always the problem of new initiatives, especially digital shared spaces. What sort of energy does it take to get this resource snowballing?
            The best permaculture designers are busy out there, building stuff and regenerating ecosystems of all sorts. They would rather not be tapping away on the computer. Is there any way to connect into the processes they’re already part of, to make it as frictionless as possible for them to contribute?

            Building the software is easy, and fun. Building the community is hard. But I for one ache for that sort of resource.

            One question I have is, how does one make that resource mimic natural systems? It seems like having one monolithic resource, no matter how open it is to contributors, leaves little room for diversity and neglects the excellent resources that already exist. If there were one resource, it’d be nice if it were at least in part an aggregator of existing information. Fortunately, the killer feature of HTML is the humble hyperlink, so this might not be all that hard.

            One of the reasons I’ve been out of touch with the MPS conversation is that I’m part of a team building Holochain, a platform for distributed applications that are governed by their users. It’s exciting stuff, lots of biomimicry and systems thinking going on in the minds of the core dev team. (It’s as if some permaculture designers got together and decided to redesign the Internet.) I wonder if Holochain could provide a platform to help solve some of these problems of governance and cultural norms in the permaculture community — and perhaps even some of the problems of designers not being able to make a dignified income.

            If anyone is interested in this but has come away from the above websites more confused about what Holochain and Ceptr are all about, I’m totally happy to have a conversation here about it.

            Go to comment
            2018/06/05 at 3:46 am
  • From Angie O'Connor on Rosemary Morrow on Permaculture Design Process (E01)

    Hi Dan
    Didn’t see your reply till now.
    As is my schtick, I started that comment above motivated by concern for animals in permaculture. I always feel they draw a short straw in any consideration of ethics. We’re very comfortable with the notion of care of people, and of course we are all about rescuing the planet, but with animals we tend to see utility, not wonderment and empathy. So yep, dear Rowe gets a superwoman vote from me for her comments on this.
    Now, her cape 😉 I’ll commission our students to knit it from the handspun alpaca and sheep fleece harvested from our permie urban farm at Templestowe College. I’m thinking a lot, Dan about the iterative design process we guide, as each semester new and continuing elements (students) interconnect through interests and skills, to generate new projects, all in the advancement of an overall student community sustainability enterprise, manifested in physical space. What Drew and I love most is not so much teaching applied permaculture, but that through permaculture students can realize themselves in new and unexpected ways. Permaculture opportunities are the real teacher. This is fantastic for the fledgling eco-warriers of course, but we have come to believe, such programs should be available generically if schools are to prevent disaffected youth falling through the gaps. Permaculture with its eco-construction, resourceful problem-solving, old and new technologies, fundamentals of multiple branches of science (especially interpersonal psychology!), alternative and responsible small economic ventures, food, animals, art, ethics, and also physical work… permaculture with all of this has become at TC a welcome home for boys, girls, and as it happens some gender-fluid youngsters, who are drifting and hurting.
    It’s pretty damned powerful! So go you good things with its strengthening (and don’t forget the non-human animals 🙂

    Go to comment
    2018/05/23 at 5:13 pm
  • From Trevor Lohr on A question asked of David Holmgren during his closing address to the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence

    It’s great to see this conversation flourishing at the international level. It seems like different communities and industries all over the world are approaching the same issue when it comes to making decisions, creating functional and beautiful structures and spaces, sharing dialogue and changing systems.

    I have been seeing a common thread across most disciplines of the story of interconnection of “wholes” and their iterative evolution of form through adaptive growth and release. The concept is so much older than the more modern view of separation between people, between humans and nature, or even between matter and space. It may seem superfluous to talk in such philosophical terms, but the difference between the story of separation and the story of inter-Being is clearly at the core of the systems we are talking about, whether it’s design, ecology, politics, economy or the nature of the self. Surely I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’m building towards a point.

    Most recently I came to realize the similarity between Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order, Socratic Dialogue, Buddhist Dialectical teaching and Marx’s Dialectical Materialism. They all view the world through the lens of interconnected processes which are constantly evolving. Marx describes the processes through three stages: Thesis is the existing order and processes which maintain it, Antithesis is the negation of the existing order and the processes that force change, and Synthesis is the resulting order of the balance of those forces over time and the “negation of the negation”. So a chair is not a static object, but a balanced and evolving result of the order of particles existing against the forces of time and gravity which degrade the initial conditions. The point is that systems do not just change in a vacuum, but evolve through the processes which shape them, and always from a state of existing conditions to another.

    Socrates, the Buddha, and many other named and unnamed people recognized this pattern thousands of years ago. Whole societies grew out of the recognition of the natural processes which generate systems through unfolding patterns. Socrates and the Buddha both used a system of dialogue that focuses on listening to others’ abstract perspectives and claims about the world and then responding by demonstrating their negation. They realized, like Alexander demonstrates, that our notions of systems and how they work are often abstractions that only serve to disconnect us from the real world, and thereby reinforce the story of separation. It is only through the story of interdependence and holistic connectedness that we can truly understand, on a deep intuitive level, the influential balance between self and other, subject and object or matter and space. I think many stories across history tell us that humans are their most human selves when they recognize the dance between individual and environment as a coherent whole.

    Luckily, it appears that the core belief in the connected Being-ness of all things has not only survived the 20th century, but it is rapidly spreading around the world. Many Americans seem to feel like they are taking a breath of fresh air as they learn about natural systems and old/new ways of holistic management in its various forms. I don’t want to start a war in the comments here by getting political, but I think the various historical and present “communist” movements by people to gain control of their own communities were, at their heart, based on permaculture ideals of earth care, people care and fair/sustainable reinvestment of surplus value. They were reactions to the forces and conditions of a predatory global market system.

    Recently, I’ve seen wealthy New York City hedge funders talk about the segment of billionaires who want to contribute to community resilience and regeneration, and help shift the market economy to more of a gift economy with human values at the center! Yet, few of these Americans realize that this conversation has been happening in developing countries for over a century, and that America waged war to stop that conversation and that new type of economy from evolving and spreading here into the heart of global capitalism. Our citizens have been persuaded to view those people and countries that have been externalized and exploited for our way of life as the enemy, as communists and terrorists. If those words raise the hairs on the back of the neck, please realize that we should not be afraid to talk about a democratic economic system for acquiring the things we need and desire. Please understand that no one has the answers for how that system will look and function, except that it will likely take many different local forms.

    I bring this up because I hear this conversation happening in so many communities, but if I bring up the fact that there’s an existing, century-long body of knowledge, experience and hardship that people around the world have been through under the generalized label of “communism”, everyone automatically rejects that that’s what we’re talking about. Usually the reaction is the rapid citing of atrocities that were actually the result of many forces and conditions clashing between different systems, least of which were the people trying to cooperatively organize and build their own communities without exploitation by exterior organizations. Now, America is becoming familiar with the feeling of worker exploitation and inequality, and similar ideas for change are bubbling to the surface. This is what Marx called class consciousness, which is the growing awareness of the 99%.

    Despite my rhetoric, I’m actually not a communist; I just believe that people should have a voice and power over their own lives. Isn’t that what’s at the core of permaculture? Community self sufficiency was the norm for thousands of years because local economies were based on unique cultures and trust, and sustainability meant preventing too much runaway growth. Holmgren’s concept of energy descent is the only realistic way for regular people to empower themselves to meet their needs and wants in the face of a great reduction in the flow of energy through global society. I think he’s right that Permaculture will cease to be a named concept as communities transition to a leaner localized economy because their diverse practices will just become the normal way of life (maybe that’s not exactly what he meant?).

    In conclusion, can we let go of divisive generalizing labels which trigger old fears, and welcome the experience and wisdom of all who have engaged in the great experiment to rebalance power at the community level? I think we have to recognize that designing from an intuitive place in our hearts and minds to build beautiful, functional, regenerative communities and landscapes is at its core an antithesis to designing and building from market conditions. Breaking those chains is an ongoing process which extends through all disciplines and aspects of our society and communities. Getting to that place where we can actually talk about the creative process inside the black box of “design process” requires nothing less than a radical shift in the stories that define our worldview from one of separation to the story of inter-Being… or whatever you want to call it.

    Go to comment
    2018/06/06 at 1:55 am
    • From Dan Palmer on A question asked of David Holmgren during his closing address to the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence

      Thanks muchly for this thought-provoking contribution Trevor – I’m not sure about all your points and comparisons but I love and second your closing statement!: “Getting to that place where we can actually talk about the creative process inside the black box of “design process” requires nothing less than a radical shift in the stories that define our worldview from one of separation to the story of inter-Being… or whatever you want to call it” damned straight!

      Go to comment
      2018/07/16 at 2:27 pm
  • From Alexander Olsson on Summary and Conclusion to our Inquiry into the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture (Inquiry 2, Post 26)

    Looking forward to future posts! Will be great to get stuck into generation again.

    Go to comment
    2018/06/27 at 7:40 pm
  • From Alec on The Resilio Studio Design Process Primer: Part Three - Finn and Gary's reply to the first instalment of Dan's review

    This is just a quick, self-indulgent brain-splurge on the rational bias in design, and on the previous post’s question about whether to stick with the word “design” at all.

    I feel like the rational bias in definitions of design actually allow us to put it in its proper (subordinate) place in a generative process. I’ll take Alexander’s two-part transformation as the template of a generative process: perceive the whole and what transformation it suggests to you, then make that transformation, then repeat. (Bit of a cartoon rendering, but I don’t have any of his giant tomes open in front of me to quote from.)

    Anyway, when the the less rational, more juicy-feely, pre-conscious stuff is appropriate, it happens in step one: perceive the whole (with your whole squishy mind-body), and let the best transformation come to you.
    I see “design” coming into it like this: depending on how consequential the transformation is, something may need to be done between these two steps (perceiving and transforming).

    If the whole we are transforming is, for example, a flow of improvised music (very low on any scale of permanence), nothing need be inserted here, perception and transformation can be a virtually undifferentiated whole. If what we are transforming is part of a landscape that we’re turning into a large dam (high on scales of permanence), a crinkle in the perception-transformation whole suggests itself: there needs to be something between them to prevent unintended or undesirable consequences.

    What that actually is could be any of a number of cognitive processes: engineering, permaculture principles, holistic decision-making tests, financial calculations, even rational reminders to check in on our emotions. I guess we can either conceive of design processes as mental models to apply alongside these others, or if we really want to elevate its importance, we can think of it as the tool that allows us to choose the best mental models to use in this particular transformation.

    So in the example of a dam, our deep perception of the people and the site suggest to us a water feature, so now we do some design: we map, mark and draw, we calculate capacity and cost, lay out water levels for the earth mover, and so on. Then we do the transformation, then we go back to perceiving the whole.

    So I see design as a small part of the generative transformation as a whole. It’s okay that it’s biased towards the rational because its role can be to serve the warm, complex, touchy-feely stuff with whatever cold, complicated, rational process will be most helpful in getting the overall transformation right.

    And why not just call the whole generative process “design”? Because the word already has a meaning, and that meaning (as you’ve so ably demonstrated on MPS) is antithetical to generative transformation processes. So if we relegate design to a useful little piece of the process, it gets to keep its meaning, and we can draw on it whenever we need to while we lovingly generate wholeness-preserving transformations everywhere.

    Or something. Sorry that got so long, this stuff gives me designarrhea.

    Go to comment
    2018/07/09 at 11:26 am
    • From Dan Palmer on The Resilio Studio Design Process Primer: Part Three - Finn and Gary's reply to the first instalment of Dan's review

      Beautifully put Alec! Or something indeed. It is a pleasure to read someone thinking/writing so fluently about this stuff.

      I have found one potentially complicating factor in pursuing this line of thought. In my experimentation with this kind of approach, the boundaries between perceiving/sensing/feeling the whole situation as it is now, ‘designing’ and crash testing possible transformations (or what I’ve come to call a BNS or best next step) and then actively transforming the situation are very very fuzzy (I’d also argue that rational operations are very much present in all three phases). Like Alexander’s ‘gradual stiffening’ pattern, I tend to find that I cannot point at any particular moment in an attempt at living process and say “okay, now we are done sensing, let’s start designing” or “okay, enough design, let’s start transforming.”

      What this means for me is that it seems like either “design” gets the flick all together (which was probably Alexander’s inclination) or it gets generalised, spread out to encompass the whole, which as I explained above remains my temporary strategy in trying to move this whole conversation forward. Do keep chiming in though please – I particularly appreciated your “a crinkle in the perception-transformation whole suggests itself” and how the permanence continuum relates to whether there even is a crinkle and if so how large it is…

      Go to comment
      2018/07/09 at 4:29 pm
      • From Alec on The Resilio Studio Design Process Primer: Part Three - Finn and Gary's reply to the first instalment of Dan's review

        Hi Dan, thanks for the reply! As always, you strike a great balance between deep thinking and clear expression. Unfortunately for you, I’m going to reply with some half-baked thoughts, because it helps clarify my thinking and will hopefully draw out some more of your thinking for us to enjoy.

        I agree fully with the second paragraph of your reply, and I think what you’re describing is sort of the ideal state for a generative process. But I do take issue with stretching design to encompass the whole process, and I think design itself might in fact be permaculture’s Type One Error (which you’re having to expend so much energy to correct). Leaving aside for a moment the more theoretical concerns of what design is and what we’re actually doing in a generative process (which I could uselessly waffle on about forever), I have some more down-to-earth concerns.

        I’m a beginning farmer working on rented land. There’s a lot of us in this situation, and I don’t thing I’m the only one who started farming because of inspiration from permaculture, but who at the same time finds permaculture close to useless in making decisions about my farm enterprise. On a theoretical level, reading Allan Savory and Christopher Alexander made me feel that design is in fact an error in itself, and without design permaculture basically offers nothing. Since I’ve started my own farm, the practical realities have pretty much confirmed this. (In fact, your efforts on MPS are the only thread keeping me attached to permaculture at the moment).

        Part of the reason for this is that when land tenure is insecure, you work exclusively at the low end of the scale of permanence, where (as I’ve argued above) you don’t need design very much: it’s lean, agile, test-driven, fail-fast, quick-feedback stuff (think pastured broilers or intensive salad crops). I constantly need to plan and make decisions, but if the verb of permaculture is to design then it doesn’t help me much with these (unless you totally change its meaning, as suggested by you and many other deep thinkers on this).

        I do, however, find Holistic Management very helpful. In an odd way, I also find Alexander’s work helpful, because of the simplicity and near universality of the differentiation, BNS and gradual stiffening approaches. Always hanging just out of sight, I also have a cloudy vision of some simple process that unites all these modalities in a useful way, which I’m sure is what we’re all groping towards. I would love it if permaculture became that umbrella process, but if it defines itself as design, I don’t think it will, for two reasons (both of which I think you’ve already alluded to, but don’t really feel resolved to me).

        One, we would have to change the meaning of design to encompass all conscious action (as suggested in the above blog post). When I try to apply this kind of definition to my life, it feels pretty useless. Maybe when I do some budgeting work in a spreadsheet, I’m actually designing a budget or designing my expenditures. But it feels more useful to say that I’m budgeting (which is a really-existing, practical procedure). It’s conscious, future-oriented action, but it’s not design. And if I’m doing it in the context of a holistic or ecological understanding, then it can be permaculture, even though it’s not design.

        Two, if design just becomes any conscious action, we lose the use of the word for those things that it really applies to. When I do a drawing of a chicken tractor I’m going to build, it’s a useful application of design that has practical benefits, like knowing what materials to buy. Again, what might make it permacultural or generative is that I do it within a context of a holistic understanding. But it’s still design as a subsidiary activity, in the same way that budgeting, planned grazing, composting, and tooth brushing are all potentially useful actions to perform within a holistic context.

        I’m guessing here, but I feel like this becomes even more important if we want people in various design professions to embrace permaculture. If they they have to abandon their well-developed (if flawed) understandings of design and replace them with something new, they might be less likely to come along than if they can place their existing understandings within a more holistic context. In this way, for example, architects, engineers, landscape designers and farmers could all feel that they are performing their professional activity within the context of permaculture, rather than replacing their practices with a new process.

        One immediate benefit of making design a subsidiary, optional part of permaculture is that the many of us proceeding with ecological regeneration by starting on rented land with Salatin-style enterprises or annual market gardening can feel like we are still doing permaculture. We’re not designing much, but we’re constantly performing transformations of our life-business-wholes. These transformations are necessarily low on the scale of permanence, but they are guided by the holistic vision and ethics of permaculture, and we hope they will gradually stiffen into more mature wholes. Maybe someday we’ll even need a design procedure that tells where to plant big trees. In the meantime, it would be nice if permaculture could embrace these activities even when they don’t include design.

        So to summarize all this guff: permaculture feels most useful to me when it can be the broad holistic process that includes useful subsidiary procedures. The basic process is to perceive the whole as fully as possible and transform it incrementally to become more alive. Within this process we may draw on procedures such as design, budgeting, surgery, meditation, breakdancing etc. Permaculture is less useful when it focuses on design as the thing we should be doing, because most of the time it’s not the thing we’re doing.

        OK, all finished. Apologies for spraying this mess all over the place, if nothing else it’s been therapeutic for me.

        Go to comment
        2018/07/10 at 12:53 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Morag Gamble on Permaculture, Life, and Citizen Design (E13)

    Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Dan. I have often thought that permaculture provides us with the model for the best way to be human, and Morag is just one piece of hard evidence for that. Such a generous and inspirational person.

    Go to comment
    2018/07/15 at 3:57 pm
  • From Will Heffernan on Morag Gamble on Permaculture, Life, and Citizen Design (E13)

    Already looking forward to the next instalment. About the head down the Our Permaculture Life blog and Morag’s YouTube page rabbit hole for further information and inspiration.

    Go to comment
    2018/07/16 at 1:37 pm
  • From Dan Palmer on Positive, negative and neutral design - guest post by Shane Simonsen

    Thanks for these thoughts Shane. I was interested in the obvious synergy between this distinction you’re exploring and a past comment I made a while back that I’ll be coming back to and developing further in a few posts time:

    Differentiation just means to make different. Whether you use the word differentiate, transform, make different, change, modify, reconfigure, etc etc, the upshot is any process of design and/or creation is a sequence of [insert your preferred word here]. Each of these changes might involve addition (I bring home an apple tree to plant), multiplication (I decide to times that by ten), subtraction (I get rid of the rose bush), division (I partition the yard into two terraces), or morphing or merging or otherwise rearranging what is already there, or any number of other change types. In all cases you have differentiated the whole you are working with. You have made it different. In most cases, each change or differentiation simultaneously involves many of these things. I divide a room in two by adding and assembling some bits of wood and screws. And so on. The take away point is that we tend in our culture to display an unconscious bias in our designing and creating toward adding/assembly, when this is not only missing most of the tool box, but it is out of alignment with the fact that in nature things tend to grow where addition/assembly is an underling of division (e.g., in order for a cell to divide various molecules etc must come in from outside the system, and, sure, if you like, be assembled). It is also going to get harder and harder to do in an energy decent future. But most importantly, it is not the whole shebang. Hopefully over time we’ll all enlarge the vocabulary with which we describe the changes going on inside permaculture design process (where a problematically strong bias toward addition/assembly has been evident).

    Go to comment
    2018/07/25 at 10:32 am
  • From John Carruthers on Positive, negative and neutral design - guest post by Shane Simonsen

    It required some reflection on my behalf to absorb the underlying value of Shane’s three-part classification. Better still when I saw beyond the troika to understand it as one long spectrum of choices it gained even more potency. Asking the right question up front is worth the effort because it reveals alternatives. Like not doing. Or only doing a bit. Lao Tzu would nod in approval. Useful Shane (and Dan): thank you.

    Go to comment
    2018/07/25 at 10:53 am
  • From Paul Meagher on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Part 22

    First observation: In your diagram, over the “Hybrid” approach you have the “unfolding” label. Shouldn’t the “imposing” and “unfolding” boundary lines meet above the middle of the “Hybrid” box? Adhering to the high-level design involves an element of imposition while assimilating feedback into your detailed design involves an element of unfolding? Connecting the boundaries above the Hybrid box, instead of to the left, would potentially clarify what “hybrid” means in your diagram.

    Second observation: Seems to me that engineers are expected to take a fabricating approach to design. So are your cross marks and check marks contextual – true in the context of landscape design but not necessarily true in other contexts? One might even say that winging it is appropriate in cases of significant uncertainty. Just putting in a garden without much knowledge is better than putting in no garden at all because at least you set yourself up to learn. I appreciate that you are trying to make recommendations for doing design better, but certain disciplines like civil and structural engineering seem like they are pretty heavily invested in a fabricating approach and their clients are often expecting quite detailed designs from them. Perhaps they would adopt the approaches you are suggesting if given the time, resources and creative leeway to do so. The fabricating approach may be the compromise position given the constraints engineer-types typically operate under.

    Go to comment
    2018/07/26 at 11:42 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Part 22

      Thanks so much for your comment Paul. After about ten seconds of considering your first observation, I was sold. Thanks for that – will update exactly as you suggest. Interestingly just two days back I was visiting some friends on a property who were talking about how long it had taken them to realise that the concept design completed a few years prior was pulling them in one direction whereas the right direction for them had changed.

      Re your second observation I agree there are places where up front plans and winging it make sense (no need to be dogmatic here!), though yes given the time and support I suspect it is possible to take the generating attitude to the creation of about anything. If anyone is interested, in V. 3 or maybe 4 of the Nature of Order series Christopher Alexander shares an example of the engineering of some complex wide-span trusses in a large building using a generating approach.

      Thanks again Paul and please stay in touch!

      Go to comment
      2018/07/30 at 4:29 pm
  • From Greg O'Keefe on What is Design, Anyway?

    Peter reminds us of Rafter SF’s 4-fold analysis of permaculture, and that it’s not just a design system but also a movement. It is as a movement that permaculture can be effective, and possibly save the world. Therefore I’d like us to think about making permaculture the movement stronger. Maybe the first step is to agree what we are actually on about. Is it design, or a vision for a better, simpler, more natural life?

    Go to comment
    2018/08/09 at 2:42 pm
  • From John Carruthers on What is Design, Anyway?

    Design, for me, is about giving decisions time to breathe. About being imaginative, while overcoming our unconcious biases (and those of others who we may enlist to help us). “I count him braver,” observed Aristotle, “who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”

    Go to comment
    2018/08/09 at 2:48 pm
  • From Alexander Olsson on Breaking News: The Making Permaculture Stronger book is well under way

    Yesyesyes!!

    Go to comment
    2018/08/15 at 3:05 pm
  • From Jason on Breaking News: The Making Permaculture Stronger book is well under way

    sweet! aim high with your kickstarter it deserves it!

    Go to comment
    2018/08/16 at 4:15 pm
  • From Delvin Solkinson on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

    Fascinating and holistic work. When I have been sharing these ideas from Dan Palmer in Canada and USA its amazing how relieved people and permaculturalists are to hear that they have been right all along not to spend too much time fabricating a design before diving in. Wonderful to muse on an evolutionary approach to design and decision making process.

    Go to comment
    2018/08/25 at 9:00 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

      Thanks so much Delvin and that is great to hear – I find a similar response in the antipodes and one related thing that makes me chuckle is that professional designers I know always are generatively transforming their own places, even those that fabricate assemblages for their clients!

      Go to comment
      2018/08/27 at 4:33 pm
  • From Alec on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

    Great stuff as always, Dan. Just a nerdy little observation: I’m noticing an interesting relationship between the rows and columns in this diagram, where it feels like each of the letters on the vertical axis has a natural partner in one of the numbers on the horizontal.

    So when you’re assembling, it tends to lead to a fabrication approach (pre-existing parts having pre-existing characteristics whose interactions have to be predicted beforehand).

    If you’re partitioning, (say on a site map), it leads quite naturally to the hybrid approach, where you define loose bubbles of space down to some desired level of detail, then fill in the finer detail as you go.

    And if you’re transforming, that is you’re conscious that no matter what part you’re working on, it’s the whole whole that’s getting made over, then it naturally leads to a generating approach, in which each step is an action generated by the new configuration of the whole (which didn’t exist yet when you were doing the previous step, so you couldn’t have designed around it).

    So it feels like the central squares (the ones your arrow passes through) are sort of attractors, places where actually-used processes are more likely to be found. It’s harder to think of an example of A3, for example (generated assembly) than for B2 or A1. And if you look at A2 (fabricated partitioning), although you could theoretically partition down to any level of detail, it’s unlikely that a really detailed up-front design would ever come from that kind of process. In creating detailed plans for a building, you might start by partitioning it up into rooms, but at some point you’ll move into assembling construction elements to really get detailed (or do the detail as you build, in which case you’re over in B2).

    This is definitely not some grand rule and I’m sure there are real (possibly quite useful) processes in all the peripheral squares. In fact any one project will probably wander through more than one square on its journey to completion. But I think it does kind of confirm that the route indicated by your arrow is one that can actually be followed in the development of a designer, which might not be the case for an arrow that marched all the way up to C1 then took a hard right, or one that slunk over to A3 then started a steep climb.

    I guess another way of saying it would be that our understanding of wholeness (vertical axis) and the generative potential of our process (horizontal axis) have to develop together, not separately. Almost like they’re aspects of one whole or something.

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    2018/08/26 at 12:38 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

      Thanks and quite right Alec! This is something I want to explore more in a few posts after I’ve reviewed each of the two axes – the fact that the two are not really independent. I think it could be done, but you’d have to be pretty pig-headed to be transforming without being powerfully drawn toward generating (especially if you start by fabricating), or to be generating for long without being drawn toward transforming (especially if you start by assembling). Call it wishful thinking, but if the three central squares kissed by the arrow are like attractors, it’s like we just need to turn down the magnet in A1 a notch, turn up the magnet in C3 a notch, and permaculture’s centre of gravity will get sucked up there within a year or two :-). Your other point I’ll be exploring too – that any given project will wander or jump about from square to square (and maybe at times be straddling a few).

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      2018/08/27 at 5:13 pm
  • From John Carruthers on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

    Dan, having staggered resolutely along the path your arrow points upwards, at times with you beside me the last six months, I can declare you’re well and truly on the right track. It was several months ago, that I put down my first permaculture book, and remember, apart from feeling inspired, being troubled by illustrations of pretty plans that seemed to have been pieced together. Since doing a PDC I’ve seen plenty more. Neat maps that falsely claim to be the territory. Answers that have been prematurely orphaned from their questions. So, what you’ve started to do here is to lead a way out of that unsatisfying cul de sac. Well done. Can’t wait to read the next two installments.

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    2018/08/26 at 7:39 am
  • From Milly on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

    Thanks so much for this Dan. I’m working my way through your website now (can’t believe I hadn’t come across your work before) and it has reinvigorated the direction I want to take my own understanding and practice of permaculture. The ‘assembly of parts’ framework for design has always sat uncomfortably with me – maybe because my background is in nursing. It has always been clear to me that people are not best understood by reducing them to their parts or, indeed, observing them outside of their lived context and their relationships with others and their environment. The same goes for any scrap of life. Everything is integral to and actively influencing the systems in which it lives whether or not that process is consciously directed.

    I had a bit of an epiphany when I first read Stuart Kauffman’s ‘At Home in the Universe’ and saw his explanation of the extraordinarily simple maths of increasing complexity and emergent properties in systems as a result of the ratio of (random) connections to components. In one of your videos your phrase ‘facilitate the unfolding’ really stuck with me because I think our job is more about allowing the connections to happen rather than defining the elements or controlling the direction of emergence. I realised that what I’m doing is seeking a way to create an approach to ‘facilitate the unfolding’ of people and communities through a combination of compassionate communication (based on Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communition) , solution focus (from the therapeutic application developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg) and permaculture design. For me they are both complementary and synergistic.

    thanks again – I look forward to what your blogs and podcasts are going to offer.

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    2018/08/27 at 2:48 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

      Thanks so much for your comment Milly it means a lot to hear this stuff is resonating and motivates me to continue seeing where it all unfolds to from here. I love the sound of what you are up to and would love to hear more about it as you proceed – maybe one thing the podcast can offer some point is a chat with you!

      Go to comment
      2018/08/27 at 4:44 pm
  • From Will Heffernan on Breaking News: The Making Permaculture Stronger book is well under way

    Fantastic. I will continue to enjoy the journey.

    Go to comment
    2018/08/27 at 4:00 pm
  • From Tom Sparrey on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part One of Five)

    Hey Dan, well done on getting to this point, can’t wait for the punchline! At Mayberry, we’ve been knee-deep in generative transformation since the beginnings of Making Permaculture Stronger and it’s been a privilege to have been part of the feedback loop of these concepts being tested on the ground.

    By honouring the existing patterns of this land and our particular context as a bunch of humans living on it, Mayberry’s parts have slowly revealed themselves to us.

    It has not been without its challenges however. It’s an easy thing to slip into a “doing” space where your context and the existing patterns of a place are rolled over. In our experience, the real trick with the design process is learning how to remain tuned into deeper underlying patterns and allow solutions to unfold and enhance existing patterns rather than break them. We’re far from perfect at it here, but after plenty of practise we’re much quicker to recognise when our design process needs to be re-aligned.

    Keep up the good work mate, looking forward to reading the next few posts.

    M Crew.

    Go to comment
    2018/09/02 at 9:27 pm
  • From Susan Cousineau on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Two of Five)

    Really looking forward to giving this (and so many previous) post(s) a more focused and thoughtful read. Your contribution here is so valuable Dan – thanks for the thought, effort, and conscientiousness you bring to the permaculture (small “p”) conversation.

    Great job, lovely visuals – hope to return to this quickly and digest, although it may take a few reads! I thought your design process (patterns to details vs. details to patterns) post series was fantastic, too.

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    2018/09/03 at 2:59 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Two of Five)

      Thanks so much for your comment Susan! Yes indeed maybe I ought to change the “P” in the title of this blog to lowercase :-). For your possible interest a book bringing together an edited and smoothly flowing version of all this stuff is in preparation. Updates on that project will be posted here. Best and thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      Go to comment
      2018/09/03 at 4:35 pm
  • From Delvin Solkinson on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Two of Five)

    Awesome brilliant and inspiring commentary, a deepening unlock for understanding the deeper potential of design.

    Go to comment
    2018/09/04 at 5:06 am
  • From Alex on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Two of Five)

    Holy f*** yes! This has links (I believe) to some things I’ve been pondering.

    So permaculture points to “observation” as a part of a principle, but I believe it is a skill and a process in itself (which is not to say it can’t also be a principle), of which not enough time is dedicated to the development of the skill, or what the processes of observation even are.

    Importantly, particularly from an Australian perspective, but probably also more broadly, the trauma that the land has experienced – of the attempted wide scale separation of “organism” and “environment” – needs healing, and I don’t believe this is possible while we continue to ignore that trauma. David Holmgren says that you’re never starting with a blank slate, as is reiterated in your post, but without the skills of deep observation, we continue to act or design almost as though each piece of land is blank (aside from a few climate sectors and obvious landmarks). The belief of Terra Nullius is ongoing. To me this aspect is of critical importance. On lands with tens of thousands of years of human observation and land management, is the best we can do really just an appropriation of some indigenous knowledge?

    Generative transformation totally makes sense to me (it’s how I live my life, and although that’s taking me towards death, I think it’s also life enhancing…), and I think a major obstacle to pursuing this is being able to perceive what is already there. If permaculture wants to have any chance of success (and defining what I mean by this could be a whole other post, so I’ll just leave that out), we need to be able to learn how to observe (and if/when people have a negative reaction to ideas within “making permaculture stronger” or “living design process” I believe such reactions are stemming from a fear that we don’t have the skills of observation). Rather than taking a Western/Cartesian/European approach to the methods or understandings of indigenous cultures, we need to have a more robust collaborative approach toward the healing process of the land and the folks within it.

    What do you think? And if this is the case, my challenge to the permaculture community, but particularly those that folks look up to as leaders, is what can we do towards bringing about this collaboration? (Though this might be hard to answer exactly; I’m thinking finding a process of collaborative healing and generative transformation would also be generative… if that makes sense.)

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    2018/09/04 at 7:53 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Two of Five)

      Thanks for your comment Alex – your observations resonate with me. As touched on in my conversation with Darren Doherty, conventional design process understandings (that I believe I’ve shown permaculture is not immune from perpetuating) routinely combine superficial observation and full-scale imposition. Now this I see as a key part of the pattern that has created the damage in the landscape and its people that permaculture clearly aspires to be part of redressing/healing. If this analysis is even partially correct, we’d best get serious about weeding out anything from our basic design process understandings and practices that might be unwittingly perpetuating this damage. In particular I totally agree that we have a long way to go toward deepening our observational abilities and that this is key to a stronger permaculture. On that front I am planning next year to create a full-length documentary film about David Holmgren reading landscape which I hope will contribute something toward this deepening.

      Go to comment
      2018/09/06 at 9:12 am
  • From Leon on Positive, negative and neutral design - guest post by Shane Simonsen

    Really enjoying these posts Dan. I’ve just done my PDC with Nick Ritar in Bali and although haven’t got any design experience am enjoying these more in depth articles about the process.

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    2018/09/06 at 10:15 am
  • From Joshua Msika on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

    I like this and it makes intuitive sense. But how do I deal with different levels of permanence? Some things – like earthworks, or building location, need to be thought through because a bunch of other things cascade from those decisions.

    In specific terms, I am currently designing a greenhouse for the NW corner (I’m northern hemisphere) of my garden. I like the idea of a gradually stiffening design, and that’s how it’s happening in my notebook, as I incorporate considerations raised by different articles, books and videos that I’m consulting, but I can’t really figure out how to make the process more generative in *reality*, rather than my imagination. Building a structure requires me to think through the materials I’ll need ahead of time and how they’ll fit together, so that they’re available when I take a week off and have friends round to help me build it. I guess I could build in stages, and design the next stage after I complete the first? So maybe my priority should be figuring out what needs to happen in the first stage and which decisions I’ll be better able to make once I’ve built the first stage?

    It sounds so simple now I’ve thought about it, but what does it actually mean in practice? I’ll maybe report back at some point.

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    2018/09/17 at 8:50 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

      Greetings Joshua and thanks for chiming in! Such a great question that cuts to the chase of the issues and the opportunities at stake. I’ll not attempt (or pretend I even have) a concise answer here, but I will be exploring it with lots of clear examples in future posts and podcasts. Part of the picture is that pictures, as in drawings or design sketches, totally and will always have their place. It is always about finding and surfing the sweet spot between:

      -excessive or superfluous premeditation (up-front planning) that ultimately compromises the best, most adapted outcomes by overly dominating subsequent happenings,
      -too little premeditation where you cut off opportunities and steer yourself into a dead end or cacophony of clashes

      For me there is a lot caught up in this innocent-sounding little idea of the best next step. For a series of best next steps, if they are indeed the best next steps, define a solid or sensible sequence. For me the scale of permanence is a surface manifestation of the deeper idea of doing things in a sensible sequence, much like zones are a surface manifestation of the deeper idea of getting your access and circulation patterns right.

      I cannot imagine a building project where taking it in stages (where you plan what you need for that stage, get it happening, then reassess what is to become the following stage) doesn’t get you to a more adapted, functional, beautiful, elegant outcome than planning the whole build up front then implementing strictly to plan. Again this is not to say that there is not a time and place for buying a prefab kitset and throwing it up, or planning an entire build on paper or screen first. Hopefully, however, such cases don’t result in a lack of adaptivity as the thing then goes up and once built continues to evolve.

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      2018/09/19 at 6:31 pm
  • From Aaron Clifft on Morag Gamble on Permaculture, Life, and Citizen Design (E13)

    That was a fantastic podcast Dan.. I really appreciate you relaxing into the flow and letting Morag express her passion.. Keep the episodes coming mate!

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    2018/09/18 at 3:54 pm
  • From Niva Kay on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

    Hi Dan,

    Great work with this framework it is so clear and focused and well argued.

    I still think that this approach is intrinsic to permaculture and always has been rather than a new idea, but I hugely appreciate your ability to define, clarify and promote it.
    I will definitely save a copy of this diagram for my toolkit.

    Best,
    Niva

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    2018/09/19 at 2:24 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

      Thanks Niva and right on! Here’s a line from the in-preparation part four (of what has now grown into a five-parter!):

      I want to make it clear that I don’t think that generative transformation is in any way a new thing. It is an attempt to describe not only nature’s default operating system, but what already happens when permaculture is at its best. As in generating real, adapted solutions that wrap themselves beautifully into and around the specifics of given situations.

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      2018/09/19 at 2:51 pm
  • From John Carruthers on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

    What an extraordinarily rich and robust concept you’re articulating. A river building from its tributaries. One thing that struck me was how we can get stuck and misled by labels . Winging it is a fine example: a set of behaviours mistaken for something else. Strategic planning (something I’ve had a lot to do with) is another. There’s a lot conducted in that name that is nothing of the sort. But when it’s conducted with a sound evidence base, incisive thinking and excellent service no novo problem solving, it’s highly successful…Much like the demanding journey of truly sound design in any realm worth undertaking (like permaculture or restorative agriculture). Thank you, Dan.

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    2018/09/20 at 9:14 am
  • From Goshen Watts on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

    Great Dan! It confirms how I’ve gone about design for my own 1/4 acre in the previous 10 years or so. I’ve now done about 15 designs for clients, yet still haven’t done a full design for my own place, something which I often felt a bit funny about… and thinking I should really get it done someday. However, now I realise that I’ve been doing Generating design – almost exactly as you describe it. Overall concept sketch; but detailed design on individual elements / areas as the implementation progresses. Mistakes still made; but gee – I think given all the unknowns about how/when/what-with, each area actually gets done, doing an entire design upfront never made any sense.

    Of course I can do this design/implement as you go for my own ‘context’; but this same process would be far more difficult to offer to clients; not so much because they wouldn’t get a detailed / pretty design; but because it’s (often) THEM doing the implementing, and it’d feel ‘micro managing’ or very expensive to continue to be involved as it goes, not least because the client is as much the variable as the actual design!

    I guess this is where the Hybrid comes in… but again, for a client; a more detailed design upfront will allow more time to collate and consider more information, which results in a more accurate starting point. With few exceptions, most people then also start implementing in a ‘generating’ kind of way – doing certain sections at time, and making changes as required.

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    2018/09/26 at 11:50 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

      Thanks Goshen and lovely to hear from you again! All good observations – I am enjoying finding ways of working with clients generatively that are affordable for the client, viable for me, avoid micromanaging, and waste no time on unnecessary detailed designs (that are problematic whether they are followed or not). It has been a transformational journey, I can tell you, but I can also assure you and anyone else that it can be done and done well. Part of my trick has been sitting in the space of the question “how am I going to make this work” rather than the presupposition “There is no way this can work!” But I am aware it is no walk in the park and involves some degree of paradigm shift and I want to find ways of supporting others who are keen to transition in this direction. Maybe I ought to offer a webinar some time where I can share some of my adventures and fellow designers (or should I say design process facilitators) can do the same…

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      2018/10/01 at 9:14 am
      • From Goshen Watts on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Three of Five)

        Cheers… A webinar or workshop would be great…! Over the last few days I’ve been thinking of how I could offer more generating type designs, and would def like to explore the idea further. For me personally, I do find communication easier by delivering a design, but would be good to include a ‘generating’ component, some way of being involved in updates or changes at the implementation stage, just unsure of how to go about this now… No hurry to this, I’ll keep thinking about it.

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        2018/10/01 at 9:36 am
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