Advanced Permaculture Planning and Design Process 2017 – Part Two: Preparations

Note: This post builds on and continues the last.

It was mid-morning, April 6, 2017. It was four days before the event was scheduled to start. Having freshly arrived from NZ, I knocked on David Holmgren and Su Dennett’s door.

Preliminaries such as hugs and pleasant catch-up chats behind us, David and I sat down at Melliodora’s dining table with a notepad. Beginning with the end in mind, we co-crafted a joint intention for the workshop (which we by now had renamed “Advanced Permaculture Planning and Design Process”):

This workshop is an accessible yet deep exploration of permaculture design process as a living, unfolding reality.

We also made a note of some of the things we’d like to be true along the way:

  • happy participants receiving real value
  • actual real progress on ideas
  • medium is message / walking the talk
    • food, environment, infrastructure, nestedess in community, that the kinds of processes we’re exploring have created all this.
    • course is designed in the fashion we’re sharing
    • feedback heavy
    • works from patterns to details
    • reflects other pc ethics and principles where applicable
  • we have fun collaborating and are left keen to collaborate more in future1
  • results in a writeup about the course and the ideas developed
    • Make David’s take on design process more widely known
    • Some kind of documentation about how the ideas being explored apply at Melliodora2

The very first step we took in our face-to-face preparations

Having established this context we used it as a criterion to refine the draft schedule we’d put together in a couple of prior skypes. David’s partner Su Dennett feeding into the conversation too.3

Early draft of course program

The resulting draft worked from patterns to details and after kicking the event off and exploring permaculture design frameworks and process as a whole, we planned to move through ethics and principles to reading place and people, to the processes by which observations give rise to actual design solutions.

David and I fleshing out the course structure. Note the three blue books to the right of the photo – Books 1, 3, & 4 of Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order series which I was pleasantly surprised to find sitting on David’s desk when I arrived. More on them later

We worked up a handout and we also drafted then refined several new diagrams to help communicate key ideas during the course.

We walked some of the tracks David was to use during the reading landscape portion of the course.4

After the best part of four days of preparation, I was feeling ready, and, given the feel and depth of the conversation that was already unfolding between David and I, starting to realise that this event was likely to blow the ‘worst-case’ scenario I painted earlier right out of the water.

So much for preparations. In the next post I’ll start reviewing the event proper.

Note: Big thanks to Anthony Briggs for proof reading and editing assistance.


  1. you can guess who wrote this one ;-)
  2. I also found some prior statements we’d made after our first skype which overlap but have some fresh flavours too:
    “I made these notes based on what you (David)  shared the other day:
    • Wanted to create a more advanced/in depth learning experience for CQU residential diploma
    • Want to meet with / develop the lineage of your previous advanced principles and planning courses
    • Given design is core of permaculture, keen to distil more thinking on planning methods and design stuff with reference to the stuff Dan has been working on
    • Cater to Kerry’s request that CQU students get feedback on their projects
    I had previously written my goals of:
    • explore and refine our design process thinking toward a unified view of design process
    • give participants a next-level, precedent-setting advanced permaculture learning experience
    • applying sound design/planning to the workshop itself (in a walking the talk sense)
    • enjoying working together and both leave wanting to do more of such in future”

  3. Su then literally fed into the course as caterer ;-)
  4. It is always a treat to take a stroll outside with David, for he sees a lot of things that most mortals, myself included, just don’t.

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