• From Jason Gerhardt on Striking at the Root: A Life in Permaculture Design - by Jason Gerhardt

    Thanks for commenting, Wes. Scott Pittman feels the same way. I’m constantly surprised how prescient Bill Mollison was with the last PDM chapter. It’s increasingly relevant to the conditions of today. And we have to go further too. We are actively writing new curriculum and articles about this topic. We see great need for a fresh articulation and contextualization around permaculture. And that may save some folks from what I’m calling “permacultural materialism” and “suffering in paradise”.

    Go to comment
    2019/05/17 at 7:36 am
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Living Design Process at Limestone Road - a Video Letter

    John, this is wonderful work, and thanks for your comment on my guest post. So much of what you said in the videos and wrote in the notes here speaks to me. Your thoughts on habit, time-scales, and “bias for action” echoes my work with clients very closely. Awesome collaboration guys! Looking forward to more.

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    2019/05/17 at 8:04 am
  • From Will on Dan Palmer's Journey with Permaculture Design Process and David Holmgren's Response (E11)

    Hi Dan,
    Just wanted to drop you a line saying thank you for the amazingly rich conversations you share through this podcast. I’ve been stumbling around in permaculture for just the last couple of years and I am really excited about the direction that Making Permaculture Stronger is driving me as a listener. Thanks for adding another function to my commute and enhancing my own permaculture design thinking. I really enjoyed your story and the insights in this episode. Cheers.

    Go to comment
    2019/05/17 at 7:11 pm
  • From lilian on David Holmgren on Making Permaculture Stronger, reading landscape, reading people, and the importance of design process (at the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence)

    Thanks for the article. Interesting to discover Formidable Vegetable Sound System. PANG, a Belgian collective also use music to inform differently about lombricomposting, dry toilets and other sustainability related topics. Check out this hilarious videos (it’s in french but you’ll get the point)

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    2019/05/25 at 11:41 pm
  • From Finn on David Holmgren on Making Permaculture Stronger, reading landscape, reading people, and the importance of design process (at the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence)

    “We don’t really know what we are doing. And getting a closer sense of that, gives us a very powerful contribution.” This made me chuckle and smile. I think this should be the endorsement on the front page of your book Dan!

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    2019/05/29 at 8:34 am
  • From John Carruthers on Concept plans vs detailed plans

    Wonderful article. Should be prescribed reading for every PDC. Meg’s encouragement that we should escape pretty two dimensionality in favour of ways of designing more tactile and kinesthetic is spot on. It was Dan, in fact, who encouraged me to peg out with wooden stakes, and hypothesise with a topographic model: for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

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    2019/06/04 at 12:33 pm
  • From Jason Gerhardt on What is Transformation and how does it differ from Assembly and Partitioning? Response to a reader query

    (length warning) As I read this, I can’t help pulling from Zen Buddhist concepts. So much of the inquiry and expression on this blog is at the heart of the non-dual philosophy and mindset described in Buddhist texts. Words have never quite done it justice and most of the descriptions are intended to get people to just BE it. My favored description might go like this: the whole and the parts are not one, and they are not two. What is one supposed to do with that? Go practice.

    I’d like to play along with you guys by using the example of the room I’m sitting in. When I took occupancy of this house there was an empty room with a closet. This room is just a part of the whole of the house of many rooms however. So I looked at the whole house and had to determine what was the appropriate use of each room. I had to consider the whole of myself as well because I needed different rooms for different purposes with different characteristics. I had to consider a bigger whole yet because of the forces other than this house, such as directional city noise, sun access, temperature, etc. Some basic assumptions were made, for example I don’t want to sleep in my kitchen. Fair enough. And I could actually go through the motions of determining why that assumption is correct for me, but it’s become ingrained knowledge that I don’t want to sleep in a warm space that has the fragrance of food, etc. An analysis of elements exercise would reveal all of the things by showing the outputs of a kitchen are incongruous with the inputs I need for healthy sleep.

    Back to this room. I determined it was best suited for my office. How I set it up was by measuring different parts of the room and pieces of furniture I needed for my office, where they would fit, and envisioning how it would function. Then I began constructing. I shuffled things around until I found the fit. And over the course of a year I kept nudging things in this direction or that and trying different wall hangings in different places. That on-going low-level configuration process ended up staying in place until my girlfriend moved in. This addition changed things up as we found our house is a bit small for two, and we needed another comfortable place for someone to sit and get alone time from the rest of the house (which is very much open floor plan). So we moved a desk out and added a couch. My girlfriend also needed the closet in this room so it had to serve that function as well. We also need more storage so there are boxes of stuff under the design table and bikes in the corner. Two years later we’ve realized the office is not in right relationship for so many different purposes, so we are looking for a house that has a better configuration for our needs.

    So what are the design lessons here? Time changes everything is one. Any additions (or subtractions) to a space changes the whole is another. These lessons alone should inform my process moving forward. One process pattern that emerges is that we can only design with the information that we have now, and knowing that things always change, we shouldn’t spend too much time figuring out every last detail acting as if it’s going to be set in stone. This points us to the previous post of Meg McGowan’s wonderful articulation about concept planning versus detailed planning.

    The point here is to provide a description so that someone can use design process in a more effective way, yet even that could be an assumption that may be off the mark, however. Maybe there are no designers and there are no spaces to be designed? Subject and object are not one, and they are not two. Maybe it’s all just action. In my example above, the house is acting on me, while I am acting on it. Where does one draw the line to differentiate the two?

    In a final analogy to Zen practice, Zen is described as the “sitting school”, which is a very basic practice of sitting in meditation, following ones breath, and just being present. It’s basic, and yet incredibly difficult for most people. Practice helps. As one sits over and over and over it becomes more of our natural reaction to ‘just be’ on the cushion. As one does that in the safe space of meditation, it starts the ripples that impact non-cushion time. I see design in the same way. As we consciously practice designing over and over again, it starts to change our whole life. Being in such close encounter with relationships in space and time in the safe confines of a design project starts to change us to where it impacts everything else that we do (which is all design). Just as Zen doesn’t have continually higher levels of practices, maybe permaculture design doesn’t either. Maybe describing design practice pretty simply is all it takes to get one going, and then it’s up to trusting in life, using time as an ally, and incorporating gradual realizations into one’s daily life by working through the articulations of designers more steeped in the practice than us.

    One thing in particular that I love about this blog is that many designers are sharing their realizations about how designing works in their life. These articulations get us closer to being able to give people the proper tips and practices to get started and help us along the way. I don’t know that there is a best and final articulation that can fast-track designers own processes though. I do think these things are important to articulate, but mostly serve as something to refer to for inspiration and confirmation as one matures in their practice.

    In short, there is no substitute for practicing properly. Keep doing it over and over again forever, constantly working on dissolving the boundary between wholes and parts, space and time, oneself and the world. Then we will become better and better designers. This dissolving of boundaries is what allows one to realize the permaculture ethics fully, which is what will allow us to grow greater permanence in human culture, which is what I think we are aiming for. We’re not designing in spaces and times, wholes and parts. We’re designing a way of life that is in greater integrity with the nature of life.

    I bet this is “out there” for some, and I probably need to work on the articulation, but I do believe it’s the kernel of what we are trying to describe and achieve. I also believe this is what Christopher Alexander was on to.

    Go to comment
    2019/06/05 at 12:19 am
  • From Jason Gerhardt on What is Transformation and how does it differ from Assembly and Partitioning? Response to a reader query

    You really are giving people a much better place to start. While it seems complex at the surface, I think you’re actually making it more approachable. And the process you are describing is so human, accessible to anybody with flags, string, stakes, and senses. In the last few months I’ve been working on design projects almost on a daily basis and I have to say you are having a huge impact on my approach. I see it everyday a little more clearly. My process signature is surely shifting.

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    2019/06/05 at 10:53 am
    • From Dan Palmer on What is Transformation and how does it differ from Assembly and Partitioning? Response to a reader query

      Thanks so much for your support and appreciation Jason. It is so motivating to learn that what began as random cathartic musings have evolved into something coherent and useful enough to be making a difference for fellow permaculture designers (in addition to just myself). Having folk from around the world (most recently from both Latvia and Sweden) share that this stuff is making a difference in what they are doing in real projects motivates me to keep going.

      And it is so true, right? A bit of potentially unusual terminology aside (which I hope to weed out more as things move forward), this stuff is all about bringing design processes back toward life, which means more accessible, collaborative, inclusive, functional, beautiful, empowering, etc etc. Once you get a taste there ain’t no turning back.

      I look forward to our next chat and I was meaning to mention that your prior comment resonates muchly with this one from Dave Jacke.

      Go to comment
      2019/06/08 at 7:05 pm
  • From Sarah Mayo on Jason Gerhardt on allowing permaculture to have its greatest potential (e18)

    I am traveling in Australia with my boyfriend, and we have been listening to Dan’s making permaculture stronger podcasts almost religiously this past week while doing garden work. The interviews are very interesting and we have been learning so much through the diversity of content that he is putting out there. Being new to the world of Permaculture it is inspiring to hear from those who have been involved in the movement for decades. It is also helpful to hear differing opinions on the topic both positive and negative… it’s always important to challenge and question along the journey of any movement to make it stronger.

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    2019/06/06 at 5:12 pm
  • From gerald lindner on Bringing it all together in one diagram (Part Seven) - Mapping the design process signature of permaculture, culture, and even nature herself (Your turn!)

    If the fundamental aim of any design process is to achieve Ian McHarg’s “creative fitting”, resulting in health and happiness, then the whole-part will always be in interaction with its surroundings. Both adapting to it and changing it.

    The operators “transforming” and “generating” don’t cover this ground.

    A suggestion would be to perhaps add a third axis – time (the type of interaction with the surroundings) with the parameters: fully fixed, intermittent/linear (adaptive design), cyclic (evolutionary design).

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    2019/06/09 at 5:22 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Bringing it all together in one diagram (Part Seven) - Mapping the design process signature of permaculture, culture, and even nature herself (Your turn!)

      Gerald thanks so much for your stimulating comment!

      Following Christopher Alexander’s lead, while I don’t emphasise it in this chart, part of what transformation connotes for me is a focus on how a given whole-and-its-parts creatively fits at its own level of resolution, with respect to the smaller parts it contains, and with respect to the larger whole it is part of (what you refer to as interaction with its surroundings). The generative piece is then about striving to achieve this fit in real time in an ongoing way where the process never stops. So in this sense I (tentatively) see generative transformation as inseparable from what you call cyclic or evolutionary design. Where any kind of fabricating (up-front masterplanning) is much more likely to be what you call fully fixed, and hybrid perhaps more likely to be what you call adaptive (with intermittent/linear feedback loops into and back from the environment). So I’m not sure it would be an independent axis, though I’d be interested to find what others think and to ponder this more myself.

      One other third axis I have considered previously is that moving from 1) designer, builder and end user are the same, 2) any two are the same and the other different, and 3) all three are one and the same. Though as soon as you move from two to three axes the accessibility plummets. I’d also stress that this framework is one of so many ways of teasing apart differences between different kinds of design processes and in that sense is highly selective, limited, & partial. Though it is also feeling to me like both a helpful conversation starter and a useful stepping stone or collection of rungs on a ladder that can be kicked aside once it has given the necessary leg-up :-).

      ps. I would love to read Ian McHarg on “creative fitting toward health and happiness” – can you recommend the best source for this? Also Gerald I followed the link to your site and I’d love to hear any additional process insights you’ve gleaned over your years of practice as an architect that you’d be kind enough to share (including any thoughts you might have on design process within permaculture and Alexander’s work which I’m guessing you must be familiar with).

      Go to comment
      2019/06/10 at 3:47 pm
  • From Jason on Concept plans vs detailed plans

    Fantastic article, thanks.

    I provide many three-hour landscape consultation sessions, some of which lead to further planning or implementation by us but most are the kickstart for homeowners getting started.

    Our greatest tool during these sessions is a big bundle of bamboo stakes from our local riverside. We do arrive with scaled aerial photos with contour lines which are great to sketch general patterns onto. But the best and most client inclusive discussions happen in the landscape with everyone involved moving around bamboo and other objects at hand, either lain down on the ground marking edges or structures or stuck in the ground representing trees etc.

    I try to demystify design process by making it active, approaching it in different ways. Thanks to Dan for excellent approaches to drawing out client intentions etc through language and written statements.

    Drawing is a useful contrast to on the ground idea iterations. Pull all the bamboo out and make a completely different arrangement and see what reactions everyone gives. Fast iterative drawing can provide new insights to be tested again on site. Any drawing that results is simply taken from the on the ground mark out. Flat topped weedmat pegs can be left in the ground and mown over (if working with lawn that needs mowing between sessions).

    Really appreciate these discussions and sharings!

    Go to comment
    2019/06/12 at 7:02 pm
  • From Meg on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    Mycellium! It’s the master pattern for everything I do!

    Networks. Nodes. Connections. Soft systems keep evolving.

    Go to comment
    2019/06/15 at 6:04 pm
  • From Meg on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    Possibly of interest: I put a lot more systems thinking into the current PDC than most people would. Feedback from students on the thing they most valued about the course? Systems thinking!! Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. To change the outcome we must change the system and that cannot be done from a reductionist perspective. We must understand the whole of the system.

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    2019/06/15 at 6:09 pm
  • From Cara on David Holmgren on Making Permaculture Stronger, reading landscape, reading people, and the importance of design process (at the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence)

    So true about the failures of design education!
    Is this address available as audio on your podcast or elsewhere?

    Go to comment
    2019/06/16 at 8:59 pm
  • From Jeff Mcneill on A Conversation with David Holmgren

    Agree completely with the problem of process in Permaculture as seen through the lens of “A Pattern Language”. However, what has been overlooked is that Alexander provides exactly the processes needed for design and building, but in the companion book “The Timeless Way of Building”. This second work, published two years later but as “Volume 1” is a part of a two volume whole. Unfortunately, people skip ahead to “A Pattern Language” and then try and use patterns without a thorough understanding of what they are and the methods and processes used to design and build with them.

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    2019/06/20 at 1:52 pm
  • From Jeff Mcneill on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

    This is the biggest problem with permaculture. It sound like hippie mumbo jumbo. Imprecise language, empty metaphors, a complete lack of perspective. How can this be taken seriously?

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    2019/06/22 at 5:31 pm
  • From Rosemarie Penno on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

    I agree I skimmed the mumbo jumbo to find the substance. There was none.

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    2019/06/23 at 5:22 pm
  • From Will Heffernan on Living Design Process at Limestone Road - a Video Letter

    Fantastic. I am well and truly following in your footsteps….being able to see you in the distance is keeping me motivated to keep chasing you 🙂

    Go to comment
    2019/06/25 at 5:19 pm
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Bringing it all together in one diagram (Part Nine) - Mapping the design process centre of gravity of permaculture, culture, and even of nature herself (My turn!)

    Great post, Dan! You’ve enriched my Saturday morning rituals for many weeks in a row. Thanks for your dedication. I love playing with this diagram, so will be sad to see it go. Let’s make sure our next conversation happens before this gets moved on from. There’s a ton of richness in this post for me in general.

    I had not seen the design process chart with all these great designers processes side by side. It made me dig to find a design process structure I created for my students five years ago. I feel it’s actually pretty true to how I still work, and captures a lot that you’ve been articulating (though I’m sure it differs too). Since I’m short on time this week as you know, I’m gonna paste it here, and would enjoy discussing this with you to explain it further, break it down/blow it up, poke holes in it, etc.

    Jason Gerhardt’s Permaculture Design Process:
    This is a process to follow for practicing permaculture design. It is never a linear process, as each stage reflects all others, but it can help you to get moving to look at each stage as a step. Using this process is the central function of the permaculture designer.

    1. Observing- using ones observation skills, reading the landscape, performing client/stakeholder interview(s).
    2. Analyzing- performing detailed analysis and assessment of the site/people (site and sector analysis, use frequency planning, analysis of elements (especially people), budgeting, random assembly, source to sink, ecological patterning). Further synthesizing vision expressed in client/stakeholder interviews with reality.
    3. Visioning- getting clear on what is feasible to create (based upon site/client/invisible structure observations and assessments).
    4. Planning- generating design concepts that harmonize abilities with vision, creating strategies and techniques.
    5. Communicating- creating documentation and presentation materials to effectively communicate the design, as well as WHY and HOW design decisions were arrived at (design drawings, supporting documents, project manuals, budgets, presentation tools and skills). Possible revisitation of previous steps to generate new concepts.
    6. Implementing- translating the design into reality and making careful changes to the plan as required by unforeseen/changing circumstances.
    7. Maintaining- steering the implemented design to keep it on course to achieve desired goals and vision/which can often mean evolving ones vision.
    8. Assessing- revisiting to analyze and gather feedback on the successes and failures of the design, asking oneself: What went well? How could it be even better? What went wrong? How can I remedy it? Revisit design process continually.

    A couple quick notes:
    -Every step ends with “ing” to highlight that this process is a continual motion. It’s alive!
    -Visioning comes 3rd, not first. I created this as a direct pushback to design processes I saw being taught. Starting with visioning means imposing a design so that everything else has to fit into it. That’s just not how successful life works.
    -Planning is conceptual. I want to discuss this with you in particular. My company produces very polished paper design work (we absolutely have to for the type of projects that require institutional/governmental approval, code adherence/variance, use of earth moving contractors, etc.) and I’m curious if you would view them as master plans. I call them road maps, with lots of potential detours along the way (why every implementation needs a project manager too).
    -Includes explicit recognition that detours frequently come in the implementing and assessing steps.
    -Something in here hints that there is no beginning and no end, whether implicit or explicit, I don’t know, but I think that’s important. Again, IT’S ALIVE!

    Go to comment
    2019/06/30 at 12:59 am
  • From Dan Palmer on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

    I wanted to chime in here to express my gratitude for you sharing your impressions Jeff & Rosemarie and more generally to bring this fascinating situation into the open.

    One the one hand we have a seasoned permaculturalist (in the form Joel Glanzberg) who has been doing great practical permaculture stuff for over three decades (Including one of the centrepiece three-decade-old food forest examples in Gaia’s garden). Who here in his open letter is attempting to distill and make accessible what he’s learned about the potential and promise of permaculture relative to some of the less promising pathways he sees it walking down.

    On the other we have, I’m assuming, two other well-meaning folk interested in permaculture, namely Jeff and Rosemarie. While this is the first I’ve heard from you Rosemarie, Jeff recently made an insightful comment on another post which tells me Jeff you are not a random trouble-making troll or whatever the lingo is. Anyway the point being Joel’s language lands for you as substance-free hippie mumbo jumbo. Which is fair enough. And where as interesting to me is that no-one else has chimed into say otherwise, possibly meaning that they are either unsure or in agreement with you.

    The situation that fascinates me here is I believe that unless there is some kind of way that more experienced permaculturalists, and in fact any permaculturalists, can productively share their considered reflections with others in a way that prompts some kind of meaningful dialogue, then permaculture is not only missing a fantastic opportunity to grow and evolve, but its chances of stagnating are all the higher.

    I mean this dynamic is pretty common I’m guessing to many forums outside permaculture. Someone takes some time to try and convey something they are deeply passionate about and others skim it and chime in declaring it empty bullshit or whatever. The upshot being zero progress and the likely devolution where any potential for civil, productive dialogue falls flat on its face where folk end up yelling “no your opinion is BS” – “no yours is” and so on, until they eventually each storm off in disgust even more convinced than they were when they started that they are completely right and the other person or persons are completely wrong.

    I mean perhaps Joel has just done a spectacularly bad job of conveying himself here. Certainly it is the first time in the history of this project such declarations have been made. However I would invite anyone in making such a sharing in future to elaborate at least a tiny bit. As in is there anything that you can relate to at all? Is there anything you’d be up for expressing an alternate view of? Is there anything at all you could share on top of your declaration of BS that might contribute to some kind of steps toward clarification or progress within permaculture? Even just sharing that you think permaculture is doing great and doesn’t need any critical self-reflection or further development would be great to know about.

    No pressure or anything, just an invite. I’ll continue to be grateful to any comments for they all give me valuable grist for the mill as in information about how this stuff is landing for folk.

    Thanks again,
    Dan Palmer

    Go to comment
    2019/06/30 at 12:20 pm
    • From Finn on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

      Just came back to this post, having seen Jeff and Rosemarie’s comments before and wondering if it ever went anywhere; shame it didn’t.
      I thought Joel’s writing was very clear and uncontroversial. Indeed, it seems to state many truisms from within permaculture and ask a couple of questions, all in all much less ‘controversial’ than much of the content you’ve been creating, Dan!
      And I couldn’t agree more about having a language for advanced practitioners to use to communicate. A recent shoutout for more ‘intro-level workshops’ for the British Convergence had me thinking about how I very rarely feel pushed or challenged at Convergences, often leaving feeling like I’ve had a nice enough time but not especially inspired. When you’re holding events of only a couple hundred people is it worth trying to keep the space broad and encompassing all levels of enthusiasm, or if the workshop offers lean towards being tailored for a more ‘advanced’ crew then should you follow that? Given the fairly slow-moving feeling of genuine permaculture in Britain right now, I know which I’d opt for…

      Go to comment
      2019/07/25 at 10:09 am
  • From Sue Laverack on Concept plans vs detailed plans

    Thank you, thInk you, thank you! I have been struggling with my diploma in Permaculture because most of my designs begin with a concept which is full of ‘roughly’, ‘-ish’ and the detail is often ‘it looked and felt right’ or changes happen becauze ‘it looked wrong’. But my tutor wants me to follow a recognised design pathway and tools explaining that I must be able to present a design to clients. This post has helped me see where we are missing each other and re-assured me that my way is valid if not mainstream.

    Go to comment
    2019/07/01 at 4:15 am
  • From Fraser on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    That was a great interview, Dan. Lots to think about!

    I do find it hard to reconcile Sanford’s insights with my distaste for the whole mega-corp world (her clients include Google, Nike, Proctor & Gamble etc.) and the business self-help vibe of her website, which seems very focused on revenue growth. Given the terrible practices of many of these organisations, and the intrinsically harmful side-effects of a massive profit-extraction machine, it’s hard to understand how a concept of ‘regeneration’ is relevant.

    Not that I’m judging Sanford for working with these organisations – I work in the corporate IT industry myself – I just struggle to understand the apparent disconnect.

    However, the ideas from the interview did really speak to me; so I’ve just started reading “No More Feedback”. Don’t want to judge the book by its cover, so to speak.

    Go to comment
    2019/07/01 at 12:03 pm
    • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

      I’m with you Fraser. I quickly lost interest in Carol’s website due to the corporate vibe but I am fascinated by her thinking. Would be keen to hear your thoughts once you’re finished reading ‘No More Feedback’.

      Go to comment
      2019/07/02 at 6:29 pm
      • From Fraser on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

        Hi Peter,

        Having just finished the book, I’ve come back to your comment with a lengthy review!

        I think it’s well worth reading if you’re involved in any kind of employer:employee or mentor:mentee relationship. I’d definitely like to try applying some of the ideas to how I work with my manager.

        The basic gist of the book, as I recall it, is that all people naturally have some potential to become self-determining, autonomous, and to take responsibility for the development of their own potential, as it relates to their own life satisfaction and their contribution to the greater good (whether that’s an organisation, a society, or an ecosystem).

        In business, and many other contexts, “feedback” has become the most popular concept in managing people. It is somewhat effective, but has a bunch of negative effects that lead Sanford to consider it a ‘toxic’ practice. Some of these include:
        – It’s a mechanistic concept that doesn’t translate well to the complexity of human development as part of a “living system”.
        – Being authoritarian, it damages people’s ability to self-reflect, use their intuition, and take responsibility for themselves.
        – Despite the appearance of objectivity, it’s actually wildly subjective in practice.

        The alternative that Sanford offers is a “developmental” approach, in which the organisation has a high-level framework of values and goals, and the workers are supported to become self-reflective. Instead of providing feedback, she advises managers and others to become good at using the Socratic method to ask questions that help workers to come to their own insights about their current work and future aims.

        She doesn’t quite flesh out how to put this process in place; I guess it’s covered in her other books and courses.

        One thing I’m not entirely clear on is how broad Sanford’s definition of ‘feedback’is. The book focuses on feedback as a mechanism for staff performance reviews (and similar scenarios); I’d like to understand whether she thinks it’s also applicable to, say, offering and seeking advice more generally. I think Dan asked the same question in the podcast but I don’t think I quite understood the answer.

        Reading the examples in the book did help me understand why Sanford works with the organisations that I called “massive profit-extraction machine(s)”. They’re made up of people, and when people embrace a developmental/regenerative view of career development, it sets them up for looking at how to apply the same thinking in a wider context. There are a few examples in the book of people and companies using Sanford’s developmental approach in a way that countered societal problems. However, what I’d really be keen to see is some examples of people using the approach to tackle what I think of as the *inherent* negative effects of a mega-company like Google or Proctor and Gamble. I’m thinking of stuff like environmental damage, consumerism, forced obsolescence, political interference, exploitative third-world labour practices and so on.

        Go to comment
        2019/07/26 at 5:02 pm
        • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

          Thanks for that great review Fraser. I’ve really enjoyed the recent series of conversations Dan has had with Carol, Joel, and then Bill. For me Carol has been the hardest of the three to get a handle on. I may have to read some of her books to try and properly understand her thinking. It seems that being clear on definitions of terms is key. I remember Dan grappling with her meaning of feedback, just as you did, but I think there was ultimately agreement and a happy ending. I think I’ll have to go back and listen again to her conversation with Dan. There’s been so much to absorb in the recent podcasts and I missed a lot of ideas because I was still mulling over previous points as the conversation continued.

          Go to comment
          2019/07/29 at 7:36 pm
  • From Finn on Adventures in Generative Transformation: Trying to Break Client's Design Ideas

    This is absolutely something I’d love some practical skill in! How to softly and gently tell clients that their idea is rubbish until the whole picture has been fully designed. I guess starting off with well articulated goals allows for this more easily, which itself is another process I’d like more practical experience and skill in facilitating…

    Go to comment
    2019/07/07 at 9:03 am
  • From Meg McGowan on On the topic of a practical, commercially viable permaculture design process with Artūrs Freijs

    Another great post, Dan, and thanks also to Artūrs for generating such great discussion.

    I agree with your point about client interviews. I used to send an advance questionnaire and usually found myself going back through it with clients to seek clarification on their answers. This was not energy efficient (and therefore against the principles about using energy efficiently).

    I would suggest that the starting point is to develop a macro perspective of the area using local knowledge and online resources. Working in the same bioregion means my knowledge of the relevant patterns, climate, weather, wind, sun angles, topography etc, transfers from one project to the next but there’s still a need to check how these factors will impact a particular site. Human made features like dumps, heat sinks and potential sources of contamination are worth exploring, as is the threatened and endangered species lists of plants and animals for your area. Noting the location of any large bodies of water and bushland will be relevant to local temperatures. Move from these macro patterns to the patterns on site, noting which reflect local conditions and which deviate. As an example, we are at the end of a keyhole valley so our primary high wind direction is altered. Notice patterns specific to the site and check observations when you can, for example with soil sampling.

    I also think there’s room in this process for auditing the property using the principles (whichever set you use). To what extent does this property…………….?
    It can be immensely beneficial to do this with clients. It’s not necessary to give them a lesson in permaculture. Just ask the questions. It’s sometimes necessary to reword them if the language isn’t clear for the client, but you’re planting lots of seeds regarding the way they view the space, and the kinds of things you’ll be doing with your design. I agree that walking the site with clients and listening carefully to what they say is critical. I also like to wander alone where possible. I see different things.

    I hope this is useful. I’m still working on my current best design process, and I keep redesigning it. I recommend that process too. Collect information, learn, analyse, ideate, plan, implement, review using the ethics and principles and repeat.

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    2019/07/13 at 4:16 pm
  • From Ian on Peter Kopp on the Mapping the Design Process series

    enjoying this extension of the chart; and yes, good resonance for me. when I take time to meditate on holistic design i come to the torus. Let’s spend more time in vibe land! [Paste pic here of torus but I can’t see place for attachment 🙂 ]

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    2019/07/20 at 7:48 pm
  • From Meg McGowan on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Wonderful. I use a similar analogy for whole systems by asking people to imagine dissecting their favourite pet into various sub systems; skeleton, muscular, circulatory, nervous, digestive etc. And then we talk about what ISN’T there. I have found people very quickly get to the “essence” of what made their pet more than the sum of the parts.
    Very much agree with your observation that we facilitate the place and the people to be who they are together.
    I make the observation that we are moving away from the historical (and patriarchal) “hero” narrative, and towards a collective, collaborative narrative where community and cooperation are the precursors for evolving the species.
    The motto of Vermont is “Freedom and Unity”! Perfect!

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    2019/07/31 at 9:44 am
    • From Meg McGowan on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

      I am also pleased to see ‘mimicking nature’ challenged. This is why I prefer ‘cooperate with nature’ because it allows us to consider the whole of nature, including our own nature, and how we might best return to a natural state of dynamic equilibrium within the context of our place.

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      2019/07/31 at 10:04 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    YES YES YES!!!!
    Time to end “us and them” thinking and work cooperatively. If we are not prepared to engage with those that disagree with us in a loving and respectful way then why would they change their minds? If we are to honestly “use edges and value the marginal” then surely that means working with those that are at the edges of permaculture – the cautious business owner, the interested employee, the grounded CEO. I am sure there are those that would criticise me for using permaculture to redesign a police force, and those that would not approve of all the effort I’m putting into sharing permaculture knowledge in my own community, mostly with extremely privileged, right wing voting people, but both of these are examples of getting the greatest return on the energy I invest. It’s easier, and a lot more fun, to train people that are already environmentally aware and seeking to do good in the world, but I’m probably only slightly adjusting their current behaviour. The work I’m doing in the local community has seen mountains of materials that would have gone to landfill being shared for free, people cutting their water use, ending their synthetic chemical use, sharing tools and resources, improving local safety and campaigning for lowering the speed limit to protect wildlife. It’s also taught me that I have as much in common with my neighbours as I do with permies. Nobody wants to kill the planet.

    Carol’s thoughts on nature are interesting and challenging. I’m not sure I understand what she means. This debate seems to be about semantics. Even if I accept Carol’s contention that nature is an abstract concept and that abstract concepts are problematic because they limit our thinking I would still need to find a word to talk about the thing I mean when I talk about nature.

    I’m not convinced by her argument that talking in abstracts undermines our ability to take real action. I know where I can point to nature. For me it’s everywhere. It’s me, and the air I’m breathing and the food I ate yesterday and all things I see in the natural world. My challenge has been determining which parts of the human-made world can be considered “nature” and which parts cannot. So far, my best measure is the extent to which these activities or things increase ecological health when assessed using cradle-to-grave analysis. It has been more useful for me to contemplate the divisions between human nature, natural human and unnatural-and-human. I certainly struggle with the “we are nature” credo when so much of what we create and do is so destructive. Natural systems achieve dynamic equilibrium. I don’t think we can claim to be part of nature unless we can demonstrate that (and we can’t). My concern with the “part of nature” claim is that it can be used to justify a lot of very destructive behaviour on the basis that we are entitled to “garden” our world (where “garden” is taken to mean changing it in any way we like).

    I will keep rereading Carol’s comments and exploring more of her work. Perhaps I am missing her point. I suspect it will become clearer when I understand the kind of work she is doing and the results she is achieving. Certainly I am greatly enjoying getting to know more about what she is doing.

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    2019/08/02 at 2:27 pm
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Kill the language! “Best practices” is a fine start, but it doesn’t stop there. Everyone learns the “pattern language” of “change making” and it’s like using the words themselves makes someone KNOW the topic. A lot of rookie permaculture teachers out there are part of that. And some long time permaculture teachers never graduated past the minors too. “Regenerative” is on it’s way to becoming one of those terms as well! It’s shallow levels of intellectual and spiritual engagement that are weakening Life. THAT is the first point of intervention. To me, what Carol is saying, and if I get her wrong, what I’M saying is that you need to pick some living system and engage with it over and over and over again, which will take a decade at least, and learn about it before criticizing, congratulating, adopting, and/or trying to change it. We’ve lost our ability to dive deep. And we need guides other than social media memes, which, let’s be real, are the things that are patterning the minds of so called “change makers”.

    I don’t diss Carol for working with big business. They are made up of people after all, which are living systems themselves. I don’t work with CEO’s and whatnot, not because I think they’re evil, but because that’s not authentic to my experience in life. So I choose to work with those systems that I know. And much of the time that system is myself, even while in the moment of working with others. The crux of the matter is that we don’t even know ourselves. So what are we gonna do to get there? If we don’t understand the living-interconnected-system of ourselves, how in the hell will we work with “nature”? It’s abstract so long as the projection has been majority outward. Which is where permaculture has spent too much time in my opinion.

    Last, THIS is the issue with people learning permaculture for a perceived profession. Kill the profession! It’s not a vocation. It’s not a vacation either, the other side of that. So what is it? Don’t rest until you discover it.

    This blog is a great place to unrest your rest and especially to disrupt your unrest. Remember, ultimately the words aren’t gonna get you there.

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    2019/08/02 at 10:10 pm
  • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    I feel like this is the meatiest conversation yet for MPS. Great stuff. The latest round of podcasts from the Regenesis folk has really introduced some great ideas. I love Carol’s style but I’m not yet ready to accept all her ideas. All of the points raised by Meg had me nodding in agreement. And I’m in lock step with everything Jason says. It’s just all great stuff.

    So my thoughts on what I’d like to see moving forward. Maybe it’s time for some weakest link analysis. Is it time to move away from the design process and focus elsewhere? I’d like to see a line of effort exploring how we influence people and thinking: ourselves, our families, our communities, our corporate and government leaders. How do we apply the design process beyond the built and biological, and get deep into the behavioural field. And finally I’d love to hear more voices from outside of Australia and North America. I know you have a guest from Europe coming up in the podcast Dan, but it would be great to bring in some Asian, African, and South American podcast/blog guests if you have any on your radar.

    But the current round of activity has been brilliant, so just keep doing what you’re doing.

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    2019/08/04 at 8:17 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

      Many thanks for these thoughts about where to from here Peter (and thanks to everyone for your insightful, honest and even fiery comments on this post). It was already on my radar but your comment prompted me to book in a chat with my friend Charles from Uganda which I’ll record tomorrow. And yes re the other stuff too. We’re coming up to a significant juncture, I can say that much for sure!

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      2019/08/12 at 11:12 am
  • From Lizzy on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Great thoughts and views by all. Carols approach to design in complexity allows for attitude change, emergence, novelty and innovation of solutions rather than starting from the assumption we can address everything from a point of expert led best practice.
    Abstraction is a very human trait. We are part of nested systems.
    I agree we want to avoid allowing ourselves to get lost in abstractions to the point of not being effective in our collective action or seeing ourselves as other than animal. That state may lead to despair in individuals as the problems feel too big to affect by my small actions; or delinquency from beliefs such as “I (as human) am better/higher in importance than any other living thing” or “technology will save us”.
    I see that currently a lot of design disciplines and movements appear to be struggling with their language which I think is an indicator of transitions in expertise in a connected world of information. We want diversity not adversity. It’s important to take the time to be careful with language to convey meaning (sharing our stories helps here and avoiding blindly adopting “buzz words” or dogma) and listen deeply.
    When a situation is complex ie, we can’t easily identify all the connections in the system or predict an outcome, There is validity in designing interventions by not tying ourselves to one goal or setting targets but finding out what can we change now, and how can we monitor the impact of that so we know what to do next (in effect consciously applying principles such as observe and interact) ?
    I hope these ideas contribute to the conversation constructively. Just back from three days focussed on complex adaptive systems and designing strategy so timely topic.

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    2019/08/05 at 11:23 pm
  • From Belinda Ogden on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Note from Dan: Excuse the picture of my face – just passing on this comment Belinda made on fb:

    I loved your podcast with Carol and have since been looking at quite a bit of her work. I think she has basically explained to me why I am having so much difficulty with change and innovation in my current workplace especially compared to my previous workplace where we managed to transform for the better in an exceptionally short period of time. At the end of the day business as a whole is a big, wasteful conglomerate of things. We all still need some stuff and services no matter who we are or how hard we try to provide for ourselves. Let’s do it in the best way possible.

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    2019/08/06 at 2:03 pm
  • From Bill on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    Great stuff Dan.

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    2019/08/12 at 12:58 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    Thanks for another great podcast, Dan.

    I have some thoughts about your ‘essence’ discussion. For me, ‘nature’ might be a better word. What is the nature of this place? What is the nature of this thing? To answer Jascha’s question about the potential for change, I don’t believe that identifying the essence or nature of something inhibits our capacity to change it. Far from it. There is no such thing as a blank canvass. All situations come with their limitations. Much of the damage done to our planet has occurred because people did not respect or appreciate the nature of things. They sought to impose their own patterns, systems, processes, limitations, constraints and so on upon something without due consideration to its nature (or essence). Perhaps the best example I can think of is dynamic equilibrium, which is part of the nature of all living systems other than human systems. Without an understanding of dynamic equilibrium, humans make decisions that disrupt the natural balance. Another alternative to ‘essence’ might be ‘pattern’. What is the pattern of this place? What is the pattern of this thing? When we understand the pattern, we can identify both its potential and its limitations. We can find what I call ‘points of leverage’ and what I think Carol means by ‘nodes’. We can sometimes find a point of leverage that results in a transformative shift. Failing to fully understand the nature or the pattern of something before we seek to change it is analogous to me handing you my prescription glasses and telling you they will improve your eyesight. Seek first to understand the pattern because only then can we find the most efficient ways to evolve it. It’s all gardening really 😀

    These are broad brush strokes. There are patterns within patterns within patterns, as you know.

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    2019/08/12 at 12:36 pm
  • From Pete Kopp on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    I’ve been looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. Thanks Dan for another great podcast. I’ll have to listen again to get the Christopher Alexander line you mentioned – something about intellectualising and feeling – it was the perfect encapsulation of some of my current thinking.

    I found the discussion of essence interesting. The idea of essence and personality, the way you describe it, is relatively new to me. My initial feeling is that the essence of a whole doesn’t change, but the way it is expressed – its personality? – will change depending on context. The way we interact with, and within, other wholes will influence the way they express themselves. This is how we can make change. The best we can do is immerse ourselves with other wholes to know their essence as best we can, then make decisions about how to interact with them for generative outcomes. Given the infinite complexity of living systems we have to concede that our decisions will be based on incomplete understanding – or what you said Christopher Alexander said 🙂

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    2019/08/12 at 6:01 pm
  • From Pete Kopp on Bill Reed on Aligning around Purpose, Levels of Thought, and Transforming the World (E23)

    Another great episode! There has been so much great stuff coming in through the recent series of podcast that I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to consolidate all the ideas from Bill, Carol, Joel, and Jascha; and at the same time new ideas of my own are swirling around in my head. It’s all fantastic and exhausting.

    I feel like maybe there is a neat alignment between the function, being, will construct and the Permaculture ethics; People Care (function), Fair Share (being), Earth Care (will). That’s what I was thinking during the discussion and I wonder what others think. I haven’t really developed the idea but thought I throw it out there for discussion.

    I can’t remember the exact language but the idea of ritually evaluating actions against purpose, being, and will is critical, I believe, so I enjoyed that part of the discussion. There doesn’t seem much point in alignment around purpose if you don’t also evaluate against purpose – including how and why we do what we do.

    And the discussion on levels of thought kind of whizzed by as I was mulling over other ideas so I’ll have to listen to that bit again, along with all the recent episodes.

    Feels like exciting times for MPS!

    Go to comment
    2019/08/20 at 4:57 pm
  • From Merry Cox on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Absolutely loved this episode. We need many more Bill Reeds. Unpack uniqueness, what’s the distinctiveness of place, dynamic unfolding of life and understanding…..LOVE this,

    Go to comment
    2019/08/28 at 9:36 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Oh our pyramids are almost identical!
    Mine was influenced by Milkwood’s which I’m guessing was influenced by yours (or vice versa?) so I guess that’s no surprise.
    I loved your confessions of a recovering academic. I have no such affliction which might explain my plain speaking.
    Thank you again, Dan, for the opportunity to speak with you. It always informs and energises my thinking. I am deeply honoured to be in the company of Carol Sanford, Joel Glanzberg and Bill Reed, even if I do feel a bit like a wandered into the wrong room by accident 😀

    PS: I meant to tell you when we spoke that the captcha function on this page is glitchy. When I go to post a comment it sends me back to this page. I just click ‘post comment’ again and somehow I am now an acceptable human. It might mean you’re not getting as many comments as you would otherwise.

    Very best wishes with your continuing adventures in making permaculture stronger. Onwards!

    Go to comment
    2019/08/31 at 2:59 pm
  • From John Carruthers on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    At first glance your framework seems pretty useful, Dan. It’s simple to understand and practical. Dismissing it off the cuff as “linear” seems unhelpfully premature! A more productive critique would be to ask: “In what kind of contexts could this framework be useful? And, in what other ways could it be improved to be more ubiquitously useful?” In answer to the first, well, it’s certainly VERY useful if you’re a practitioner wrestling with the everyday challenging choices around profiling a client’s readiness and supplying services, amidst the commonplace phenomenon of clients looking for certainty and tangible outputs rather than some sometimes more valuable but intangible outcomes, like fearless dialogue. Does that mean that every client-consultant dialogue need start at the lowest level and ascend to more sophisticated services. No, of course not. Dan, Bill and Joel on this podcast have already suggested optimistically otherwise. Not every client or consultant on any given assignment is ready to skip the more prosaic steps. (Although optimism leads me to assert that we all have the latent potential to do so with time.) Why? Because there are other things going on behind the framework that we’d be wise to pay attention to. Let me posit two: trust and commitment. Together they’re like a double-helix that helps propel collaboration; imagine for a moment trust and commitment (in equal measure from client and consultant) overlaid onto Dan’s model. Together these two attributes are necessary (and mostly) sufficient to support a range of service delivery scenarios proposed by Dan. Maybe the trust and commitment are both relatively low (and assymetrically so for the client). Then endeavouring to skip the early stages will be pointless (until something changes). Or perhaps one of the attributes is high but imbalanced between the collaborators. This is easiest imagined by flattening the helix into x-y axes and examining the combinations. What is most important here is that equal consideration be given to client, consultant and context. If the “chemistry” isn’t right to get to the upper deck of rich dialogue, why not? What’s missing? What can be done about it? What can be done to change it…I’ve got some elaborated thoughts, Dan, but I’ll save them for when we catch up next ..One passing thought: there’s nothing inherently wrong with linear frameworks or Cartesian co-ordinates per se, provided we don’t accept them as the ONLY or end frame and IF they cause us to think harder and ask better questions.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/04 at 1:40 pm
  • From linda mckittrick on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Eleven of Eleven) - Generative Transformation is part of what it means for Permaculture Design to come back to Life

    You are a total joy blessing and joy and the larger morphic field is delighting in you. I know mine is. Thank you. Reading this, and watching the videos (acorn/tadpole) as well as your discussions with folks, is like learning, yet remembering at the same time. I cannot thank you enough. Parts and wholes. Fun. In the moment design. Sounds like a good way to live …. the unlearning the relearning the more joyful living as life/nature “intended” dare I say “designed” us …..
    my total gratitude,

    Go to comment
    2019/09/06 at 10:22 pm
  • From Meg McGowan on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Eleven of Eleven) - Generative Transformation is part of what it means for Permaculture Design to come back to Life

    Standing ovation my friend!
    Just love this. We had a moment during a PDC recently that you’ll appreciate. I’ve been using Rowe Morrow’s place as a case study (because what could be better!) and as part of that process I created a beautiful, detailed, watercolored plan based on her property. When I introduced it I explained that this was not my design but Rowe’s. The plan had been done retrospectively……
    Just like the plan for our place……..
    Um…….wait a minute, was there a permaculturist anywhere that had done a plan BEFORE creating? Okay, maybe. I’ve seen some pretty gorgeous plans over the years and met some people that possibly did that first but I suspect they have the kind of imagination that allows them to explore the site in their mind and then use planning to make notes of what is essentially the beginnings of a generative process.
    Certainly I don’t know anyone that hasn’t deviated from the plan very soon after they started implementing it.
    So now the big challenge. How do we teach this?! I’m still using sector and site analysis and concept plans, as you know, but are they still too far away from the generative process?
    We need to talk.
    You’re not done yet. 😀

    PS: Your recaptcha is working again <3

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 10:52 am
  • From Manuel Morgado on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    The relation between types of people and biophysical context happens here in Portugal as well. People are far more conservative in the northern part of Portugal which geographer Orlando Ribeiro named as part of the “granite civilisation” while our metamorphic soils from the “clay civilisation” from the south – in the words of the same geographer – always bred far more liberal (hence embracing communist inclinations) people than the still–very-christian-to-this-day northern folk. Portugal has a very diverse climatology and on the south the cork-oak “montado de sobreiro” ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the World, protected by legislation precedented all the way to the XIVth century. Maybe one could argue that forest to be the long-term causality pattern for that, so some ethnographic fundaments for bioregionalism here? What could that school of thought (and design) be worth exploring regarding this issue about perception of Nature as a whole and ourselves as nested wholes within it?
    Or is my living-systems-thinking epistemology flawed? *laughs* I mean, this is a very interesting method to perceive design, as a whole, pun intended. A process nested between essences of living entities, to be true. However, this wholes and parts thing is always tricky. Could we assess further this method? Looking at the most common flaws among its practitioners perhaps. How do we walk this talk and keep track of our roles, purposes and being? How can we hone this method’s efficiency and be self-critical?

    How does this leaves us regarding the relationships between:

    Perceiving the Whole;
    Identifying nested Agents/Operative Parts(?);
    Understanding Roles and Purposes (Analysis?);
    Strategizing and Goal Articulating (Synthesis?);
    Planning Interventions; Analysing and Simulating (most people refer to this as designing itself);
    Implementing Plans and Adapting Them to Reality;
    Perceiving the Whole

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 11:49 am
  • From Manuel Morgado on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    Regarding environmental phenomenology and perception, why not interview professor David Seamon? He’s remarkable on Bortoft as well as many other authors as Christopher Alexander, etc. Would love to hear his words on biomimicry’s approach to design [Even if we can not actually mimic other living beings, why not learn from them for design?] as well as to understand what contribute discussing design could take from the Environmental Phenomenology. What does he think of Living Systems Theory?

    NCT (Niche Construction Theory) might also have much of value for this conversation regarding what is our role in ecosystems, but regarding that theme I have no clue about who to suggest 🙂 even though I quoted some of those issues for my master thesis dissertation, I haven’t kept up with the subject thus far.
    Been planning on writing to you for a while, but I have been busy such as yourself 🙂 meanwhile, I’ll just keep tracking where this is going, but I strongly believe you guys are right – matters of culture are matters of perception and knowing our role/purpose (someone will hate me, but you know what I mean haha) as/in Nature is very important as a whole and it is the philosophical core of most of these ideologies… someone would say it is not merely an intellectual act of awareness, but a spiritual transformation what is taking place. But let’s not go there without David Seamon 🙂

    Congratulations to you and all participants

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 11:53 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Oh and just to clarify, I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a linear model and some things, like building a bridge, should definitely follow a linear pattern. We’ve talked about this before. It was not my intention to be dismissive but constructive. I think what you’ve come up with is hugely useful and only questioned the pattern, not the content.
    I agree with John’s comments above, even though he seems to have misunderstood both my intent and my meaning. I also made the point that we don’t need to start at the lowest level and ascend. In fact it was the main point of my concerns with a linear pattern of description. I like his observations about trust and commitment. Both need to be built over time.
    I suspect that one of the traps of a design mind is that we become enchanted with patterns and models and can spend hours playing with them. Finding just the right analogy or model is exciting. The risk is that we can also forget why we were trying to define the patterns in the first place. If they help us to deepen our understanding and improve our practice they are useful. I do admit to sometimes finding myself playing with the mental models for their own sake, entranced by the seductive lure of an epiphany. Ultimately the test for me is how useful these models are to others. Do they improve their understanding and, more importantly, their practice of permaculture? Or are they just a more complicated (if beautiful) way of explaining something much simpler? I believe that I have managed both over the years. De Bono’s ‘Simplicity’ made me want to go back and redesign just about everything I’d ever done.
    I like how this model, once described by a non-linear pattern, has the potential to give new designers a scaffold for client interaction that allows them to achieve the greatest return on energy invested. I’m thinking it would be useful to our coaches and we’ll talk about it as the basis for designing different approaches based on where people are within that pattern. Thank you.

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    2019/09/07 at 12:07 pm
  • From Manuel Higgs Morgado on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Holy crap, I just realised they (Regenesis Group) are the guys I quoted numerous times when I was researching for my master thesis! What a coincidence – I read numerous entries on the Encyclopedia of Sustainability, Science and Technology, which was issued by Regenesis and Story of Place Institute hahaha… I had not the chance to connect the dots so far. Great work that one… really gives you awareness of the breath and depth of the broader environmental movement.
    The living systems thinking maps of “development” etc. were all part of my final dissertation for my Master degree in Architecture and deeply resonated with my own awareness of how design had been changing. If interested feel free to check it out, however, besides the quotes, it is written in portuguese so, sorry for that… ha, but you can still check the monastery project I’ve been a part of there and some images of the process at the project report annex.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 1:22 pm
  • From Dan Palmer on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Thanks John and Mel. I’m grateful to have you both exploring this stuff with me and feel resonance with both your comments. John I think you’re spot on re the trust and commitment piece.

    Now I’m curious to further clarify for myself what “linear” means and doesn’t mean in this context. A part of what a community of practice is about for me is co-evolving a clear, shared language. So humour me here. The online definition that came up for me was:

    1. arranged in or extending along a straight or nearly straight line. “linear movement”
    2. progressing from one stage to another in a single series of steps; sequential. “a linear narrative”

    Given the framework we’re talking about here is unambiguously about nested systems I can’t make the first definition fit. I see the framework in the same way I see the nested layers of cell, heart, circulatory system, organism or leaf, tree, forest, lifeshed, bioregion. If these are linear systems then I think the word linear has stopped being all that useful. Or even better perhaps is serve, rally, game, set, match in that these are more clearly activities that exist as nested layers.

    The second definition I can’t make fit either, in that while I think it makes sense to introduce the layers from smallest to biggest, there is no sense that you exit and leave behind one stage to enter the next. You go out as far as suits you but then all the layers that are part of your mix are then simultaneously present. For example I might be recommending and helping someone locate a composting toilet, while giving them some kind of basic design linking the toilet to several other things, while teaching them about design, while mentoring them in design process, all as part of inviting them into an emerging community of practice. The emphasis might be more in one layer than another in any moment, but the thing is pulsing and alive and there is no linear flow of where the emphasis will go next. Just like the cell is alive and doing its thing inside the heart inside the circulatory system inside the body.

    So I don’t see this framework as linear. To me an example of linear thinking in permaculture would be taking the machine-originated idea of a flow chat and having different boxes or bubbles linked by lines called arrows that you move through in a certain directions. Such as observe -> concept design -> detailed design -> implement -> evaluate. As I have previously discussed with Dave Jacke (which he speaks to in the first ten seconds of that episode).

    One thing I was wondering Meg was if what you meant in this context by “linear” was more around the fact the framework contains distinctions? In which case any framework, model or description is linear. There is also the fact that language is linear in that we say or write one word at a time, and of course to communicate this or any framework language is being used so there is linearity about in that sense I guess.

    Anyways that’s my two cents worth for now!

    Oh yes, I thought I’d also also share a distinction I’ve been finding helpful that I learned from Carol Sanford. It is that between a model and a framework. The idea with a model is that it is prescriptive, like the plans for a model aeroplane or something, and often is created and held and sold by some expert. A framework is more a set of questions or distinctions that is shared and held lightly in an open source of way where its job is to support the co-evolution of understanding and through this effectiveness in the world. Certainly my intention for the thing being discussed here (and which I’ll further explore with Jason Gerhardt and Morag Gamble in upcoming episodes) is that it falls into the latter category.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/08 at 11:16 am
    • From Pete on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

      The model v framework distinction is more useful, I think, than linear v non-linear. After all time progresses linearly, from one moment to the next, so in that sense everything we do is linear. What we are trying to avoid is prescribing in advance what must happen at some point (or points) in the future. That is ok if you desire a predictable result, but even then is problematic as it still involves the impossible task of knowing the future. Instead we need to be alive to the present and move with the flow.

      Go to comment
      2019/09/08 at 7:09 pm
  • From Craig on Exploring Developmental Pathways for Permaculture Designers with Jason Gerhardt (E25)

    Hey Dan – only just discovered your podcasts … or podcasts generally … hangs head in shame) – really enjoyed this one, particularly as my wife and I are in the throes of our (first) PDC which we are doing online given noone would be foolish enough to volunteer minding a near 3 year old for 2 whole weeks :-). The “what now?” question upon completion is something that is emerging as a constant thread amongst the participants.
    The previous podcast(s) with Dave Jacke were just as spot on – there is so much talk of permaculture being a “design science” but no real discussion or guidance as to how one goes about it in practice!
    Anyway, greatly enjoying the podcasts, your insights and infectious enthusiasm – cheers for your efforts 🙂

    Go to comment
    2019/09/19 at 4:12 pm
  • From Fraser on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Recapping Phase One (and its problems)

    Good on you Dan, I’m looking forward to following along as you divine the essence of permaculture! (Does that mean looking at the roots? Or taking it back to the acorn?)

    Go to comment
    2019/09/24 at 9:04 am
  • From Greg O'Keefe on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    Yes Dan, you have done good stuff, but now you are _really_ on to something! There is something profound and important at the core of permaculture that has yet to be clearly articulated, and separated from the particular interests of those who have so far connected with it.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/29 at 8:37 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Greg and I’m glad you’re feeling it too. I feel like I’ve been tracking a certain luminous being for a while now, as often as not losing the tracks and wandering randomly in the desert, wondering if the whole thing is a delusion until I find another clue. Another hair, or broken branch, or toe mark. Currently, however, I feel so much closer, maybe only a few hours behind it. Some of the prints are so fresh there is still water on the dry rocks where it exited the last creek. I’m starting to get little hints, little premonitions of what shape it is, what it smells like :-). Exciting times!

      Go to comment
      2019/10/08 at 10:17 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    Ah wonderful! Does this mean that holistic design turns out to be the next step on the journey?

    I put a comment on the PA facebook page regarding your last post: “I’m excited to know where you are going. Away from strengthening weak links and towards a holistic redesign? Love that the core is the core, and Brenna’s beautiful illustrations make it easy to understand.” I hadn’t seen this latest post at the time.

    This particular post resonates with me. I have never been interesting in solving problems. Our focus has been “How do we get more permaculture happening on the ground?” and by starting with what we hope to achieve we have found innovative ways to design, teach and mentor others. One of the great strengths of permaculture has always been the ethical foundation. How do I find more opportunities to care for the earth, care for people and share fairly?

    Systems thinker Peter Senge used to ask people to compare their organisation to a ship. He would then ask, “Who is the leader in relation to the ship?” Many leaders described themselves as the captain and some as the chief engineer in the boiler room keeping it all running. Staff described some leaders as cruise directors; calling in from time to time to keep morale up but not actually contributing much else. Senge suggested that leaders were actually the people that designed the ship. “People work within systems. Leaders work on systems.”

    Soft systems present us with mushy, complex relationships and my preferred approach is not to seek out weaknesses (although an awareness of them can be a significant clue) but to find points of leverage. Least effort for maximum return. Sounds familiar!

    I’m excited by your new direction and looking forward to what comes next. Thank you once again for the deep thinking and tireless effort. Inspirational.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/30 at 1:00 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Meg! As I’ve shared I’m preferring Carol’s language of nodal intervention over the more mechanical idea of leverage and not so sure about the ship metaphor and the implication that people and leaders are different. I love the idea from adaptive leadership that leadership is itself an intervention, not a role and certainly not something that happens from outside the system. But I may be missing Senge’s point and I do appreciate his work in general.

      Go to comment
      2019/10/08 at 10:44 am
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    I keep saying it, but I so appreciate how transparent you’re being in your own process. You’re not pushing a pre-formed message as an expert or evangelist, but instead allowing us to tag along on your walk through your developmental growth as it occurs, often along with your clients. The blog is like a little camera inside the unbroken eggshell of Dan Palmer. This post feels like a big peck at the interior, and the shell is cracking. All is in anticipation.

    I wanted to share something I’ve been feeling a lot. On this big project I’m designing and building out I’m getting to witness the potential creating process inside myself in real-time, seeing how much patience, non-attachment, and mental and emotional flexibility are required in this work. For some reason this project allows me to see the site and community development process differently. Perhaps it’s the scales of space and time that we’ve committed to, though it could also be that I’m just on the project full-time. Regardless, it doesn’t feel like a simple pivot from problem solving to potential creating. I think it’s the paradigm shifting, in motion. It’s not shifting from one idea to another better idea. It’s the abandonment of ideas as an organizing force in ones life. What’s left, for me anyway, is a freer experience of being. It’s light, and yet focused. It feels so, well, full of potential.

    Go to comment
    2019/10/11 at 11:35 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Jason and you are so right. The shell is cracking! Fuck! Thankfully the fear of entering an unknown new world is outweighed by the joy of what just might be possible out there. The next post is gong to be about the biggest peck so far. The shell’s beautiful work is almost done.

      I love how you put that, the abandoning of ideas as a driving force, and I’d like to hear more (there’s another episode topic, right there!). I have to share a passage I reread recently in Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building where he says the same in explaining what he means by a pattern language:

      Get rid of the ideas which come into your mind. Get rid of pictures you have seen in magazines, friends’ houses …. Insist on the pattern, and nothing else.

      The pattern, and the real situation, together, will create the proper form, within your mind, without your trying to do it, if you will allow it to happen.

      This is the power of the language, and the reason why the language is creative.

      Your mind is a medium within which the creative spark that jumps between the pattern and the world can happen. You yourself are only the medium for
      this creative spark , not its originator. (p. 397)

      Go to comment
      2019/10/14 at 9:44 am
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