Bill Reed on Aligning around Purpose, Levels of Thought, and Transforming the World (E23)

Hey all. In this episode I share my second conversation with Bill Reed from Regenesis Group and the Regenerative Practitioner Seminar (our first chat is here). It is a conversation I highly recommend in which we look in detail at several aspects of how the rubber hits the road in the regenerative development or living systems approach Bill works with.

I also get a bunch of things off my chest at the start around bumping this whole conversation up a notch and inviting your input into where and how Making Permaculture Stronger evolves from here. Hope to hear from you (whether via a few bucks via our patreon page and/or your reflections and suggestions in the comments below or through the contact page).

I have to say all this focus on the likes of Bill and Joel Glanzberg and Carol Sanford is starting to rub off on me. I have noticed that the language I use is on the move, the thoughts I think are on the move, and even my entire understanding of what the heck Making Permaculture Stronger is and could be about are on the move! Heed this warning my friends: these people are dangerous radicals who consciously mess with minds. As Bill says, they see what they do as a mental technology that is intended to frustrate and destabilise you out of your automatic patterns.

Bill mentions this article by Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker, I mention possibility management, and you can find out more about Regenesis Group here and Carol Sanford here.

Example Purpose Statements including Function, Being, and Will

As promised, here are the function, being, and will based purpose statements Bill shared:

The Yestermorrow design / build school’s purpose is to learn together through shared inquiry and hand-on experience the ways of making human habitat… (function)

…in a way that expands our understanding of who we are and how to live in beneficial interrelationship with the earth and each other… (being)

…so that we all can thrive in a world with limited resources and unlimited potential (will)


I’m going to take raw ingredients and transform them into a meal for my family… (function)

…in a way that we sit down with our children and share our love for each other, or at least our daily events around the table… (being)

…so that our children have the psychological wellbeing and nourishment to grow into responsible adults (will)

As a recap the function aspect is about what are we doing and transforming?

The being aspect is how do we want to be and what do we need to become to do this? Or as Joel Glanzberg has put it to me, what are the capacities to Be you are aiming to develop during this task?

The will aspect is what is the larger field we wish to shift or positively impact? As Bill put it this is like asking what is the purpose of the purpose?

Keep in mind also, if you can handle it at this stage (I barely can!) that Bill talked about paying attention to the so called three lines of work at function, then again at being, then again at will. The three lines of work are the immediate whole you are working with (might be you, or your school garden), the proximate whole (might be your team, or the school community) and the greater whole that you envisage being able to positively impact through your work (might be the farm, or the community the school is nested within).

Here’s a preliminary attempt I made at an upgraded purpose statement for Making Permaculture Stronger:1

Making Permaculture Stronger exists to hold a unique space for intelligent, collegial, and rigorous inquiry and dialogue into the subject of permaculture design process… (function)

…in a way that respectfully honors permaculture’s incredible depth and value and openly explores ways its potential might be more fully and rapidly developed… (being)

…so that it continues to thrive, grow and evolve in its ability to contribute positively to humanity and the earth (will)

After some reflections on this from Joel Glanzberg (thanks Joel!), I tried:

Making Permaculture Stronger holds space for intelligent, respectful, collaborative exploration and dialogue into permaculture as a socio-ecological design science… (function)

…in a way that is alive, authentic, inclusive and yet gently disruptive… (being)

…so that it continues to thrive, grow and evolve in its ability to contribute positively to humanity and the earth (will)

Running this past Joel he came back with what I consider an excellent example of cutting to the chase. This fully resonates with my understanding of why MPS exists, and it is so much more clear, concrete and direct (how much punchier is the ending! YES!):

MPS inspires creative exploration and dialogue around permaculture design process… (function)

…in a way that develops our ability to think and act creatively as a community… (being)

…to enable permaculture practitioners to effect the large scale systemic change we need (will)

Here is another example Joel and I worked on after a session with an organic farming co-op:

The purpose of our co-op is to continue to develop and articulate an agro-ecological cooperative system that grows our businesses and the health of the land… (function)

in a way that inspires and enables others to do the same… (being) that we can build the health of the foodshed, food sovereignty and a viable option for the future of aging farmers and their land (will)

Here is an example Joel and I worked on after a session with staff at my kid’s Steiner school where I’m helping facilitate the garden redesign process:

The purpose of the garden is to enable children to experience the magic of elemental alchemy with their heads, hearts and hands… (function)

…in a way that inspires them to use this way of being and learning through their entire lives… (being)

…so that the school community and beyond are imbued with abundant life and health (will)

In this case Joel also suggested a few example principles which then act as guides to decision making:

  • Ensure all four elements are present throughout the garden in transparent ways
  • Inspire mystery through containment, separation and creating intimate spaces
  • Make the gardens places of ease, comfort and excitement
  • Everything is child scale

I sincerely hope these examples help.

Levels of Thought

The levels of thought thing Bill shared was:




Where do you usually start?


  1. At the start of the project I had it as “Making Permaculture Stronger is a space where permaculture practitioners come together with a spirit of strengthening the design system aspect of permaculture by clarifying its weaknesses and coordinating efforts to address them.” – which is well and truly in need of a reset!

1 Comment

  1. 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!

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