Holistic Context for a Permaculture Design Business (Part 2 of 2)

This episode is the continuation and completion of the last episode where I started an interactive rolling review of a holistic context for a permaculture design business.

Here we follow through and finish the first pass of Porvenir Design’s Holistic Context with owner-directors Scott Gallant and Sam Kenworthy.

To tie in with our current focus, by the way, I have created an online course on Holistic Decision Making starting September 4th, 2020. This course will educate and resource participants to develop their own holistic contexts and start making decisions aligned with that context.

There is also the opportunity to attend a PDC with Porvenir Design in either 2020 or 2021.

If you are interested in this topic you might also want to listen to my introduction to Holistic Decision Making in episode 40 and my recent interview with Allan Savory. You can also catch up on my prior conversation with Scott on the practical and professional realities of a more living design process in episode 41 and episode 42.

Some quotes from this episode

Whether you grow the business or shrink the business, that’s a decision, not a quality of life statement. – Dan

The entire job (of enabling actions) is to make the quality of life statements true. You know, what do we need to be doing or producing to make them true. One point I’ll make is whenever I do this I’ll make it very clear which enabling actions are attached to which quality of life statements. Even though sometimes one enabling action will serve more than one quality of life statement. I find that really helpful particularly later on when you’re auditing and you’re realising, oh right now this quality of life statement is the least true, so what are we going to do about it? That’s our focus for the next six weeks is to make that more true and then move on to the one that now is least true. Let’s go straight to the enabling actions in service of that and find out what’s wrong there, what’s happening there, what we can change. – Dan

When I first got into this I dove really deep into it and really read Savory’s book very closely, workshops and all that. And where I got to with the ‘resource base’ is that he construes it in terms of how things need to be 10, 20, 100, 200 years into the future, socially, on the land. As I tried to work with that, what I found that it directly connected to enabling actions. That’s their job for me. So you’ve got your purpose – where you’re heading, you’ve got the quality of life statements – the core things you need to feel are true along the way if you are getting quality out of being involved and want to stay involved, and then you’ve got the enabling actions – things you need to be doing day by day, week by week, in order to keep those quality of life statements true, which if they’re true, that enables you to actually deliver on your statement of purpose. The future resource base does look into the future, and it’s says, what are the resources that you need to be in place in order to do these enabling actions. What are the enabling actions, what resources are they dependant on, and how do those need to…I think of them as variables. If the key future resource base variable diminishes over time, a classic one in any business is the goodwill of your customers, if that’s going downhill over time at some point you don’t have a business anymore. So it’s one of the core resources you depend on into the future to continue operating. – Dan

This is where we put relationships with suppliers. They are in a certain state. And if the quality of our relationship with the people who supply the timber we make our veg beds out of or even the screws and bolts that we bolt them together with or whatever, if those relationships are going down hill, at some point they will say screw you, and give the timber to someone else instead. These are core resources that we depend on to do what we do and we want to bring our conscious attention to them so we can nourish them and keep them strong. And if we have a strong resource base we know that moving forward that we are able to keep doing the things we need to do have the quality of life we want as we pursue our statement of purpose. That’s what gives you resilience and that deep feeling like – we’ve got this, we’ve got a future” – Dan

While we were coming up with this, we knew that we were going to bring someone on, we knew we were going to put this out as a blog post, so there was to a certain extent that context that if we create this then others that aren’t me and Scott (because we have so many conversations everyday) could also look at that and go, Oh ok, I see what professionalism means to you. – Sam

Porvenir Design’s Holistic Context

Thanks to Scott and Sam for letting me reproduce the version of their context they have shared publicly in this blog post. A Holistic Context for an entity (such as a permaculture business) created for a specific reason comprises:

  • a statement of purpose
  • quality of life statements
  • what Allan Savory called forms of production and I call enabling actions
  • a future resource base

Porvenir Design’s Statement of Purpose: Why was this entity created?

Porvenir Design exists to help clients achieve their goals within the context of tropical land planning and management and to provide meaningful livelihood for its employees.

Quality of Life Statements: How do we want out life to BE?

Regarding Economic Well Being

  • We are financially secure with a cash flow that is consistent and allows us to prioritize long term planning and quality of life decisions.
  • We have comfortable places to live that allow for gardening and food practice (Note: this is where the current episode starts)

Regarding Relationships

  • We have relationships among our Decision Makers and with our Resource Base which are
    • Transparent
    • Mutually beneficial
    • Clear and openly communicated
    • Balanced with regard to power dynamics
    • Empathetic
    • Compassionate
    • Empowering
    • Professional
    • Safe
    • Non-toxic
    • Fun
    • Diverse

Regarding Challenge and Growth

  • We continue learning and gain confidence on how to run and grow our business.
  • We grow on a personal level as communicators and facilitators.
  • We accept work which:
    • Encourages us to keep learning.
    • Features diverse projects, ecosystems, and contexts
    • Has clear objectives and outcomes.
    • Brings clear and obvious value to our clients.
    • Align with our values.

Regarding Purpose and Contribution

  • What do we want to be?
    • We are effective in helping clients meet their goals.
    • We specialize in tropical agroforestry, permaculture design and education, and project and client facilitation.
    • We are a design firm with an excellent reputation for professionalism.
    • We work within our tropical climatic and culture expertise as a place based organization focused on Costa Rica.
  • What do we ultimately want to accomplish?
    • We create regenerative productive systems that inspire people to spend time in nature every day and actively participate in their landscape.
    • We earn enough money to achieve our individual quality of life goals.
    • We have time for professional development and personal free time.
    • We grow the business in a way that others (community, future teammates, etc) can benefit from the structures we create.
    • We contribute to the efforts of regenerative tropical agriculture and its impacts on social, financial and ecological systems.
    • We are an active and positive presence in the permaculture community in Costa Rica and beyond.

Forms of Production: What has to be produced to achieve the quality of life and statement of purpose.

  • We act with integrity, follow our business code of conduct, and foster the quality of relationships described in our quality of life statement.
  • We manage projects that result in productive, beautiful, functional landscapes which are evident in their improved soil/water/microbial/ecosystem health.
  • We manage projects which create safe and reliable livelihoods for workers and meet the financial, environmental, and social goals of the clients. 
  • We have clear expectations and deliverables for clients.
  • We actively engage the Costa Rica permaculture community, visit other projects, network with leaders, and support their work.
  • We work with people whose primary project(s) and focus are in Costa Rica.
  • We monitor our progress through a year end business review, tracking our project outcomes, and ecological surveying.
  • We train teammates to evenly share work responsibilities so that we can all meet our free time goals.
  • We balance our current work capacity, our future financial needs, and our desired time off.
  • We have clear and well documented agreements regarding ownership, finances, decision making, and entry and exit strategies.
  • We have legal working status in Costa Rica.
  • We are legal residents of Costa Rica.
  • We actively seek out workshops, reading material, and mentorship in order to improve our communication and  facilitation skills, and our understanding of power and gender imbalances.
  • We have a network of mentors and advisers.
  • We invest in professional development for ourselves and our team.
  • We work with providers and contractors who are based in Costa Rica in order to foster intimate working relationships
  • We regularly check ourselves against our capacity and skill set when taking on new projects.
  • We have clear and precise language in our public outreach about where we work, what we do, etc
  • We offer employee ownership options to future teammates.
  • We consider all our work and knowledge open source.
  • We document and share our work through blog posts, teaching, open houses, etc.
  • We offer mentorship opportunities to the Costa Rican permaculture community.
  • We actively stay in touch with former, current and prospective clients and students.

Future Resource Base: A description of the resource base as it will need to be in order that future generations can live lives described in the Quality of Life statements.

People: We have relationships steeped in the values laid out in our quality of life statements. Our clients, students and general network see us as diligent, professional, creative, empathetic, humble and constantly seeking to improve.

Land: The lands where we work are abundant in diverse sources of food. The cycles of water, minerals, soil, and microbes are thriving. Wildlife is evident. Succession is moving toward a mature ecosystem.

Community: We are surrounded by friends and neighbors who are dedicated to regenerating the planet. Our community is interested and supportive of our work. They supply us with resources, fill niches as they arise, and participate as clients, students, and friends.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks to all for giving this opportunity to listen to an active process of setting the context for a design; and the active listening skills needed of the facilitator/designer to support the client.
    This was also a good revision of the course (advanced design) and your focus on the energy of the words we use and the meta pattern of what is created by intent and how that gives purpose and motivation to sustain the change we see possible.
    I appreciated the point you made about aligning or bringing purposes together in terms of being viable as a business and providing value to the world.

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