In dialogue with permaculture designer Scott Gallant on the practical and professional realities of a more living design process – Part One of Two (e41)

I was delighted when Scott Gallant from Porvenir Design emailed me earlier in the year:

Hi Dan,

I wanted to reach out and introduce myself after having (finally!) stumbled upon the MPS project. I just wrapped up listening to the Phase 2 podcast and I am all in!

A quick jot about myself, my name is Scott Gallant and I am a permaculture designer and educator based in Costa Rica. I’ve been deep in this field for 10 years, 8 of which were spent managing a farm and building out my curriculum at a well regarded site called Rancho Mastatal. In the last few years I’ve been full time in the design/install business here in Latin America with my firm, Porvenir Design. Tropical agroforestry and permaculture education are really my burgeoning areas of expertise. I’ve had the chance to lead or co-teach 14 PDCs and countless short courses, and have been fortunate enough to be interviewed for a number of podcasts over the last few years. I set this scene to let you know that I am all in, although I resonate deeply with your message of approaching permaculture from a skeptics background.

For the last few years I’ve been obsessed with the pedagogy of teaching PDCs and the process of design in my client based work. Incrementally, and sometimes abruptly, I tweak these process. I’ve also felt quite surprised by the lack of conversations around these topics and have constantly been pulled toward constructive critiques of permaculture. Clearly, the bubble of permaculture in Central America and perhaps to some degree North America has not been invaded by the MPS project.

So, first, thank you for your work. It is essential to, well, making permaculture stronger. Second, I’m interested in getting more involved. I’m slowly making my way through some past posts and will continue to do so over the weeks ahead. If you have any suggestions for involvement they are much appreciated. And third, I am quite interested in mentorship in the field of professional design and education. At the full peak age of 33, I find myself seeking mentorship in order to continue helping students and clients truly dive into the permaculture domain with confidence. In this community that you’ve formed, are there any obvious routes for some form of mentorhsip?

Apologies for the long message. Love the work and looking forward to dipping in.
Scott Gallant

In his second email Scott continued:

As I’ve been listening I am really quite curious to learn more about how folks actually implement these ideas with clients, how this changes the teaching within a PDC for inspired instructors, etc. I have a client visit in Puerto Rico soon; outcome will be a concept plan for bringing back to life the family farm and converting an old church on the property into some public facing bar/restaurant/distillery.  The outcome is far from a detailed master plan, but rather will involve a day of visioning/goal setting with stakeholders, two days on the site, and then creating a planning document that provides broad patterns for access, land use suitability, water/soil/plant systems, and recommendations on phasing, species, further resources, etc. I give you this context, because I am most interested in using this project to trial out some of these new ideas from MPS, BUT the actual action of, say, “unfolding the potential of a site’s essence” or “starting from a whole” alludes me a bit. Part of me believe this deeper ability can only be brought forth through years of practice/mentorship and such. Part of me wonders if this is more or less what I already do with clients.

I would love to brainstorm how to take what others and myself do now as professional designers/installers and apply these ideas to go from good to great. When I read the comments I don’t see too much where others are saying, “Wow, I’ve been doing this upside down and need to completely change my practice.” It seems like folks are on the same page theoretically, but for professional permaculture designers and educators, how should this exploration of knowledge change our work on the ground, our conversations with clients, our teaching lessons, our contract deliverables, the physical landscapes we manage?

Nothing more needed to be said. This is exactly the kind of energy I want to be engaging with so I invited Scott to join me for a recorded conversation, the first instalment of which I share here.

Now before our chat, Scott emailed me some of his questions. As well as speaking to those he asked live during our chat, I thought I’d have a go at writing a comment on (if not an answer proper) to some of his emailed ones here too.

SG: How do you put the theory of everything your podcast has explored into practice with actual paying clients? What process do you use for “essence reveal,” “story of place”, realizing potential etc. Basically what has it meant to put this theory into practice for you? 

DP: That’s a big question! I’m actually writing a book right now attempting to answer it (watch this space!). One comment is that I had found and am continuing to evolve ways of doing this prior to learning about the Living Systems Thinking concepts of revealing essence, story of place (which is one way of going about revealing essence), and developing potential. These newer-for-me concepts are increasingly infusing my work, however, and sort of strengthening, focusing and deepening aspects of what I was already doing.

SG: I am very curious about the shift toward “mentorship” style design work with clients. How have clients responded to this versus you directing them what to do? Do you find that this process is more challenging/more expensive/less accessible for clients? How has it changed your deliverables/pricing/types of clients?

DP: If this isn’t what a prospective client wants then with very few exceptions I don’t accept the job, meaning that the people I do work with love it in that even if they didn’t know it, and thought they wanted something more conventional, this turns out to be exactly what they really wanted. As in being supported and empowered to be in control of their own design and creation processes, which is one of the most fulfilling things I reckon you can do in life.

There are ways my approach is more challenging, given that part of what I’m doing is consciously challenging them to steer their own ship and gently disrupting their habitual patterns toward a more living process. There are ways that in the medium to long term that it is less challenging, given that they are in control and have complete ownership over what is happening, where what is happening is gradually revealing a form to the project that is beautifully adapted to them and their setting, avoiding the common challenges of trying to understand and implement some external expert’s cleverly imposed ideas that even if successfully realised typically turn out a less-than-great fit.

As for expense and accessibility, it depends :-). I would say that on average, however, my approach is significantly cheaper and more accessible for clients.

Re deliverables I am selling a facilitation service not a design product, re pricing I have moved to an hourly rate rather than a lump sum for a certain class of plan, and re clients they have all changed into the kinds of folk I really want to be working with and they pretty much always end up becoming good friends.

SG: Given the last year(s) of learning and insights from the MPS work how has your design work AND PDC teaching changed the most?

DP: Far out Scott you are asking great questions that make me stop and think! There are so many changes but what what floats to the top for design work is moving from being an expert consulting designer to resourcing the design and creation processes of others. As for PDC teaching I have only really approached PDC’s in the new (for me) way, though one shift is moving away from having participants present a pretty-looking design to having them present the story of their experience of moving through a sound design process.

That’ll do for now – hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did and I am delighted to have Scott as a conversation partner and colleague the work of consciously evolving the ways we practice permaculture design on the ground, which of course is the only place it really matters.

Holistic Decision Making (e40)

VEG’s context

Hey all so today I share a little bit about holistic decision making – the whole-oriented decision making practice I have adapted and evolved from Allan Savory’s Holistic Management decision making framework.

I’ve had a bunch of folk requesting more info about this lately and I’m feeling it very relevant to this historical moment when many of us are making big decisions about the shape of our lives and enterprises moving out of the first wave of coronavirus.

Hope is helpful – You can listen to my incredible subsequent interview with Allan Savory here, find more info here and there is a series of articles a bunch of people have found helpful here.

Here’s our family context which I refer to along with VEG’s context above.

Here’s an old vid where Adam and I talk about the impact of this stuff on our business (during a workshop we had Darren Doherty come and run for us):

I mention and thanks Allan Savory during the chat and share how he is currently in crisis (holistic) management mode of the African Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe. Visit the website here to learn more and donate. Here’s what’s up for him from his facebook page:

I would like to thank those of you who have donated to support Africa Centre for Holistic Management, which we deeply appreciate. Due to the pandemic crisis Jody and I have had to assume the management role of ACHM. All income has stopped, and Victoria Falls hotels lie empty. We have done the best of holistic financial planning to survive at least 18 months till income might start flowing. Priorities are to save the people managing the land and wildlife and stopping the poaching that is ramping up as hungry people try to feed their families. We are feeding staff and paying monthly what little we can in very tight plan. And as usual things happen! Last night the elephants tore up our water pipes so replan!!

Because we operate under a government rated as one of the most corrupt in the world and 600% inflation of the local virtual currency, we have had to install a new donate button to stop government and banks raiding donations. Now 100% donated gets to us to save the people, wildlife and all we hold dear. If you can support please go to front page at and every dollar will I assure you go a long way in this broken failed economy and help a lot of wildlife and poor people.

Allan Savory laying out aspects of the approach

Weekly Report with Anna Lena: Dan’s practical adventures with Living Design Process (e39)

Hey all. I am excited to be here trying out yet anther new experiment in making this project as accessible and practical and interesting as possible.

You see I’ve recently started becoming friends with a group of graduates of Schumacher college. Mainly Anna Lena from France and Ahmed from Bahrain.

Anna Lena and Ahmed initially reached out, having come across some of my stuff on Living Design Process online. They sensed resonance with their own inquiry into what they are calling dialogue with place. After attending one of their online gatherings, the resonance was confirmed, and we all felt potential in continuing to explore the obvious synergies.

So we had this lovely emergent conversation just the other day where the idea emerged of checking in weekly and sharing for ten minutes or so what’s alive in us relating to our our practical projects.

Where I realised I could release my bit where I share about my design process adventures here. Potentially as a weekly sort of update. This fits in with the strong will I’ve been feeling toward starting to share more of this Living Design Process approach I’ve alluded to but haven’t yet really dived into directly.

I’m not sure whether to use the audio episode format, the video format, or both, so I’ll share both here and ask some of you what you reckon will work best moving forward.

Also here is a that link to Lierlou and the Village – the name of the wonderful project Anna-Lena is part of.

Thanks so much to Anna Lena for the chat and to Ahmed also for the way in which this all emerged.

Continuing the conversation with Simon Marshall (e38)

This episode is the second half of the conversation started in Episode 37. In which permaculture designer Simon Marshall and I explore ways he can evolve his practice in desired directions (and I have some useful realisations about how I’ll evolve my approach to this kind of conversation in future).

Simon Marshall and Dan Palmer on evolving one’s permaculture design practice (e37)

This episode marks new ground for this podcast. I share the start of what will become a several-episode conversation working with permaculture designer Simon Marshall. Simon reached out and asked if I’d help him explore ways we can evolve his practice in desired directions. In this episode we set the scene and in the next episode we’ll dive right into the business at hand.

I hope you enjoy this new direction for the podcast and huge thanks to Simon for being up for giving this a try. In this episode we set the scene and we’ll get down to work proper in the next episode.

You can visit Simon’s existing website here and here are some design illustrations he shares in the chat (and that I reference there by image number).

Image One
Err, let’s call this a continuation of Image One
Image Two
Image Three

Holding multiple wholes and approaching essence on the path toward regeneration with Bill Reed (E36)

I’m so happy to know Bill Reed (from Regenesis Group) and to have him back on the show for the second time I’ve had someone on for the third time. If you listened to either of the prior chats you already know you’re in for a treat. Thanks again Bill and I’m already looking forward to interview number four.

Can we use Inner-Permaculture to help us face a collapsing world? – Dan Palmer interviewed by Dean Spillane-Walker

Hey all. For some reason I entered this conversation anticipating it would be a kind of straightforward, relatively surface affair. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking. I clearly hadn’t done my homework, and I was so wrong. Dean is this beautifully deep person who kind of saturated me with wave after wave of profound, considered questions where I needed to slow down and shift my state of being just to meet and do any kind of justice. This conversation happened late last year in November 2019 and going back I noticed I made some now even more relevant comments about crises and their actual and psychological fallouts at about the 40m mark (you can cut straight to that section here). Anyways it is more personal than usual, but what the heck, I really appreciated Dean’s questions and I share it here with you to make of what you will :-). If you also like Dean’s style I see he has a bunch of (no-doubt equally considered) interviews including many focused on aspects of the Coronavirus crisis on his youtube channel The Poetry of Predicament.

Jason Gerhardt returns for a third episode (E35)

Jason Gerhardt teaching

Such a pleasure to reconnect and get back in resonance with Jason after quite a while in this free-flowing conversation. We talk the current pandemic, ways of responding individually and collectively, and continue our themes around design process and story of people/place. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did and thanks so much for the comment from permaculturalist Wesley Rowe that listening to this is “like peering in on conversations I have with friends” :-).

Further Applying Carol Sanford’s Four Levels of Paradigm to the Coronavirus Crisis and to Permaculture (e34)

In this episode I reflect on how the four levels of paradigm Carol Sanford shared in episode 33 apply both to my experience of navigating the coronavirus crisis and to permaculture as a whole.

Hope you get something out of this and here’s to our collaborative evolution toward regenerating life together.

A few links:

Regenerating Life with Carol Sanford’s Four Paradigm Framework (E33)

Carol Sanford mid-sentence during this episode…

Such a deep honour to have Carol Sanford return to the show after the wild ride that was episode nineteen.

In this episode Carol takes us deep into one of her living systems frameworks – that of the four paradigms she calls value return, arrest disorder, do good, and regenerate life. This framework has challenging implications for permaculture, and as I explain I am excited with the clarity I believe this framework can bring to our individual and collective efforts to navigate the current global coronavirus pandemic.

I will be using the platform of this podcast to look at the current situation through a process lens for the foreseeable future. All other bets are off for now.

Check out Carol’s website here, her new book The Regenerative Life here, her seed communities here, and the Deep Pacific Change Agent Community (that I am part of) here. The white paper she mentioned can be read in a series starting here, and she has a Regenerative Paradigm website too.

Stay well and until soon. I will endeavour to keep these podcasts coming from my family’s mini permaculture refuge (that has all been created within the last three weeks).

I’m also happy to publish the video of this chat with Carol but I’ll let one or two of you say you’d like that before I make the effort :-).

What came in the post today – hooray!
Snippet from page 162 – hoot hoot!