Javan Bernakevitch interviews Dan Palmer (E46)

In this episode my good friend Javan Kerby Bernakevitch from All Points Design in Canada interviews me about the various projects I am and have been part of, including permablitz, Very Edible Gardens, Holistic Decision Making, Living Design Process, and of course this one – Making Permaculture Stronger. Initially recorded for Javan’s youtube channel, thanks Javan for permission to share it here too.

Bringing Education back to Life with Emma Morris (e45)

This episode is a conversation with Emma Morris from Aotearoa New Zealand who fills us in on the last several chapters of her learning journey around regenerative education practices. It’s a great chat and I can’t wait to hear how the learning centre project Emma is involved in unfolds from here.

You can find the project here, and sign up for the project newsletter here.

The Learning Framework Emma and colleagues have arrived at.
Close-up of the middle section
Another awesome project graphic I found – love it!

Regenerating Design Process and Manifesting Making Permaculture Stronger’s Development (e44)

The idea for this this episode came to me about 20 minutes before I hit record. I share a second pass on a reflection process I’d just finished applying to Making Permaculture Stronger. It is all based on stuff from Carol Sanford’s The Regenerative Life book, a series of free morning meetings she recently ran, and stuff I’ve learned by being part of one of her Seed Communities. I’d be tickled if you’d drop me a line letting me know how this episode landed for you. Oh yes, if you’re curious how I got started with Carol Sanford’s stuff, it all started with this unforgettably disruptive experience right here.

Dialogue #2 with Anna Lena – Dancing with living design (e43)

With thanks to Anna Lenna for a second great chat – check out our first chat here.

Here is Anna Lena’s summary of our exchange from here:

Dan, founder of Living Design Process from Australia and I are speaking about empty houses in the countryside and how performance art speaks to spontaneous design processes.

In our conversation we are strolling through the landscapes of our recent experiences and touch on the conundrum of empty yet unavailable houses in Balaguier and the question how to enliven rural abandoned areas. Could some of these empty places host young people who are drawn to bring life and land-based experiments to the countryside? Especially in times of confinement, many summer house owners cannot come – how to begin a dialogue with house owners that could host other activities in their empty places?

Dan shares how many of the people he works with are asking deep fundamental questions as part of the Covid time. Questions rise anew, like: “What am I doing with my life or/and with my land?”. In one of his projects Dan works on this question with two performance artists and found that the spirit of alive improvisation is something that deeply resembles his design processes. In the conversation we explore how the process of creating place and dance are resembling each other in their open-ended, responsive nature. Performance arts as well as living design are practices of “being present and alive and in the moment, listening deeply and letting each next move emerge in real time”, as Dan says.

Here’s a link to Lierlou and the Village – the name of the project Anna-Lena is part of. And here’s the actual village:

Finally, here’s is a link to that exchange with Han that Dan mentions regarding the dance and design process connection.

In dialogue with permaculture designer Scott Gallant on the practical and professional realities of a more living design process – Part Two of Two (e42)

Scott Gallant

The second half of my initial conversation with Scott Gallant from Porvenir Design where Scott asks me questions about my facilitatory approach to professional design consultancy work. Enjoy and if you missed episode 41 I’d recommend checking that out first.

Also a heads up that in my next chat with Scott we’ll be reviewing Porvenir Design’s Holistic Context you can check out in advance here.

Living Design Process in Practice – Some Examples

Hey all. Continuing on this theme of what Living Design Process looks and feels like in practice, here I share a video of a recent presentation I made to the Building Beauty group. The theme was sharing some of my experiments in applying the living process approach of Christopher Alexander. Including the design and creation of gardens on the rooftops of a large residential suburban development.

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.