About six months back my friends and permaculture design colleagues Finn Mackesy and Gary Marshall got in touch. They were keen for peer feedback on a beautifully presented short document laying out the design process framework underlying their work as part of Resilio Studio (Auckland, NZ).
Now at first glance, this is yet another variation on the linear fabricating approach I found standard across all permaculture design process descriptions I could find in my earlier literature review:
Here, design process is conceptualised and written down or diagrammatically summarised as a linear sequence of steps in which a design is put together to a relatively complete level and only then implemented. A bunch of arrows is then added to try and do justice to the fact that in reality the different steps tend to get all mixed up with other (in space and time).1
However, flipping through the document the above image sits within, I was pleasantly surprised to notice mention of generative processes – which apart from by myself and these legends I had never before seen mentioned in the permaculture literature.2
The document explicitly differentiates what they call sequential processes (or implementation strategies):
from a particular take on generative ones:
Gary confirmed my suspicion that this inclusion was at least in part a result of his keeping an eye on goings-on here at Making Permaculture Stronger.3
I immediately realised that their document would serve as a fantastic example of how others have incorporated some of the discoveries of this latest inquiry into their basic understandings of sound design process. Indeed, in the very last post of this inquiry I shared how the permaculture design company I run alongside Adam Grubb has gone about this.
In this post I thank Finn, Gary and the rest of the Resilio Studio team for giving me permission to share their process here (be sure also to check out their projects page including this example of them applying their process in a real-world context).
As Gary put it when he originally shared this with me:
this is a ‘live document’ we are keen to get input from a wide range of people to feed into the next iteration. With no expectation, if you have the time, energy and inclination, it would be great to get your feedback – any and all feedback welcome.
What a great attitude – I’m honoured to count Gary & Finn as colleagues in the space of clarifying and sharing their evolving understandings in the genuine interest of strengthening them.4
We designed the primer as a high level, loose fit guide to the design process for the purpose of applying it to a wide range of design challenges and contexts. We designed it for ourselves as design practitioners trying to work across a range of fields and as a resource for our design education and training work.
The primer describes both agile/iterative/generative processes as well as sequential/waterfall/
fabricated processes. In our experience design processes and implementation strategies need to match the design context. Depending on the project, we find that sometimes an iterative approach is most appropriate and at other times more sequential processes are better suited. For larger and/or more complex projects there is usually elements of both.
As an emerging design practice we have applied this design process and the sequential, generative as well as hybrid implementation strategies to a range of projects. These include purely social interventions through to physical infrastructure as well as ‘placemaking’ projects that involve both community development as well as built outcomes.
- Or as my friend Dave Jacke puts it, “intertwingled”
- By that name I mean – I did find places where David Holmgren and Ben Falk pretty much discuss generative processes under other names and if you check out my podcast interviews with Dave Jacke you’ll see he is all over this stuff.
- In Gary’s words “Along with Christopher Alexander’s work, yourself of course, and agile methodologies, we have also borrowed ideas from David Snowden’s work (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7oz366X0-8), social and innovation labs – https://social-labs.org/ – and other thinkers and practitioners in the ‘prototyping for social innovation’ movement, if I can call it that, and tactical urbanism, which we’ve been teaching at landscape architecture school here for a few years – https://issuu.com/streetplanscollaborative/docs/tactical_urbanism_vol.1“
- Both were also pivotal in the emergence in the last few years of the making permaculture stronger series of hui (gatherings) inside the NZ permaculture movement.