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Worldwide Permaculture Network – Project Type Descriptions

Welcome to the new year everyone.

The first live, public launch of the Worldwide Permaculture Network is imminent. There are just a few things to tidy up, and then you can all ‘have at it’.

I could use your feedback on the below. Here you’ll find draft descriptions of the project ‘types’ that can be selected when you upload your various permaculture projects. (Each of these project types has a badge associated with it which will show on respective project profile sidebars.) Please feel free to let me know via comments if you have constructive observations for tweaks/improvements that could be made to the descriptions below. Thank you all in advance:

Project Legend:

Note: All projects need to be in harmony with all three of the permaculture ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Return of Surplus – with the surplus returning back to supporting the first two ethics. A clear inconsistency with any one of these three principles is grounds for removal from the Worldwide Permaculture Network database.

Urban: Permaculture project working in urban environments.

Rural: Projects in more sparsely populated districts.

Residential: Projects that are developing or mature examples of home-based permaculture implementation. These might be urban or rural.

Commercial: Projects that provide sustainable goods and/or services for sale or trade. As per note at top of this legend, these projects must align with all three of the basic permaculture ethics to qualify as a permaculture project. If agricultural, such projects are based on polycultures and are working toward closed loop nutrient cycling systems.

Eco-Village: Eco-villages are intentional communities with the goal of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Some aim for a population of 50–150 individuals because this size is considered to be the optimal size for a social network according to findings from sociology and anthropology.

Community: Community projects are projects that help develop sustainable and harmonious community interaction, improve well-being and increase localised resilience.

School Project: School Project leaders create their project under this category. School Projects attempt to educate a new generation in sustainable and historically-appropriate knowledge and practical skills. These normally incorporate school gardens, but can encompass much more.

Philanthropic/Aid: All permaculture projects need to be aligned with the ‘return of surplus’ or ‘fair share’ principle, but those that are formed specifically for directly assisting people in need can select the ‘Philanthropic/Aid’ project type, or where this is the larger thrust of their work. The assistance provided by a permaculture Philanthropic/Aid endeavour is normally, to utilise the well-known proverb, not just in giving a man a fish, and not just in teaching him to fish either, but also in how to manage his fish stocks sustainably. It’s about addressing root causes of problems and working in culturally acceptable, situation-appropriate ways to apply holistic solutions. Often such aid quickly becomes unnecessary as the capabilities and independence of recipients advances, although in some circumstances such aid might be perpetual to some degree (like for permanently socially/economically disadvantaged recipients like the mentally and/or physically handicapped for example).

Demonstration: Projects deemed by their leaders as being specifically good, mature examples for demonstrating the benefits of permaculture by showcasing its implementation and advantages.

Educational: Projects that teach permaculture concepts and application by running courses and/or workshops and/or internships, etc. Projects that select this project type have an option to advertise their courses on their project profile’s sidebar.

Permaculture Local Groups / Transition Towns / Permablitz: Permaculture Local Groups and Transition Towns are groups of individuals in particular localities who meet regularly to pool and share resources, knowledge and inspiration, and who work collaboratively to advance permaculture and strengthen community resiliency. Such groups may undertake activities like local bartering or local currency initiatives, peak oil and/or other transition presentations, and they may be working to influence local government on policy changes, and much more.

Permablitzes are where people team up to give an individual’s yard a perma-makeover, usually in exchange for that individual having contributed time to help makeover other properties.

Authorised representatives of such groups are invited to create a profile on this site so they can be on the Worldwide Permaculture Network map – to be easily found and joined by individuals in your area.

Financial/Economic: These are projects which help facilitate sustainable and community-building economic frameworks and/or ethical financial investment initiatives such as credit unions, trade exchanges, or local currency or time bank schemes. Rather than being the end goal, such projects instead regard money as a tool to achieve higher, socially and environmentally beneficial ambitions. Do not confuse these with ‘Commercial’ project types.

Legal: The ethical use of resources often necessitates diverging from the default strategy suggested by the present-day economic culture (that being the maximisation of financial profit by individuals working in their own self-interest rather than acting as trustees with an obligation to use resources to produce lasting benefits to society). For this reason, setting up appropriate legal structures to ensure activities are, instead, in alignment with the core ethics of permaculture, and stay so even under adverse conditions, is important. The most important and flexible legal tool to tie capital to such rules for its use is the Trust. A project under this ‘legal’ category can provide help to set up such legal structures.

Political: Political projects include participatory democracy initiatives, local and national lobbying efforts to promote, incentivise and incubate sustainable change and even the re-design of political frameworks.

PRI Master Plan:

The ability to select the PRI Master Plan project type is only possible after approval by PRI administration. Read on to find out more about what a PRI Master Plan project is, and if your project would like to join the PRI Master Plan network, please apply to info (at) permaculturenews.org

PRI Master Plan projects are projects that are self-replicating, through being both educational and demonstrational – and which are collaborating with the Permaculture Research Institute to help them progress permaculture uptake in their respective regions. The ability to check the ‘PRI Master Plan’ box is activated by the Worldwide Permaculture Network admin after the project in question has been approved by the Permaculture Research Institute.

As demonstration sites PRI Master Plan sites show examples of permaculture in action to the community and region in which they are based, focusing on methods and materials which are the most suitable for the means, culture and climate of the area. As permaculture is regenerative, these demonstration sites often begin on poor quality land that locals would normally avoid – so that the before/after results of subsequent permaculture interventions can be dramatic and motivating for native observers. Such land is normally inexpensive in comparison to premium land.

As educational sites these projects finance themselves through selling knowledge – i.e. through course fees. For ‘two thirds’ world countries, student attendees can arrive from wealthier nations to sit side by side with local students, with their harder currencies subsidising the education of the locals who would otherwise not be able to learn. With wealthier students attending such courses in exotic locations, local students have an increased appreciation for the course content (i.e. if western students come all this way to attend, it must be valuable knowledge). Cultural exchange and positive networking results, with westerners also gaining insights into low tech traditional techniques found in such locales.

PRI Master Plan sites gain access to the wider audience of the Permaculture Research Institute. Project admin and/or team members are asked to report with interesting articles and observations that can be published on the respective PRI websites, to increase the project’s support base and student attendance and to inspire others to take up the call.

PRI Master Plan projects need three base staff members – a teacher, a farm manager, and an administrator (and a translator for courses if necessary). If there are no suitably experienced local teachers, these can be supplied as required from amongst the PRI’s teacher network. Such teachers have their expenses covered through the course fees.

Only quality teachers recognised and endorsed by the Permaculture Research Institute can teach such courses. Such courses are kept free of all religion, spirituality and ‘metaphysics’, instead concentrating on practical permaculture design science.

PRI Master Plan sites seek to become financially self sufficient within three years, and seek to provide for as much of their, and their students’, own food and other needs as possible from their own bio-diverse demonstration sites.

16 Comments

  1. I want to thank you for your emphasis on Permaculture Ethics in the new Worldwide Network. It is my belief that the Ethics of Permaculture are the only thing that sets the whole shooting match aside from every other commerce-growth-consumption-based new technique or idea about gardening. In the U.S., many self-styled Permaculturists (I don’t know, even people with PDCs) are distancing themselves from the Ethics passed down from our Founders. This is a great mistake. Thank you again for holding to the primary foundations that provide for a sustainable world future.

  2. A little something is coming to mind, it’s more a question than a suggestion.
    When the projects are listed, will they be specifically stating how they are in harmony with each of the three Ethics?
    For example, A Community Garden which is Permaculture inspired can easily show Earth Care-using good soil building practices and no chemicals, People Care- creating a sense of community and growing healthy food, Return of Surplus- sharing the food and closing the waste loop by making compost. That is a fairly easy one.
    However, what if the project is some simple Earthworks on a farm to stop erosion, it can show Earth Care very obviously, but how can this show People Care or Return of Surplus?
    Or, doesn’t it matter so much specifically to cover each of the Ethics, just as long as the project doesn’t contravene them?

  3. Thanks Cloudpiler and Carolyn

    Carolyn: The earthworks on the farm is not a project. The farm itself is the project, and the earthworks is an element of that project.

    In this case, the project profile would be a description about the farm itself. The earthworks would be an update on the farm project’s blog (every profile – be it People or Projects – gets its own blog to make regular updates, and attract followers, and potentially supporters depending on what the Person/Project is doing).

    Another example. Building a bird bath is not a project. The residential property the bird bath is going to be sited on is the project, and the bird bath would be one of the regular updates about what’s going on with that project.

    Yes, we cannot assume evil re projects, so as long as what people in the WPN community know about the project is not contravening permaculture ethics, it’s eligible to be in the system. Where people do know for certain that a project is directly contravening permaculture ethics, they can report it.

    I want the system to be nurturing, not critical. It doesn’t matter so much to me, and I trust the wider permie community, where the project is at today. The more important thing is in what direction it’s heading.

  4. Over the past 18 months we have been building up a national infrastructure called PERMACULTURE INDIA, with a number of thrust areas. Permaculture India is an initiative of the Permaculture Society of India, a non-profit charitable research society.

    It has become glaringly clear that we need to capacity build 100’s & 100’s of permaculture trainers to tackle the huge problems of sustainability in India. With this in mind we have invested our personal funds into classrooms (capacity 2×25), furniture, office space, website (& seo marketing), library/resource centre etc … and we want to launch PDC programs at our very first campus located at Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) – hopefully in springtime 2011!

    All around India, there has been a growing interest in our activities, and we feel confidant that our model can be replicated around the country. We really need a helping hand from PRII to see that our efforts bear fruition, and we’d like to engage in constructive dialogue to meet these objectives.

    Initially, we will need to enshrine best training practices and appropriate syllabi at the campus, and ensure that we meet the standards expected by PRII in terms of quality assured delivery along with the appropriate recognition/certification.

    Secondly we need to garner more qualified trainers (from abroad) who are willing to spend 3-6 months (per visit) with us. Amongst our members are organic farmers who are more than willing to participate in transforming their farms under perma-principles, so there is no shortage of resource in terms of practical hands-on” training.

    From here-on, we would be most grateful to hold hands and nurture these opportunities with the help from “big brother” in Australia! We would be most grateful for your comments and assistance.

    Yours sincerely

    Vic Gaffney
    (Founder/Trustee)

  5. It looks clear and useful, this is going to be so much fun. Its a relief that harmony with the three ethics is the criteria for being listed.
    But we must now deal with ‘Diversity’ within Permaculture about the third ethic.
    There is a world of difference between ‘Fair share’ and ‘Share the surplus’.
    “Return surplus’ and ‘Redistribute surplus’ are subtly different again.

    The very word ‘Ethics’ has wildly varying definitions, from ‘Right or Wrong’ to ‘The Ethos, the nature of who we are’.

    I can just see this being a schism of Protestant/Catholic proportions down the track. Unless we agree to disagree. Soon. Formally.

    Someone once said ‘There are as many different ‘Permacultures’ as their are Permaculturists, this is its strength”.

    What is to be done here?

  6. In response to Caroline, an earthworks project, although not as obviously as a community project, is indeed fulfilling the three ethics of permaculture. In my eyes its almost impossible to fulfill one of the ethics without fulfilling the other two. For example, an earthworks project is a blatant demonstration of the earth care ethic, helping to rehydrate and increase the fertility of the land. By revitalzing the land, one is caring for the wellbeing of the people living on the land as they will be able to sustainably grow food/products on that land and hopefully the regenertion of the land will close the loop of waste (water, nutrients onto downhill properties, stream, rivers, sea’s etc), a return of surplus (or at least another way of thinking of it).
    It’s impossible to care for people without caring for the earth, and returning the surplus (whether it be to people or the land). Its impossible to have a return of surplus in the first place withour caring for the land and for people and lastly, its impossible to care for the earth without people care and a return of surplus.
    I personally know that what I just said can be confusing, but a bit of contemplative thought on the interconnectedness of all the ethics can be a lot more revealing than one would first think.
    I think once we step out of our cartesian trained minds and into an ecologically receptive one, we’ll all be better able you see such ‘hidden’ connections…
    On a different note, the formating for the Permaculture Network looks fantastic and I can’t wait to check it out! Great job PRI.

  7. Having seen ethics/principles/definitions become the subject of endless, stultifying, circuitous, self-destructive argument in all manner of other walks of life, personally I think we have to accept that everyone will have different interpretations of the ethics and principles of permaculture and how loosely/tightly they should be boundaried. That’s just human nature.

    Permaculture’s true genius is that it’s about accepting nature as it is and working with it, not against it. So personally I think Craig’s approach is a reasonable way forward. The less time we spend expending a lot of hot air on trying to define the indefinable, the more we have available for the enormous practical task ahead of us of transforming the destructive and unsustainable practices of modern agriculture and the thinking that informs them.

  8. I love it! I see so much potential. Regarding possible concerns about the nebulous ‘third ethic’ – don’t worry. The ‘market’ (in the broadest possible sense) will sort it out. The ability to display a ‘returning of the surplus’ (my preferred definition for the third ethic) really should not be an issue if one is following a plan and documenting the progress of any given project. There may be some ‘false starts’, and a few projects which at first glance may appear to display an imbalance of ethical consideration/outcome, but eventually all three ethical responses will coalesce into one fully integrated whole as projects mature – or they will die. Art (and science) really do imitate nature.

    Craig, great job, well done to you and all the team! One thing… I wonder if there is any value in expanding the Eco-village section in the Project Legend to include all forms of Intentional Community (IC)? Maybe even head it up as IC, and together with reference to eco-villages, include defining information on (for example) cohousing, communes, coops, etc.

  9. It’s not clear if it will be possible to apply more than one of your initial pre-determined categories to a project. Will it?
    If not, I would say that is essential functionality.

    Also, how will you evolve your initial category choices to include additional categories that will emerge once people start adding projects?

  10. Hi John, yes, projects can fit into multiple types. For example, your home garden project might be all of: Urban, Residential, Demonstration. It might even be Commercial, if you’re selling excess to a local restaurant, for example.

    A particular Philanthropic/Aid project might also be Rural, OR Urban, and it might also be Educational and Demonstration.

    Etc. etc.

    I’ve done my best to cover all categories I can envision at the moment, with feedback from others also. If there are glaring ommissions that we need to incorporate in the future, we will do so.

  11. Thank-you Markos, Thank-you Wendy
    ‘Don’t worry’ is just what I needed to hear. With a project as powerful as this, I do some preliminary worrying. Yes, I can trust the genius of Permaculture, Trust Craig & the gang, and trust the market will work it out. Thanks for reminding me. I read both your replies many times.

  12. In my opinion legal structures cannot be applied upon design. What we need is “pattern language structures,” which might need support by laws until these patterns have become strong memes in the neurological memory of a culture.

    In my opinion, to make the law before you have the language might be damaging.

  13. Pretty soon all the universities will want permaculture on theyr lines…and then i dont know what will happen.

    Do you?…

  14. I fully believe of your ehtics in structuring this website for those who are sincere and striving to fullfill the requirements in the permaculture world.
    My question is for us (my wife and myself), little permaculturists in Italy just starting our project.
    Permaculture here is relatively new and has a great potential as the older Italian’s as a culture have many similarities to how to live sufficiently with the changing seasons, as a comunity interacting for the benifits for all. As everywhere, the modern generations are loosing this knowledge through modern needs.
    Us as a couple are mid way through the degree to become official Permaculture teachers. We have aquired our old olive plantation nearly abandoned with a small house in the middle. We are in the process of a project to make the house bigger, using local stone and timber structure as well as hay, all tecniques forgotten or new technology not utilised. My wife is finishing a course to have the wright to teach children from schools about the benifits of our choice of lifestyle (Permaculture). In the mean time of setting this all up we are fencing, organising the vegie patch, preparing to put a few essential animals to help us maintain the land.
    We would like to be able to share this little project to you all but we are missing the third ethic, as it is in the construction phase. We have not arrived to the point of a return, let alone a return of surplus. How would we qualify for your new web site?

  15. Craig – I look at this a bit like someone looks at their family. A project in its infancy could be regarded as, well, an infant. Do you look upon your three year old and get upset because he’s not bringing in an income, or even washing up the dishes after a meal? No, you don’t. It’s not his time.

    Having said that, there are still things you can do, even in development stage, and I’d encourage you to consider those. Sharing seeds and knowledge with neighbours, for example. Even if you have no neighbours, sharing your challenges, failures, successes, etc., via updates on your project profile on the Worldwide Permaculture Network, is ‘giving back’ – but in this case, you’re giving back to thousands, and you’ll also get a return from it, by way of people commenting with encouragement, inspiration, and practical tips, and friendship. The more and better your updates, the more ‘followers’ you’ll have in the system, and the more people can be inspired to follow in your footsteps.

    Recent posts from people like Nicola Chatham are an example of what we’d like to see happening in the WPN.

  16. Hey!
    I have recently traveled through France, Spain and Portugal, whilst in Portugal I realised there are many people living my dream of being self sufficient. I have enrolled on to a Permaculture Design Course in Devon,from 2nd November, and looking for projects to work with on a voluntary basis to learn new skills and experience.

    Could you please send any information of projects you have, or any other local projects that you know of from November 2013 and throughout 2014.

    Many thanks
    :)

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