Permaculture Diploma: OK, now it’s official

Diploma, permaculture

Back in May I worked on my Holistic Context and mentioned that I was about to officially sign up to make the Applied Diploma in Permaculture Design.  And then I didn’t. Honestly, you can sometimes really want to do something, but the conditions aren’t fitting. Over the last months things have fallen into place, I decided to go with my first choice of tutor, and yesterday I finally made the formal administrative payment to Permaculture Association UK.

Primarily, I wasn’t 100% sure whether completing a diploma under the UK system was the right choice – I live in Austria which has its own diploma system and intend to move back to Australia. Interestingly, Australia currently has no national association led diploma, instead a TAFE competency-based diploma and several private institutes offering diploma accreditation 1. I did think long and hard about completing a diploma under the Austrian system, especially as documenting and communicating in German would have been a useful learning process. Generally though completing a diploma in German would have been counterproductive as in the longer term my primary teaching language will always be English.

So it was back again to deciding between the Australian approaches and that which is offered by the Permaculture UK.  Australia’s TAFE diploma of permaculture is heavily focused on specific competencies rather than broader systems awareness and the social, educational, holistic and organisational topics which I know will make up a good half of my designs. Working with a private institution like Rowe Morrow’s Blue Mountain’s Permaculture Institute would also be possible, but be relatively unstructured.

All of this thought has been worth it though. I’m lucky enough to be in semi-regular contact with Rosemary Morrow so know that she’ll be an ongoing influence on my work. Additionally I’m going to draw on the TAFE competencies as inspiration and reference points to document my applied diploma with. This should give me the opportunity to get my applied diploma part-recognised within the Australian system and open up the pathway to teach under the TAFE accredited system too.

In the end I returned to the UK offering which is well documented, in ongoing review and with a very clear permaculture design process supporting the diploma system itself. I’m also really excited to be working in a system that is working to explore a broad range of  permaculture such as KT Shepherd’s Designing Dying or Cathrine Løvetand’s Universal Tea designs.

Diploma Core: Setting a Holistic Context

Diploma, Holistic Management, permaculture

Previous learning pathway: #diymasters

About a decade ago when I first moved to Berlin I realised that I probably should have found a Masters degree to study rather than flippantly moving across the world without a plan. Instead I not only blogged but tweeted about the idea of somehow doing a DIY Masters degree. People followed and cheered me on, I had a #diymasters hashtag and to this day I still have people from those years ask “what happened to the DIY Masters?”

Screenshot-2018-5-10 Studying at the Academy of DIY « Fighting Tiger

Oh! The heady days of personal blogging before the rise of super creepy and threatening stuff like gamergate, so I was far happier to overshare and be a girlgeek online. You can explore my naivety on the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20110717220047/http://www.battlecat.net:80/2008/12/19/studying-at-the-academy-of-diy/

While I did learn a lot and completed a Graduate Certificate in Adult Teaching and Learning, I never did “finish my DIY degree”. Instead the experience brought me a degree of online notoriety, new friends, a couple of pretty awesome jobs, I was interviewed for books and spoke at festivals, met my future husband and  developed a deeper understanding of the challenges and benefits of studying outside of “the system”.

Through this process I learned that I loved learning and education and the ways in which formal and informal modes could be blended in meaningful and accessible ways.  I was discovering that learning how to remake a sweater found on the street or how to host a conversation online was just as important for me as learning about the academic research that supported good modes of assessment.

Representing that learning in a way that was meaningful was difficult. Initially I’d latched onto the idea of framing my studies within media art (it was Berlin in 2008). At the same time I was realising that work focused on technology was not my cup of tea. The jobs I’d been so lucky to end up in as a result of my project took over much of the time I had available to study. I was living in a new town and had no local support system.  I wanted to learn everything it seemed, so had no core theme of study, lacked a set of peers or mentors working on similar topics, and was working blind without any example of what a DIY Masters would look like, let alone a core philosophical or methodological approach.

Previous learning pathway: MSc SA at Center for Alternative Technology

A few years ago, just a couple of weeks after I participated in my first permaculture design course (PDC), I finally started an actual Masters degree which was in many ways fantastic. Not only was I passionate about the topics of sustainability and climate change adaptation, I was also learning alongside a crew of like minded people and making visits to one of the most unusual and beautiful campus I know of.

At the same time I was stuck in a Science context with a particular set of expectations on how knowledge should be taught, learnt and represented. Our topics of study included discussions of how climate adaptation could totally transform society for the better. Yet while we were learning in a rammed earth building and had some really exciting practical learning, for the most part we were still sitting in rows looking at Powerpoint in order to write 2000 word essays that replicated the modes of an existing system. For me, it was all a little frustrating. Still, I made my way through the degree, redesigned one of their modules to include participatory futuring exercises and stressfully wrote and passed a masters thesis.

Again though, I learnt a lot even though in retrospect I’d do things differently. Such is life.

Current Learning Pathway: Applied Permaculture Diploma

Which brings me up to now, May 2018. I’m about to formally sign up for my Applied Permaculture Diploma within the British system. It feels like I am finally setting out to do an actual #diymasters project, but this time in the far more supportive arms of permaculture. Permaculture diplomas are a roughly structured, but self-organised learning journey which demonstrate how an individual is using permaculture design and practice in their life and work.

Technically the diploma process can begin immediately after one has completed a PDC, but in my case a related masters degree got in the way. Having reread through the diploma guidelines for about the 6th time it feels like the positive and negative experiences of the studying a formal masters can only make my diploma experience better.

As a preliminary exercise for my Learning Design (AKA Action Learning Plan, Design Learning Plan) I’ve started thinking in more details about my goals for the Diploma.  As part of this I’ve written the first draft of a personal Holistic Context. This is a tool that comes from Holistic Management, the land, farm and life management system developed by Allan Savory. Preparing a Holistic Context includes identifying the whole being managed (a farm, organisation or in this case, an individual) , the decision makers, stakeholders and the supporting social, ecological, physical and economic resource bases. Once the whole is defined you then describe the desired quality of life you are working to achieve and the optimum state you want your resource bases to reach with your assistance and management.

Part of my lunar intention for this month was to start working on my personal Holistic Context. This is a key tool in my personal and professional life and a foundational aspect of my permaculture portfolio. Today seemed like the right time to work on this first written version, especially while the full moon is still strong, and Beltane and May 1st International Labour Day are celebrated. My hope is that all people can one day share this luxury of designing a right livelihood. I am also very grateful for @byronjoel3055 who brought holistic management to my attention. #luxusffueralle #luxuryforeverybody #rightlivelihood #permacultureathome #permacultureethics #holisticcontext #regenerativelivelihoods #regenerativeeducation #fullmoon #luminousspirittarot #changeherenow #socialpermaculture via Instagram https://ift.tt/2FxX7z5

Using Holistic Mangement techniques for goal setting, project framing and decision making is increasingly being recommended as a core stage of regenerative and permaculture design by people I respect like Byron JoelMilkwood Permaculture, Dan Palmer and Darren Doherty. My partner and I use this as a way of framing our relationship and I am also using Holistic Management in my work with Fair Harvest Permaculture, an organisational design that will also be part of my diploma.

Diploma Intention: Learn Noongar

Diploma, Uncategorized

I just signed up for a Noongar language and culture course offered by EDX beginning May 14. This is part of my Australis design thread. Several weeks ago I read an article about how to show solidarity and support for North American First Nations people and learning the local language was one of the suggestions. As a migrant who has lived in Helsinki, Sheffield, Berlin and Linz as well as my hometown of Adelaide I realised that although I have attempted to learn at least the basics in local lanuagues when I travel and officially migrated I never did the same in Australia. In Adelaide there are still Kaurna people actively using their language yet it was not a language formally offered in school or elsewhere. Why did I continue to learn French after high school but not a language in daily use where I lived?

As the intention to move to Margaret River and “Going Home” has crystallised, knowing country has become more and more important in multiple ways. While I can’t yet plant my first trees on my land or lay out a strawbale house I can start the process from afar by learning Noongar, the local indigenous language.  In the South West, many place names follow the pattern of __________up, Noongar for “place of the ________”, so I already hold words like Cowara (purple crowned lorikeet) from the town name Cowaramup.

I am interested in the phenomenological calendar of the South-West and developing the ability to recognise season through the changing behaviour or animals. Knowing the names of things is important and there is knowledge to be gained by following up stories from scientific, European and Noongar ways of knowing.

I am also reminded of my Dad and the Pitjantjatjara cassette tapes he owned. Mum said that he bought them the day after his brother George died. While Dad was connected with the Pitjantjatjara people and country through his visits north he never did learn the language and in the end the tapes just held mixes of pop songs recorded from Triple J. Maybe I can do a little better?