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.

Sector analysis: identifying risks and designing solutions

disasterriskreduction, permaculture, sector analysis

I love so many aspects of permaculture: the delicious food produced by permaculture gardeners, the sense of global and local community it fosters, the sustainable changes it has supported me to make in my life and the beauty in the nature it helps me see. At a more pragmatic level I also know that permaculture gives individuals, households and communities the tools, attitudes and skills we need to design abundant, inclusive and resilient futures.

This mix of sustainability and resilience is one of the delightfully simple, yet complex aspects of permaculture. A well-designed and managed permaculture system will be resource efficient, productive and may well sequester greenhouse gases, but it will also be a resilient system better able to deal with the inevitable effects of climate change such as natural disasters like floods or wildfire.

The potential for disasters happen when systems can not handle extremes or cumulative stress. One week of limited spending may be a challenge, but a medical bill on top of long-term debt and structural poverty may force a family into homelessness. Water is essential for life, but the extremes of either drought or flood-causing torrential rain can cause havoc in both natural and human systems.

Designing land, the built environment, lifestyles, livelihoods and organisations to deal with extremes as well as everyday conditions is essential for resilience. Resilience is the ability of a system to handle change. There are many ways in which permaculture design and practice supports resilience. In order for designers to design for resilience, they first need to understand what extremes are most likely to have an impact on a site. This is why careful observation and sector analysis is so important for a successful project.

In this video from the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course I get really excited about sector analysis and visualised data like wind roses. Then again, I am really excited about permaculture and regenerative design in general.

Sector analysis is a critical tool for visually representing observations about identifying how a site may be affected by the “sectors” or the external forces and elements that move through or otherwise influence a project. The sectors recorded can be related to effects on the site caused by climate, ecology, geology, topography and society. For example sun paths, wind and rain patterns, invasive plants, wildlife, pollution, neighbours, areas of high fire threat, views and noise could all be recorded on a sector analysis map.

Sectors are often represented as labelled wedges, arcs or arrows representing the origin and direction of the element. However, rocky areas, contaminated soil, boggy land, or areas of flood risk are better represented as location specific patches over a base map. Some uncontrollable issues such as geological instability or limiting factors such as legal restrictions are harder to represent visually and are best recorded in writing.

Sector analysis maps are visual representations of the external factors that can influence a site being designed with permaculture. Sectors such as summer and winter sun, wildlife and prevailing winds are often illustrated as arcs or arrows representing where they come from.

In the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course (PWGPDC) my colleague Jennifer English Morgan introduced the idea of Designer’s Mind. One aspect of developing Designer’s Mind is about making observations free of bias. The forces recorded on a sector analysis are neutral and can be both beneficial or harmful. For example knowing that dry summer winds come from the east of a site helps identify the best place to locate a laundry line or to hang produce for drying. At the same time that drying wind will quickly evaporate water from soil as well as dams or ponds. This information guides the placement of windbreak plantings or hedges on the eastern side to moderate the impact of the wind and reduce evaporation.

Used together with permaculture design tools such as zone analysis, sector analysis helps guide the placement of components so that they make best use of, or mitigate the risks of that sector. Sector analysis influences which zones are placed where, but at the same time, zones influence the strategies used to respond to external forces. In outer zones such as 3 or 4, lower cost, less energy demanding solutions such as windbreak plantings are used to slow the wind. Closer to the home more intensive solutions such as walls or use of gray water might be used to protect water-demanding plants, animals and people from a drying wind.

pexels-photo-510436.jpeg

A drying wind may put your garden at extra risk during low rainfall months, but it can also be used as a resource and allow for the optimum placement of laundry lines.

Permaculture designers make a sector analysis for every design project whether it is a farm, balcony garden or community project. Within larger designs, major subsystems such as high intensity vegetable beds may also benefit from their own sector analysis that includes smaller scale micro-climate influences like the impact of trees casting shade.

Working on sector analysis is a great way to review and incorporate the ideas from Permaculture Design Course modules on climate, ecology, water, earthworks, soil and passive solar building design. Knowing how and why to make a sector analysis is a first step in designing mitigation approaches for the major extremes whether they be fire, flood, drought or legal challenges.

You can learn more about sector analysis and other aspects of permaculture design and practice in the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course (PWGPDC). Along with my colleagues we’ve put together an online learning experience which includes advanced modules on social and emotional permaculture as well as core land-based permaculture content.

In the PWGPDC I present an in-depth module on Designing for Resilience: Chaos and Catastrophe. I consider the social and structural conditions that make people more vulnerable to disaster as well as the design approaches we can use to make our sites safer. My final Masters project explored how natural hazards are dealt with by permaculture designers and teachers and my results showed that “designing for catastrophe” is currently focused on the physical aspects of disasters rather than the people care aspects that increase coping capacity.

Oaks / Forest

Uncategorized

The last few months have been full of learning and growth. 

The learning of the past days has come from trying to think like a forest, to acknowledge that even though I may take on the identity of a tree I am still embedded in a web of flows, interaction and interdependence.  I am both tree and forest.
There is a seasonality to these thoughts too. Now is not the right time to let the sap rise to burst new bud leaf spring green but time to strengthen my roots.  Let me be slow, to grow in small quiet ways.