social media girl
People Care

Design for Groups: creating the group

The Moment in which We Live

        One of the challenges, as we have gone online is that our social evolution is on the surface. I interact with people from around the world on an almost daily basis via zoom. While the interactions with people are spread out, they are also shallower. Our mission-driven interactions allow for some connection and understanding, but there isn’t often time to build deeper connections and cultural practices which really nurture relationships and networks. In a world of 15-second Tiktok videos, how do you develop connection to a shared vision? 

Our ecological and social systems are beyond the limits and collapse is underway. Collapse has been affecting people; destroying and destabilizing whole sections of population for most of my adult life. What we are talking about now is the level of acceleration. Extractive behavior continues—putting financial and social capital in the hands of the privileged. People are both distracted by social media and other entertainment and utilizing an online context to reorganize their lives and connections so that power and resources can be distributed more fairly to meet the needs of the Earth and people. Neither focusing on negative realities and despair nor toxic positivity and denial is helpful.  The pandemic has given us all a moment to wake up and re-evaluate what is critically important—as well as to see the delicate situations we are in. 

So, what are we to do? 

 

Cellular Boundaries

            Who is the “we” in that question? Permaculture people, readers of this article, family members, activists, and members of organizations. Community members. Business owners. Staff or employees. In each role, or context, we have the capacity to work from principle and pattern toward common vision. Those contexts need relatively stable boundaries. A consequence of our globally connected world—and especially the past the wealth of the past 30 years in the US and other affluent countries—is that people have been able to move where they like far from family and friends. That has been positive in many ways but limited our direct experience of community around us as well. We are lonelier and suffering more mental health issues than ever before. (Hence, projects like the Human Library.)

One of the challenges and wonders of our current world is that it is so very accessible. By nature, we define ourselves and our lives by the people with whom we have regular contact. Those are the people we are invested in. As permaculture people, we want to design systems that improve our quality of life and the lives of those we connect with. In terms of changing the world, when we put intention and choice into our systems, it can send a positive ripple out through the whole—and when many of us do this, it can rapidly change the nature of our world in a positive way. So, who is your “we”? Who do you want to design with? Who do you share a vision or mission or dream with? 

Many times, we don’t get to choose everyone in our groups and collaborations. Friends of friends show up, or people respond to a call to action. A variety of perspectives are introduced. Each person has some valuable experience or question to bring to the conversation. Once we know who we are co-creating a future with—allowing for shifts and changes as life demands—we can then find the common threads and themes of our vision. 

 

Collective vision and a strong container

            Once we know who “we” are and what we are working for, we define both the limitations and problems we need to solve, and the immediate and long-term aims implied in our vision. In 2016, at the North American Permaculture Convergence in California, I was sitting in one of many delightful, long conversations with Bonita Ford. It became clear in the conversation that we have an endless supply of good technical and design solutions to our ecological problems. However, projects fall apart over lack of ability to sustain them (financially and energetically) and old, internalized patterns of oppression and communication which feed conflict and foster differences. People leave relationships or projects and move on to something new. In a world with many options, that is perhaps for the better. But in a world of increasing constraints, moving on may not be as much of an option. (I have spoken of this concern several times in articles Permaculture Design.) In this case, we need more careful and skillful design of our social worlds to creatively respond to the moments we are in. Once our personal and social lives are more in balance, our built structures and ecological worlds are more likely to reflect this health. I’ve spoken elsewhere about personal balance and design for self-care. In the next post, I want to focus on social design and, specifically, about how sociocracy blends with permaculture in a positive way to create strong containers for our collective vision.    


This post is an excerpt from the Spring 2022 issue of Permaculture Design magazine, which Rhonda edits. You can find out more about effective governance from her free workshop on March 22, or from visiting Sociocracy For All

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Future Care, People Care

Facing the Day

[Note: This blog first appeared as the initial section of my editorial for Permaculture Design magazine’s November 2019 issue. In that issue, several authors spoke to this moment in time, the need for Earth Care, and the connection to People Care–two core permaculture design ethics. Readers appreciated the editorial, and so I thought I would share the beginning here.]

The times we live in are both a challenge and an opportunity. Both are presented with increasing urgency. As the year winds down, I have been evaluating and clarifying to which challenges and opportunities I can effectively contribute. Do I put effort into teaching and facilitating? Designing? Collaborative projects? The local community? Regional networks? More? Each of us has different skills and capacities cultivated through our own personal visions of a better world. From where I stand, our task is to align ourselves with each other in work which allows us to contribute fully and which improves the lives of others (human and non-human). That is not the message of mainstream, corporate-driven society. 

When I was a young activist, I noted that if we did not do something our grandchildren would suffer. When I had my first child in 2001, I recognized that if we didn’t do something, my child would suffer. When my second child was born, seven years later, I recognized that we are all suffering. My anger at older generations for creating and enjoying systems and privileges I would never realize abated. 

We live in a world desperately challenged by the systems which have held power and sway for decades. The pain and suffering of millions, the extinction of our species, and the degradation of our lands demand retrofits to not only our over-consumptive households, but to our communities and regional economies. This urgency is spurred on by fear of a chaotic future and the grief we might feel when we recognize the trajectory we are on. 

Those of us who are aware hold grief in one hand and hope in the other. It is not hope for our civilization based on extraction and power over, but hope for lives well-lived in service to each other, based on power with each other and the work of setting to right much of what has been out of balance. Resting in that vision, we have every reason to take urgent action to start where we are and do what we can. We are not waiting for those mired in old paradigms and willful denial. Nor, I think, are we perpetuating negativity. Our work is founded in something more life-affirming.

Frances Weller on grief
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People Care

GLPDC

In 2016 I joined up with William Faith (Chicago) and Milton Dixon (Ann Arbor), to form the Great Lakes Permaculture Design Collaborative. Since that time, we’ve run a few very successful permaculture design courses, an advanced design course, various workshops, and supported our advanced design course students in developing a children’s garden and food forest in Hillside, IL. We’ve spent a lot of time weaving together permaculture people in the Chicago-area and pushing innovative approaches in our PDC.

In support of our workshops (listed on the education page), we’ve begun doing occassional videos and offering more information at our website.

If you spend time with us, you’ll see that our team is enriched by diversity of views, experiences, and approaches to permaculture. It’s a rich, inclusive, and inspiring collaboration which continues to show the healthy effects of emergent design. We hope you’ll join us!

Our next workshop is on Urban Permaculture in Chicago on March 30, followed by a workshop on Social Permaculture April 27.

glpdc course announcement
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