Annex: initial invite email

18 06 2015
Title: London Permaculture Diploma Peer Review Guild
Date: 04/12/2012
To: as many London Diploma folk as email’s I had
Hi London diploma people,

A few of us were at the National Diploma gathering at the weekend in Birmingham which was fun and inspring!  There was a talk from Richard Perkins (a diploma tutor) about his more supported approach to working with his diploma apprentices.  Those of us who attended the talk thought some elements of what they are doing might be really useful things that we could do in London toprovide ourselves with more support on our diploma journeys.

So we propose a trial peer review guild to test out some of the ideas and see if they could work.  This is different to the action learning guilds that some of us have been involved in (using the 4 questions) in that there is more commitment from those in the group and those in the group provide eachother with more support.

If you want to be part of this trial peer review guild then please let me know.  If the timing outlined below doesn’t work for you now but you would like to be involved in the future (assuming a successful trial) then also get in touch and I will include you on future emails!  If you just want to join the action learning guild in January and not be part of the the peer review guild that’s also fine!

Diploma Peer Review Guild: Trial

A group of us attended Richard Perkins talk about a more supported tutor/apprentice approach to doing your diploma.  He is working with a group of 8 apprentices; they produce one design every 10 weeks and then have a 2 week period to do a peer review of one design of one of the other 8.  There were some of his apprentices at the talk.  For me there were three key things that came out of the work this group have been doing:

  1. Agreed and shared deadlines to produce a project design report by.
  2. Peer review of your project report
  3. A commitment to the group that each person will produce a project design for their portfolio by the agreed shared deadline

Reasons why I think this is important:

  1. It will make me accountable to you my peer review guild to complete a design by a certain date – it will make me get on with my diploma.  I have not been very good at sticking to my own self imposed deadlines so far so I really think this will help me.
  2. I will learn a lot more about your project and how you design by reviewing what you have done than I will ever learn just from hearing the 4 questions in the action learning guild.
  3. I will get your feedback about my project/design and so will be able to tweak it before I submit it to my tutor so I will be more confident in what I have done
  4. We will learn together about how we apply the critieria and will be better designers because of the cycle of feedback.

How the trial will work:

  1. 4 Dec 2012: begin a new design project or begin to write up a project that you have been working on.
  2. Action Learning Guild meeting in first week of Jan, 7, 9 or 10 Jan at the Southbank Centre.
  3. Complete a project report for your design by 31 Jan 2013. This might be one you have already completed, or it might be a new one that you are starting now – you choose.
  4. 1 Feb – 14 Feb is peer review period.  During this time you will spend approx 2 hours reviewing one project report from one other person in the guild and fill in the template for peer review feedback used by Richard’s group (template attached).  If your work is digital then you just need to make it available to your reviewer (email/website) if its offline you will co-ordinate with your reviewer how to get your information to them.
  5. 3rd week in Feb – peer review guild meeting at the Southbank Centre.  We’ll meet up and discuss how the process went, whether we think it is useful – if we think it’s worth doing we will design a programme for the rest of the year to do a number of design/peer review cycles (to be agreed once we have done the process once).  The idea is that you don’t review the same persons work each time and you have someone different looking at yours each time too – more diversity for learning and feedback.

What to do if you are interested?

  1. Start working up your designs
  2. Tell me that you want to be part of the process – I will then draw up a matrix of peer reviews so that we each have one review to do and we know who’s work we are going to review.
  3. Come along to the action learning guild in early Jan if you want to.  Tell me which dates work best for you
  4. Complete your design by 31 Jan 2013
  5. Make your work available to your reviewer
  6. Allow a couple of hours during the review period to do a review for someone else.
  7. Come along to the peer review guild meeting in feb and review the process.

I’m really excited about this!  Its a whole new phase in getting on with my diploma.

Liz (and Seema and Ruth R)

PS – I’ve tried to harvest as many email addresses as I could find – but feel free to pass on to other diploma apprentices you know who I’ve missed.

Here is the attachment to the email – the peer review template form

Presentation & Organization of Project Report Editing, shape, size How does it read, length, style etc. Are the right things included/excluded?

Mix of media, genres and styles How does it hand together, is it interesting in a range of ways in terms of how it is presented?

Management of Output Time management, delivery of the project report

Design Skills

Look at what design skills are presented

Action learning skills (for Project and Project Report) Concrete Experience (Awareness in action)

Reflective Observation (Appraisal of action outcomes) Active Experimentation (Use of piloting and trials)





Contribution to knowledge commons

For examples of other peer reviews check out these websites:


Outdoor playgroup

16 06 2015


I would like to take my daughter into the woods/nature with some other young children on a regular basis (at least once/week) for free play in my local area.

This design began in Oct 2014 (although had been an idea prior to that), I intend to implement this project in August/September 2015.


About groups playing in nature

  • It goes without saying that I get why and how important it is for Teasel to be outside in nature (and for me too).
  • Through research I know of the following groups that offer children’s outdoor play in the area:
    • Nature Play Richmond Park – self organised, free group for parents with toddlers, a small gentle walk followed by picnic and free play in the park. This is great, I love attending, but I drive or take a long bus journey to get there, logistically it is not ideal.
    • Forest School on Wimbledon Common – paid activity (£10/session) I attended 4 sessions, led group of toddlers walking in the woods, woodland activities. This is good, not as much free play time as I would like, too much adult intervention resulting from it being led by an expert and parents not all understanding when and how they can and should stand back, some of the activities have been good.  It is expensive and also a drive away.
    • Natural Childhood in Streatham – have researched but never attended (it’s too far away).  Weekly child led play in a local park
  • There is nothing in the local area that I could walk/cycle to or get to on a short bus ride
  • Nurture in Nature – I heard a talk from a permie person about a playgroup in Glasgow called Nurture in Nature, the premise was similar to Nature Play, the difference was that there was no compulsory walk and the group met at a different park each week.

About me

  • I take Teasel out most days, but we are more likely to spend longer and have more fun if there are others with us. I like to take her where there are other kids sometimes and they are more likely to be in playgrounds than out and about in the park
  • I will go to Nature Play whatever the weather, if the weather is poor and it’s just me I won’t always take Teasel out.
  • It’s easy for a few days of the week to pass without nature time because of other activities and general busyness
  • I enjoy regularly returning to the same woodland location and being there as the seasons change. I also enjoy discovering new places.

About toddlers locally

  • There are LOTS of mums locally with many and varied interests (as witnessed at a recent ‘meet more mums’ event and just from living here). It is likely that there will be some who are interested in their children playing in nature in the way that I am.




  • I would like the physical boundaries of this design to be within cycle/simple bus distance of my house.


  • I would like to have a playgroup set up and running in the autumn.  There is a time challenge with the summer holidays (meaning that I am not available in July and early August), so aim to implement in September.


  • My knowledge of forest schools (a little, would love to learn more); knowledge gained from volunteering for about 6 sessions with 3-5 year olds a couple of years ago, talking to a good friend Ruth who ran a forest school, attending 4 sessions on Wimbledon Common with Teasel
  • Local nature spaces: parks, nature reserves, the river Thames, cemeteries
  • My enthusiasm and passion for being outside with kids
  • My ability to set up a website
  • Friend who is a graphic designer who offered to design some marketing materials


I did an input output analysis of what a successful outdoor playgroup should be like.  This helped to identify functions, elements and yields.

Input output analysis

Input output analysis

Identify Functions

  • Group and group culture
  • Play in nature – child nature time
  • Adult nature time

Identify systems and elements

Elements of this design are

  • Me with two roles; parent and organiser
  • Teasel
  • Other children
  • Other parents
  • Other organisers
  • Means of communication i.e. website/facebook
  • Local parks
  • Logistics (where/when)

I drew a web of connections (shown below) looking at these elements, this helped me to identify yields (in red) that could be achieved if I could link the elements to form a system, this tool reinforced my input output analysis in terms of yields.

Web of connections - yeilds in red

Web of connections


Potential yields (yield of a system is theoretically unlimited) identified through the web of connections and i-o analysis.

  • Friendships (adults and children)
  • Learn, experience and share parenting approaches
  • Find new and interesting green spaces
  • Older and younger children playing together
  • Make me take Teasel out even on wet cold days
  • I could learn more/new/different forest school type activities

I then tied together potential yields and functions and mapped them against the elements, this helped to demonstrate how most of my functions and yields are mapped with the adults and children of the group, which is as it should be for this to work successfully.

Map of elements and functions/yields

Map of elements and functions/yields

Through this brainstorming of functions and elements, I think I have a number of systems that could meet the brief:

  1. Carry on taking Teasel to the park by myself, and just go to Nature Play in Richmond
  2. Talk to existing friends and start a regular group among people I know.
  3. Start a group and publicise more widely than my own personal network.  As I have noted in my observations there are many different models that I could base this option on (Nature Play, Nurture in Nature, Forest School being the ones I know) .

I decided to do a little wild design/ideas brainstorm at this stage to see if there were any other systems I hadn’t yet thought of as shown in the following plan.  Whilst this didn’t yield any new systems it did give me a couple of potential ideas to incorporate into system 2 or 3 (crafts, day trips and singing).

Wild design ideas

Wild design ideas

To begin with I took my three possible systems and looked at a SWOC analysis for each.

Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Constraints
1 I can be flexible on when and where I go I don’t achieve the goal of Teasel playing with other children.Going to Richmond is still to far I could invite friends along when I do go rather than going on my own I worry that with the next baby getting to Richmond Park is going to be really hard, so it would be good to have something more local
2 Would achieve my goal of Teasel playing in nature with others, and all the yields outlined above. I have sort of already tested this option in Nov/Dec 2014 when I met a couple of mum’s at Nature Play in Richmond Park and tried to set up a more local regular meet up, it didn’t continue because there were too few people involved (just 3) and the location we chose was still a drive away and not logistically brilliant for me.   I therefore need to reach a wider group of mums. Using existing networks would likely draw others in I don’t know that many people.
3 Would achieve my goal of Teasel playing in nature with others, and all the yields outlined above. I would feel like I have to go every week, which could become a burden.It will take time for me to organise it.I am not very good at marketing and publicity. I could set up a ‘Nature Play’ group as there is a sort of mini brand associated with this.There is an opportunity to discover more local places and parks that I don’t know about yet.Other people might step forward to get involved – suggesting new play spaces, helping to organise (I don’t know until I try). I feel like there isn’t an obvious local place (in the manner of Richmond Park or Wimbledon Common which are amazing natural spaces).  The local parks feel a bit nature-less sometimes.If I set something up I worry that I won’t be able to keep it going once the next baby arrives.

Having worked through a SWOC analysis of the options it feels like option 3 is the way forward as it is more likely to be successful than option 2, option 1 will not achieve my goal.  There are a number of constraints around this option which I need to look at in more detail, there are also a number of different ways to design option 3.


At this stage I considered the ethics to help to develop the design further:

Earth Care

  • Allow kids and adults to enjoy nature, to appreciate our local parks and hopefully to grow up aware of the need for earth care
  • Make locations public transport accessible to reduce emissions of people travelling (also local parks people tend to walk to which is good!)

People Care

  • Make sure the kids and adults are looked after – be clear about dressing appropriately, food, sleep, leaving when you need to
  • I don’t want this to be my group, I don’t want to be the ‘leader’, I just want to be a co-ordinator of logistics, there should be no ‘leader’
  • Make sure that communications are clear, people know where and when to meet and can easily find the group if there is a problem.
  • Start on time – but allow provision for latecomers
  • Session should be appropriate to the age group, two hours tends to work for other similar groups use this to start with but make it open ended and flexible for people to leave when they need to

Fair shares

  • Needs to be free so anyone can join
  • Need to be able to get to the location by public transport easily and potential for car parking to make it accessible to all
  • No toys – so that kids can just play in nature, but also so that there isn’t jealousy and desires to play with toys created all the kids are on a level playing field

There are 2 key questions to enable the design to progress, what is the format of the playgroup and where does it take place?  I looked at a PMI of each of these questions to help with the decision making process.

What is the format?

I know of three successful formats;

  1. Nature Play (or Natural Childhood); meet at the same location each week allow children to play.  Nature Play includes an obligatory short walk, natural childhood doesn’t
  2. Nurture in Nature; meet at different local parks each week allow children to play
  3. Forest School; a led activity (usually paid for) with a few more props/activities provided than the two above but (done properly) these should enhance children’s play, sometimes but not always in a very clearly defined space in the woods
PMI of three formats

PMI of three formats

Having done the PMI analysis I can see that there are elements of each of these formats that would be good to include in my playgroup design including ritual, activities (sometimes but not all the time) and I am drawn to holding the group in the same location each week rather than a different one, but I am reserved about this as there is not an obvious local park.

During the observation phase of my design I considered and ruled out training as a forest school leader and set myself up as a forest school provider.  I ruled it out because I don’t have time to do the training right now, I also would be concerned (as mentioned in my ethics analysis) that it would become ‘my’ group and would burden me with planning and organising in a way that I don’t currently have time for.  It feels like FS is a paid activity, I would have to be careful about offering it for free not to undermine the work of other providers, or I would perhaps like to charge but this would not be in line with this design.  I would still love to train as a forest school leader as and when I have the time to do it, and potentially to offer forest school as a free activity – this is for a future design!

So on to the next question

Where could it take place?

I identified all of the local parks that I know of that might be possible and again looked at a PMI of each of them in turn as venues for an outdoor playgroup.

PMI of local parks

PMI of local parks

The analysis confirms my gut instinct that there isn’t an obvious choice, which leads me to think that a Nurture in Nature model rotating around local spaces might be better to start with until I have observed how children engage with each of the spaces.

I don’t feel like I am getting towards design answers yet so I need to consider some more design tools to see if they can help.


I looked at how patterns can influence this design in the following chart:

Patterns analysis

Patterns analysis

This raised some interesting points:

  • Spiral (it will start small and grow, ideally in a spiral of growth). I need to communicate more with the Nature Play organisers, how did they do it, how did they start?
  • Scatter – the lack of decent local park which I see as a constraint perhaps has a benefit as adopting a scatter approach to visiting different local parks each week could draw in more people to the group who will be able to attend at their local park.
  • Wave – the ebb and flow of energy, led me to think of food and snack time and the joy of sharing snacks at Nature Play, this is an important part of the group and helps to hold it together, therefore shared snack time needs to be included.


I looked at the principles and considered how different principles apply to the design.

  • Using biologcal resources:
    • No toys, only play with stuff in the woods – I will need some rules/guidelines for the website (e.g. free, no toys, what to wear)
  • Use and value diversity:
    • Where I do promotion is important as I want to attract and encourage a diverse range of kids/parents; it is pretty  white middle class around here
  • Integrate rather than segregate
    • I want to try and get different aged kids involved – so perhaps need to consider what time of day is best.  Toddler activities are good in the morning, but to get older siblings to come would need to be afternoons.  Having said that to get toddlers in the first place mornings tend to be the best time, and toddlers covers a broad age range babies up to school age.
    • This activity is about adults and children integrating together to achieve the benefits of nature time
  • Observe and interact:
    • this is fundamental to allowing child led free play to happen, need to make this clear and allow it to happen.
    • I have to start something and observe how it goes before the design is ever fully finished
  • Catch and store energy
    • It needs to be free with as few barriers as possible so that we can catch the energy of anyone who is interested
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback
    • I will need to monitor and adapt the system as the group evolves and allow for flexibility
  • Stacking
    • This playgroup will allow me to stack nature time, play time and making friends in the one activity

As a result of this work I have been able to clarify the design

  • Where does it happen?  I will adopt a rotating park approach for the first month and then observe how that works and decide at that point whether or not to make it fixed.  We will start at Fishponds as this is one of the better choices.  I will make a schedule for the first month to be included in the publicity materials
  • What happens during the session? just arrive and let play happen; adults can find somewhere to sit in the summer and move and walk or sit in the winter weather dependent, hold a group snack time.  I will take some forest school ideas that I like and test them out occasionally with the group
  • How long is the session? 2 hours but open ended
  • When is the session? mornings seem to work best for people – Friday’s work for me; 10am on Fridays
  • How do I communicate about it? Set up a facebook page, link to other local groups (e.g. meet more mums, yourtot),  make posters for the local parks and possibly for the library
  • How do I set a group culture?  Rules/guidelines on the website (look at again/use the Nature Play guidelines), allow free play to happen


The design work has enabled me to clarify what I am going to do.  I am going to start this outdoor playgroup in September, as many people (including myself) will be away in July/August.  This gives me time to publicise and promote the group before it starts.  My implementation plan is as follows:

  • Make a poster (ask Cara to help with this) and facebook group. By 1 August
  • Set a start date (Friday 2 September)
  • Promote and publicise throughout August. Primarily on websites; meet more mums facebook, netmums, yourtot.  Also take the poster to surbiton, kingston and tolworth library to Gymboree, sunbeams, tiny talk, tiny tunes, on the poster boards at the parks.
  • Gather my forest school ideas and equipment together to take along (small and simple)
  • Attend on the first session!


The maintenance plan is as follows

  • If no one comes after a few sessions – review the marketing, do more/different promotion, don’t expect people to turn up in poor weather
  • Review which bits do and don’t work – ask the members of the group don’t just assume I know the answers to this question
  • Perhaps narrow the locations down to a couple or even one if there seems to be a favourite
  • Keep the communication on facebook regular and updated
  • Keep reading and learning about nature and forest school type activities



  • This has been a really useful process to allow me to clarify my thoughts about the type of outdoor play group that I would like to attend with Teasel. Going through the process at times seems laborious but it does reap benefits in terms of new ideas and insights that wouldn’t be gained unless the process was followed.
  • I’m pleased to have looked at patterns again, I find it interesting to consider a problem from a patterns perspective it really opens up new ways of thinking.
  • Having not implemented the design has enabled me to be much clearer in this design (than in some of my previous) about what my implementation plan actually is – this is a good thing!


  • It is harder to evaluate a design that has not been implemented yet.
  • There is a huge amount of uncertainty for me about whether or not anyone would actually come and therefore if the design is effective


  • If I had actually implemented this design I think that I may not have presented all of the design tools that I have used, I feel like I’ve used loads but because I haven’t implemented it I haven’t finished the story.  On some of my previous design work where it has been implemented I have not presented all of the design tools used as they were no longer relevant as bits fell out through the implementation and return around the design cycle.  Having said that this will be a continually unfolding design, because it will constantly be reviewed and tweaked as people come into and out of the group.


These are my estimations for the implementation costs of this project

£25 – printing posters

Time estimations:

Marketing and publicity; 2 hours poster, 5 hours website + facebook + online promotion, 0.5hr/week updating facebook

Appendix for bike trailer design: client interview

11 06 2015

What are my needs and wants?

  • Vision: to be able to use my bike more than I currently, I would like to be able to go shopping with the bike as well as doing the outings I already do. I hate driving to the shops, it is an energy leak (fossil fuel, money, time – it may take more time to go by bike but at least I am staying healthy in the process).
  • Need: Ability to carry heavy and bulky shopping home from the shops
  • Need: Ability to carry Teasel on the bike with associated stuff for short outings
  • Need: Fully functioning bike!
  • Need: to be able to store my bike and its associated bits and bobs safely in my shed in the back garden down the alley.
  • Want: Possibility of multi day bike rides, the ability to carry kit, probably not a tent but at least overnight stuff

What is my current bike useage?

  • Outings (e.g. swimming, park, library, playgroup etc) 2 – 4 times/week. Riding 15 – 20mins max
  • Occasional errands as part of these outings e.g. butcher, computer repair, local shop
  • I can only cycle when I know Teasel will not fall asleep in the bike seat, as if she does her head lolls very uncomfortably and I feel bad, I prefer for her to be awake in the current bike seat.
  • Every time I go out the basket contains my 2 locks and a bag of Teasel items (clothes, food etc)

What is my desired bike useage?

  • Continue with outings they work well
  • Shopping for groceries, this requires storage on the bike to carry heavy and bulky items home. I currently can only carry a couple of small items at a time.
  • Long distance cycle trips for pleasure – train + bike at weekends, perhaps multi-day.

What are my values?

  • Using the bike maintains my fitness and is preferable to going by bus (bus requires getting on and off with heavy buggy).
  • I value sustainable transport modes, I think it is important that my children travel by bike or bus rather than car as much as possible to foster good habits and a sense of the way we do things as a family.

What are my personal limiting factors?

  • Short term I may struggle to cycle as I get more pregnant and it may be hard with new small baby, but that doesn’t stop me from implementing a design now and having it available for next summer too once the new baby is big enough to go on a bike.
  • Whilst I can build something myself I am not sure if I have the motivation for it. I would like to explore through this design the options for self build but also look at buying something off the shelf.
  • Time – most of my time is taken up with child care and then gardening, there isn’t much on top of that. And right now with diploma!

What personal resources do I have?

  • Tools and skills with making things, although I’ve never tried anything that moves.
  • Lots of locally available materials

What is my timescale for this design?

It would be great to have something implemented this summer, I want the design finished to tie in with finishing off my diploma, but the implementation is less important.

Bike trailer design

11 06 2015

This design began in May 2015.  It has not been implemented.


Base map

I have done a base map of the bike using photographs to consider my bike.  I have considered an overlay of it’s current attachments or non-permanent features and a second overlay of the attachment points or permanent features.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Client Interview

I interviewed myself in a formal way and have written the details here.  The outcome of the interview is a desire to be able to carry 2 children plus heavy/bulky shopping by bike in the local area, with the possibility of longer multi day cycle trips with children and stuff.  I would like to have the implementation in place by September.


Identify functions

From the base map and client interview the key functions in this design are:

  1. Ability for the bike to carry 2 children + associated stuff
  2. Ability for the bike to carry heavy/bulky shopping

Identify elements and systems

Looking at the elements of the system

  • child 1
  • child 2
  • bike locks
  • shopping
  • bag of kids stuff
  • me
  • bike

Using random assembly enabled me to identify some options for integrating the elements

Random Assembly

Random Assembly

  1. children together or separately
  2. children on top of or with shopping
  3. shopping with kids stuff or separate
  4. locks need to be separate for flexibility of using the bike
  5. children in front of or behind the bike

This led me to think of two totally new ideas.  Until now I had assumed that I should keep and adapt my current bike (earth care/fair shares, limit to our consumption, not buy new stuff with associated impacts) but random assembly opened my eyes to two different styles of bike that are worth considering:

  • Barrow bike: putting the children and shopping together could work with a barrow style bike, or
  • Tricycle: putting them together behind me could be in the form of either a trailer on my existing bike or in a tricycle.

This led to a long list of possible ways that could achieve the function identified.

  1. Bike to carry children
    1. Trailer behind just for kids shop bought
    2. Trailer behind integrated with storage shop bought
    3. Trailer behind homemade
    4. 2 bike seats on the bike (front and back)
    5. Built in barrow in the front
    6. Built in tricycle system
    7. Children on separate bikes – not realistic for design timescales
  2. Bike to carry heavy/bulky shopping
    1. Trailer behind shop bought
    2. Trailer behind homemade
    3. Panniers (front and back) – the system I currently have doesn’t match with the child bike seat I have.
    4. Built in barrow in the front

Use design tools and ethics to choose the best systems

Here are the options outlined on my basemap:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Firstly the ethics:

System Earth Care People Care Fair Shares
Trailer – shop bought Being able to use my bike to shop rather than car or bus = saving fossil fuel Would be a low maintenance, low time requirement option. Could find a second hand one = limit to consumption
Trailer – homemade Can salvage materials from skips, saving natural resourcesBeing able to use my bike to shop rather than car or bus = saving fossil fuel Could be interesting to learn new skills,Might just create stress and pressure in my life due to lack of time.Might require more maintenance than shop bought – adding more time pressure Not buying something new = limit to consumption
2 bike seats + panniers Being able to use my bike to shop rather than car or bus = saving fossil fuel Would be close to the kids, better for all of us.Panniers are really easy as I have all the bits of kit and things I need and have used lots in the past. I already have one bike seat and all the panniers = limit to consumption
Built in barrow Being able to use my bike to shop rather than car or bus = saving fossil fuel Would be close to the kids, better for all of us Could find a second hand one, but I think it would be harder to find than a trailer = limit to consumption.Might be able to find a local company that makes them and be able to support a local industry
Built in tricycle Being able to use my bike to shop rather than car or bus = saving fossil fuel Would be close to the kids, better for all of us Could find a second hand one, but I think it would be harder to find than a trailer = limit to consumption.Might be able to find a local company that makes them and be able to support a local industry

Then the embodied energy

System Embodied Energy
Trailer – shop bought High (although less if can find second hand)
Trailer – homemade Low (assuming using salvaged materials)
2 bike seats + panniers Medium (I have one bike seat and panniers, so would only need one more bike seat)
Built in barrow High if new as requires as a whole new bike, second hand as above
Built in tricycle High if new as requires as a whole new bike, second hand as above

And consideration of SWOC of each of the possible systems.

System Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Constraints
Trailer – shop bought Easy to attach and maintain.  Will provide a smooth ride.  I can also keep one child on one bike seat as well. Cost, embodied energy, parking, storage Chance to research these, I know very little about the options I don’t yet know what the cost is likely to be.
Trailer – homemade Low embodied energy Time consuming, potential for a lot of maintenance Chance to learn new skills and play with wheels and movement How much time do I have to make this happen?
2 bike seats + panniers Extremely easy as I have lots of the kit.  Very little storage required compared to other options I would need to swap either the current bike seat or my panniers as the two systems don’t work together.  This system is going to make my bike very unwieldy, heavy and difficult to manoeuvre where a trailer will not. See weaknesses
Built in barrow No set up required, just get on the bike and go Is it safe for young kids?  Cost, I would need a new bike (approx £1000 new)  I would want to keep my existing bike for times when I am not carrying kids etc.  Not so good for longer distance multi day trips can’t get it on a train. Could paint the barrow/use it to promote local projects Storage – would it fit down our alley?  Would it fit in the shed?
Built in tricycle No set up required, just get on the bike and go Cost, I would need a new bike (£500 on ebay, not sure if they are still being made)  I would want to keep my existing bike for times when I am not carrying kids etc.  Not so good for longer distance multi day trips.  Actual storage for shopping on the bike is low Storage – would it fit down our alley?  Would it fit in the shed?

As a result of my analysis, the following systems are not going to be considered further.

  • Homemade trailer – too hard right now, not enough time
  • Panniers + bike seats, too much weight on the bike, will make it unwieldy
  • Tricycle – won’t meet my needs for bringing bulky/heavy shopping home


I have discovered through this process that the best options for me are either the barrow bike or the shop bought trailer.

I then looked at the principles to help me to define the best option.

Use edges and value the marginal – there is an opportunity to support a small local business with the barrow bike (London Green Cycles details below), trailers are bigger brands

Make the least change for greatest possible effect – the trailer is the least change as I would not need a whole new bike and I will get a greater effect than the barrow bike because it will enable me to be a lot more diverse (see below)

Use and value diversity – the trailer option allows me to be diverse in my cycling options (I can go alone, I can use the bike seat I have with or without the trailer, I can upgrade in different ways as the kids grow up – e.g. adding a bench style seat when they are big enough to hold on themselves).  The barrow makes me less diverse in my cycling, I can’t travel by train with it.

Use and value renewable resources – either option allows me to cycle more and use my renewable leg muscles rather than fossil fuels

Produce no waste – in either case I can try and find a second hand version

As a result of the principles analysis in particular diversity and least change principles the trailer option is the right one for me.  There is one major determining factor which cannot be considered in this paper based analysis, which is how it feels to ride the bike.  I have begun the research process and found some potential options, the next stage is to go and ride them.

Possible bike trailers identified that I would like to test:

  • Burley have many different styles (£300 – £800)
  • Giant peapod double (£240)
  • Halfords own brand have a couple of different styles (£150 – £400)


The implementation plan is as follows:

  • Test ride the bike trailers I have identified as possibilities in local bike shops (July 2015)
  • Select the top 2 or 3
  • Search on ebay, gumtree and any second hand bike listings I can find to see if I can find one available, ideally arrange to test ride before I buy.  August 2015
  • My ideal would be to have implementation completed by Sept 2015, however given the timescales of the implementation plan this may not be realistic as it might be better to wait until after the summer season to see if anyone is selling off old kit in the winter time – in which case I think I might extend my ebay deadline until Mar 2016 (this also ties in with when child no. 2 will actually be able to ride in a bike trailer – before then they will be too small).
  • If there is no success on the second hand market arrange to buy new.


With the selected option the maintenance will be similar to my current bike maintenance, I will need to perform an annual service on all the moving parts.  I will need to keep the kit clean and safely stored.

Evaluation and review

What’s gone well?

  • I liked using random assembly and was fascinated that it gave me two ideas that I had not before considered.
  • I had thought that doing a client interview with myself would be a bit strange, but the process was an invaluable part of developing the design from an embryonic idea to something that has been carefully thought through and considered.
  • Looking at the systems through the three different tools (ethics, embodied energy and SWOC) really opened my eyes to the differences between the options, I started this process thinking I would build my own trailer but the more I considered all the options the more I could see this was too much for me right now.

What’s challenging?

  • Not having implemented, it is possible that once I test ride the options I may make some alterations to the design process, it might be necessary to travel around the design cycle again.  This is a really interesting observation as all of my design work to date has been implemented and so the design cycle process (going back and forwards around it a number of times) has been less linear than this one, I think because it hasn’t been implemented.

What’s the vision?

  • Easy cycling winter and summer, getting everything I need onto the bike

What’s the next step?

  • Do the implementation plan

Was it a success?

I don’t know yet if this is a successful design until it has been implemented, but in terms of learning and design process it has been a success for me to follow this process.


I don’t yet know how much this design is going to cost to implement, it depends on if I can find something on ebay or not.


8 07 2014
[Criteria 1: Looby’s design web, Holmgren principles, zones/sectors, patterns, input/output analysis
Criteria 2: Applying Permaculture in my own life]
I wanted to do a permaculture design around my daughter Teasel and me being a mother, this is current in my life and I wanted to think about how I could apply permaculture design.  I have less time on my hands with a young daughter so I wanted to keep it simple, I decided to use the action learning cycle plan-do-review.  This design began in Feb 2014.
To begin with I started to explore how I could use permaculture design, but as I was brainstorming ideas and exploring the principles and tools I observed that it didn’t feel right, I realised that I didn’t want to change my approaches, perhaps make some tweaks but overall I was relatively happy with the way I was approaching mothering.  Through these observations I realised that as I had read and thought a lot about being a mother during my pregnancy I was already doing a lot of practices that aligned with permaculture ethos as this tied in with the way I wanted to raise my child.  I still liked the idea of using permaculture design and tools in some way as part of my diploma journey as Teasel is such a major part of what I do now it only seemed right so I thought about it a bit more.
I looked at all of the design tools and methods in a matrix as follows and thought about the following criteria:
  • Does it resonate with me in this context?
  • Would I would like to practice this more?
  • Have I used it a lot already in my design work?
  • Is it relevant to this design
Design Methods / Tools Resonate? Need more practice? Used lots? Not relevant to this design
Base maps x
Overlays x
Shadow Mapping x
Zones x x
Sectors x x
Client Interview x
Microclimates x
Soil analysis x
Input-Output analysis ? x
Brainstorm/mind map x
Flow diagram x
PMI x x
SWOC In previous work
Planning for Real x
Wild design x
Random Assembly x
Web of Connections x
Stacking x
McHarg’s exclusion x
Incremental design x x
Patterns x x
Limits x x
Helps x x
Actions/breakthroughs/insights x x

I could quickly see that there were some tools that really resonated and that could do with more practice and this would be the opportunity to use them.  As a result of this analysis I realised that conducting an appreciative enquiry might be a good approach and that if I did it once it could be something that I could repeat at intervals in her development to.  In addition to the design methods and tools in the above matrix I also would consider the principles and ethics.

The simplest way for me to approach the appreciative enquiry was to take each tool in turn and work through my parenting approach in light of that tool, this work is shown in the following photo sequence:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I started this process when Teasel was around 4 months old, she is now 7.5 months. It has been a real joy to use permaculture design tools in this way to appreciate where I am on my parenting journey and to identify tweaks. Each time I look at the work I have done there are loads of other things to add, it is a never ending spiral of appreciation!  I will continue to use this approach for a regular appreciative enquiry session every few months, this can tie in with updating our book of Teasel’s developments.
This has been a simple but fun design process suitable for me right now as I have limited time due to looking after Teasel.  I started this design process looking at how I could use permaculture design to help with my parenting, and I quickly realised that a lot of my parenting approaches that I was already doing such as breast feeding, baby led weaning, using reuseable nappies, elimination communication, carrying her in a sling etc were pretty firmly rooted in a permaculture ethos.  Therefore adopting an appreciative enquiry which helped to identify the odd tweak was the most appropriate design tool rather than a redesign of the system.  I knew before Teasel was born that I would want to adopt these types of approaches (based on reading and conversations with others who I knew to be like minded – making use of their wisdom), but through my observations as she grows the approaches have been further cemented and continually reinforced as the right ways for us.
The analysis using patterns was a new area for me, I’m glad I tried this out as we have a session in our intro courses about patterns and it has been great to put it into practice.
This feels like a slightly strange approach to doing a design as the design bit was relatively simple, however I think it’s a really valuable design to have done as it’s given me new insight into how the design tools can work
Was it a  success?
Yes – I enjoyed doing it, it met my need to use the permaculture design with my parenting and yes I was able to use design tools.
And now a few photos showing some of my techniques in practice:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back to top

Back to contents

Birth preparation design

15 05 2014

[Criteria 1: Looby’s design web, Holmgren Principles, PMI, brainstorm/mind map. Criteria 2; permaculture in my own life.]

This design was developed throughout my pregnancy which began in Feb 2013, but a lot of groundwork had been done throughout the course of my diploma starting in summer 2012.  A lot of strands that had been unconnected were joined up through this design which provided me with a clear focus for the last 3 months of my pregnancy (Aug – Nov 2013).


I am due to give birth in early November. My pregnancy has been good, I have adopted an approach of being generally active and healthy. Throughout my pregnancy I have been researching birth and babies, this culminated in a focussed design of how to spend the last three months of my pregnancy to best prepare me to achieve the birth I would like. I have wanted to try out Looby McNamara’s design web from People and Permaculture, this design fitted well with this desire.  Whilst the final documentation of the design happened after the birth I was using the elements of the design web to generate ideas and help me to connect my different ideas – writing notes on how each of the design web elements and permaculture principles were resonating with me.


  • Natural birth with no medical interventions, drug free.

    • Delivering our baby in a relaxed, calm, fun, empowering, powerful and safe space

    • That both Catherine and I feel supported throughout, both emotionally and physically

    • That I am as prepared as I can be to achieve the above aim


  • That when I start to implement this design there are only 3 months until the baby comes out, it is a short time to make what I want to happen happen.

  • Reading about birth and researching – natural birth, hynobirthing, orgasmic birth etc

  • I have also been doing an exploration of ‘inner work’ (here) throughout this period which has been a massive help to get me to this point

  • Two friends who have had homebirths, but in particular Mags who has been ever positive and helpful and returned into our lives at just the right moment (moving back to the UK after living in Spain for 5 years!)

  • All of these ‘helps’ enabled me to be certain of my instinctive decision made at the start of my pregnancy that a home birth was right for me.  Drawing them out as a flow chart showing the options of where to give birth and the influence of each of the helps demonstrates how these ‘helps’ have helped!
  • Helps


  • The ethics are always a help and they don’t feature specifically in Looby’s web, so this felt like a good place to consider them.
Earth Care People Care Fair shares
Hospitals are very heavy users of electricity/lights/heat – how can I reduce my impact? Prepare me emotionally  Birth is common to everyone, everywhere, historically and into our future.  This ethic reminds me how unique and not unique this experience is!
Drugs used during birth have manufacturing process emissions, chemical leachate into environment, drug waste that needs disposing – how can I reduce my impact? Prepare me physically; food, general exercise, body preparations
Food is fuel for me always and especially during pregnancy and birth – eat organic, local foods as much as possible Lots of people have given their time, stories and love to me which has been very nurturing Logistics – buy second hand items for anything I need – reduce limit to consumption
Walk as my primary form of exercise Catherine emotionally and physically well


I see the limits, as those that limit me achieving my vision.

  • Fear causing adrenalin during birth is the biggest factor that could cause labour to slow and/or create the need for medical interventions.  I need to be aware of this and work to break any cycles or situations that might create fear through my preparations.

  • I may have to have medical intervention which could save my or the babies life. The limit is how I perceive this, which is why emotional preparation is so important.

  • Due date, this puts pressure on me from the medical profession and from myself that the baby should arrive on or soon after this date


  • Current patterns of thinking that arise from me interacting with other people:

    • Negative birth stories shared by others

    • the assumption from many that birth is a medical process involving doctors and thus should be feared

    • ‘I’d like a home birth IF POSSIBLE’ feeling that I have to justify that it could all go wrong

    • Knowing the high rates of c-section and epidural use in the UK

    • Birth programmes on tv

  • I need to create a spiral of abundance of positive thought using affirmations, not listening to negative stories and challenging the nay sayers with my positive and certain unwavering position

  • I know that learning a lot about birth will help me to feel confident because I have the facts, I need to create this spiral of abundance of personal knowledge

  • I know that Catherine will be absolutely brilliant at advocating for me, standing up for me, asking questions and challenging if and when appropriate and doggedly not leaving my side – this is a great pattern to have in my arsenal


As mentioned in my inner work annex, the following design tools specifically helped me to generate ideas for this design:

  •  Life aims (fitness, empowerment, spiritual and social)
  • Biotime diary
  • Think & listen questions
  • PMI of the last day/week

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The key ideas that emerged for this design from all of this work are in the following mind map.  Interestingly all of the prompts in the design web have helped to generate ideas for this design.

Ideas including those that link together

Ideas including those that link together


  • Catch and store energy

    • Remember to sleep/rest in the early stages if there is a possibility of it

    • Food is key to maintaining my energy

  • Integrate rather than segregate

    • Things to integrate in this design:

      • personal outlook and mindset (how I perceive pain/birth process i.e. mental preparation)

      • pain relief (water i.e. a birth pool, coupled with movement and breathing),

      • atmosphere (calm, relaxed, familiar, safe i.e. home rather than hospital),

      • care givers (me and Catherine to look after our own needs, a trained midwife to look after the birth process)

  • Observe and interact

    • Observation that since I’ve been pregnant many people have shared negative birth stories, people like to share the dramatic and exciting stories fewer positive stories have been shared

    • tv programmes that glamorise difficult births and don’t focus on simple straightforward uncomplicated births

    • our own perceived lack of knowledge about the process led to self doubt that we would be able to make the right choices and make a home birth happen. Challenging this has brought us new strength in achieving the vision

  • Obtain a yield

    • Ideal yields: a positive birth experience for me and the baby, bonding for me and Catherine, empowerment for myself that I can deliver a baby

  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback

    • It is important that we design our ideal scenario, plan and prepare for it mentally, emotionally and physically. Feedback loops will come about during the birth process and we may need to alter the design based on what is happening to me and the baby. However even if I do end up needing medical intervention I believe that with the right preparation and mindset I can still achieve a positive birth even if it doesn’t look quite like the vision.

  • Design from patterns to details

    • Pattern is healthy me and healthy Catherine in mind, body and spirit prepared for birth.

    • Details include active birth classes, daily movement and breathing practice, daily affirmations, focus on what I eat, regular exercise, hearing positive birth stories

  • Small and slow

    • I expect labour to be small and slow! And must keep that in my mind, my body will slowly get there, I can’t rush it!

  • Use and value diversity

    • Remember to use different movements, try out different positions, different breathing techniques that I have learned. Remember to introduce diversity if I feel the need to (music, aromas etc)

  • Edges

    • I think homebirth is an edge activity! If it goes well perhaps share my story with others in the homebirth support group or others in the local nct group.

  • Creatively use and respond to change

    • Similar to self regulation in this scenario, keep the vision in mind and make sure that it happens as and where it can even if there does need to be medical intervention at times – don’t let the interventions throw us completely off track of what we want to achieve.


Through all of the above prompts in the design web, the following themes emerged as the key areas to focus on for developing a specific plan to get me prepared during the final 3 months of my pregnancy.  Understanding this helped me to narrow down my specific ideas and enabled me to focus.

  • Eating and drinking

  • Exercising/stamina building

  • Positions and movement for labour

  • Positive mind activities

  • Knowledge gathering


In this section I have set out the plan for the next 3 months (there are aspects of this plan that I would like to continue post birth if possible including the eating and drinking, exercising and positive mind activities (although I will have to tailor these to be more relevant post birth)).

Eating and drinking

  • Be even more conscious of my diet and daily water intake
  • Prepare food for labour, keep the fridge stocked just in case

Exercising/stamina building

  • Swim/walk regularly, do something every day – don’t be lazy

Positions and movement for labour

  • Start attending local active birth classes
  • Start daily practice of breathing techniques, movement, positive affirmations about birth, relaxation, pelvic floor exercises and perineal massage (from week 34).  Some examples of my birth preparation notes are in the following photos:
  • This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Positive mind activities

  • Daily programme of positive affirmations and visualisation about the birth
  • Regular massage for us both to relax (aim for twice/week)
  • Stop watching tv programmes about birth
  • Challenge and/or avoid conversations that are likely to lead to negative birth stories, or negative associations of pain with birth
  • Meet other home birthers to give me confidence – go to the home birth support group meeting
  • Being clear with the midwives about what we want – make a simple birth plan for them before 36 week check up

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Knowledge gathering
    • Re-read orgasmic birth book, read hypnbirthing book, watch orgasmic birth dvd again

With the above plan in place how do the ethics fit now?

Earth care: most of my daily exercise is walking, my food choices remain as earth friendly as possible, I can walk to my classes

People care:  I feel like I am looking after myself and the growing baby with this plan, my personal people care is great; I have met more people who have shared their experiences through this process which has been very nurturing for me

Fair shares:  this hasn’t been a big fair shares design so at least I would like to share my experiences and design process with others when it is all over.


  • It feels relatively easy as there is a clear end point with this!

  • Weekly active birth classes helps to remind me of the movements and breathing techniques to practice each week

  • NCT classes on a weekly basis during September have helped to keep us challenging our thoughts and desires and to keep me motivated.


  • There are lots of great things already happened to get me this far in the pregnancy!

  • I have a calm and relaxed attitude, I feel clear that the vision is the right approach for me that marries with my sense of self and life goals.

  • Catherine wants the same thing as me (perhaps even she wants it more than me)


  • I started doing all of this and here are my reflections one month in:

    • Eating has gone well, coupled with preparing food for the freezer to make things easier for when the baby arrives

    • I have added more depth to the daily affirmations to include welcoming the baby and focussing on positive thoughts about the baby as I saw a pattern of worry/doubt over having the baby in our lives within myself.

    • Shared use of hypnobirthing relaxation scripts hasn’t gone so well, so I started doing it on my own and that sort of works a bit, need to keep reviewing this one

    • Movement and breathing and exercise I do most days, at the moment I am happy with missing the odd day when I am busy as the balance is on more rather than less. I have found the right time of the day to do these that work with my life and I need to keep a check on myself if I get busy and start to stop doing it. I enjoy feeling fitter and noticing that my breath and lung control has improved, which continues to motivate me.

Sept 2014 reflections

  • Despite my intention to maintain my daily practice after the birth in the way that I was able to pre-birth I have struggled to fit in breathing/movement and affirmations on a daily basis with my daughter Teasel around.  However I do still use affirmations to help me to prepare mentally for upcoming challenges/situations, which prior to the birth I had never done.  I also am more aware of being mindful and when I get a moment (such as feeding Teasel) I take a couple of deep breaths.  I feel pleased that the work I did has filtered through into my life even though it has not been to the level I had intended.  I also think that the inner work I did around this time proved incredibly useful in preparing me for motherhood which has been a very positive experience so far.


  • A lot of this design is about bringing pauses into my day through my daily practice, and I have found that when I do this daily I miss it if I don’t do it, and it has brought a new energy to me.

Reflections on the design process

  • I enjoyed this one. It is simple but it was useful to have the framework of Looby’s design web to put together all the things that were in my mind.

  • It is really specific and has specific actions – so I know either I am or I am not doing them which I like because it is so clear.

  • Because of the time limits and my desires I am reviewing my progress regularly and keeping this in the forefront of my mind. A challenge for me will be to continue some of these daily practices which I have been seeking to have in my life up after the birth.

  • Time limited is fun – will review again once the birth has happened!

  • Cost – the only financial cost has been my active birth classes (£60)

  • Time:

    • daily practice (breathing, movement, affirmations) – 45 mins per day

    • daily exercise (I was doing anyway reasonably regularly have tweaked to definitely do something every day) – approx. 1 hour/day

    • classes (Sept only) – 1 hour/week (active birth)

    • design – has been an ongoing process of research and understanding birth and babies, this design evolved over a couple of weeks when I really started to consider it and start to practice, writing it up has taken a few hours

  • Interestingly using the design web didn’t prompt me to make explicit consideration of the ethics in this design (pointed out to be by Tomas my tutor after writing the first draft of the design process).

Was it a success?

Whilst I didn’t achieve the vision as written above, through birth I did achieve an amazing experience that was totally in keeping with this design even though we had to be in hospital. Thinking through the design in this way was invaluable to ensure that all of our needs were met during the birth and I am really glad that I did the preparation that I did to help me to achieve this. Teasel was born on 16 November 2013.

I have also done a little PMI of the hospital birth experience

Plus Minus Interesting
Clear and easy for visitors to come and see us afterwards – we didn’t need to make tea etc! DUE DATES! Not letting nature take its natural course (which is why we ended up in hospital) That induction led to C-section – as is common with the cascade of interventions, which all my reading suggested!
No drugs until the C-section.That medical care was there when I needed it Too many medical staff, crowding in and offering opinions when I should have been left alone to push. Because home birth was planned the time I spent at home in labour was great as we were all set up
Use of the shower through labour, staying focussed on my breathing and staying in the moment even though I was in hospital Having to spend 48 hours in hospital Labouring on the stairs of Kingston hospital.
Judy giving us a ride to the hospital in her car – a comedy car journey! The first 15 mins in the hospital – but it turned out to be a plus as our tears and disappointment galvanised us to have a wonderful experience Bumping into a friend in labour – our babies were born an hour apart.
An amazing midwife who cared for me.
A time to really appreciate how lucky we are to have the NHS and just what a great service it is.
Pasta! Fizzy orange drink that we would never have had in the house at home!

Back to top

Back to contents

TT Cobham permaculture afternoon

15 05 2014

[Criteria 1; SADIM, Client Interview, Holmgren Principles, PMI, Zones/Sectors. Criteria 3; education. Criteria 4; leading workshops. Criteria 5; convening courses and events]

I was invited by Stephanie Jacommeti (SJ), who attended one of our intro to permaculture courses at Sutton Community Farm in 2013, to facilitate an afternoon with her garden group at Transition Town Cobham. They have a plot of land earmarked for a community garden and she wants me to introduce the group to permaculture and also to help them to develop designs for the site.This is a great opportunity for me to use permaculture design to help me to develop the programme and plans for the afternoon session.


  • Meet with SJ to understand the brief at the garden site – client interview

  • Use the existing two day Intro to Permaculture course that Ruth and I deliver as a basis for the design:

    • Course materials – use the elements that are most relevant to this group, cut out some of the content due to a much shorter time

    • Course participants – reflect on what I have learned about running a course in terms of people and group dynamics

    • Being the person who holds the space – reflect on what I have learned about being the holder of the space/facilitator

    • Course space – indoor and outdoor activities, film, flipchart, discussions, observing

  • Ruth and I also held a short 2 hour session (which included 45 mins of planting) for TT Tolworth in 2013, use the experience and lessons from this to input into this session considering the same elements as above.


I did a zone and sector analysis based on typical patterns relating to courses and reflections on my conversation (client interview!) with SJ.

Sectors, or external energies that might influence course participants’ ability to design and participate in the course that I need to be aware of:

  • Individuals within the group their existing knowledge, motivations etc. key ones that I know of ahead of time:

    • Some very experienced gardeners

    • people who are not part of the garden group but who are part of the Transition group who are coming to learn about permaculture

  • Perceptions of limits/barriers/positives about the project of each member of the group to include

    • the ear marked plot of land,

    • the land owners,

    • other existing land users,

    • the group itself

  • local resource availability (e.g. tools, manure, etc)

  • potential project partners/sharers etc

  • stuff going on in their lives – other things they might want to be doing on a Saturday afternoon

  • Stuff going on in my life – C&T will they be ok!

    Zone analysis of the afternoon obviously this is not strict use of zones but I am trying it out from a people interaction perspective (from my perspective and experience to date):

  • Zone 1: group discussions + group activities held by me – high intensity I need to be on my toes, responsive, energetic etc

  • Zone 2: pair work/small group work – set up by me, they do it I work alongside them and input as and when needed – lower energy from me

  • Zone 3: occasional conversations – tea breaks, in between activities (some I’m involved in lots I’m not) – I might or might not enter into this activity

  • Zone 5: my breathing moments when activities are in full flow and I take a breath – remember to do this Liz!!

Consideration of the ethics:

Earth Care People Care Fair shares
Project is about earth care – improving a patch of land Look after me when I teach – don’t get stressed, am I ok to do it alone? Sharing permaculture with more people
Hold the event at a local venue so participants can walk/cycle Make sure that participants feel welcomed and  get something out of the course Helping the group to enable the project to be accessible to all
Reuse as many of the printed resources that I have from other course to minimise waste Ensure that SJ’s house is looked after and that she feels happy
Encourage and value their inputs it’s two way


Firstly I did an initial brainstorm of design ideas, then I reviewed and refined (patterns to details) a number of times using an incremental design process. The plan that I finally delivered is here.

How can the principles help this design?

Least change greatest affect – don’t reinvent the wheel keep the core of our course and just cut bits out!

Everything gardens – this is me gardening our course – just modifying my environment – the existing course for a new outcome and new yields!

Edge – there are different ways to create edge in the course:

  • Interactions between people both formal and informal – coffee breaks, pair discussions, small group work, large group format. Design note: keep rotating who is working with/talking to who to create as much edge as possible.

  • Working inside and outside – patterns session is outside, do the ice breakers and web of life outside

  • A range of different skills/formats within the course; discussion time, observation time, designing, analysing, thinking, talking, listening – there are edges between each of these and creating different tasks and atmospheres enables edge to develop


  • Me delivering a course without Ruth – a new step for my teaching!

  • Potential future Intro course participants

  • Small financial yield

  • Trying out a shorter format for our course which can be fed back into our 2 day course

  • the chance to influence a local project – perhaps one I could get involved in


  • Stacking in sharing/teaching permaculture with the group with them also getting to make a start on designing their space


I ran the course on Sat 8 March, my sector analysis highlighted that Teasel might be a challenge for me – and she turned out to be. I had to leave after an hour as she wouldn’t feed. The group were very kind and we rescheduled to finish off the rest of the course a month later (Teasel being a little older and more able to cope this time!).

I ran the second course on Sat 5 April. There were four people in the room and one joined us via skype (which was a new thing for me to teach to someone on skype but worked well).  The following is the PMI analysis of both sessions.

Plus Minus Interesting

Ethics session – they really engaged well and started to think of ideas of how they could use them in their project

The second session was too heavy on indoor activities – because the outdoor bits were at the start and done in the first session My plans for paired activites didn’t happen as the group was so small it didn’t feel right to break it down further – but perhaps it could have been beneficial to enforce it – how to deal with the inevitable silences that occur?

Patterns session – I got very nice feedback from one participant that it was a really great exercise.

 Ending – how to successfully close the course?

Principles session – the group got into lots of detailed and interesting discussions, the principles really helped to spark things. It also allowed me to share other project examples that I was planning to do later in the session here in a great informal way.

That I had to split the course – it was pleasing that they all came back to finish off

PMI/PASE were excellent tools for this group to get the design working

How to make the design element feel more like premaculture and less like them moving bits around the paper – although this was only the first stage for them perhaps not be too hard on myself about this

I didn’t take any pictures on the course (one of the challenges of teaching on your own, not having space to step out and take pictures), but I share examples from other intro courses of the types of discussion points that came up.  Also we didn’t actually produce flip charts as we had such a small group we mostly discussed things in the group.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is the final layout design reached at the end of the session, the elements were extracted from the PMI/PASE exercises and we used a sort of planning for real technique with cut out elements moved around the site plan through the discussions (not done to scale due to time considerations).  You can also see the use of our patterns exercise to help influence the collaborative design process.

Final layout reached at the end of the session


I will take the PMI points into our intro course, particularly that we can probably move a bit quicker on some of the day 1 activities. NOTE: we did this at our intro course in May 2014 and it worked well. I still feel the need to improve on the design stage aspect, have relfected with Ruth and will keep pondering on this one (also as I get better at design this will help).

Can I run a similar format for any other groups? It worked well and I was able to share a lot of information – more than I thought possible with the group. I feel they have a reasonable grasp of principles/ethics at the end of the session and have made a great start on pulling design ideas together and bringing their plot to life. There is a potential opportunity with a pub in Streatham – talk to Ruth further about this.

Reflections and thoughts

  • Doing a design that adapts another design (our intro course) makes it difficult to really ‘design’, it feels more like tweaking rather than radical design.  Having said that I was pleased to use zones and sectors in and interesting way.  Also it feels like there are two levels of the design, one which is the overall design outlined here and a second which is a mini design of each of the teaching sessions taking place both in my prep time and in the moment of delivery of a session to a group (e.g. PASE) when I adapt my teaching materials and knowledge and skills to date as appropriate to the group.  It is harder to reflect this mini design in the write up as it is mostly an internal process.
  • Teaching via skype added the element of pause into the group – with a slight time delay and the need to ensure that our skype participant could see/hear I had to pause and check in with the group more than usual.
  • I didn’t allow time for feedback on this course which is interesting as it is an important element of our 2 day intro course.  I didn’t have time for it, but also I think it is easier to receive feedback when working in a pair – it will feel extremely personal when on your own, so I didn’t ask for it.  Having said that I felt that everyone left pleased and I did recieve an email of thanks from the organiser saying:
    ‘Thanks so much for coming by today and teaching us about permaculture. It really helped us plan the community garden. It was also good to talk about the principles and how they slot into Transition work’
  • What yields did I harvest?
    • Delivering a course on my own was successful – although it is more fun with someone else and I think the dynamic is better with two – we can bounce off eachother and the group can get different opinions.  But given the small group size it was appropriate to have just me.
      • I don’t think there are any potential future Intro course participants from this group – but they could spread the word to others as and when the project grows

      • Small financial yield

      • Trying out a shorter format for our course which has been fed back into our 2 day course was really useful.  Knowing that our course materials can be used in other scenarios

      • I got the chance to influence a local project, unfortunately I have not had time to follow up and see how things are going with it.

      • Boost in self confidence that I delivered a good course on my own and that I have quite a lot of knowledge to share with others in this field.  Also that most people came back to finish off the course and others joined for the second session.
      • I always get the opportunity to re-engage with permaculture, spend time with like minded people which I find very soul boosting (I got 2 doses this time!)

Was it a success?

Yes – the participants were happy the course was good

Yes – the design was adequate for the needs of the project

 Back to top

Back to contents