Review of relevant activities

I attended my PDC in Sept/Oct 2011 at Hawkwood Plant Nursery in Chingford. In March 2012 I decided to do the diploma as I had been working on a number of designs in my home and through local projects, and I thought that the diploma would give me additional support and motivation to carry out my design work (catch and store energy).

In May 2012 I had the following aims for my diploma journey:

  1. To have a resilient income at the end of 2 years, ideally in the local economy.
  2. To have a better knowledge of plants, what they do and how they work together
  3. To have an inner journey alongside the outer journey
  4. Leadership/leaderless orgs/eco-leadership/eco-facilitation
  5. Mixture of land and people based

I developed a list of 22 possible designs with none reflecting the third aim! Following my induction tutorial I found the Action Learning Pathway that I had developed was not working for me (self regulation and feedback), there were too many possibilities, I didn’t know where my life would go over the next two years and so found it difficult to plot a meaningful pathway. So I focussed on what was current for me in my life and applied permaculture design to that (Creatively use and respond to change).

One year on I made a review of my ALP in March 2013, these were the most relevant points

  • 4 of the original design ideas were ditched, 8 were maybes and 9 were still relevant.
  • I was using design principles and tools in projects but not necessarily writing them up or seeing them as a ‘diploma design’. For example with Transition Town Kingston and Kingston Permaculture Network.
  • Catch and store energy: I was making use of the projects that I was already doing and applying permaculture design to them, e.g. FGU film and the house and garden
  • Key achievements in the first year included:
    • Increased knowledge about perennial plants, but so much more to go!
    • Observing myself (observe and interact)
    • Met lots of people through guild and expanded my network of contacts (use and value diversity)
    • Teaching business is established and we had run three successful courses (obtain a yield).
  • I identified some areas to focus on for the remainder of my diploma including use of patterns and zones and doing a design for someone else. I also decided to continue being responsive to what was relevant in my life (integrate rather than segregate).

Now it’s November 2014, the birth of my daughter last year provided a new focus for my design work reflected in the later designs in my portfolio, I was pleased to be able to also achieve a design for Transition Town Cobham even with a very young baby.  I feel as though I met or partially met 4 of my 5 original aims and was able to achieve the learning I identified at the midway point in March 2013.  The leadership and facilitation aim I have not addressed at all, this was a very relevant topic in my life when I started my diploma but it waned in significance over time – I would hope to pick this one up again in the future when/if I have more of a ‘professional’ career again.

Over the course of my diploma action learning support has been in place through tutorials with Tomas, diploma gathering (2012), peer support group (see design 5), teaching with Ruth (see design 2), diploma facebook group, being part of Kingston Permaculture Network and through the process of teaching Introduction to Permaculture courses. I have found it very useful to have a diverse range of people to talk to and learn from (use and value diversity). I love using the 4 questions to help with action learning (self regulation and feedback).

My designs have fallen into the following broad categories:

  1. Teaching permaculture to others (ESSENTIAL CRITERIA 1 and 3, COMPLIMENTARY CRITERIA 4 and 5); design 2 (intro teaching) and 7 (TT Cobham)
    1. The biggest learning has been a much better understanding and practical application of lots of permaculture tools and principles including Holmgren Principles, zones, PMI/PASE, SADIM, patterns, observation. Having had to explain these to others and respond to their questions I have a much better knowledge of how it all works now.
    2. I have also learned about how I work with others, the value and importance of making a strong connection and focussing my/our strengths, but recognising my/our weaker areas
  2. Permaculture designs in my home and garden (ESSENTIAL CRITERIA 1 and 2, COMPLIMENTARY CRITERIA 4); design 1 (shed), 4 (pond), 3 (garden) and 9 (bike trailer)

    1. Increased knowledge about plants; plant families, optimal growing conditions, experience of things growing well and badly. This knowledge has helped me to see some of the permaculture principles at work in my garden.
    2. I have learned to integrate permaculture design into my general design thinking for a project. At times a formal sit down with a set of tools has helped to move things forward at other times simply recalling a principle has helped to unstick me. I am much more proficient at using the tools and principles.
    3. I have gained confidence in my ability to write through publishing articles for the permaculture magazine about my shed and pond projects. People have given me positive feedback about them!
  3. Personal permaculture (ESSENTIAL CRITERIA 1 and 2); design 6 (birth) and 8 (Teasel)

    1. These designs came later in my diploma journey and as a result I had the confidence to try out different design tools including Looby’s design web and appreciative enquiry.
    2. These designs are quite ‘inner’ and have enabled me to achieve more balance in my life and allow me to be me and to be proud of that
  4. Community building (ESSENTIAL CRITERIA 1 and 3, COMPLIMENTARY CRITERIA 5 and 6); design 1 (veg film)5 (peer support group) and 10 (outdoor playgroup) (as well as 2 (intro teaching) and 7 (TT Cobham) the teaching designs)
    1. The most important learning in these projects has been about the power of starting something and committing to it and how that draws others in
    2. These designs have also reminded me about the power of working as a group

In all of my designs I have considered complimentary criteria 7 evaluation and costings learning that in each design the ‘cost’ that is worth considering is different finance, time, ecological impact etc

Overall the key learnings from this diploma process have been:

  • Review – the power of observation and review in my work and in my life – the importance of this and using permaculture tools to stimulate the review process.
  • A much more in depth knowledge and understanding of permaculture design tools and techniques – which has enhanced my ability to teach (a spiral of abundance!)
  • That design happens all the time and not just in an office behind a desk.
  • I have learnt a lot more about plants and trees – I can identify many more than when I started (but still a drop in the ocean!).
  • It’s helped me to be more balanced.

The overall diploma learning journey connected me to people at a time when I needed that connection – right now I have stepped away from that (as I am immersed in Teasel’s world), but I know it is there for me to step back into whenever feels right.

Going forward with permaculture I would like to enhance my teaching through teaching on other courses and develop my local outdoor playgroup so that I can integrate permaculture with toddlers and children locally,


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