Federation or Foundation, Society or Cooperative?

Europe pointilizedBy Steve Hart, July 2014

At EPT 6 in Denmark there was a strong feeling among many that a “Federation” become the vehicle to support future needs, strategies and developments desired to flow on from the EPT energy.

My personal discussions of such structures has been a response to views commented on over the past four years about the collapse in Permaculture through lowering standards and the values and needs of support and service structures in order to maintain and develop the standards and performances throughout the whole pallet of Permaculture. My essay “Permaculture’s Collapse Dance” introduces this observation.

The debate over structures could take up a full conference by itself. Our Permacultue family has many differing views on the entire subject. Perhaps we may get the chance to discuss as many as possible in Batak.

The Federation maybe a separate tool serving a separate function. As may be other valuable structures, yet discussed or developed. What do we need and why ? Once we have answered that, the obvious structure will evolve. Sounds simple, yes, until we ask questions of how such structures serve us and for what reason and benefit. Permaculture Europe through EPT and EUPC  is offering greater energy and movement into wider domains of society. These domains seek recognition of structure. What does a Federation offer, a Foundation, a Society, a Trust and a Cooperative ? Where could such an entity be registered and why there ? who will it be registered with ? Is it worthwhile to consider all of the above ?,  so we can offer all the objectives of each and function for all intent and purpose through all layers to all people and parties. Yes we can and why not.

Federation  (ˌfɛdəˈreɪʃən). n

1.      the act of federating

2.      the union of several provinces, states, etc, to form a federal union

3.      a political unit formed in such a way

4.      any league, alliance, or confederacy

5.      a union of several parties, groups, etc

6.      any association or union for common action


Gaye_IMG_7951A private foundation is a legal entity set up by an individual, a family or a group of individuals, for a purpose such as philanthropy or an object legal in the economic operation.


Society constitutes a distinct legal entity which provides protection to members from debts, contracts etc. In return, members do not have a personal financial interest in the property or assets (if any) owned by the society.


In common law legal systems, a trust is a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another. A trust is created by a settlor, who transfers some or all of his or her property to a trustee. The trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries.


A cooperative (“coop”) or co-operative (“co-op”) is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.[1] Cooperatives include non-profit community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use its services (a consumer cooperative) or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative) or by the people who live there (a housing cooperative), hybrids such as worker cooperatives that are also consumer cooperatives or credit unions, multi-stakeholder cooperatives such as those that bring together civil society and local actors to deliver community needs, and second and third tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives.

Mondragon cooperatives operate in accordance with Statement on the Co-operative Identity maintained by the International Co-operative Alliance.

There are perhaps a few more that could be added like “Trading Trusts” and Partnerships. The questions we need to ask and answer are what so we need these structures for and how can they benefit us. In our research we can also study the same questions to seek answers from other entities that have gone down this track. Some of these answers will, I’m sure be quite colourful, to say the least. I do look forward to the debate and development.

Steve Hart July 2014