Reflections on the EPT and ideas for the future

The EPT coordination group asked all participants to fill up an on-line questionnaire in order to get feedback about the direction that the EPT should take, in view of our experience so far and renewed perspectives gained. The questionnaire had the following 5 questions:

  1. Up to now, what has the ept kicked-off in your country / for you personally / … ?
  2. Where do you want the network to go? which direction should it take / put it’s energy into?
  3. Which parts are worth continuing? what should we build on?
  4. What has been challenging? what agreements / structures should be improved if we want to do it again? do you have ideas for improvement?
  5. Which ideas / structures / … can be dropped?

Answers to each of the questions follow:

  1. Up to now, what has the EPT kicked-off in your country / for you personally / … ?
    • much more interest in and action towards LAND-activities
    • diverse teacher(s) development
    • curiosity and interest in people not involved in EPT
    • personal growth, community feeling
    • motivation for self-improvement as teacher
    • clarity and motivation for next steps as learner
    • a broader vision of PC and lots of inspiration
    • Connection with the broader PC network has brought foreign PC teachers to our country
    • Inspiration and encouragement for a livelihood based on PC
    • Empowerment to create a stronger national association and national network of PC practitioners and teachers
    • Personally confidence as a teacher has improved
    • Increased personal palette of teaching methods, tools and approaches
    • Social network that can be tapped into when looking for teachers or peer support for projects
    • Our national team has grown tighter and closer, and also closer to the European network of colleagues, which builds capacity for organising events and activities at home
    • Our national team has had a chance to starting talks about creating a country wide organization, which is still lacking nowadays
    • Has brought to me teaching opportunities in my own country
    • Setting up national network (in process), setting up diploma pathway (in process)
    • European network in PC
    • Skills, tools and techniques in community building, working in an international group, group processes
    • Meeting people from more developed/old permaculture organizations has created a flow of information and experience that has influenced our network and organization beneficially – the meetings are more coherent, there is more sharing and learning about actual projects, people are supporting each other in learning guilds and study groups. We have learned about structures that can support permaculture education and are now experimenting to built our own in the near future.
    • This project has been a good platform to meet and work with other permaculture practitioners from my country. We’ve gained mutual trust and common understanding, and are more aware of and capable of supporting quality pc education in our country.
    • I have gained more teaching skills and a way to share my teaching methods with others.
    • I have found other permaculture teachers from nearby and we are developing our skills together by shadowing, sharing methods, visiting on each others courses.
    • Introducing PC to early childhood education.
    • Motivation and inspiration to connect and re-connect with people involved/interested in PC on both a national and international level.
    • What happened in the Netherlands (try and anonymize that 😉 is a fierce discussion (recurring since the 1980’s BTW) on who is representative of the Dutch permies. Some heated discussions about who should get money for free trips abroad and who should decide. But also about commitment of a very small group of people to European networking, about forging and maintaining warm and productive personal relationships with people you wouldn’t have met any other way. It also sparked interest in setting up a Dutch Diploma System and for – again a small group – starting out on the UK Diploma Pathway as a means to achieve that. The foundations for these initiative were laid during EPT meetings.
    • For me personally EPT has been a great inspiration and support for the idea of starting a different format in permaculture education: a full-time teachers’ training college (to start this April). This in turn seems to have spurred on new initiatives from other Dutch teachers 😉 EPT has also encouraged me to develop role playing game as method for learning permaculture in a playful and informal way. Working with Misha from Bulgaria on the game concept has helped me a lot and EPT has been a good reference when recruiting student interns on the project as well.
    • It’s highlighted the need for a central body in Ireland – allowing for more joined up thinking in this small country. Personally – it’s such an education to meet all the European partners also teaching permaculture. So valuable to keep this learning between teachers as a constant feature in our lives. We share the same corner of the planet therefor we share many specific permaculture systems, that relate to our climate etc. The commonality that doesn’t always exist between us and Australia or South America for instance.
    • A new wave of commitment to exploring and re-launching the diploma process and patway.
    • Personally: A very strong connection with different individuals on a basis of mentoring and maintaining personal growth within PC. Back to top
  2. Where do you want the network to go? which direction should it take / put it’s energy into?

    • teaching together, learning from each other
    • sharing good practices!
    • have the PC learners in mind, what is more interesting/challenging for them, how do they want their learning journeys to be?
    • We should increase the contact with the mainstream education/society
    • work towards a WIN-WIN-WIN between PC teachers, students and centers
    • making PC courses affordable to every motivated learner while ensuring the teachers are satisfied with their compensation for their work
    • Setting up a LAND centre network across Europe where teachers can hold courses, get inspired and strengthen the local networks
    • Increase flow between LAND centres – in people, communication, documentation of practices and teaching, intercultural exchange and best practices grounded in good projects and demonstration sites.
    • Research-based pc education
    • Networking is valuable, and sharing teaching skills also, and in the same time it seems that there are very few established and functional centers and sites where in the daily needs of ourselves and our communities are met in practice. With the social network now quite established, and each others skillsets being known to participants, I’d like to see the next project offering support for actual sites or projects/ national organisations, and supporting producing new Offshoots- or Permacultura Montsant type living permaculture examples, perhaps through smaller and need based designer and practitioner exchanges to/from those places and advanced practical designer trainings. And also perhaps specific gatherings eg. for those organisations wanting to create eg. a diploma process with those who already have theirs successfully running, since in practice with large changing groups and full programs the opportunities for that sort of detailed work seems to have been marginal in the current model.
    • It would be great if (more?) opportunities could be created for designers to share their design experience with less experienced designers.
    • Continue researching of the “creating livelihoods” as PC designers & teachers topic.
    • Research and study of permaculture projects, results, outputs
    • research and study of impact of PDC’s on students, followup activities
    • Coaching and support on creating national networks
    • Continue building capacity to introduce permaculture to existing big institutes such as universities and city councils
    • Supporting local networks by offering public seminars/participatory events in the places the meetings are held
    • Publishing well edited, clever, creative and useful pc teaching material
    • Creating structures that support independent & peer learning & sharing of the new knowledge
    • Creating a network,resource,good practices and support guild for children and permaculture.
    • Support and initiation of life-long learning PC projects ie. from toddlers to elderly people.
    • it would be great to see the development of Permaculture networks throughout Europe and particularly through existing tertiary institutions as Leo Bakx has been developing….thats something constructive for the future and very worthwhile building (Steve)
    • In my vision we would have an online/offline network where permanauts travel Europe, staying at projects (LAND?) and share knowledge, stories skills, wisdom and songs. Perhaps at a different pace then the intensive and intermittent EPT meetings. I like to think of it as the “Santiago de Compostella trail’ for permies – let’s call it a permaculture learning activity network (PLAN). Places that are located no more than a day’s travel from each other, so you won’t have to borrow money to take a train, plane or car, but can just start walking or jump on your bycicle and be in a different place by dinner time. Each node in such a network would produce enough abundance of housing, energy, water, food etc to accommodate a number of permanauts in residence, interns and guests who stay for varying periods of time and travel and stay ‘for free’ according to their own means. It would be great if we can pool our current skills, knowledge and resources to work out a how-to guide to create and maintain such places of learning and living ‘the permaculture way’. For EPT (and myself personally) en emphasis on training teachers at such places would be self-evident and appropriate
    • Strengthening the network through regular meetings and development of information sharing tools for teachers in Europe and the rest of the world.
    • Establishing a platform for cross-European guilds to be able to form easily for those who are on the Diploma route. I think we can benefit greatly from learning together in small, yet versatile groups. This would be an extra alternative to the nationbased guilds.
    • Hook up with scientists/Universities (and the political community/EU) to get a clear picture of what the natural sciences world is saying about PC in their papers, both positive and negative statements. What have they “proven” so far, what is the truth of today? Thus benefitting from being able to show these reports to suspicious minds when promoting PC in different settings: Applications, networks etc. Back to top
  3. Which parts are worth continuing? what should we build on?
    • regular international meetings and maybe PA/workgroup meetings in between if necessary
    • the website and newsletter
    • the compost (teacher’s manual)
    • opportunity for meeting colleagues and share experiences in big meetings, perhaps even at bit longer intervals, in between focused need based work in smaller meetings
    • creating regional networks (low travel costs and impact)
    • find EU-funding for followup meeting possibilities
    • share methods and techniques and continue working on process work
    • the core of this call: to create a strong forest garden of permaculture education in Europe
    • bringing senior and junior pc teachers & learners together has been beneficial. A lot of knowledge transfers and is built in these meetings.
    • visiting existing permaculture sites, learning from practical examples
    • the work started on the publication is good. There is a lot more knowledge in the networks that is worth publishing, but ensuring quality a good editor is needed. Also there could me more creative ways to publish the information. How could we create a good quality publication that would also be crowdsourced?
    • Being offered the chance for hands-on experience (getting hands dirty).
    • When people come together for these meetings there is a huge resource,with diversity and richness.How can we ensure that people feel they have brought out their full potential?We should build on finding an optimal way to make this resource beneficial and efficient within the group and also on a national level where the meetings take place.
    • The personal meeting and interaction are definitely worth keeping and building on. From observation is seems obvious to me that the physically being in the same place has a quality that cannot be replaced by Internet or other forms of remote communication. On the other hand I’m also recognising the value of online communication as a way to bridge long distances and time-zones, providing channels of mass dissemination to a wide audience you would not reach otherwise. I also recognise that relying on technology only makes online work extremely vulnerable and dependent on a huge and resource hungry industrial system. As permies we should have viable backup systems in place. A permaculture learning activity network might serve this purpose.
    • We should build on the relationships that developed during the meetings. Further develop the projects that sprung up as initiatives from participants. EPT could nurture those initiatives. We can build on simple things like the list of email addresses in the partnership group for dissemination of educational events, calls for participation, exchange of learning materials, recruiting of teachers and students. We can grow this network by adding new contacts as we go.
    • The website should be pro-actively maintained, with new editors being recruited on a regular basis. Developing the website might be a project for student internships at schools around Europe. This could include student project on graphic design, journalism, communications, ICT and technical web development as well as content provision, research etc…
    • Possibly the EPT site could spin-off a peer reviewed permaculture education journal.
    • It’s function as a multicultural multi-lingual clearing house for permaculture education resource materials should be developed further
    • Best Practice and standard practice in our learning outcomes. I think these are the most important areas. Back to top
  4. What has been challenging? what agreements / structures should be improved if we want to do it again? do you have ideas for improvement?
    • longer meetings would allow for more development
    • more clear leadership structure for the new venture would enhance the results
    • invite PC students so that they can have a voice in the project
    • Sociocratic descision making and structuring instead of VSM
    • would have been great if for example the process team had documented how they designed the programs and had written down the exercises and other forms of group work that were used so also those who don’t participate in that group could use them later at home (Pingback: It’s all in our online meeting notes //Klara ;-))
    • national partners could be encouraged to set specific learning / developing objectives for their organisations and seek support from the partnership for those cases
    • VSM has been challenging and in the same time an interesting tool so when mastered, probably a wonderful way to self-organise! It has been a challenge to have some primary activities running when people were changing groups or were not maybe attending all the meetings.
    • dynamics of constantly working with people coming and going
    • create a working structure based on (social) permaculture principles (web) rather than VSM
    • lack of support and follow up at national/local level, due to lack of structure and commitment
    • It has been challenging to focus on actual work in the tightly structured and scheduled meetings of a large group.
    • Working for the project outside of the meetings unfunded
    • I propose using Open Space -structure in meetings. In my experience it is by far the most efficient way to support engagement, self-organising and getting the right things done – and it gives people the freedom to find their right way to move things ahead without too much focus on the structure and decisionmaking.
    • Finance and administration, travel, commitment from participants (over the two year period), “fannying about” and a tendency to over-organise have been the most prominent challenges IMHO. An other major challenge has been continuity between physical meetings. For me this has been a clear signal that the EPT network is unsustainable without major input of resources. The form that is required and expected by Leonardo da Vinci (a fund for travel expenses) means we have a few events that involve all participants to travel to one specific location somewhere in Europe to get any work done. In hindsight this seems contrary to sensible permaculture design. Having said that, I’m very pleased with the opportunity to experience this and learn from it.
    • Imposing structure (like the VSM – which should be an emergent structure) has been a sore point during all meetings so far. Perhaps unsurprising as many permaculture designers I’ve met so far seem to understand design as imposing structure on their world and expect it to work – which is a completely different story 😉
    • It’s quite an assumption that I would want to participate in EPT -or similar externally funded project – again. I’ve indicated several times that Aardwerk would certainly not do that again 😉 So an “improvement” I would propose is to drop the external funding, build capacity to operate EPT-like projects on independent self-generated resources.
    • Ideas: yes. Would love to expand on that. Most curious about available resources in other countries, projects that already achieved the level of abundance to be self-relient and able to share with a substantial number of regular visitors. Examples I’m particularly interested in are Friland, Sieben Linden, Cultivate. What stage are you at and how did you get there? Can we build on those models? What do we need to develop further? How do you start from scratch in a new place? Can we form an international mutually supportive co-operative of such places (the Catalan Coop / Aurea Social was an interesting eye-opener)? An international committee of recommendation for the PLAN.
    • Structure meetings around food – producing, preparing, sharing and digesting delicious food (and returning it to the soil 😉
    • Relying to 90% on English instead of designing for more diversity has been a challenge. How can we move forward with less written/spoken words and more signs, drawings, photos, body movements, sounds..?
    • Large groups doing intermittent work has been a challenge. How about developing groups/guilds of people living closer to each other to do work in between meetings? That would for ex strengthen the local bonds, create a purpose and incentive to meet up, and could be attached to already existing diploma guilds. Back to top.
  5. Which ideas / structures / … can be dropped?

    • VSM doesn’t seem to work well
    • avoid work between meetings as much as possible
    • the idea that all the work is based on meetings of large randomly varying groups. the specific needs of different partners didn’t necessarily get met in short time of a lot of content and perhaps making the meetings longer with more program will not be the best way to support those needs being met in the future.
    • there were some moments when we were very focused on the VSM structure. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I was also wishing for more reminders and clarification of the vision and mission of this project  – and then some focused time to organize ourselves to achieve the vision.
    • LOL! Well, how about the external funding?
    • Erasmus+ in favour of available resources (to be developed)
    • The massive synchronised travel in favour of slow continuous human scale distance travel.
    • Perhaps: participation funneled through single national organisation per country in favour of individual self-directed commitment – EPT as a self-organising emerging structure of connected organisations and individuals. Back to top