Widening Participation – “Suit and Tie”

The session started with some words from Leo Bakx about his strategy on how to get wealthy people inspired by Permaculture. The conversation continued with Steve Hart, Mihaela (Mischa) Tsarchinska, Martin Giannini, Tanja Korvenmaa, Antonio Scotti, Sarah Daum and Pontus Dowchan.

Why is it important to bring Permaculture awareness to wealthy people?
The access to world’s natural resources is in the hands of a small number of wealthy people and organisations. At the moment the trend amongst permaculturalists seems to be to disregard this “upper class”, though the solutions and the philosophy of Permaculture could have a huge impact when connected with the potential to change large scale structures.

We perceived that in order to open ourselves as Permaculture designers to this specific group we might consider doing the following:

  • Try walking in their shoes
  • Wear a suit and a tie and of course the right kind of shoes. The rest is up to your imagination” – Leo Bakx
  • The cloth does not make the man“, but dressing properly may open doors. And it’s not about the clothes, but about the understanding:
    • Do you honour the culture?
    • Do you speak the same language?
    • Do you understand the needs of the other?

We wondered things like: What does it feel like to be rich? What is it like to take care of such a big fortune? What would your problems be if you were really rich? What would you value? Where do you eat, how would you live, what kind of clothes would you wear? Who would be the people around you?

We listed some qualities that might interest the wealthy:

  • good life
  • return on investment (2% at minimum – leading to a doubling time of 35 years)
  • long-term planning
  • indepencency
  • solutions that secure wealth of the family; sustainability
  • possibilities to donate money for a good cause
  • kudos; publicity
  • beautiful places; real estate
  • good food
  • quality
  • intelligence
  • influence; developing the society
  • new opportunities
  • possibility to carry responsibility
  • awareness
  • people who can be trusted and are not there just for their money
  • Seduction from the perspective of equality” – Mischa

The following aspects need to be considered:

  • Be professional.
  • Be confident. Understand your clients needs and present a good proposal.
  • Dressing properly does open doors – but it is the quality of your work that makes the impression. You as a permaculture designer have something very valuable to give.
  • Step out from the poverty mindset. Misery attracts misery and wealth attracts wealth. Are you offering your courses for free or reducing your prices easily? Do you refuse money? Remember that wealthy people don’t go to cheap workshops.

Try these questions:

  • What would your life look like if you would not have to worry about money?
  • How would it effect to your capacity to teach and practice permaculture?

Could be possible to also use a complementary currency: See the ideas of Xavier Hawk: The Local Currency for the Global Permaculture Movement

Everyone possibly knows someone who have among their aquaintances a rich person. Though the wealth in the world has accumulated to a small percentage of people, those people are most likely very close to us (reference Kevin Bacon: Seven Degrees of Separation). Everyone knows someone who is related to someone. Who would be the person to connect with from your circles?

The potential is in a professional network of permaculturalists.

Mischa told us she had been contacted by a hotel chain owner from Oman. He wanted to apply permaculture principles to the all of the hotels he owns, and he wanted to hire designers. Mischa could not yet reply to the demand. The client needed someone who is a Landscape Architect by education, and Mischa does not have that certificate. But there are many landscape or ecological architects in the network – as we found out right there in the conversation. Steve Hart was sitting next to Mischa! How could we connect with each others more in cases like this? How do we actually find out what we can do? How to form a network of professionals that could be called on a project when a case like this appears?

The idea sprung to create a working group to explore possibilities.

What would such a working group be like? A Trust? A Federation?

Steve Hart suggested there would be a working group aiming to grow our capacity to reach the wealthy.

The tasks of this working group could be, for example to:

  • Find out what kind of expertise there is in the network
  • Recruit professional, diverse design teams
  • Publish a professional website (see Steves old page: permacultureglobaldesign.wordpress.com)
  • Actively look for opportunities to design large-scale projects

Suggestions for next actions (to every permaculture teacher)

  • Write a bio of yourself: your expertise, your education, your experiences, recommendations, what kind of work you would like to do at the moment.

The article is was transcribed from the notes by Tanja Korvenmaa.