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  • lizdarley

TT Cobham permaculture afternoon

[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 CarePeople CareFair sharesProject is about earth care – improving a patch of landLook after me when I teach – don’t get stressed, am I ok to do it alone?Sharing permaculture with more peopleHold the event at a local venue so participants can walk/cycleMake sure that participants feel welcomed and  get something out of the courseHelping the group to enable the project to be accessible to allReuse as many of the printed resources that I have from other course to minimise wasteEnsure that SJ’s house is looked after and that she feels happyEncourage 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.PlusMinusInteresting

Ethics session – they really engaged well and started to think of ideas of how they could use them in their projectThe second session was too heavy on indoor activities – because the outdoor bits were at the start and done in the first sessionMy 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 workingHow 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.

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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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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’

  1. What yields did I harvest?

  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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

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