[permaculture] Democratic solutions to Permacultures conflicts?

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Sun Jul 29 14:02:41 EDT 2007

This is tricky, while certification and credentials demonstrating skill levels is important they can also evolve into the permaculture police. Some people completing a certificate have no business selling there services for much of anything, others may be as experienced and skilled in their areas of expertise as the person they took the course from, in which case the course is simply the conceptual framework around which they can use their existing skills.?I also believe that there is a danger of the most anal-compulsive types gathering like bees around honey to develop and rigidly enforce rules.

But there is another purpose a national organization can have and that is to promote the message of Permaculture and to serve an important educational P.R. function.

-----Original Message-----
From: toby at patternliteracy.com
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 8:22 am
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Democratic solutions to Permacultures conflicts?

Kevin et al,

I do think it's time for a national Pc organization in the US, and more broadly, 
an upgrading of what holding a PDC certificate means. Jedd made some excellent 
points, and as he suggests, there have been a number of attempts to form 
national or large regional membership organizations in the US. They have all 
failed. There were a couple of attempts before I was doing Pc that others can 
speak about, there was PINA (Pc Inst of North America) in the eighties, there is 
the dormant Eastern Permaculture Teachers Association, and there is the 
stillborn Western Permaculture Teachers Association. Principle difficulties have 
been burnout, lack of funding, lack of support, too little time to take on the 
enormous task of organizing, and difficulty in agreeing (or even determining) 
what the organization's function is. There is also a knee-jerk reaction: "Who 
are those people to create an organization?" which gets to the top-down issue. 
Thing is, those who are organizing would be delighted 
 if someone else wanted to do it, but no one does.

Questions need to be answered before the process can begin: 

1. What is the function of the organization? To police teachers and enforce how 
the curriculum is taught, to get accreditation or other clout behind the 
certificate, to offer a clearing house for course resources, to raise money for 
Pc projects, or something else?

2. How will people find the time and money to begin the organizing process? 
We're all busy, so how do we make time to meet? And setting up a non-profit 
takes lawyers, a website, and other things that cost money. Do the original 
organizers just dig into their pockets and pay, and take time away from other 
projects that may be more promising than one more try at organizing? (I shelled 
out a couple hundred bucks of my own money for WPTA and it's simply gone.)

3. Who gets to organize it? Even the creation of an interim board causes a 
certain amount of resentment among those not on the board. And how do you draw 
committed and talented people to the organizing committee who will stick with 
it? All it took to kill WPTA was for a couple of the organizers to get too busy 
to reply to a couple of critical emails, and the project stalled. You need those 
one or two people who will spearhead and drive something to its end no matter 
what. That really means giving up all your other projects. You must find someone 
willing to make that level of commitment.

4. How are decisions made? As Jedd said, majority rule can mean 49% or more may 
disagree with a decision, and consensus done as a national (non-face-to-face) 
organization would be pretty time consuming.

I can think of lots of other questions. Of course, all of these have been 
answered by the many groups that have formed national organzations, so it makes 
you wonder why permaculturists have been unable or unwilling to do so. I think 
Pc has made a huge amount of progress without one, but I also suspect we'd have 
university-level courses, accreditation, better-funded projects, and a better 
reputation and track record if we did. I agree that some of the inertia has come 
from a lack of trust in organizations, as well as a lack of perceived need. 
Perhaps Pc doesn't attract good organizers, although I don't see how that can be 
the case. Another challenge may be a lack of understanding how (and why) to 
structure a grass-roots, fairly anarchic movement into a national organization. 
But I would support, and even aid, an effort to do so.

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