How can we improve the practice and reputation of permaculture? How can we make Permaculture Australia a viable and vital organisation to do this?
When I joined the management team of Permaculture International Ltd — the organisation that is now becoming Permaculture Australia — for the second time, little was happening. The members of the team were there mainly to hold the organisation to enable it to continue its existing and important work in Accredited Permaculture Training and Permafund, the organisation's fund raising arm that distributes small amounts of money to permaculture projects.
Here, my background in journalism and in voluntary community groups came in handy as I worked with others on setting up a website, email distribution list and communications strategy for the organisation. I had the gut feeling that this was a worthwhile project because permaculture had found itself without a voice — mute — after the Permaculture International Journal had ceased publication. There was no way to network permaculture practitioners across the country. Clearly, something had to be done.
In the late Spring of 2010, enthusiastic participants at a permaculture convergence voted to move forward on the existing idea of morphing Permaculture International Ltd into Permaculture Australia. Since that time the management team has been working on this.
I'm no longer a member of the management team but I've tried to keep in touch with the changes underway. Reinventing the organisation has been a drawn out process, as these things are, and there is much road yet to travel.
The April 2012 meeting of Permaculture Australia planned for Bondi, in Sydney, offers us what is perhaps a one-off opportunity to reinvent Permaculture Australia as a leading organisation for the permaculture design system in Australia. That can be done by creating small, task-oriented, open, semi-autonomous teams. Democratic and convivial team participation is the way we all have the chance to make our own contribution.
What does a team member do? They work with others to make something new and worthwhile, to contribute according to their knowledge and skills — sure there's work, and we do that in the time we have available. Done well, doing this is convivial and satisfying and it gains the recognition of our contribution by our peers.
The Sydney meetup offers those with vision the possibility of creating a type of organisation that can work with its members and the wider permaculture milieu to improve the practice and reputation of the permaculture design system.
I think this is a worthwhile opportunity to reinvent a worthwhile organisation, don't you?
So, what is to be done to make this happen?
Permaculture has adopted rather conventional structures for the organisations it creates, however my contact with people working in and writing about organisations has made it clear to me that there are viable, alternative paths to organisational effectiveness. I put some of those ideas together into a small book:
The coming April 2013 meetup of Permaculture Australia people gives us the opportunity to collaborate in the reinvention of the organisation, to move towards that viable and vital organisation I mentioned at the start of this story. It is an opportunity that may be the only one of its kind, a one-off opportunity for reinvention. Why? Because at some time in their trajectory, organisations based largely on voluntarism become tired. They need new people with truly new ideas to become inspired. If they do not do this, they are likely to become expired.
What's the next step?
First, if you haven't done so, become a Permaculture Australia member. See:
Next, set aside April and look up the Bondi Beach bus timetable so that you arrive on time.
See you there.