Designing the programme for the Permaculture Scotland Convergence – a reflection on what can grow from a seed

This is an example of what really can grow from a seed!!

In January 2013 I offered to help with the organisation of the Permaculture Scotland Convergence, offering myself up to take care of/organise the programme. I did this without really planning it through, or giving  much thought about how I would do this.

All I can say is that I knew I had to take this on, and I trusted I would be supported to complete the task well. I had no fear or apprehension that it wouldn’t all work out, in fact I was absolutely certain that it would. Don’t ask me why I had this certainty, this confidence or these feelings, it was just one of those occasions where my intuition told me it would be so, and I followed my intuition.

And what a journey it turned out to be!  A great opening of new horizons, fantastic learning experience, a joyful road-trip and a brilliant way for me to meet so many inspiring, creative and lovely people. I never realised just how much time it would take though..

Having not done a design on paper, as such (although the planning group had done lots of work prior to me getting on board), I just plunged right in,  with the help of a list of potential speakers, which had been brainstormed and compiled by the working group, and I also had the ongoing support of Lusi Alderslowe. I allowed synchronicity, knowledgable people, intuition, chance conversations and recommendations to guide and support me along the way.

I was overwhelmed by the response from potential workshop leaders;  the eagerness, the dedication, the creativeness, the knowledge base and the sheer amount of skilled people who are ‘out there’ doing their own thing with such commitment and passion, and they were all willing to come along and share their experiences. My role was positively easy with such a great group of people to liaise with.

Most of the communicating was done via the internet, however, I got a real sense of folks passion, their kindness, their compassion, their empathy, their eagerness to share, along with a general feel good element to most of the communications. I felt like I knew  these people, before I even met them. Which was a no bad thing for me, as up until I had offered myself up for this role I had very little face to face contacts in the permaculture circles here in Scotland, or elsewhere in the UK.

I was a novice in terms of permaculture, to say the least. I still am, but at least now I have had the good fortune to have met most of the workshop leaders personally, and to have participated at the Permaculture Scotland Convergence.

The ‘design’ (at least my part in the bigger picture)  was a constant work in progress guided by ongoing observation. Each new step taken seeming to propel me towards another offer or opportunity, or another seed being planted and bridges being made. There was real feeling and display of interconnectedness, not just between the permaculture community in Scotland, but also by the demonstrations of the way the information travelled amongst a wide and diverse group of people, almost effortlessly (although it must be said that we all worked very hard, in our respective roles)

One workshop leader after another led me to someone else, or towards some innovative idea, sometimes unconsciously and other times by directly guiding me in the right direction. Others inspired me to think outside of the box, to follow the leads with wild abandon (this is my way of telling the story anyway 🙂 And by offering up the least resistance I was supported, carried and inspired  in the true sense of the word. Organically, it seemed, the programme was unfolding in front of my eyes, and forming something tangible, special and incredible.

Before the event I wrote a piece about looking at the Convergence through the lens of David Holmgrens principles:  http://wp.me/p3hMCU-9E this blog was definitely written or guided by the inspiration of all that was happening to and around me at the time.

I have just re-read it and I almost feel it wasn’t me who wrote it, so I wonder where the words came from!!  After all I was working all hours of the day, was also in the middle of moving home, had visitors in my house on an almost constant basis and I was totally and utterly shattered. But I read the blog and I am perplexed!!  It is like when writers say they didn’t write the book, they were just the vehicle through which the book was written. This would be a great way for me to explain the organising of the programme (and the writing of that blog) I was purely the vehicle or conduit through which the programme manifested, almost miraculously, and I am not exaggerating.

I’ve still not had time to write-up the planning of the programme as a retrospective design, which I plan to do, but I think much of it is self-explanatory in terms of permaculture in action, on all levels.

permaculture convergence

Here are just some of the things I learned, observed and was fed-back via the workshop leaders themselves:

Observe and Interact

Through observing what was already in place and what was required when I came on board my job was made much easier. By interacting with the right people (guided by the Permaculture Scotland Working group) I was led in the best direction at all times, resulting in an effortless and easy journey.

Observation at the event also led to an understanding of how things could be improved for future events, and also demonstrated what worked well.

Catch & store energy

Again, workshop leaders were full of energy, willing to share and offer advice whilst also pointing me in the direction of other possible workshops, or by passing on the information to others that we were on the look out for ideas. By not forcing anything there was an organic and natural progression leading to the ‘best’ possible outcome given all the variables.

Individually it helped that all the working group members were focussing on their areas of work/interest, applying their skills and energy, which came together to create a rounded and well thought out event.

Obtain a yield

For me there were many yields, to many to mention here, but I was right to follow my intuition and faith that the yields would be abundant.

Yields are interchangeable, and always go two ways, at least. I think we all benefited from the experience, that is some amazing yield.

Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

I had to remind myself several times that my role was in putting together the programme, I have a tendency to want to take on all aspects of organising events, or anything else I am involved in.

The feedback came in various forms and all of it was positive, even the suggestions of how we or I could do things better in the future. We need to be open to hearing the feedback at all times, otherwise we miss opportunities to build connections and broaden our horizons.

Use and value renewable sources

There were so many valuable renewable resources and making use of them came easy as people were so willing to share, on every level. The infrastructure for a Permaculture Scotland Convergence was all there, just waiting to manifest, all it needed was some gentle persuasion and the floodgates opened.

Produce no waste

Nothing was wasted in my opinion, it was all one big learning experience, for everyone concerned, how we use that learning is the important thing

Design from patterns to detail

This is the only way to design, it makes life so much easier, and truly does allow a more natural ‘going with the flow’ experience

Integrate rather than segregate

I thought it worked really well having workshops which brought in new aspects or ideas towards what is traditionally known as permaculture. Opening up to new experiences seemed to enrich the whole design, and all of the workshops were well attended.

Use small and slow solutions

I took a step by step approach, while retaining a bigger and more holistic picture in my head, but nothing was set in stone. I had no preconceived ideas of how the final programme would look, apart from it being the best one that I could come up with, and the one that transpired via the enthusiasm of those wishing to offer their skills. The whole process was a slow and small solution to find the larger picture, it worked for me.

Use and value diversity

The diverse skills, backgrounds, interests and knowledge base of the workshop leaders led to an exciting, creative and inspiring overall programme. Again, I had no fixed ideas, I just went with the leads given and followed the path, which took me down a diverse and interesting route

Use and value edges and the marginal

I consider myself to have been on the edges of permaculture when I entered into the agreement of organising the programme, but I knew I had other skills which would compliment and assist the work I was taking on. I believe that because I was more on the ‘edge’ and I had no (or not much) prior knowledge of the possible workshop leaders, so therefore no value judgements, I was led more by intuition and blind faith. Which resulted in new people getting involved and the opening of the circle, so to speak.

So many people involved in permaculture are used to valuing the edges and the marginal, which again made my job so much easier. 

Creatively use and respond to change

When one workshop leader couldn’t make it, another one always came along to fill the place, the changes just meant that things worked out differently, and it was never the case of better or worse. The changes that happened at the event in terms of workshop venues caused a bit of chaos, we need to learn from that

🙂

I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be part of something so much larger than myself, which opened up my awareness on a great many levels. It truly was a joy filled experience for me, and inspired me in more ways than I could ever have hoped for.

I would like to say great big thank you to everyone who made my journey so smooth and supported. I am filled with gratitude.

Until the next time!!

Tracey Hay

August 2013