While I was reading that excellent french introduction to P2P on the P2P Foundation website (it’s old but very interesting nonetheless), I remembered my own thinking around permaculture and efficiency or management.
And so it occurred to me that both permaculture and P2P interactions could work hand in hand. Indeed, as I think people need to be trained or at least showed how P2P interactions are easy, the 12 permaculture principles could well be a list of patterns or a roadmap to foster that Peer Production or at least the development of more recurrent and fruitful P2P interactions.
Indeed, we could even just start with the 3 ethics of Permaculture:
- Earth Care: in the context of P2P, it would be the results of peer production, that is, the Commons. Respect what’s been done previously: it had a reason to exist, and we can only build on top of it. And even if we don’t, it framed people’s current mental models, and so we must bear with the consequences and take these into consideration for our own creation.
- People Care: self explanatory; to better interact with people we have to be as respectful to their ideas as we are keen to promoting ours. In Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline”, it is explained as Bohm’s Dialog: “balance advocacy and inquiry” and “suspend your beliefs” (both in the sense of 1) refraining from letting your judgement be altered by your preconceptions and 2) exposing your beliefs for others to consider and take into consideration).
- Fair Share: whatever you co-create, use it and share the rest for others to re-use and build upon. That’s how civilizations are created.
That was the easy part, and you can probably only go with these 3. The 12 permaculture principles below are an elaboration of the 3 ethics. More practical principles if you need something more concrete to apply.
IMHO the reason these 12 agricultural principles seem to work so well is because they are precisely just this: principles applying to a system (nature and agriculture as they are). And because systems thinking is transdisciplinary, they can be quite easily transposed into different realms (like I did in management or efficiency – besides, what I propose below is just a generalization of my thinking on efficiency and better social teleogical interactions [social interactions toward a goal] which we’ve packages into the Labso with my peer Alexis Nicolas).
Also, should you need to explain to starting Holacracy or Sociocracy communities how employees should behave with one another for the cultural change to flourish, it might be a good recipe: more emotionally and metaphorically loaded than a bloated constitution (Holacracy) or 4 rough naked principles (Sociocracy).
Here’s my list of the 12 permaculture principles adapted toward fostering flourishing P2P interactions:
- OBSERVE & INTERACT – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The best way to accustom yourself to someone else or to a pre-existing group is to observe and interact without trying to actively interfere with the group. Feel the rhythm and get used to the beat before entering the dance floor.
- CATCH & STORE ENERGY – “Make hay while the sun shines.” Don’t spoil your energy, nor that of others. P2P interactions should make the best use of energy and better yet, capture the environmental energy (that out of the Commons as I said above with the 3 ethics) in order to reuse it later. That energy may be in the form of peers wanting to contribute, meaning which can be leveraged to fuel a new project, ideas in the air waiting to coalesce into something bigger and thicker…
- OBTAIN A YIELD – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Whatever you want to collaborate on, it needs to produce something, because 1) you need to be able to (at least partly) live on it and 2) that very production is what will motivate your peers to continue. Idealized vision are a must to start, but they evaporate quickly with time unless concrete results can sustain the momentum.
- APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” P2P is not lonely work. For the collaboration to work, the group must accept internal 1:1 exchanges between its members so they can coordinate among themselves and people self-correct when they feel their interactions aren’t inducing the best results for the other peers as individuals and for the group as a whole. But for that internal balance to exist, people must provide and accept (respectful) feedback.
- USE & VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES & SERVICES – “Let nature take its course.” Avoid producing one-off artefacts. Build Commons that can be reused by others. Make them flexible, easy to dismount and remount differently, easy to compose with others’ own artefacts.
- PRODUCE NO WASTE – “Waste not, want not. A stitch in time saves nine.” Waste is that which doesn’t bring value to others. When you create waste, you loose support from others and you work against your own group of peers, because it will go against the energy they’re trying to invest. It will clog your interactions, grind the creative process and eat all your (individual and collective) energy for nothing. Don’t do that.
- DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS – “Can’t see the wood for the trees.” Lay down the general principles, which are more intellectual and high level but also more flexible and around which you can more easily exchange, interact and adapt. It’s easier to mold an idea than to rebuild a physical gizmo. Yet balance that with #3: obtain a yield. The global idea is best tackled with the whole group when the details can be addressed in smaller subgroups or even by individuals acting for the benefit of the whole.
- INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – “Many hands make light work.” To avoid centrifugal forces, seek to weave links rather than erect barriers. Search for what’s similar and what’s similar inside the differences instead of focusing on the sole differences. Constantly reweave the group together with similarities and connections between ideas and people. Don’t let differences and dissimilarities tear you apart from one another. It’s a natural step for the mind to spot differences (I’ve started to write about that in my book) so you need to pay special attention against it.
- USE SMALL & SLOW SOLUTIONS – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Although we’re a lot wanting to change the world, it all starts with small steps. They also are the best way to coordinate with one another and let people enough time to chew on new ideas and adapt to them. Slowly build a robust small foundation rather than a hasty big fragile one that will crumble under pressure later on.
- USE & VALUE DIVERSITY – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The best group is composed of diverse people with various perspectives. It ensures resilience, innovation, constant (individual) energy access, etc. Uniformity, just like in Nature, is prone to diseases and thus failure.
- USE EDGES & VALUE THE MARGINAL – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.” What’s on the border is what’s more likely to be different. It mixes the internal (who the group is) with the external (what the environment needs, calls for, provides…) Edgers are better armed to provide that diversity (see previous point) to the group and allow it to evolve as best as possible along with its environment (provided the group accepts feedback, see #4). Make as many people edgers as you can. Interview them, find what makes them different because of hidden edges they have (untapped potential, skills, talents), then make these edges explicit and weave those with what’s the group is doing. Yes, that would mean a sort of community manager for the real physical world. Or peer-ify that and ensure people regularly do that to one another.
- CREATIVELY USE & RESPOND TO CHANGE – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” And that’s the corollary of all that preceded: learn to recognize the need for change when you meet it, whether it comes from the outside environment, from the edges or from deeper inside. Be purposeful and stick to your values, but don’t rigidify so as to break when it would have been better to pivot and change gears.