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#Permaculture as a form of #governance: initial ideas

I think you will spend 133 seconds reading this post

I’ve been circling (!) into governance ideas (Holacracy, Sociocracy and Sociocracy 3.0) and Permaculture, recently. My takes on these are:

  • Holacracy is well structured but quite complicated to implement
  • Sociocracy is way simpler but leaves initial practitioner with a blank page syndrom making them needing to reinvent most of their work
  • Sociocracy 3.0 is modulable but complex to start with

And then I pondered recently on permaculture and management, and then onto governance and sociocracy, and discovered that you could use permaculture for governance (with bits of consent and circles inside, and double-linking and elections without candidates being nice additions). I still haven’t had the time to detail my ideas, but it mostly goes like this:

  • planning could use the OBREDIM (observation, borders, resources, evaluation, design, implementation, maintenance) permaculture design approach to structure issues
  • the circles (and sub-circles) are thought along the line of permaculture zoning like below. This also goes for analyzing issues and ensuring they’re properly contributing to the organizational ecosystem they belong to:

    • 0 = you,
    • 1 = the circle
    • 2 = the community/organization
    • 3 = the wider environment/ecosystem/bioregion where the organization resides
    • 4 = the nation
    • 5 = the world/Earth
  • governance could benefit from the seven levels, with the following correspondance :
    1. canopy: strategy definition
    2. low trees: roadmaps, tactics, policies
    3. shrubs: operational stuff: projects and actions
    4. herbaceous: nutrients: what are the recurring resources that will feed the circle?
    5. rhizosphere (roots): digestion: how can learning be reinjected into the organizational culture?
    6. soil surface (ground cover): protection: how can we maintain and preserve our culture (all the while nourishing it)?
    7. vertical layer (vines): interconnections with other levels and circles
  • and synchronization meetings (triage in Holacracy) or action planning benefit from the 12 principles to ensure the actions contribute the most effectively to the organization (do you create no waste? do you tap into renewable energy from people (ie in their strengths, not aside from then, etc. See my other posts on that)

That’s mostly it! When decisions need to be taken, you resort to consent after having clarified the issue using OBREDIM at all relevant levels (plants don’t achieve consensus, their behaviors mostly resemble consent to me). Elections are without candidates (plants don’t propose themselves, they each interact and structural coupling make some stand up given the local conditions). Circles are double-linked because it increases the communication channel variety through which complexity can express itself (the complexity is at most that of the communication channel). And of course a circle is the local ecosystem around a specific topic.

That way of organizing stuff also embeds elements from Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model. But I’ll let that proof as an exercise for the reader 😉

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Also published on Medium.

  • fisher

    Hi Nicolas – where is Liberating Structures in your metaphorical ecology? I love the detail you’ve given to the articulating each of the elements of the permaculture and its role. The way you described ground cover reminded me of how Joanna Macy refers to three stances within any movement: How does your movement protect and hold onto what’s important? How does it resist countervailing forces? And how is it inventing new structures that advance the work & it’s purpose? Taking the local food movement for instance: How are you protecting and holding onto the existing local food resources and producers? How are you resisting the commodification of the local food movement and threats across the panarchy (from culture to soil disease)? What new structures are you inventing to develop and advance the local food movement in your community?

    • Hi Fisher,
      Those are interesting questions. The proposed framework doesn’t provide answers to your questions. It just reminds you to ask yourself these.

      My latest version goes as this:
      – canopy : OBRE (observation, borders, resources (including people strengths) and evaluation against the aims as defined by the upper circle)
      – small trees: Design
      – bushes: Implementation
      – herbaceous (Nutrients, cover (Protection), roots (Composition with soil), vine (feedbacK) (can you read NPK + C, basic plant nutriments?) are for the Maintenance

      As for Liberating Structures, it’s not inside, sorry. But it’s in my own facilitation genes when I need to facilitate a big group of people.

  • Bangalaurent

    Hello Nicolas,
    tu ne voudrais nous faire le don de cet article dans Rupture Douce 04 ? 😉 (en français).
    Comme tu le sais, nous sommes plusieurs dans la communauté agile à nous plonger dans la permaculture, y trouver les liens, etc comme tu le proposes dans ton post.
    Cheers, Laurent S.

    • Bonjour Laurent
      Comme dit sur Twitter j’ai bien avancé dernièrement sur la description (cf. mise à jour en anglais ci-dessus). Une vraie petite constitution (mais je décris la sociocracy également). Ca fait 10 pages sous Word…
      Si tu es intéressé, préviens moi 🙂 Mais oui, je veux bien partager ces informations en OS (et mes 10 pages sont en français)… par contre, ce n’a pas encore été testé (le but c’est de l’utiliser pour la gouvernance de l’association créée pour gérer le potager (en perma) que j’ai fait créé sur notre pelouse au boulot).

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