Form follows function

Hello all.

Modern permaculture is a system design tool. It is a way of looking at a whole system or problem, observing how the parts relate, planning to mend sick systems, and seeing connections between key parts. In permaculture, practitioners learn from the working systems of nature to plan to fix damaged human systems.

This thinking applies to the design of an organisation as easily as it does to the re-design of a farm.

Firmaculture is the application of permaculture systems design to business.

Solutions tend to evolve from strategies that focus on efficiency (eg – more controlled uses of inputs and minimization of waste), to substitution (eg – from more to less disruptive interventions), to redesign (eg – fundamental changes in the design and management of the organisation).

Firmaculture is about helping business leaders make redesign choices – setting new goals, and adopting a shift in thinking that affects not only their business, but their actions in the community, at home and as an individual.

This progression generally involves a shift in the nature of one’s dependence. From relying primarily on imported technology-based interventions, to more locally available knowledge and skill-based ones.

This usually eventually also involves fundamental shifts in world-views, senses of meaning, and associated lifestyles.

Firmaculture is a broad-based and holistic approach that has many applications to all aspects of business.  At the heart of permaculture design and practice is a fundamental set of ‘core values’ or ethics which remain constant whatever a person’s situation – whether they are creating systems for town planning or trade; whether the land they care for is only a windowbox or an entire forest.

These ‘ethics’ are often summarized as –

Earthcare – recognising that Earth is the source of all life , and that Earth is our valuable home and that we are a part of Earth, not apart from it.

Peoplecare – supporting and helping each other to change to ways of living that do not harm ourselves or the planet, and to develop healthy societies.

Fairshare (or placing limits on consumption) – ensuring that Earth’s limited resources are used in ways that are equitable and wise.

Modern thought about permaculture began with the issue of sustainable food production. It started with the belief that for people to feed themselves sustainably, they need to move away from reliance on industrialized agriculture. Where industrial farms use technology powered by fossil fuels and each farm specializes in producing high yields of a single crop, permaculture stresses the value of low inputs and diverse crops.

The core of permaculture has always been in supplying a design toolkit for human habitation. This toolkit helps the designer to model a final design based on an observation of how ecosystems interact.  One of the innovations of permaculture design was to appreciate the efficiency and productivity of natural ecosystems, to use natural energies (wind, gravity, solar, fire, wave and more) and seek to apply this to the way human needs for food and shelter are met.

OBREDIM design methodology.

OBREDIM is an acronym for observation, boundaries, resources, evaluation, design, implementation and maintenance.

Observation allows you first to see how an organisation functions within itself to gain an understanding of its initial relationships.

Boundaries refer to physical ones as well as to those corporate governance and Government legislation might place, for example.

Resources include the people involved, funding, as well as what can be produced.

Evaluation of the first three will then allow one to prepare for the next three. This is a careful phase of taking stock of what is at hand to work with.

Design is a creative and intensive process and must stretch the ability to see possible future synergetic relationships.

Implementation is literally the ground-breaking part of the process when the re-shaping of the organisation occurs.

Maintenance is then required to keep the site at a healthy optimum, making minor adjustments as necessary.

Good design will preclude the need for any major adjustment.

The use of patterns both in nature and reusable patterns from other sites is often key to permaculture design. This echoes the Pattern language of Christopher Alexander used in architecture which has been an inspiration for many permaculture designers. All things, even the wind, the waves and the earth on its axis, moving around the Sun, form patterns. In pattern application, permaculture designers are encouraged to develop Awareness of the patterns that exist in nature (and how these function) and Application of pattern on sites in order to satisfy specific design needs.

Also key to the Firmaculturel design model is that useful connections are made between components in the final design. The formal analogy for this is a natural mature ecosystem. So, in much the same way as there are useful connections between Sun, plants, insects and soil there will be useful connections between different people and their relationship to the organisation and partners and customers.

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