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Why I would include this subject.

Sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities are mutually inseparable; we cannot have one without the other.

In designing sustainable systems we will undertake careful observation of a site, noting such things as existing resources and what is working well already. In the same way we can observe and study existing and past communities, searching for clues, resources or patterns which we may use in the modification of existing communities or the design of new ones.

In my experience, topics relating to Peoplecare can be limited and fluffy, relying on personal experience alone or anecdotes; Community Patterning provides a very objective and tangible way of approaching or working with the ethic.



This topic can be usefully taught in the second half of a design course. Some prior experience and understanding of patterning in earthcare systems is useful to demonstrate the similarities of approach, the fuzzy nature of the two sets (earthcare and peoplecare) and the use of patterning as a linking discipline.


Guide to session duration.

Approximately 90 minutes allowing for swapping time (2*2) at the start and probably twice during the session with review/feedback (roughly 5-10 minutes) at the conclusion of the session.


How I teach this topic.

I have a pattern relating to the session

I lead the group through an examination of the connections within a fairly traditional British community of say 100 years ago.

I use a combination of presentation and collation with the group to generate the pattern on a black or white board. Additional points that arise during the session can be included if the group consider them relevant. I begin by drawing a large circle to represent the community in a broad sense and then add the keywords to the circle as they are generated by the group.

I find it helpful to be clear that I am asking for examples of community events or activities which draw members of that community together and that we are thinking of a historical community.

The essential point made here is that a community exists in the minds and activities of its members. Each activity which draws together members of the community will reinforce the experience of community. The experience of community may be felt as creative and beneficial or as a destructive and negative. As Permaculture designers we would seek to maximise activities which reinforce in a positive way.

We then consider which connecting activities have been lost or degraded. We swap time (2*2) on this first then mark the changes on the pattern.

We then consider how, as designer's, we can design new connecting activities into existing or new communities. We swap time (2*2) on this first and generate a new pattern which will include elements from the first pattern.

In summary, we identifying the traditional connections within a community, notice which modern culture has removed or damaged and move on to consider how to re-energise degraded connections or create new activities which can provide alternative connecting points (such as box veg, LETS etc.).


Link to ethics and principles

Earthcare. As with ecosystems, it is the connections between diverse elements within a system which are important to sustainability rather than just diversity alone.

Peoplecare. Patterning as a linking concept with broad applicability in holistic design and thinking.

Work with nature, not against it. In the same way as we may apply careful observation to land based systems followed by steering in an increasingly productive direction. Humans are, by their very nature, cooperative and tend to live in communities.


Agenda 21.

Strong connections with LA 21 in general.


Design exercises/group activities.

Brainstorming of community connections with collation of the resulting information on black or white board. The collator can be the topic teacher or a student with the help of the topic teacher.


Mind Map summary/flow chart

The pattern is the map of the session on the community pattern.

At the end of the session I make a point of being obvious about adding new information to my original pattern. The mind map/session plan is thus an ongoing process subject to review.


Living examples.

I begin by saying how the bulk of this work has been developed from the observation of and interaction with the traditional local communities of the Mawddach estuary, in particular Abergeirw. I am indebted here to many members of that community, Nesta Wyn Jones in particular. Remnants of traditional patterning can be found throughout Britain. We may also include tribal systems and prehistoric evidence.

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