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Permaculture and the Art of Hosting Online Communities

on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 12:24


Permaculture design principles

David Holmgren has developed 12 fundamental principles of design, which may be understood as cognitive tools, meant to be applied through creative interaction with the world in an attempt to develop more holistic, healthy, and balanced social and ecological systems.

1. Observe and interact - By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
2. Catch and store energy - By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
3. Obtain a yield - Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback - We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services - Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.
6. Produce no waste - By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
7. Design from patterns to details - By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
8. Integrate rather than segregate - By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
9. Use small and slow solutions - Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
10. Use and value diversity - Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
11. Use edges and value the marginal - The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
12. Creatively use and respond to change - We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

-- excerpt from: Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

Using permaculture principles for cultivating online communities and social networks

1. Observe successful patterns, as well as opportunities for improvement in the interactions of key players of a situation or a social field.
2. Develop minimalist seed content.
3. Obtain useful feedback and involvement from early users through generative interviews.
4. Apply self-regulation by facilitating the adoption of network covenant and netiquette.
5. Make the best use of the affordances of social and electronic technologies to reduce our dependence on obsolete modes of organizing.
6. Prevent waste of valuable content and conversations, by tagging them for easier future retrieval.
7. Design from architecture to details. Identify the main domains of network architecture (e.g.: social, learning, technological, business) and observe their inter-relatedness. They form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
8. Integrate rather than segregate. Provide integrative tools and methods for relationships to develop and for different parts of the whole work together and support each other.
9. Use small interventions. Small interventions can attract faster feedback and learning, make better use of local insights and inspiration.
10. Use and value diversity. Diversity in the ecosystem of relationships, ideas, and projects reduces their vulnerability to drying out and withering,
11. Use and value edges. The interface between various groups and communities of the network is where innovation frequently takes place.
12. Design for resilience. Creatively respond to unexpected changes, anticipate the impact of looming changes, and create attractors for positive, non-linear changes.

I acknowledge my gratitude to David Holmgren for the deep work that unearthed so foundational principles that, with a little re-framing, they can be applied to the cultivation of social networks, online communities, and knowledge commons as well as to land and natural resources.

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