Permaculture Diploma


This whole design for the Chaordic Institute actually came about as a bi-product of many dialogues of how to improve the Diploma Process.

There later developed a Diploma Group also, as part of this Institute. 

This below is the original proposal, submitted in april 2005, pre-IPC7 (june that year) to some email groups.  This document is the original and includes more details about collective intelligence: 0InstituteDesign.doc

Diploma Process


Essentially we are concerned about:

1) the looming task of supporting an increasing number of people on their diploma pathways,

2) preserving & increasing the professionalism & 'intellectual rigor' of permaculture as a design science

3) the growth of the movement as a healthy (well-designed) community


So we think the design aims are to find:

a) a mini-max method of achieving these three things,

b) that is an elegant solution (lots of fertile connections & multi-functioning things)

c) as well as simple to understand & communicate,

d) uses current infrastructures (including mental ones where possible, like vocabulary), instead of inventing new ones wherever possible

e) doesn´t take great resources to implement and maintain & is, of course,

f) self-regulating and self-resourcing, plus

g) is fully inclusive & chaordic (see characteristics, page1)





The proposal in short is that we design the Permaculture Institute* (main functions being innovation, research & distributing of our collective emergent knowledge) in the same distributed (network) model as the Academy (main function being delivering agreed standards of quality teaching).


That the pre-diplomats are amongst the Investigators of the Institute – this includes their own original work but also can include investigating/documenting the work of others (who already have or are not doing their diploma) which we would all benefit from sharing.


And they share their designs / investigations (if they are new designs, they are also experiments) with the community via the web. This can also become their portfolio, or part of it. So fulfilling several of the criteria for the diploma in one go.


*(This centers on the idea that a virtual Institute actually already exists, as we do (from the start of the permaculture movement) create a lot of collective experimentation, & have a body of knowledge that is growing, fulfilling this function, albeit haphazardly.

Unfortunately tapping into this is an even more haphazard, often privilege-based thing.

What giving it such a grand name does is just make us more conscious of the need to design it consciously and well, because it IS a grand function, and deserves our serious design consideration.

Essentially it is about making more visible and so 'real' and shapeable something that already exists in emerging or embryonic form - a kind of 'designing with nature' or following emerging patterns)




Part of the fee that is paid to enrol with the Academy (to get support for the diploma pathway) is paid to administer this Institute (which will be virtually centralized only for it’s collection and distribution - admin - functions, but geographically based in any project / community / balcony etc. where the designs & research are being carried out, and supported by the Diploma Work-Net structure of tutors, the peer support groups, etc.).


In this way anyone can have access to the research being carried out by their colleagues, more or less as it is being made, all over.

This is how collective intelligence & organizational learning flourishes.





The administrator/s are anyone with good Internet knowledge, so no need to oblige people to learn these skills themselves (although hopefully it will encourage them to - and wikis and blogs are making this increasingly easier now). They just need to find ways to send their work to the/se admin person/s.


The diploma vision support groups are still the basic unit of support, this just adds the wider sharing dimension which facilitates the assessment by the tutors + all the added benefits of having an Permaculture Institute on line.





We think this will give some structure to the presentation (and certainly distribution) of the excellent but very dispersed diploma work which is being done (& often tragically not being done, & simply for lack of support structures), and encouragement & practical support in documenting & sharing it. ESPECIALLY, it needs to be shared more widely.


It will be easy for people thinking of starting on their diploma pathway to see many examples of work in progress, as well as 'faces' of their colleagues doing this work (whom they will be able to easily contact if they want to collaborate). Plus of course make it possible to assess where the untapped niches are.


It also makes it a lot easier for the diplomats to follow & assess the work of many people on their diploma pathway (which is a main current worry for me - this design was initially inspired by self-preservation concerns*, and has so far been met with enthusiasm & shaped with the diploma students and close colleagues here in Spain).


It would also help in giving even more credibility to the peer assessment structure of the diploma. I think it will also inspire, guide and create community - as well as more and increasingly better quality diploma-work.


  • (as one of the few spanish-speaking diplomats, I simply can´t cope with the number of people who want diploma support & assessment here in Spain, if we do it in the orthodox way, and I have no wish to delay the process for anyone. WE NEED A BETTER DESIGN.

But it was also inspired by noticing a worrying tendency to want to call quite ordinary (not to mention non-existent: my last course students wanted to set one up!) permaculture projects, permaculture 'Institutes', just because there is also some training going on: there IS an important connection between the functions of an academy and an institute, but it can be a great disservice to both to blur those functions, I think)


feedback needed, wanted & very welcome.





If any such project is going to work, it needs to be truly something that has been co-designed by the permaculture community.


How do we do that?


No idea! But probably "very slowly" and gently is a good basic guiding principle.

Give the process time to self-organize as much as possible.


A good start is to invite ANYONE who is concerned and interested to take part in the DesignOfPilot group.


Take ownership!!




IPC8 Update

International PermaCulture Convergence in Brasil, 2007


The above was written for IPC7 (Croacia), where we gave a presentation on chaordic organizations.


This was after about a year of occasional dialogue about this idea with various colleagues, during which we were trying to think, mainly, of how to re-design the diploma process so that it be practically doable with only a few (and very busy) diplomats in our country (it had never taken off, and there were many complaints).


A few months before IPC7 we presented this draft design idea to the email lists of UK permalearners and the Red Iberica de PermaCultura, in Spain. There was some interest, but we realized that it was difficult to understand because hardly anyone had heard of chaordic organizations. So instead of presenting this pilot project, we back-tracked a bit and did a basic talk on the underlying organizational design principles.


Proposal written up by Stella (with the Nodo Espiral España of the PC Academy)



IPC9 Update


Started documenting in jan08, a basic observation excercise of compiling info of all different PC diploma info - see DiplomaGroup page.


In may09 Gaia University with Appleseed Permaculture, Peninsula Permaculture and the Regenerative Design Institute started co-ordinating around a shared diploma system - documented here:

Waiting to see whether this (mainly US-based) collaboration is open to incorporating the proposal above, and in the meantime moving onwards


The Chaordic PC Institute design came about originally as a result of dialogues about the DiplomaProcess .. so here is a call for a Diploma Group to make more available and explicit the continuing thinking on this subject.   DO join the group at any time if you're interested in developing this action-research topic.   Participated so far: SteveR from France, Tomas from the UK, Leo from the Netherlands, Stella from Spain, Grifen from Chile, + a few anonymous donors of information on the  Diploma Systems list .. thanks! add your name here .....