I recently completed a 6-week better-than-free online course hosted by 'Renaissance University' and would like to share my key learning points with you.
When I saw the course advertised I was interested because it included group organisation coordination which I have realised is absolutely vital to any well intentioned project being a success. Having travelled around visiting a wide range of Permaculture or Regenerative projects over the last few years, my observations have been that it is always the social coordination that is the greatest challenge. (I don't need to point out that avoiding group organisation isn't going to work, do I?) We can be too focused on the doing without first setting out our holistic intentions and reflecting on how we do the much needed work.
We all have ingrained ways of being and relating to others and ourselves that come from the dominant culture. However, trying to create a better world whilst using our old ways and old culture is going to be a struggle. We need to utilise a new set of tools such as horizontal organisation and non-violent communication, to give our work a better chance at success. Learning to use the new tools is not going to be easy at first but in the long run we stand a better chance at creating a new culture that will lead to a truly better world. If we continue to suppress our emotions, communicate poorly and use hierarchical structures any world we are heading towards will still have our deeply entrenched problems.
So it was from this train of thought that I pursued training in group organisation. I have been trying to find real-life examples of projects living out this same philosophy, as I find learning through experience to be much easier, but my path hasn't yet led me to one (I remain in hope that some do exist). This course was a very good overview to the vast world of regeneration, of which Permaculture can be said to be just one element. Overall, it was heavily focussed on the technology side of the 'tools' we need to regenerate ourselves, societies and our ecosystem.
Permaculture design mostly focuses on the more practical skills that help us to direct our choices of how we impact our ecosystem. I have found great help from applying Permaculture principles more widely, for example applying them to my personal life and relationships (highly recommend Looby MacNamara's 'People and Permaculture'), however most people focus on applying Permaculture to their exterior physical environment. Hence this course was a good complement to those skills. I believe in the value of having a wide, general skill set, so was very open to learning more about computer based tools that would complement my practical, land based skills.
The topics covered on the course included:
If you are a keen tech person, with an interest in using it for good, this is definitely the course for you. It combines brief topic summaries and extensive reading lists with inspirational guest speakers which helps you to identify which of the many exciting innovations in this field you want to explore further. For those of us not so literate in tech language, it's an eye opener!
I personally found the session on 'Horizontal leadership' and 'Teal structures' particularly inspiring because other than my own preference for working in flat team environments, I haven't seen any evidence that it was a possible option. Co-operative ownership is another aspect which we are more familiar with, especially in the North, however it doesn't explicitly determine the internal structure. I find what Samantha Slade ('Going Horizontal') says about our natural way of living being horizontal and hence so should our work environments to be very true! No one tells us how to live outside of work, we choose.
Also, the digital tools session was very useful as I have often thought that in groups we can take a long time to discuss something - as simple as when to arrange the next meeting - for a long time when a simple tool would help us find the common answer much quicker (Try Doodle next time!). There are fantastic websites being created to help us to organise more efficiently - what a blessing! Great examples include Hylo - a collaboration platform, Loomio - for decision making, and Polis - for digital democracy.
The course was sponsored by 'Seeds' (an establishing ethical crypto currency). Money is something that we personally need to create new relationships with. We need to realise that it is just a tool and we can choose to use it for good. It was great to hear about new start-ups aiming to use crypto-currency to bring about new economies. There are even multiple organisations trying to establish crypto-based Universal Basic Income - how brilliant would that be! After the session on regenerative money I spoke with a friend who pointed out that the idea of decentralised money has been around for a long time, with credit unions and the like, however where they struggled was with the administration so these new computer based currencies may well solve those problems and really bring about bigger change. I look forward to the day that I can use a decentralised currency in my everyday life and would love to be an early adopter however they had better make it easy for non-tech savvy folk!
I hope this brief summary has given even a bit of inspiration. If you want to read more about the subjects discussed there is a wealth of relevant information at wiki.renaissance.university. For anyone interested in joining the next course, you can sign up to the waitlist at dandelion.earth/events/.
If you are as interested as I am in how we collaborate for regeneration and create new working cultures, please do get in touch at nicola.talbot91(at)gmail.com