Project: The main focuses of my year


The aim of this section is to set the scene for the context of this learning review - why I began this journey with Gaia University, what projects I have been involved with, the output work I have undertaken and an action learning pathway diagram to illustrate how these lay within the chronological pattern of the turning of the year.

Introducing my Pathway

Why Gaia University?

My year of action learning began in August 2011 just after the pagan festival of Lammas. I had come to Gaia University after a number of years of study with the Open University complimented by permaculture, horticulture and self-directed radical social and ecological education.

I had reached the 'point of no return' in investing time & energy into assignments that no one except my tutor read, which distracted from my organising and desire to live a land-based life. This year with Gaia University has been one of the most intense of my life; a rollercoaster of action, reflection and design. I hope this output report does justice for a year of such fertile growth.

My aims for the year

In my learning intentions and pathway design, my aims for the year were these:

  • To explore the areas of interest I am passionate about and help me to learn which is my most effective path
  • To develop my base skill flexes
  • To design a livelihood & portfolio to make myself more financially resilient for the near future and to support my future pathway
  • To develop my family's smallholding to its full potential and be an inspiring permaculture demonstration centre e.g. 'get your own house in order'
  • To create a post-license activist strategy that values my energy and uses my skills the best I can to be positive and effective
  • To help me decide my future learning pathway for post-graduate study˛

I perceived my year as a baseline - exploring my options, interests and skill sets with an aim of finding clarity and direction, which I have undoubtedly achieved on a level I never imagined possible.

What were my main projects?

As a passionate community organiser & permaculture practitioner, project work is a dominant thread of my life. With so much organising work undertaken I have aimed to summarise they key projects I have invested energy in this past year, with an illustration of the key outcomes and key learnings from each. This presentation sets the back drop to my learning within the framework of the 5 Ps and aims to give a flavour of my life to the reader.

Please find a link to a presentation on my project work here or view below:


What and how have I learnt?

Below is a diagram to visually illustrate my action learning pathway. In the white circle you will see a list of key learning points - for example courses, gatherings and actions to paint a picture of what was relevant in my life at the time of output creation. Around the outer circle are key words which describe my personal context at the time of the year, with key realisations and focuses. Surrounding the whole is the action learning cycle which was continuous throughout the year. Click here for a large version.


Overview of Outputs

1a: Life & Career Review

Output 1a was my Life & Career Review this process was incredibly moving & empowering as I began to honour all that I had done with my life outside the boxes of formal education. I realised my skills were rich & that my time as a 'drop out' had never been wasted.

1b: Learning Intentions & Pathway Design

Output 1b set my intentions for the year, in the form of output designs, SMART targets and skill flex goals. In relationship to this review I have processed the achievement of these goals in these tables.

3: Designing for Family Resilience

Process: This aim of this output was to create a permaculture design and report for my family's 4 acre smallholding in Somerset, Brook End. The task was to process my full year of observations, questionnaires, research and permaculture knowledge of the past 3 years.

It was an extremely 'head down' output, with a relentlessly scheduled design process that enabled me to produce a massive amount of work for my portfolio and Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design that I am 'stacking' with my Gaia University work.

Key learnings:

  • Stretching my edges of permaculture knowledge in relation to areas such as indoor ecosystems, orchards, kitchen gardens, medicinal resilience, sewage management, biodiversity and more.
  • How holistic the design process really is & how to design as a family.
  • The illusion of self-reliance & need for community based approaches. 
  • A humble awakening of how much there is to learn, always!
  • Large improvement in self/time management due to sheer volume of workload

Key outcomes:

  • Internalising of the design process.
  • Produced a comprehensive design report & implementation plan.
  • Set a realistic, achievable pace for the design implementation & long term family goals.
  • Produced a massive body of work to be dissemated to the wider permaculture community, including for Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design associates.
  • Creation of Brook End website
  • Successful application of becoming a LAND Learner Centre within the Permaculture Association's demonstration network.

4: Zone 00 Re-design

Process: I had never planned to do a Zone 00 design however after 6 months of active learning & documentation with the Gaia Action Learning Academy so much had surfaced within myself. Through keeping a journal, maintaining awareness & recording my observations I was slowly learning more and more about what I desire for my life and the goals and direction were forming in front of my eyes.

This output gave me an opportunity to honour that design process. I used a tool called the design web developed by Permaculture practitioner, Looby MacManara, it is a non-linear tool for people-based designs. This gave me the structure of the design so I could move from patterns to details in different areas of my life. Activties ranged from reading & deep reflection to design analysis such as this integration table.

Key learnings:

  • Deeper embodiment of the design process
  • Finding my need to re-design my attitudes to wealth & become financially resilient
  • That spiritual strength is essential & supportive to struggle for social change
  • Found total refinement about my livelihood goals & models
  • That above all other interest areas, my commitment to social change & resistance is the biggest influence on my time, energy & life direction & that integrating my radical edge in all I do is necessary for me to feel alive.

Key outcomes:

  • Large portfolio of work generated for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design & to be dissemated with other design associates
  • Massive gains in focus & direction - mainly the desire to find ways to integrate all of my interests from permaculture to anarchism to paganism. 
  • Improvements in self-care through the design implementation & cycles of self care.

2: Organising for Food Sovereignty

Process: This output was the result of a 're-design' as my grassroots organising commitments escalated. There was a clear and urgent need to invest time in processing and analysing the political context of my work, as to stay strategic and save energy in my life.

Key learning:

5: Liberation Permaculture

Processes: Following my Zone 00 design it was clear that I needed to explore the radical edges of permaculture in order to feel I was being strategic as a practitioner. In this time period my own organising commitments were escalating with the formation of a local campaign to prevent fracking from taking place in Somerset. I therefore used this output five period to focus on radical community organising, undertaking a wide literature review & using my critical analysis skill flexes.

I also explored my relationships to organising for nonhumans and how to sustain my resistance work, as part of a weeklong workshop in Devon. The whole output was a manifestation of some serious interlinked action learning, see the diagram here.

Key learnings:

  • In depth self-directed learning about radical community organising, anarchism, popular education, the not for profit industrial complex
  • About 'projects for existence' & that struggle needs to start where we are e.g. food, medicine, care, housing & build self-reliance into our communities
  • Finding peace with the uniqueness of the animal liberation movement & how communities can organise for nonhumans
  • Major learning about self-care in resistance work, my own patterns, histories & complexities & how I can re-design for more balance, skill & awareness in my work

Key outcomes: