Where we are coming from

Permaculture, as an ecological design system for sustainable living, offers practical and effective solutions to help people address global issues like food security, poverty, and the impacts of climate change at a local level. Grass-roots diffusion of knowledge has led to an estimated 3 million practitioners worldwide.
However, permaculture practitioners recognise that there is a lot of potential to work with each other across boundaries (local to local to global). Besides the International Permaculture Conferences there are very few spaces and barely any support structures for Permies trying to make stuff happen beyond the local.
The CoLab tries to change things and help people getting stuff done. However, there is a history the CoLab is based on; namely, the Next Big Step project.
The Next Big Step project worked on enhancing international collaboration within the Permaculture movement. However, whilst the CoLab is actually creating some support structures for Permies to do collaborative work, the Next Big Step project was more exploratory, trying to scope out what Permies need and want. The CoLab now starts to deliver on the things we found out through the Next Big Step project.

How did the Next Big Step project come about?

Following discussions at the International Permaculture Conference (IPC) in Jordan in 2011, and a decision to create a team to investigate Permaculture coherence at the IPC in Cuba in 2013, the Next Big Step project began. Phase 1 was a global conversation to understand what people's skills, needs, and desires were, and to understand how greater international coherence might benefit practitioners and permaculture organisations. We conducted international consultations and successfully facilitated five days of workshops focused on strategic planning at IPC London in 2015.

What have we learned in the process?

We now recognise that a flexible collaboration structure to engage practitioners and other players everywhere would make it possible to increase our collective socio-ecological impact at the required scale and urgency to tackle key local and global issues.
Because we asked hundreds of people globally that work in Permaculture, we now know what some key issues are. We conducted some survey research. Some of the results are outlined in the following two presentations.

A lot more discussions happened at the IPC2015 in London and the work of the Next Big Step Project continued.
At the end, when considering everything that was discussed, four main issue areas were identified, with priorities in each.

Build communities

  • Identify and link existing networks around each theme
  • Create effective online spaces to communicate combined with local 'on the ground' networks, demo sites, etc.
  • Develop capacity to share information and resources more effectively

Improve access to key knowledge

  • Identify and evaluate existing resources: best practice case studies, key information and evidence, etc.
  • Translate information and data to first languages so more people can access knowledge
  • Share workshop templates, good learning materials, and other flexible resources
  • Promote these resources​

Embed resilience and sustainability of practice (physical and social)​

  • Support with fund-raising, developing enterprise, and capacity-building desired
  • Mentoring - people experienced in an area support those who wish to develop their skills, knowledge, practice, organisation etc.

Change the world (beyond our own boundaries)

  • Permaculture as mainstream learning - link to schools and young folk's education
  • Influence policy and decision-makers
  • Advocate permaculture more widely
  • Change the world