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The Power of Guilds and Stacking Functions within Visible and Invisible Structures

From: Ken B.
Sent on: Monday, December 23, 2013 12:42 PM

Some of our members may not be familiar with the terms "plant guilds" or "stacking functions". Both of these are examples of some of the 'permaculture design tools" characteristics, we can use to increase yield, reduce inputs into a system, and to improve the quality of life for real living people and all living systems.

Plant Guild refers to a "community" of plants who, when planted in close proximity to each other, interact with each other in symbiotic and synergistic ways such that, the entire yield of this plant community exceeds that which could be achieved with these same plants not planted in a guild, such as in a monocultured agricultural system with chemical and dead soil farming practices. Using effective plant guild design, on both visible and invisible structures could assist us in harmonizing the physical implementation of the design with the community that actually lives there.

Stacking Functions refers to the arrangement of various permaculture design elements in such a manner as the combination, or arrangement, or the "community" of these permaculture design elements, is such that the yield is increased to a level above what could be achieved if these same design elements stood alone, and isolated from one another.

All of these permaculture design tools can be applied equally and uniformly to both visible and invisible structures.

Visible Structures

Simply put, visible structures are the physical world, everything we can see, feel, touch, smell, taste. This part of our design is the biosphere we call planet earth. This is, the physical permaculture design, applied to the planet, piece by piece, back yards to continents and oceans, and everything in between.

Regardless of the "scale" of the physical design, the same ethics, principles, design methodology, interconnected communication and information sharing systems, design process, and applied feedback loops from the real world community, are applied via a global, highly interconnected permaculture communications and information network.

Imagine, for example, of being able to go on line, and finding real construction drawings and material lists for straw bale/cob constructed homes, from various sites from all over the globe. The effective use of these connective information pathways, can reduce design cycle times and increase the range of options for the designers, thus potentially improving the quality of the product.

Imagine being able to search a global permaculture design element database, one which is easy to add to or edit, and sharing that information with the global village, in a manner that was easy and user friendly. This global permaculture design element database would include information from all of elements represented by such symbols as, the permaculture carbon cluster and the permaculture flower.

Invisible Structures

Invisible structures are the those systems of interactions within each of us, as well as in our close interpersonal relationships, communities and organizational structures. When designing invisible structures, people become the design elements, unlike with visible structures which are more tangible and concrete, like a large fruit tree or a composting toilet, or a rain barrel, or a house, or a garden.

A key thing to remember when effectively designing invisible structures is that these particular design elements have a mind of their own, and they choose for themselves where they might, or might not, step into the organizational framework of the permaculture carbon cluster or the permaculture flower as examples.

Guiding or "coaching" and individual, who willingly asks for help to find their passion or "sweet spot" in any community, group or organization, is not nearly the same thing as forcing or coercing, or manipulating, or using fear, to produce results. To be able to have the "freedom of association" in my relationships, is just as much a permaculture principle for me, as all of the others.

So let's take a look at a hypothetical scenario for just one sec. Say we have forget that. Let's look at a real life example shall we?

Take Bryan Roberts for example. Someone you can see operating an doing great things in the realms of the built environment and tools & technology with respect to the flower. Bryan's skills and talents in these areas are well know by many. But what other skills does Bryan have that you might not see at first or second glance? Well, he has a strong farming background, a musician, welder, teacher, mechanic, systems designer, inventor, gardener, political activist, visionary, permaculture designer, and all around great guy, just to mention some of the ones I'm aware of.

So, do you see the rich value of the biodiversity of skill sets Bryan brings to the Tampa Bay area? How about a community of individuals with this diverse and rich tapestry of life experience? How about you? What do you bring to the table that fits into the permaculture flower or carbon cluster? This is where the power of community begins to take on a slightly different potential by leveraging an individual's life experiences, and passions, voluntarily, for the greatest good, and in alignment with the interests, passions and skill sets of everyone who wishes to play in the game, wherever or whenever, they individually, freely choose to do so.

So, let's say for example, that you are a massage therapist, who happens to love gardening and nature, you were an English teacher in your last lifetime, and have this thing for making fermented foods and raw kale, dehydrated chips, plus you're active in local political issues like changing the city ordinances to allow for edible yards and free range chickens. Do you see all of the areas, or "petals" of the permaculture flower you might choose to "function" in?

Simply put, the more of your functional and needed skills or passions, you are able to contribute to your community or organization, the more "functions" you are "stacking" when you show up in community, the more biodiversity of skill sets you possess, the more flexibly you are able to help meet the needs of any group, community or organization you wish.

Within the "invisible" structures of a group, or any focused organization, of multi-talented "design elements" or people, the group dynamic begins to shift and can start to produce yields, which far exceed those of the same group members working individually or in isolation from one another. Just like with plant guilds, we can have people guilds as well. Stacking and arranging functions and guilds and designing and working with human guilds as permaculture designers is both fun and productive.

Feedback and comments are requested and appreciated.

Ken Benway


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