What do we mean by a holistic framework?

We approach every project from a multidisciplinary and holistic framework. One of the tools for designing and implementing solutions for building resilient communities, organizations, and programs is applying a holistic approach, such as permaculture. What is permaculture? And how does it apply to systems?

Permaculture is the application of the tried and true methods of adaptation and living in harmony with nature gleaned from Indigenous peoples from around the world. These traditions and knowledge have been applied and reiterated using the knowledge and methods created through modern-day science. Developed in the 1970s-80s by Bill Mollison and David Holgren, permaculture began as a methodology for implementing more sustainable or “permanent agriculture,” but as time has passed the ethics, principles, and design practice have been applied to all levels of human existence and interaction with each other and the planet. Now, the term is commonly identified as meaning “permanent-culture.”

Figure 1. A representation of the Permaculture Flower. At the center are the three ethics that bound all permaculture design, surrounded by the petals or seven domains for designing a regenerative human system, and enclosed by the twelve design principles that guide holistic design. 

According to the work of David Holmgren (2002), permanent culture can be achieved by addressing and designing for the seven domains presented on the permaculture flower, they include the built environment, tools & technology, education & culture, health & spiritual well-being, finances & economics, land tenure & community governance, and land & nature stewardship. 

The evolutionary spiral path connects these domains, initially at a personal and local level, and then proceeds to the collective and global level. At the center of this flower are the three ethics of permaculture: 1) Care for Earth; 2) Care for People; and 3) Fair Share. As a part of our mission and ethics, we choose to work with organizations whose needs and mission align with the following three ethics. 

Care for Earth: This ethic guides us to respect and preserve the biodiversity of the planet and creates new habitats. Permaculture is a way of valuing all life on earth. Any aspect of a design that directly or inadvertently negatively impacts the earth is not permaculture. 

Care for People: This ethic guides us to care for ourselves and other people and meet our physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual needs in sustainable ways.

Fair Share (or Future Care): This ethic promotes equality, justice, and abundance, now and for future generations. One aspect of this ethic is that we must live and temper our consumption to fit within the natural world’s limits and to not exploit people. The second aspect is to share surplus within your community and with nature. 

When applying this methodology, we think of the seven petals of the flower as one lens to apply to each element of your “systems”.  By assessing a client’s / community’s needs through this lens, we can take a snapshot of the “whole” system to identify patterns. In this way, we can see weaknesses and strengths and identify leverage points.  

We then work from the macro (large-scale) patterns to the micro (small-scale; details) to design and develop tools and protocols to address the needs of the client in a systematic way. Our goal is to integrate your systems so that your organization can work more seamlessly to achieve your mission and goals.  

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