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Diploma - the Northern School approach

This is based on a document published by Angus Soutar in 2008, along with a detailed report of the state of the network (or work-net) as it was then, with a list of participating tutors and area organisers.. It was written to capture the  experience of work "in the field" over the previous ten years. Some of the details have changed, as a result of the disruption caused by introduction of the Permaculture Association's diploma system in 2010, but our overall strategy remains substantially unchanged.

The nature of the diploma

The current system is based on the idea of a diploma that has “intrinsic” value – it is worth doing for the experience itself, and for the recognition of other permaculture designers, worldwide. This diploma is not held out as a qualification to do anything other than participate in the development of permaculture education and practice. Recognition by the outside world depends on the work carried out by our “diplomates”. External “qualifications” can be designed into our systems but this presents challenges and requires additional resource.

We have to deal with an accreditation “hangover” from the early days whereby people gained their diploma for “good work” in permaculture, or for demonstrating a “green lifestyle”, without necessarily having to provide any evidence of carrying out design work, or even referring to it. This was brought to our attention by Jo Tippett's reflective piece, written after participation in an accreditation peer group (around 1997). She makes a case for having two awards, one for permaculture design, the other for “achievement” in permaculture. Perhaps this second award could be promoted as an “honourary”diploma ?

Coherent strategies

So, our task in providing routes to the diploma is to:

● take apprentices through the process as quickly as possible, consistent with a
high quality of design work, without putting undue stresses and strains on the
tutors and support systems

● recognise each apprentice (and each tutor) is a unique individual, capitalise on
that (and also make allowances for it)

● acknowledge that students are not necessarily cash rich, but can often offer
invaluable resources to the system

● deal with complexity and richness at every turn.

The problems faced in carrying this out have already suggested some solutions: -

Build relationship

Stay lean

Keep a focus

Match supply and demand

Extend the use of action learning

Look for early yields

Plan to replicate

Our immediate plan is to build up our capacity to carry out this support work, based on the design outlines above, and to follow our development priorities that we set ourselves in 2008.





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