The PRI Restarts the Permaculture Teacher Registry

Short Version

If you’ve been waiting to apply to be a PRI PDC Teacher, we are now ready to receive your application (English only at this point — but read the rest of the post below to find out more about other languages). To apply, simply log into the Worldwide Permaculture Network, ensure you’ve clicked on the ‘Click if you are a PDC Teacher‘ link on the right side of your profile, and then click on the ‘Apply to be a PRI PDC Teacher‘ link.

Long Version

In March 2010 Bill and Lisa Mollison’s Permaculture Institute (PI) ceased taking applications for their long-running permaculture teachers’ registry. As many immediately recognised, this left a gaping hole in the permaculture garment — one which needs to be filled if the movement is to maintain a reasonable standard of recognised education.

Accordingly, when the registry ceased, the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) was suddenly flooded with "What now?" emails, and requests that we step in and take over the role of processing and verifying applications from permaculture teachers. This call came because existing teachers, and prospective teachers, all want to ensure that their students have confidence in the courses they’re committing their fees to.

Before I share what we’ve sought to do to fill this void, I will try to expand a little more on the above about why we believe having a globally recognised teachers’ registry is important and why we’ve been working hard to answer the many calls to facilitate this need.

Background

Many Permaculturists finance, or at least partially finance, their valuable work of spreading Permaculture concepts and increasing Permaculture take-up in their communities through education — through the sale of knowledge.

I’m selling you information (it is not costing you much) and I want you to sell this information and I want you to be able to make a modest miserable living (like I do) at selling information. If we sell enough information we can change the world… but at the same time we have to put our action groups in place to act on this information. — Bill Mollison, Perth Lecture, 1985 (emphasis added)

Anyone who has taken a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course is encouraged to subsequently develop into a teacher themselves. If we are to actually "sell enough information" so that "we can change the world", we’re going to need literally millions of knowledgeable permaculture educators — people reaching into the hearts and minds of people in every walk of life, everywhere.

Now, for this movement to gain momentum it’s critical that we gain the respect of the world at large. A thorough vetting system populating a registry of recognised permaculture teachers helps ensure this happens.

What is a PRI PDC Teacher?

With the input of many other recognised and respected Permaculture teachers (from around the world) over the last year, we have come up with the following definition of what is a PRI PDC Teacher:

PRI PDC Teachers are those who the PRI recognise, through a vetting board, as determined and competent to teach a full 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate course that is based on, but not necessarily only constrained to, all the topics of Bill Mollison’s Designers’ Manual. Through sharing foundational permaculture principles and describing (and/or presenting) practical examples of these principles in action, the teacher will give students a healthy understanding of the interconnectedness of all elements in natural systems, and will give them the design tools to enable them to begin to work productively and sustainably with these systems in many climate zones and circumstances. The course will inspire and assist students to embark on their own life as permaculture system designers.

PRI PDC Teachers also commit to focussing on the design science, and not including subjective spiritual/metaphysical/religious elements as topics. The reason these items are not included in the PDC curriculum is because they are “belief” based. Permaculture design education concerns itself with teaching good design based on strategies and techniques which are scientifically provable. A PRI PDC Teacher avoids creating barriers to permaculture uptake by directly associating permaculture with a particular set of beliefs and instead promotes an inclusive, simple, universal life ethic of returning surplus into nature’s systems to promote the care of our earth and its inhabitants, with the goal of creating a new world that lives in harmony with all of nature. — WPN User Badge Legend

The first paragraph covers what the teacher is expected to teach and accomplish. The second covers what should not be included in the course — so as to ensure that teachers are not putting up barriers to the uptake of permaculture. (Permaculture can and should be implemented by every culture and by people from every spiritual or non-spiritual background, and as well as creating barriers for the public, mixing metaphysics into courses is taking liberties on behalf of permaculturists everywhere — wrapping permaculture in a cloak that other permaculturists might not agree with, and will often find offence with.)

The Task of Having an Inclusive, Respected Registry

With the above in mind, I began to consider the challenges of having a teachers’ registry which works for permaculturists everywhere, and which works to build the reputation of permaculture everywhere. When I began development of the Worldwide Permaculture Network (WPN) I did so with the determination to help level the playing field for permaculturists — to reduce centralisation, whilst helping all permaculturists to freely offer their services (as teachers and consultants) to a large audience, and to network, share and leverage each other’s efforts, so as to encourage a new generation of permaculturists to drive appropriate design concepts more rapidly into mainstream consciousness and action. Because of the resulting base framework of design of the WPN it became quite easy to incorporate teacher applications into its functionality in a way that helps improve the application process and registry.

  1. Ease of application: What I’ve done is make it so that any member of the Worldwide Permaculture Network can, if they’ve first indicated they’re a PDC Teacher (by clicking on the ‘Click if you are a PDC Teacher‘ link on the right side of their profile), select ‘Apply to be a PRI PDC Teacher‘, and begin their application process for becoming accredited. This eliminates issues over time, cost and the carbon footprint involved in sending printed documentation, and with documentation already in electronic form, it’s easier for reviewers to add comments or quote sections when corresponding with the applicant.
  2. Transparency: Once a teacher is approved, the teacher’s Course Outline (one of the required documents) automatically shows on the teacher’s profile sidebar as a ‘Download my PDC Course Outline‘ link, where it can be viewed by anyone logged into the system. Prospective students can thus search for a teacher, and then get an idea up front of what they’ll be taught, and choose their teacher accordingly. You can see a couple of examples below (see the ‘Download my PDC Course Outline‘ link on right sidebar — note: you must be logged in to see it):

    permacultureglobal.com/users/707-delvin-solkinson
    permacultureglobal.com/users/351-pietro-zucchetti

    If it ever turns out that a teacher is not covering the topics as stated in his/her Course Outline on his WPN profile, any student who has been verified in the system as having taken a course by that teacher can subsequently go to the teacher’s profile and click on a link on the teacher’s sidebar to provide feedback to PRI administration on the course taken. If teachers present material substantially different than what they used for their application, this will soon become apparent — through community feedback. The community thus becomes self-nurturing, and, where necessary, self-policing.

  3. Reviewing the reviewer: For each application, we can assign multiple reviewers. This means we can have a main reviewer for an application, and one or more extras who can keep an eye on the process and assist the main reviewer to ensure appropriate standards are kept — standards for the application, and for the review process itself. If we receive an appeal request from an applicant who has failed in his application, we can add another reviewer to the application — someone who can check to see if this appeal is justified or not. This encourages thorough, yet fair, reviewing. When an applicant gains accreditation, the name of the reviewer of that successful applicant is forever associated with that applicant. If the teacher subsequently fails to perform the reviewer can be questioned.
  4. Non-English Language Capacity: The WPN is also capable of dealing with the problem of non-English language speakers being unable to apply. Any member of the WPN can be assigned as a reviewer for a PRI PDC Teacher application. If we receive a Spanish application, we can assign the task of reviewing this application to the recognised Spanish review team. If the application is in German, we can assign it to the recognised German review team, etc. Note: We have already made a silent launch a few months ago of English-only applications while we work through any flaws in the workflow, and we’ll soon be adding the ability to take Spanish applications. We will incrementally invite applications in other languages as soon as we can, as we find more competent people worldwide able to undertake the task of reviewing in their language.
  5. Teachers get support: By being listed in the WPN, where people can constrain their search of the user section for ‘PRI Teachers’, teachers get an instant audience of prospective students, and, being vetted teachers, they will also stand out for people searching for consultants. Additionally, the interactive nature of the WPN means good teachers will soon become apparent, because readers can click on the teacher’s graduate lists on their sidebar and see what kind of graduates they are producing — by gauging the activeness of the students, and seeing how many have gone on to become teachers themselves.

Costs, and income for educational projects worldwide

We have set the cost of an application at AU$500 excluding GST. Of this, $300 (60%) goes to the reviewer (reading/checking full course notes, course outline, verifying applicant references, teaching hours and former students, liaising with applicant, etc.), $175 (35%) goes to PRI for WPN development and project establishment and support, and $25 (5%) goes to WPN admin (time invested in creating system and for ongoing development management).

As you can see, permaculturists (wherever they are) can help finance their permaculture education work by becoming reviewers.

Applicants in difficult circumstances in needy places can apply for a discounted rate. All our reviewers must follow the ‘return of surplus’ principle by being willing to review applications from people who cannot afford the full fee.

Annual registration fee

A annual registration renewal fee of AU$200 is to be paid by the teacher, starting from the first anniversary of their successful application. This fee also happens to be the exact same cost of the WPN’s ‘Educator Account Upgrade’ which comes ‘for free’ with the registration fee. The Educator Account Upgrade enables teachers to list unlimited permaculture courses on their educational project’s sidebar (and users can constrain their project search to ‘only those listing courses’, which gives the teacher additional exposure). In other words, the registration fee is essentially enforcing the use of the Educator Account Upgrade, which, in turn, effectively ensures that teachers are indeed continuing to run courses regularly. Regular teaching ensures that teachers improve in their teaching skills. The PRI desires that teachers in the PRI PDC Teachers Registry are active and continually improving in their work and influence.

The qualifications of other permaculture educational institutes can be added

Other respected permaculture institutes do not need to be excluded here. We can add the qualifications of other institutes into the WPN system as well, if those institutes are willing to help compensate the PRI for the cost of WPN development.

What about previously registered permaculturists from the now defunct registry of the Mollison’s Permaculture Institute?

Those who were already registered with the Mollison’s Permaculture Institute are simply asked to make contact with us. We would look at your registration status on a case-by-case basis. I say ‘case by case’ basis only because obviously there will be some diploma holders who may not have been involved with Permaculture, let alone teaching, for many, many years. Please simply contact me on editor (at) permaculturenews.org and we can take it from there.

I trust all will appreciate that this is an effort to fill a vacuum, so there will be some transition as we do so.

To Close

Working with the endorsement of Bill and Lisa Mollison, it’s my hope that the work we’ve invested into this process will be recognised for what it is — a great opportunity to establish an army of collaborating, competent, recognised permaculture teachers who can promote permaculture education in every place in every culture and who will empower individuals with the knowledge-tools they can use to set their communities on the path to peaceful sustainability.