A brief introduction into Permaculture and the Design Web; Danish delivery

A brief introduction into Permaculture and the Design Web; Danish delivery

In my previous Danish Delivery blogs, I have touched on the Design Web framework, created by permaculture expert, Looby Macnamara, which has been invaluable in helping to guide us through our own transition as a family. Here, I’d like to explore the principles of Permaculture and the Design Web, so you get a feel for how it can be used in many different scenarios.

The word Permaculture was originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1970s in Australia, to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.”[1] The word ‘permaculture’ comes from ‘permanent agriculture‘ and ‘permanent culture‘ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. https://www.permaculture.org.uk/knowledge-base/basics

Nowadays, there are a number of definitions but in general it is also understood to mean a design system based on ecological principles – a sustainable way of living, but not just in terms of plant and food but in all aspects of life.

Permaculture to me in essence is witnessing and appreciating the intelligence, grace and compassion of our natural environment. Using nature’s knowledge and examples to assist us in creating resilient, harmonious and sustainable ways of living working at ground level and within society.  Pretty profound hey!

To learn more about permaculture you can visit https://www.permaculture.org.uk

As with many topics which interest you, the more you dig the more you find experts on the subject, and experts of experts!  However, like anything in life, you take what makes sense to you and leave the rest.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” Buddha

The key points are well described by Looby Macnamara in her book People & Permaculture.


  • Uses nature as our guide
  • Thinks holistically
  • Is solutions based
  • Is a design system
  • Is based on co-operation and connections
  • Creates abundance and harmony

There are three ethics at the core of permaculture, earth care, people care and fair shares.  Along with this there are 12 basic overarching principles, which are tools or aids that help us to creatively re-design our environment and our behaviour.

permacultureprinciples.com – Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 AU

Much of the work in permaculture is focused around land-based systems.  Permaculture designs have been implemented in lives, homes, gardens, businesses and importantly in peace initiatives in Palestine and earthquake relief in Haiti, to name a few.

While I have a personal interest in applying the permaculture principles and design knowledge I have learnt in my garden, my focus here is on applying the main principles to people, in relation to transition and coaching.

The design models applied in land-based systems are linear in their approach.  When Looby Macnamara began designing her people-based model, she realised that a linear based system would not work as effectively when applied to people. As humans’ we are simply not linear in our approach, or thinking.  Hence the Design Web was born.

Image with permission from Looby Macnamara and taken from People and Permaculture.

This model provides a framework which helps enable our ideas from conception to reality.  It can be used in a huge variety of ways, for example designs around our own wellbeing, family life, community groups, schools or international projects.  I am currently using this model to help my family plan and map out our ideal scene for an ongoing life transition. This model helps us take a holistic view and feels more relevant than a linear plan. My current design is titled, Danish Delivery, and I’ll be sharing some highlights, insights and experiential learnings on my own personal design in my next blog.

As you can see from the design web model diagram above, there are 12 anchor points.  Each of these anchors focus on a different area of a design topic.  They can subtly overlap at times, but that is where the unseen/previously unknown connections often appear.  Using these 12 anchor points you can build up a 3D holistic picture, it feels more than a 2D 360 view.

You get to see where you are, where you want to go and how you are going to get there.  MAGIC!

What is great is the flexibility of the model, you can begin where you want, there is no right or wrong way.  It can adapt to meet your or the team’s current needs.  Each anchor has a series of open ended questions which are a guide, a trigger for thought.  You don’t have to go around the model in a fixed sequence, you can jump or dance forward or backward, depending on what is manifesting at each anchor.  You may not have all the answers, or information at that moment, so this allows you to move on.   At no time do you need to feel stuck, you can revisit the anchor when the time is right.

The Design Web model has all of the permaculture principles embedded within it and it encourages co-operation and connections to be made amongst anchor points.  The symbols used to further explain and describe the stages of the model are important to acknowledge, as they in themselves aid the thought process.  It is through witnessing and appreciating the intelligence, grace and compassion that our natural systems teach us. Allowing time for pause, reflection and appreciation.

There are 4 phases of life and they are used in the model [adapted from People and Permaculture]

Growth phase – Vision, Limits, Helps. The child phase of the design, the seed showing its potential and what is going to help or limit its growth.

Exploratory phase – Patterns, Ideas, Principles. The apprentice, young adult. The seed is growing roots and shoots, reaching out and exploring.

Productive phase – Integration, Action, Momentum. The adult now doing and producing a yield. The fruit of the tree.

Reflective phase – Appreciation, Reflection, Pause. The elder, introspective and insightful. Represented by the mature oak tree.

Alongside the Design Web are tools or techniques which you can use to add details to your anchors. I will provide some more information on the tools I used for my own transition design; Danish Delivery, in my next blog.

This overview is to give you a brief insight into Permaculture and the Design Web.  It is just one of many methods you can use to assist in manifesting your visions into reality.  Some of us find it easy to visualise our ideal scene, but some of us don’t.  What is important to remember is that with any great vision there needs to be an action plan that is fit for purpose.  With a structure, some tools and good old-fashioned grafting you can manifest your dreams.  Using this model, you can trust that what you are creating is for the greater good.

Next time I will share some personal highlights and insights on how I am currently using the Design Web model.  If you are in a transition yourself and would benefit from a safe non-judgemental space to create the best outcome, then please reach out.  I am also documenting our ongoing transition in a series of vlogs, feel free to take a look at my YouTube Channel.

With love and gratitude

Sam …x

[1] Mollison, B. and Holmgren, D. Permaculture One published by Corgi 1978



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