How to run a financial permaculture session

This is a method for using the cafe method with financial permaculture. It can be used to plan a start up sustainable community or to develop a more resilient local business.

It has one major element: The object worksheet

For the first use, start by asking participants, in an open space setting, to identify which objects they think would be included in their sustainable community. Each object then gets one large paper with the worksheet printed on it, and participants group up to work on the object of their choice.

(examples of objects: housing, boiler rooms, community farms, ponds, greenhouses, shops)

For each object, they need to identify its function and output. Then they need to estimate inputs and outputs as well as costs. One way to do this is to ask yourself

1. What is the lowest it could be?

2. What is the highest it could be?

This gives you an estimating range. The next question

3. Is it most likely to be in the lower, middle or higher end of my range?

Provides the answer to where to estimate costs. This of course works better as group discussion.

They then need to think about where income and capital can come from, how to reward output and where to find capital.

Before all of this is given over to a group to collate to create a summary budget, groups need to put together each sheet so input and output match. One “waste” might be another’s input!

The final posting of all sheets might give you something like this:

Finally, with all the sheets up and connected you need to regroup to go through the permaculture questions for the whole system:

• Can you use more renewable energy in the steps?

• What waste is produced. Can one object’s waste be another’s raw materials?

• Where nature can do the job, can we let it?

•  Can we make solutions smaller and slower?

•  Can we produce a wider variety of solutions/products for resilience

•   How can we ensure the network of objects survives scenarios we expect like financial stress, higher energy prices, impact of new technology?

The next step is to suggest projects to realise the opportunities identified in the first part of this session.

In order to ensure continuity you will need to ensure that you as facilitator do not get the job of following up. So for each suggested project you will ask for one organisation/individual to act as project owner and ask workshops delegates to sign up to participate in each project.

This voting with the feet will most likely result in some projects continuing and others just fading away.

The next step could be to present the opportunities at the Green Expo. See my post about that.

Differences between this and traditional financial approaches

There are some subtle differences, just as the permaculture way of producing vegetables and plain old gardening have commonalities and differences.

1) One of the aims of FP is to retain money as long as possible in the local community (See all written on “slow money“)
2) The aim of financial permaculture is to obtain a yield of “money’s worth” rather than money itself
3) The idea of interest does not fit FP in fact, one of the aims of financial permaculture is to find alternative sources of capital to bank loans.
4) FP seeks to get nature to do as much of the work as possible. Traditional financial approaches do not encompass this, in fact they try to get fossil fuels to do as much of the work as possible.
5) FP puts a value on waste and pollution. Traditional finance sees the cost of getting rid of them. That gasoline was early on conceived as a fuel in automobiles was something Rockefeller was interested in as gasoline was a messy by-product of his cooking and lighting oil business.
6) FP is more about asset based investment, valuing labour and nature whereas most traditional accounting models treat these as commodities
7) FP looks at an ecology of functions. This would be more like looking at how a supply chain worked rather than focussing on a specific business.
8) Financial permaculture (permanent culture) seeks to create infrastructure that will produce a standard of living over time with minimum impact on nature. Again similar to business modelling but within another context.

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