The recent EUPC13 in Bolsena, Italy, hosted the launch of the European Permaculture Network (EuPN). Formed by representatives of 23 permaculture organisation from 18 countries, EuPN was kicked-off in a series of face-to-face events between 7 and 11 September 2016. As a result, the EuPN Vision and Strategy Group could finally be merged in the new structures of the EuPN.
Reflections on 2 years of “EuPN Vision and Strategy Group”
While the vision of the European Permaculture Network has been written down at the EuPC12 in Batak (Bulgaria) and the “Vision and Strategy Group” had been formed, it took us almost two months to start working as a virtual team. Our aim was to inaugurate the EuPN at the next EuPC13 in Italy – the place where most representatives of future member organizations could be expected. The IPC was to be used as a place where we could receive feedback along the way, to keep us as a working group on track – and to keep as many people and especially organizations in the loop as possible.
There were eleven of us at the beginning. For various reasons, some of us stepped down within the first 6 months – a pattern that can be observed in many working groups that self-organise during convergences and live events.
Those that kept meeting and working between meetings had something in common – the personal vision that networking permaculture practitioners on European level makes sense and the will to persist in making this happen in spite of difficulties. At one point, Vision and Strategy Group membership fell to six people only, and then new people joined. Often, we have been seven people on the calls. Communication and collaboration happened consistently and intensely over the last two years, and for a group of people collaborating online that’s quite a long time! We had 26 online meetings between summer 2014 and 2016, with personal meetings at the IPC in between.
As reported in previous EuPN Newsletters, we presented the Vision and Mission at the IPC and also discussed the aims of the EuPN in more detail with the workshop participants. While the Aims have been rephrased and specified quite a lot, the Vision and Mission remained basically unchanged to the original suggestion in 2014. In a second workshop, the suggested Principles and Structures of the EuPN were presented, plus we worked out how communication flows from the network to the member organizations could happen.
Generally, what has really helped us move along and not to get stuck on details was the sociocratic principle “Is this good enough for now and safe to try?” – without this, we might have discussed Vision and Mission (and many other aspects that needed deciding) much longer!
In the run-up to the EuPC13, we decided to launch the network by sending out a call to those organizations that have been in touch with us. Within a few weeks, more than 20 organizations or networks from 18 countries had signed up. What a success!
At the EuPC13, we had our inaugural meeting – yeah! – and then held daily workshops of 90 minutes, which were mainly used to consent to the Vision, Mission and Aims plus the Principles and Structure and afterwards to establish a basic working structure using sociocratic elements.
Initially, 5 working groups have been formed:
- a Coordination group,
- a Communications group,
- one on the EuPC,
- one on Resources and
- one on Education.
All working groups started off by discussing their Domain and their Strategy up to the EuPC 2018. A working group cover sheet gives basic information of the group, including contact details, etc. All information is being shared on an online drive, so that it is transparent for all involved in the EuPN.
The Coordination working group will suggest an organisational structure for the EuPN and it’s parts at one of the next (online) General Assemblies.
Some of the things that we have achieved are:
- We got a larger number of organisations and individuals involved in current and in future developments of the EuPN Vision and Aims. The above mentioned working groups are only a starting point for a wide range of possible trans-national collaborations on various topics.
- New relationships are starting to develop among permies in Europe, which will stay connected through regular (online and biennial) General Assemblies. These will both help to strategize Permaculture across Europe and help to move our work at home forward by learning from and with each other.
- Last but not least, a rather strong mutual trust evolved among those people that gathered over two years ago to collaborate on an EuPN Vision and Strategy and that stayed in that collaboration until it was done. We are very happy that all Group members will continue their work within one of EuPN working groups.
What we have learnt? A lot, especially about online collaboration.
To make it a bit more general, here is an excerpt of our learnings as a team:
- Online meetings are very important to keep momentum and build relationships, but most of the work happens between the meetings – and often by individuals.
- It is important that work is shared among the group members. Especially if burn-out and frustration is to be avoided!
- It is important to have 1:1 conversations, too – e.g. when conflicts arise, group members stop coming to meetings without letting you know why, delegated tasks do not get done, etc.
- Seeing each other in person now and again can simplify processes immensely – even if it is just a smaller part of the team meeting up and getting their heads around things!
- A big vision can take you far! Especially if you have a diverse team on board which bring a lot of important qualities (like structural impulses, stamina, time, expertise in online meetings, knowledge of sociocracy, strategic thinking, experience with european or global connections, etc.).
With that in mind, the collaboration of the EuPN Vision and Strategy Group is “officially” completed, as it’s functions have been fulfilled: to envision and work out a strategy for establishing a European Permaculture Network.
Big thanks to everyone involved!!!
(written by Nenad Maljkovic and Sandra Joel Campe)