Designing a Successful Diploma Graduation

Designing the Diploma Graduation

I was adamant that I wouldn’t need an action learning plan, but I find myself creating a version of one. That shouldn’t really surprise anybody, including me, as I was adamant that I wasn’t going to do the diploma either.To understand why I felt that an Action learning Plan wasn’t appropriate for me, you have to know a bit about me.

About me

I discovered ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency’ by John Seymour, back in 1984, whilst doing endurance training with the Army in Wales. It struck a chord with me, a Brixton boy, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It was also apparent to me that our modern way of life makes it very hard to just look after ourselves. We cannot opt out of Council Tax, so we have to produce money in some way. If we have to borrow money to buy our own plot, we then have to produce more money to service that debt, and so on. To do that from your own property means exporting fertility, and potentially degrading the heart of a property, the soil. I decided back then that my best way of putting myself in the right position was to be mortgage free, and to have an income coming in that wasn’t reliant on me actually doing anything. Marrying an heiress would have been the most reliable option, but I was enjoying my Army career, and knew that at 40, I could retire on an immediate pension, with a fair lump sum, and reduce the pressure on my smallholding. So that’s what I did. I retired in September 2000, at 40, having spent sixteen years putting myself into a position where I was mortgage free, had an income, and was still physically capable of hard work.

That sixteen years was not wasted. Not only did I enjoy my time in the Army, I learnt a lot, and had lots of time to learn all that I could about anything related to smallholding. It would be fair to say that I’ve probably read more books about smallholding related subjects than the overwhelming majority of people, and have a very extensive library to refer to.

Not everything ever runs quite to plan though. An Army saying is that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’, meaning that you cannot prepare for every contingency, so you do your best, and then fight the battle that you find in front of you. A couple of years before my retirement, I got interested in Greyhounds, so my focus shifted a bit, and I spent the first few years here, breeding and racing greyhounds as a professional trainer. That had a number of consequences. I used up all of my money, built structures that no longer have a specific purpose (fenced paddocks), and am still left with four old bitches, sharing the house with my wife and I. This has had an impact on some of the designs in this portfolio.

Unlike many of the Diploma  ‘apprentices’ following the supported route, I was already an experienced smallholder before attending my Permaculture Design Course with Patrick Whitefield, back in 2008. I had chaired the Lincolnshire Smallholding and Self-Sufficiency Club (LSSSC) for three years, been chair, and Vice chair of the Lincolnshire Bee Keepers Association (LBKA), grown a substantial amount of my own food, kept sheep, chickens, and bees, and continued to read. The main difference between this reading, and that done during my time in the Army, was that I was able to interact/experiment with what I was reading.

There are a number of reasons why I include this information in this design. The first is to explain why a conventional ‘Action Learning Plan’ is less relevant for me. Much of the learning, and most of the designing has already been done. The second reason is to show that I plan over longer periods than most. I’m not always looking for the quickest result, but for the best result.

So, why am I doing the diploma, and why did I not want to from the outset? Initially I felt that I wasn’t interested in a purely academic exercise. I already had my aims and objectives, knew what I wanted to achieve, and was already doing that. The primary reason for many to do the diploma was as a stepping stone towards teaching permaculture, and I didn’t want to do that either. If you’ve been a smallholder, especially one with animals, you will know that you cannot keep taking time off to go away and teach. Without somebody to step in, it isn’t practical. In addition, my focus is not permaculture. Permaculture is the way that I design the systems to achieve my aims, it is not the aim in it’s own right. Finally, in order for teachers of permaculture to have new and interesting examples to use in their teaching, somebody has to actually create those systems, designs, techniques, or tools. That’s what I do, and want to do. The diploma will not help me with that, but having looked at how the association plans to use diploma graduates to help in it’s functioning, the diploma looks like becoming the benchmark by which up and coming permaculturalists are judged. If that’s the case, being a successful graduate will raise my profile, and assist me to network with the ‘doers’ within the association. I also have a lot of accumulated knowledge to share. Whilst I wouldn’t want to commit to 14 day courses, the chance to do shorter spots on courses run by others would be interesting, and having students brought here as part of their studies would be even better. If I’m totally honest, there is also a little bit of ‘wanting recognition’ going on here too.

The Design Itself

Initial Analysis

My initial plans for the designs that I would use can be found on my Permaculture Diploma page, along with a brief explanation of why I was unsure of whether to actually register for he diploma or not. The initial designs that I considered using in my portfolio were:

Large Scale

The Overall Design of the Project.

My Coppice and Woodland

The Forest Garden

My Research

A Polycultural Food Production system

Evaluating the performance of a large number of hardy Bamboo species in my environment

A Low Input Low Output Chicken breeding program

Small Scale

A Chicken Forage System

A Chicken Housing System

A Nectar production area


The Permaculture Pot

My options also include designing a low impact livelihood, social space, water catchment and storage/constructed wetland, large greenhouse and propagation area, polytunnel layout, and a poultry food production system.

The first sign that I might want/need to make a more formal plan through the diploma process was the realisation that my design process, and method, were not standard. This actually led to two new designs that were not on my original list, and were my first non- land based permaculture designs. If I am totally honest, they were less work to do than writing up one of the larger designs that I can use in my portfolio. For a short while, I teetered on the brink of dashing through the diploma work with a portfolio full of processes, but that didn’t meet two of my objectives. Firstly, to display a portfolio with some good large scale, land based designs. Secondly, to do more than just pass, to make an impact. What it did do for me, was to suggest that a design that acted both as a guide for me, and as a guide for the two people who would be assessing my portfolio, would be useful. To elaborate, I’m not planning on producing detailed base maps and surveys for the larger designs in my portfolio, but by explaining that I intend to demonstrate my mapping skills in another, design, and by doing one good example, that should be sufficient to show what I’m capable of. That lesson was brought home to me when I looked at some of the online portfolios that only had one land based design in, which was of a very small space. If that is sufficient to demonstrate mapping skills, then one decent example from me should do the same. (That last section is an example of what I mean. In it, I’ve explained what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and why it is good enough for assessment purposes, making it difficult for an assessor to disagree. Sorry assessors:-) )

One of the reasons why this is important is that supported diploma apprentices get two years to establish beneficial relationships with their tutor. By the time that their portfolio is ready for assessment, the tutor will be familiar with the content, and will have helped with it. That doesn’t happen with the independent apprentices.

I think that this design will also give me an opportunity to introduce some of the designs that will not make it into the portfolio, at least until after graduation. For many students, they will have only completed the minimum number of designs, whereas I have some that will not make it into the portfolio, or which will wait until later to be added. This should help to show that I’ve been through the design process more than enough times to successfully graduate.

For this design I am going to use my own design process, EGADIM, which is/will be the second design in my diploma portfolio. That will enable me to use this design as part of the Evaluation process for that design. This is an example of the principle every element should perform more than one function. In this case, not only is this a design in it’s own right, but is also an evaluation of another design. Good stuff this permaculture.

Establish Aim

The aim of this design is to create a plan to graduate as a holder of the Diploma in applied Permaculture Design

additional objectives include:

Must do.

To decide on what designs to use.

To analyse the accreditation criteria, to identify where I may not be currently meeting them, and to rectify that.

Should do.

To have a focus on larger, land based designs.

To explain what is going into the portfolio and why.

Could do.

To make an impact.

Gather Information

Define Information Requirements.

In order for this design to meet my objectives, I need to know:

What the accreditation process is.

What a portfolio should consist of.

How my portfolio is assessed, and what the assessment criteria are.

Whether my choice of designs meet the criteria.

Establish Current Knowledge.

I know what my designs are, and how they have been created and implemented.

I know who my tutors will be.

I know that I need to have a portfolio with at least ten designs in.

I know that I would like to accredit in November 2012, if possible, which only gives me seven months.

To accredit I need to have my portfolio assessed twice.

What are the Gaps?

The portfolio assessment criteria.

The design criteria.

Whether the accreditation ceremony/presentation is a formality after the two assessments are passed.

The level of detail within each design, or whether they all need to be detailed etc.

Create Collection plan.

The assessment criteria, and the design criteria are published in the diploma guidebook, and should be available there.

I should be able to find out anything that is not contained in there directly from the association. Failing that, there is always the diploma facebook group to ask, or one of my tutors. I am aware that as an independent candidate, I shouldn’t be pestering tutors unless I cannot get an answer elsewhere.

There are portfolios available online to see what has been done by successful graduates, although my initial views of them have shown that most of that work is on a much smaller scale than I am normally working at.


All of the text between the line above, and the one below is the gathered information for this design. The Design Process continues after the second line.

From the diploma guidebook.

The accreditation ceremony is a 45 minute presentation, with a 15 minute question session. It is mainly a celebration. Whilst the peer group is there to give feedback, and the ceremony is a requirement, it seems to be a given that the accreditation has already been approved once the two portfolio assessments have been passed.


Below is an extract from the Guidebook. I have deleted some of the bits that are not relevant to me, and added notes and comments

Accreditation Criteria

To successfully complete your Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design you must be able to demonstrate that:

1. You can produce detailed permaculture designs;
2. You have put permaculture theory into action and made appropriate changes to your lifestyle and working
practice; and
3. You have applied permaculture over a period of at least two years since your design course.
Notes are provided at the end of this chapter to assist you in developing a portfolio that clearly meets the criteria.

Note that the first of these is partly contradicted in the notes, where it states that some of the designs can be concepts, but that others should be detailed.

I have applied permaculture for more than two years, and  put it into action. My lifestyle has changed considerably, which will be reflected in the designs themselves.

Essential Criteria

1. Demonstrating Design Skills

“The process of using permaculture design tools and processes to create working designs for a
client or project”
You have gone through an intentional design process, using the theory and methods of permaculture design
a number of times. Ten designs is recommended as a good guide to the level of sufficient work, however this
is a recommendation rather than a strict rule, as the level of work for a design can vary greatly.

This was unclear, and I have tried to get clarification. Nobody wanted to be specific, and so I was left with no clear idea of what would be acceptable, especially as my designs are large. I got an answer from Hannah Thorogood, who will be one of my tutors, and she said that they have decided that it will now become ten designs for everybody. That’s sad, as it appears to be a decision based on an inability to come up with a clear policy. Not only will some people be frustrated at having to do more designs than they initially thought that they would, but it is likely to make it less likely that we will get more bigger designs featured.

The Intentional design process does not limit me to already recognised permaculture processes, so my own design, EGADIM will be acceptable.

It states clearly working designs, yet later it states that some designs can be concepts. How is a concept a working design?

Your portfolio
will demonstrate that you:
 can make an accurate and appropriate use of commonly accepted design frameworks;
 are able to make use of a variety of tools, techniques and processes;

There is a lack of clarity in the terminology here. I checked all of my permaculture books, and it seems that the terms framework, and processes, are interchangeable. I contacted the association, who agreed, and this will be amended. In the meantime, I will use ‘process’ to describe both.

I had to look up the meanings of tools, techniques, and design methods. Again, some can be interchangeable. There is an implied need to use more than one ‘process’. Up until now I have used my own, and am happy with it. I have one ‘normal’ design still to describe, and so may be able to use another process to describe it, possibly SADIM.

 can use methods that suit the clients and situation;

I design for myself, here, and my methods suit me, and my situation. No real problem here then 🙂
 can create designs that are intelligible, coherent and effective;

 can choose and produce appropriate presentation and documentation for clients and third parties;

We are a LAND project, so my design has already been assessed as being a good example of permaculture in action, this has been corroborated by excellent feedback from Patrick Whitefield, who visited in 2010. The key here seems to be more to do with how I explain what I’ve done, than the actual work that I’ve carried out.
 can show a progression in your competence and learning;

This will be more difficult for me. Unlike the supported apprentices, who start with little or no design work done, I have done most of mine. It shouldn’t be too difficult to demonstrate competence, but the only way that I can think of to show a progression is for the evaluation of the earlier designs to make improvements, and for the standard of all of them to be as high as might be expected from a designer with four years experience.
 have achieved fluency with a number of design tools and methods.

I’ve been keeping a record of my thoughts over the last two months, since registering for the diploma, and am happy that I can do this effectively.
It is recommended that one of the designs in the portfolio is your Diploma Learning Pathway, and its

This design is my equivalent of an ALP. Whilst I am still learning, it is not quite as relevant for me, and my situation. However the design of a pathway towards a successful graduation is relevant, and it should be possible for me to evaluate it, after the initial assessment of my portfolio.

2. Applying permaculture in your own life

“The process of using permaculture ethics, principles and design strategies to enhance the
sustainability of your own life and household”
You can show changes you have made that bring you closer to a sustainable lifestyle, in line with
permaculture’s ethical framework. The design and implementation of these changes may appear in your
portfolio as an example of Demonstrating Design Skills (see above).

You will demonstrate this by:
 using the client interview, base map or other methods to describe the starting points alongside other
information relevant to the problem / issue / challenge;
 making reference to design theory, and explaining how permaculture was used to develop a solution;
 illustrating how you implemented the designed solution;
 including some evaluation of its success.

This is potentially the hardest of the criteria for me to explain easily. Some of the online portfolios that I have seen are full of designs centered on the ‘designer’. This makes it easy to demonstrate how this criteria is met. For me, the changes are not part of any specific design. The designs will show the changes that I have made, but some of the points above, which refer to specific ‘lifestyle’ designs, are not relevant. My own changes are closely linked to the ethical principles.

From a wider perspective, that comment is probably applicable to other independent route apprentices, and so the text above may need to be looked at again.

3. Applying permaculture to your work and projects

“The process of applying permaculture within a given situation to create new systems and
You will be able to demonstrate how you have used permaculture theory and practice over a period of at least
two years since your Permaculture Design Course, in at least one of the following areas:

There is a list of the areas, but I have deleted those that are not relevant to me.

 Site Development: Designing and working on your own or another site and creating a working
demonstration of permaculture in action.

This is the main area that relates to me. As a LAND project we already are a working demonstration of permaculture in action.

 System Establishment and Implementation: Setting up or operating nurseries, earth moving
systems, soil conservation strategies or the supply of goods or services to the permaculture
community. Working on the implementation of designed systems.

Not sure that this is relevant to me, although I am going to set up a nursery. I am also implementing my designed systems, although surely that is the whole point in designing? Designing without implementing doesn’t seem logical.
 Art, Media, Culture and Communications: Creating or operating publications or audio-visual and
mixed media aids to communication and education in the permaculture community. Written, creative,
artistic or cultural work that develops the public’s understanding of permaculture. See Dissemination
under complementary criteria.

My blog fits into this criteria, and is a good example.

 Research: Making a significant contribution to research in the area or field of academic research into
permaculture systems and needs. See Evaluation and Costings under complementary criteria.

Some of my designs fit this criteria, and it is an area that is important to me. Whether or not they could be called significant contributions is probably best left to my assessors 🙂

Evidence within the portfolio can include your permaculture designs and summary of relevant activities.

It would be useful to use the above categories to group my portfolio designs. This will help make it easy for the assessors to see how they are relevant.

Each major project will show how you have applied permaculture theory and practice.

This surprised me, as the implication is that only the major projects need to show this. With no guidance as to what is the difference between a major and minor project, it could be argued that only a few of the designs would need to do this. This contradicts some of the earlier guidelines.

Complementary Criteria

Complementary criteria add value to the network and your learning. Demonstrating that you meet these
criteria is not compulsory. Each of the complementary criteria can be seen to fit within essential criteria three
– Applying Permaculture.

4. Dissemination

“The process of sharing your work and insights with others.”
You exhibit a clear sense that you are willing and active in letting other people know about your work through
outlets such as:
 writing magazine articles; Done
 adding case studies and articles to the Association website; To do
 showing visitors around projects; LAND project. Done.
 writing up research for peer review; Done
 leading workshops, giving talks and presentations; , Am due to host a workshop at the convergence (DONE), and probably at the Diploma gathering too.
 seeking teaching spots on courses. Not interested, but would consider short sessions on courses led and convened by others.

5. Community Building

“The active process of developing supportive social networks.”
Your work shows an appreciation of how developing design skills can help build capacity for self-reliance and
self-determination into any community that you are a part of or allied to. This may be evidenced by:

 being active in developing a local permaculture group. Helped to form the Horncastle Area permaculture Initiative.

6. Symmetry

“The process of reciprocating support received from other permaculture individuals and networks.”
Symmetry means giving and receiving developmental support in equal measure. You can show a
progression from needing one-way support from the permaculture network for your development as a
practitioner, towards being active in offering your support to others within the network. This may be evidenced
 supporting local permaculture courses; Taught two Introduction courses.

Quite hard for me as I have already progressed from needing regular help, to giving it, making it harder to show a progression.

7. Evaluation and Costings

“The process of increasing the knowledge and understanding of permaculture systems, such as their
effectiveness and overall cost.”
Your work shows that you have measured the effectiveness of your work when input costs, resources and

efforts are compared to output yields, resources and efficiencies. Some completed evaluations will be
included. Typically permaculture costs can include unnecessary work, pollution, and human impact, alongside
the more usual aspects of time, materials, and finances. This may be evidenced with completed observations
and system evaluations such as:

 comparative research between different approaches; I am going to compare the yields between a Forest Garden, and a Bonfils grain system, of the same size.
 other research activities that contribute to permaculture understanding and knowledge of the
effectiveness of permaculture systems. I think that my research projects meet this criteria.

 If your Diploma has concentrated on the skills and activities of a design consultant (‘Design
Consultancy” in criteria 3), you must have ten designs. This implies that if you are not a design consultant, you do not need ten designs. Again, the message is contradictory.
 Designs do not all have to be land-based. This is interesting, as the text implies to me that although the designs do not all have to be land based, most of them will. Whereas people have accredited/plan to accredit with only one land based design in the portfolio. Whilst this doesn’t apply to me, there is some thinking that needs to be done here.
 They do not all have to have been implemented, but it is recommended that the majority of them are,
so that observations and reflections on the designs have been made and learnt from. Even with ten designs, this means that only six need to have been implemented. That’s not a lot.
 Some of your designs can be concept designs, but some must be detailed. If you combine this with the previous note, it looks like some of the non implemented could be detailed, and some of the others just concepts. It might be possible for somebody to accredit with only a couple of detailed and implemented designs,with the rest being detailed concepts, and simple implemented designs. It hardly seems fair that I’ve been told to do ten designs, and that mine will all be implemented. What it does mean is that I don’t need to do all of the mapping and all of the detail, for all of the designs in the portfolio. If I do one really well, this will be enough.

Again there is the contradiction between the need to produce working designs, and the ability to accredit with designs that are just concepts. To me this is not Applied Permaculture Design, for a design to have been applied, it has to have been implemented.
 Where other people’s ideas and inspirations have been used, they should be acknowledged.
 Design methods and processes can be drawn from a wide range of sources. Where these are not
drawn from permaculture literature, references should be given.
 The portfolio should make it easy to see where and how permaculture has been used. A commentary
can be given for each project to assist assessors and the accreditation peer group. This can include
information about the design process used, where stages of your chosen framework appear, and how
ethics and principles have been applied. Again the use of ‘framework’ and ‘process’ as though they are seperate. I’m hoping that Aranya’s book will clarify  what the difference is. If there is no difference, this needs to be changed.

The confusion over terminology, was corroborated by Andy G, and Hannah T. My own research lists the the following:

Design Processes

See my Design Process Design for details

Design Methods

Limiting factors (McHarg)

Analysis of Elements (Linking, Inputs/Outputs)

Placement in the Landscape

Options and Decisions

Random Assembly

Flow Diagrams


Experience and Intuition

Incremental Design

See my design method design for details of my own.

Design Tools








Not sure which category

Relative Location, Establishing Beneficial Relationships.



What does the information tell me?

Much of the analysis has been included in my comments, in red, in the section above.

What conclusions can I draw?

Key to it is the knowledge that not all of the designs need to be detailed. Using a second process for one of the designs might be useful. No problem with the methods, tools and techniques. I will need to do ten designs. If that changes, I finish more quickly. Keep detailed mapping to one simple design, and do it well. The remainder can be less detailed. Use the different areas of design work, to group designs to aid understanding by the assessors. Use of permaculture in my own life needs to be covered as part of the ten designs, and highlighted. An alternative would be a separate page listing how I meet the criteria. These are two options, and I can choose later. This is an example of the design method ‘Options and Decisions’. I’m pretty happy with the rest, and especially with the complimentary criteria, which seems to be a strength.

How does this inform the design?

It takes the pressure off a little. I have less need to concentrate on whether I meet the criteria, and can concentrate on explaining how I do. This will best be done through good choices of design for the portfolio.

Do I have all of the information that I need?

Yes. I think so.



The design needs to fulfil the following functions:

To create a plan to graduate as a holder of the Diploma in applied Permaculture Design

Pick the designs that I use in my portfolio, focussing on the larger designs, and make an impact.

Explain what is going into the portfolio and why to an assessor.

Choose Elements

The implementation part of this design will be the plan for graduation.

This design is part of the explanatory process, as well as part of the portfolio.

The designs within the portfolio will determine whether I make an impact or not.

So I need a portfolio, which will be part of this blog, ten designs to go into it, and an implementation plan to get me to the first assessment. This design to be included in order to explain what is being included and why.


I have three new designs completed to add to the portfolio. This design, my design process design, and my design method design. Including these shows my ability to do non Land based designs, and introduces my process and method to a potential assessor. The publication of the design method in permaculture works adds to the knowledge base , and fulfils the complimentary criteria of dissemination. Publishing them here on my blog fulfils the Art, media and communications area of the Applying permaculture to my work and projects criteria.

Site Development Designs

The overall design is a complex, detailed design, that uses my process and method. Not only will this design introduce many of the original techniques that I use, but will show how the elements that I have chosen relate to each other. It is a good example of my design process, as it was designed from a series of objectives. It introduces my use of patterning at all levels of the design. The survey part of the design was done in detail, and will demonstrate those skills. That information will then be relevant to all of the other land based designs. The design will also show my understanding and use of digital imagery, for base mapping and overlays. I also have lots of pictures available.

The Coppice and Orchard is a good example of my design method, as it works through from function to component. It also has some original techniques, and a good choice of components. Rather than detailed mapping, I can use a schematic, with added detail as insets. Good use of principles.

The Forest Garden is my best illustration of the use of patterning and edge. It is also a good example of a number of principles, and my use of innovative techniques for establishment and maintenance.


The Chicken Scavenging System is a good example of the use of ethical principles. It is the easiest to map, so will be my detailed mapping example, focusing on manual mapping and drafting, as a contrast to the overall design, which is more technology centered. It uses a good range of design methods, some new techniques, and a couple of tools that I am developing. It may feature in an edition of Permaculture Works. It would be the easiest design to use an alternative design process for. It’s design, implementation, and maintenance, are much more advanced than my earlier designs, so should help to show a progression in my learning and understanding of Permaculture. It’s additional function as a Forest Garden, and comparison of yield with my conventional gardening will help to demonstrate that I meet the Evaluation and Costings criteria.

My Vegetable/Grain growing experiment is another good example of my use of the ethical principles in my designs, as well as having a high research value. It is constantly being tweaked, which might make it difficult to describe well, but the thinking is sound. It is a good example of designing from pattern to detail, and will feature in Permaculture Magazine, in outline.

My Hardy Bamboo trials are similar to the above, but shows my ability to design a project that is geographically dispersed. It is potentially the most difficult to describe.


The Permaculture pot is a teaching aid that helps me to demonstrate some of the principles of permaculture on a scale that is more relevant to most of the Groups that we get to visit. The design is a good example of applying self regulation and accepting feedback, and of every element should perform more than one function. It’s inclusion in the portfolio will demonstrate my ability to design small solutions, quickly, tailored to the needs of the client.

These are my current list of ten designs, but I also like the idea of designing what I am going to do to be more useful after graduation. This would demonstrate my understanding that the end of a design cycle is the beginning of a new one, and will help to get me focussed on my ongoing contribution to the network, which was one of my reasons for doing the diploma. This design would allow me to leave out any of the designs that were not working as portfolio components, which on initial analysis, would be the bamboo, or the vegetable research project.


This design should be at the front/first in the portfolio, in order to explain the why and how. Theoretically the Design Process, and Design Method designs should be next, keeping the processes together, and introducing them before the designs in which they are used. However, they are smaller, and less detailed designs. It may be that the overall project design should be second, in order to make an impact, and that these two should be added at the end. I will need to evaluate this later, after all of the designs are done.


In order to meet my preferred accreditation date in November, it would be sensible to have the first assessment done in August. That only gives me Four months. The first three designs are ready, and only need tidying up, linking to criteria, and ongoing evaluation.

Seven designs in about eighteen weeks isn’t as bad as it sounds, as the three site development designs only need to be written up. The designs are done, implemented, and are now in maintenance and evaluation. The permaculture pots is a fairly short design to do, and is picture heavy, so again, fairly quick. The Chicken scavenging system is still being implemented. The base map and survey are done, but need tidying up. Getting the mapping right may take a little longer than the others. The slower designs will be the vegetable system, and the bamboo research. If I work on two weeks each for the three site development designs, one week for permaculture pots, three for chicken scavenging, and four for the research projects, that fits with my time frame, but doesn’t leave any slack to cope with unexpected hitches.

Order of implementation should be Overall design, to capture the complexity, and have the survey information recorded for the others to refer to. Chicken scavenging to get the mapping done. Coppice and Forest garden next, and then an evaluation of the time that I have left. This might also be a good time to get the seven designs looked at by a tutor, so that I can get some feedback. Prior to that, I will need to decide whether to include the ‘how this design meets the criteria’ information within the individual design, or on a separate summary. Perma pots next, and then the two research projects. In the background I should take notes for a post graduation design, just in case one of the research projects proves difficult. I should also program in a progress review at the end of May, which is the mid way point, and see whether my implementation plan is working. If it is, I should be somewhere between finishing the Coppice and Orchard design , and starting the Forest Garden design.


This next segement of the design was added after my second evaluation (below)


9-22 April             Write Up Overall Design

23 Apr- 13 May     Write up Chicken Scavenging System

14 – 27 May          Write up Coppice and Orchard

Progress Check, and potentially arrange a portfolio check with tutor, as I would be past the half way point here.

28 May- 10 June   Write Up Forest Garden

11 – 17 June          Write up Permaculture Pots

18 June- 8 July      Write up Vegetable Growing System

9 – 29 July            Write up Bamboo Research project.

Make a Decision about the inclusion of a Designing the Graduate Designer’ design.

Decide if A November Accreditation is potentially achievable

Early August. Submit portfolio for assessment. (Actually involves changing the theme of the blog to allow drop down menus)



I will need to cross refer each design with this one, as I want to add to the reasons for their inclusion in the portfolio.


I will need to check my progress against the timetable that I have set myself. It will also be necessary to keep checking the designs against the design criteria. The End of May progress check should give me some idea of how well this is working.

One benefit of conducting this design is that I’m much clearer about what is meant by permaculture processes, methods, tools, and techniques. This will benefit any future Introduction to permaculture courses that I run.

The use of EGADIM was OK, but the use of my design method in the design segment felt ‘forced’. There were no other recognised methods that seemed to fit better, but it does seem that FECP is better suited to land based designs

Second Evaluation 5th April 2012

The design itself is very text heavy, and so may not be appropriate for everybody. The blog format is a bit more difficult to work through than a standard text. Some of the information, like the implementation plan, may be better displayed as a diagram, or flowchart. A Diary checklist may also work. The design criteria, and my comments may work better as a separate linked document, to reduce the size of the text ‘chunk’.

Third Evaluation 23rd April 2012

The timings that I have given myself seem to be tight, but achievable.

4th Evaluation 31st May 2012

This is my end of May progress check. Having finished the Chicken Scavenging Area design two weeks early, I have not started the Coppice and Orchard write up, which means that i am two weeks behind. This is my busy time of year, and I am struggling to find the time to do anything other than work and sleep. Some rainy weather would help, as it would inhibit my bees from swarming, and save time watering. Not a great plan though. I’ll have to find a way to get back on track. Part of the problem is that I have been continuing to think through my polyculture design, have started my chicken breeding project, and am now working out how best to combine them. This throws up a dilemna, as the integration of the vegetable/grain polyculture with the chickens, chicken forage system, and bamboo is an exciting prospect.

5th Evaluation 19th June 2012

Well I’ve knuckled down , and the Forest garden design is almost finished. I think that I’m a fraction behind my schedule, but not too far. My Interim Portfolio Assessment went well. Nothing negative about the content, just an observation about the size of the image at the top of the pages.

I’ve also decided that the 10th design in the portfolio will be My ‘Designing the Designer’ design. A book review in Permaculture Works magazine has kind of challenged me to do something a little different (for me), and do a people centered design. This will be a new design, which will make a change from recording designs that I have already finished. It is also an opportunity to learn a bit more about this type of design, and to see if I can try a different design method. Perhaps of most practical use is that if it is a good design, it will provide the focus for what I do after the diploma.

Note 20th June 2012

This is not really an evaluation, more of an observation. I’m in the final stages of recording the design and implementation of My Forest Garden. What is becoming apparent as I think about the work that I have done, is that I have developed my own style, and range of techniques, not just in terms of the way that I design, but also in the way that I implement and maintain the tree based elements within my design. Some of these are experimental, and their success, or failure, will be of value to the wider permaculture network.

6th Evaluation 6th July 2012

I had an interim portfolio assessment from Aranya, who told me that I just need to carry on doing the same thing. The main comment to address was to do with the size of my image files, and that they slow down loading the site for slow internet connections. I have learnt how to reduce the image size, and all of the pictures for the Permaculture Pot design are much smaller now. He also said that the large header image was a bit confusing, and could it be different for each page. For now I cannot find how to switch that back. What I hope to do is crop the image so that the first line/title of the page appears in a normal sized screen so that you can tell instantly what page you are on. I would also like to edit all of the images on the diploma pages, to reduce their size, but Im going to leave that, and try to get it done after the portfolio assessments are done.

I have just finished writing up my Permaculture Pot Design. It is an idea that may be of use to others involved in teaching permaculture, so I have put a link to the design on the Permaculture Educators facebook page, and teh diploma group page. The design uses a different design process, the quick assessment, and using more than one process is good for my accreditation. I hope to use a third process for the last design.

Checking back against my timetable I’m about two weeks behind schedule, and am currently waiting for an answer from my assessors, to see whether that will affect a late November Accreditation. I’m hoping to get started on the Vegetable/grain polyculture design tomorrow, and to shave the time down by a week. I also think that the final design could be done relatively quickly. My life and work patterns mean that I spend a lot of time doing work that doesn’t tax me mentally. Far from being boring, it allows me plenty of time for thinking and reflection. As that is what is needed for my final design, much of that is done, so the design itself should be more of a matter of collecting those thoughts, organising and analysing them, and then coming up with a post diploma plan. I also need to start reading a book.

Final Evaluation November 2012

With the first assessment of my diploma work finished, and the likelihood of the second assessment confirming that I am ready, it seems like the ideal time to wrap up this design.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the design has been a success. I have passed my first evaluation, and have been getting good feedback from fellow diploma apprentices. All of which is great.  There was always the potential for this design to be much wider in scope, touching other areas of my life, but much of that would be too personal to be viewed by complete strangers. A paper based design would give more privacy.

The analysis of the accreditation criteria was essential. Without a clear understanding of what is required it would have been difficult succeed at the first attempt. This is particularly important for Independent apprentices, who do not get the luxury of tutor support. There is the potential for Supported apprentices to waste a lot of expensive tutorial time having this explained to them, along with explanations of the Design Process.

Looking ahead, I can see the value of using a design like this to plan training and development pathways, and did something similar, using a different process, for my post diploma plan, Designing the Designer.

PS. It feels great to close this design.

2 thoughts on “Designing a Successful Diploma Graduation

  1. whatgrowsfromaseed

    This is fantastic Deano, very clear, well thought out & I like the way you question things and find answers which benefit you and help rather than hinder your progress. I am going to save this as I really think it will help me, I don’t have such a clear thinking brain ;-))

    Hope to meet you in November
    Take care

    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Tracey.
      I’ glad that you found it useful. Looking forward to the Diploma gathering as well as the convergence.


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