Design Online Learning Community

Posted on di 26 juni 2018 in designs


Learning community mailing list:

Design team:

  • Arno Peters
  • Judit Somogyi
  • Thor Markussen

Note: this design has been abandoned.

Design strategy

For presentation purposes, we use Dragon Dreaming for this design.

After the dreaming phase, no participant felt motivated to put more energy in this project.

Dreaming: Awareness


We are a community of people who are passionate about supporting each other to bring about a tangible positive change in the world.


  • Applying PC/regenerative ethics
  • Utilising collaborative decision making (sociocracy)
  • Open to people who have completed a PDC, sociocracy course, community building experience or forest garden course with Rakesh or any of the Roots n Permaculture School Teachers
  • We create a thriving online community which shares ideas, knowledge and inspirations with a view to implement it at local level
  • We help each other to solve problems
  • Have regular online cross skilling sessions
  • Have a web platform to share ideas and ask questions in between the online sessions
  • RnP School teachers are part of the learning community and support the learners
  • We support people who are tangibly taking care of land in a regenerative way, while also taking care of everyone's social needs

Dreaming: Motivation

Looking back, my primary motivation to get involved with this project was to do a design to gain more knowledge of the permaculture design tools. For me, any learning day organized would be a bonus. This proved a too small a base to push this project forward.

Dreaming: Gathering information

Learning Day on Saturday 2018-06-09

Roots'n'Permaculture Online Learning Day from 14:00 till 19:40.

In attendence at least: Arno, Judit, Mona, Rakesh, Roy, Sophie, Thor, Tünde.

We used Zoom with different rooms. We conviened in a common room for welcome and check-in, then split into different rooms for the sessions on specific topics and finally back to the common room for an evaluation and check-out.

I facilitated 3 sessions: Food preservation, Moving countries, Low-fat, low cost computing.

We faced technical difficulties. The duration was a bit too long to keep concentration up.

Learning Day on Friday 2018-12-28

Roots'n'Permaculture Online Learning Day from 10:00 till 14:00.

In attendence at least: Rakesh, Arno, Sophie, Thor, Georgina, Laurent, Nick, Cristina, Felix, Mari, Jolanda.

We used Zoom with different rooms. We conviened in a common room for welcome and check-in, then split into different rooms for the sessions on specific topics and finally back to the common room for an evaluation and check-out.

A number of proposed sessions never happened due to lack of interest or due to rooms being unavailable. The rooms also had the issue of needing approval from the host (Rakesh) to be activated.

In the session I was supposed to facilitate there was a technical glitch where the room was split into two. Jolanda and I were split off from the others at the start of the session. I had a lovely discussion with Jolanda although we did wonder why no one else showed up. I was disappointed that the one reason I attended the learning day, namely presenting work by Dmitry Orlov on Communities that Abide, did not happen. Next time, I will schedule my talk at the beginning and then leave once the session is done.

Again I found the duration too long to keep concentration up. And speaking from a personal perspective, I got little benefit from the time spent. However, it was nice to see and hear from a number of like-minded people.

Learning Day on Wednesday 2019-04-03

Roots'n'Permaculture Online Learning Day from 18:00 till 22:00.

Left after the second session due to exhaustion.

Software support


  • simple to use (use slow and simple solutions)
  • create village/community feel (integrate rather than segregate)
  • support process (apply self-regulation and accept feedback)
  • discourage walled gardens (FB, google, MSFT, ...)
  • encourage collaboration / cross pollination


  • inspire
  • showcase users (and diaries / personal designs)
  • showcase projects (= collaborations with more people)
  • showcase progress
  • showcase tools

Needs to support

  • overview of projects
  • visibility into activity on projects
  • schedule meetings
  • exchange files (documents, sheets, photo's)
  • record meetings / action points

Ready-made solutions

  • forum software (phpBB)
  • ERP software (Odoo)
  • collaborative documents (Google)
  • sharing documents (Dropbox, nextCloud)
  • meeting
    • face 2 face
    • virtual (Skype, Zoom, webRTC)


  • Facebook
  • Google docs
  • Dropbox
  • Freedcamp
  • and many others

Survey of forum topics

  • growies
  • critters
  • building
  • homesteading
  • energy (conservation, heaters, stoves)
  • monies (frugality, income streams, strategy)
  • living
  • kitchen (preparation, preservation, medicine)
  • purity (care)
  • ungarbage (repair, upcycle)
  • community
  • wilderness
  • fiber arts
  • art
  • permaculture artisans
  • regional (zones, countries)
  • education (pdc, conferences, convergences)
  • experiences (wooff, volunteering, jobs, offers)
  • global resources
  • cider press (social)
  • projects
  • digital market
  • this site

5 W's


  • participants: people who have completed a PDC, sociocracy course, community building experience or forest garden course with Rakesh or any of the Roots n Permaculture School Teachers
  • local circles of participants also benefit
  • teachers or facilitators


  • personal development
  • people sharing their gifts and challenges with the wider world
  • give or receive support: knowledge and emotional
  • create more connections (via-via) both in real life and online
  • motivating in the real world: affirmation of what you're doing


  • online platform for learning
  • organize meetings in real life
  • share designs
  • web platform to share ideas and ask questions in between the online sessions
  • regular online cross skilling sessions
  • teachers support the learners and vice versa
  • utilising and practicing collaborative decision making
  • tryout and practice for teaching / facilitation / organizing skills
  • deepen permaculture knowledge


  • regularly - every 6 months, scale up if enough interest


  • in general: online and avoid commercial interests
  • share documents
  • forum
  • voice support
  • share screens
  • moving images support

Note: items are in order of increasing use of bandwidth.

9 Ways of Observing


  • participants of RnP PDC and other courses
  • teachers of RnP
  • communities of participants


  • it's online - need internet and electricity
  • real life takes precedence
  • impersonal
  • lacks non-verbal communication: looks, touch, smell
  • fleeting - little remains after the connection is severed


  • create a good mood, positive energy
  • needs people to put in energy to make it happen
  • giving supporting energy and receiving it back
  • sharing what you know gives energy
  • supporting energy going up during meeting - energy going down further after meeting
  • direct feedback helps maintain energy
  • social connection is strong / feeling responsible for community - energy / motivation is strong (and vice versa)
  • negative energy - to watch out for and deal with appropriately
  • online presence is draining of energy (because(?) only using head, not muscles)


  • edge between learning in online world and applying it in the real world
  • sharpen edge of knowledge to work easier (like sharpening axe)
  • increase diversity by combining people edges in knowledge, language, location, cultural / social / emotional background
  • online context limits you to benefit from edges (for example, showing how to make soap, creating ferments, ...)


  • wave
    • energy going up / down during / after meetings
    • recurring meetings with same setup
  • hook
    • reason for people to join the community
    • reason to attend
  • web
    • we form a network of people / locations
    • catching more people
    • filter for people to become teachers
  • branching
    • growing from one stem (RnP) with different branches (meeting rooms)
  • spiral
    • create spirals of abundance
    • evaluating / tweaking meetings each time to make small improvements / changes
  • scattering
    • we are scattered across the landscape
  • sheet
    • looking at a screen
    • interaction is flat
  • cloud
    • come together for a short time, disperse again when done
  • other

I wonder...

  • ... how far the community can grow
  • ... what topics people are interested in
  • ... how to make it a real community, not just an online one
  • ... how to make the community less dependent on Rakesh
  • ... how this design will look like in the end
  • ... how much people can harvest from this: quantity and quality of learning


  • subjects flowing from one session to the next, deepening, meandering
  • time is flowing when topics are interesting, loosing a sense of time
  • refreshing flow of new people, new topics, interesting ideas
  • like a river taking on more depth with more diverse sources, so would a learning community
  • viewpoint changes as you change direction along a flow
  • a learning community can be like a splash of water in your face: refreshing and shocking at the same time

Past & Future

  • Past (learning) communities
    • knowledge transfer: more experienced teach the younger, less experienced ones
    • aboriginal song lines: young ones add additional knowledge to the songs of the old
    • they had a culture with boundaries and limitations they grew up with
  • Future

Open Spaces pattern

From: Devopsdays - Openspace Concept

Open Spaces give attendees the opportunity to talk about anything they’d like. A person might suggest a topic they want to learn about, or one they feel like they can help others with. The topics range widely, from highly technical, to pure culture, to board games for networking.

Open space is the simplest meeting format that could possibly work.

It is based on (un)common sense of what people do naturally in productive meetings.

Principles of Open Space Technology

From: Wikipedia

While the mechanics of Open Space provide a simple means to self-organize, it is the underlying principles that make it effective both for meetings and as a guidepost for individual and collective effectiveness.

The Law of Two Feet — a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility — expresses the core idea of taking responsibility for what you love. In practical terms, the law says that if you’re neither contributing nor getting value where you are, use your two feet (or available form of mobility) and go somewhere where you can. It is also a reminder to stand up for your passion.

From the law flow four principles:

  • Whoever comes is the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over

The open space rallying cry is: prepare to be surprised

Open Space Mechanics

Since the meeting is supposed to be self-organizing, the conveners put their energy not in running the meeting but creating a setting that gets everyone’s creative energy flowing.


  • Show the timeline, how the event breaks down into Opening, Marketplace of ideas, Break-out sessions, Closing.
  • Sponsor introduces the theme. Briefly. One or two minutes max. Long openings drain the energy of the meeting quickly. Get participants to work ASAP.
  • Facilitators introduce the principles and the format. Explain how the marketplace of ideas works.

Marketplace of ideas:

  • Participants write ‘issues’ on pieces of paper. Preferably with bold markers, so they are easy to read from a distance.
  • Participants choose a timeslot for their topic on the agenda wall.
  • One by one, participants explain their issue to the others, with the aim of drawing the right people to their break-out-session.

Break-out sessions:

Once people do not come up with new issues (wait a little bit, and ask ‘are we done?’. I find the silence that often happens at the beginning and end of the marketplace the scariest. However, this silence seems to be very productive.

You may ask people to put their name on sessions they want to attend. More than one session per slot is OK… (law of two feet :)). This gives conveners an idea of how busy their session is going to be. It gives participants an image of how the break-out session is going.

People may shuffle sessions around, or merge sessions as they are deciding where to go. Have a place (e.g. a wiki) where people can record outcomes of sessions, or provide paper forms for note-taking during sessions (recording who attended, a summary of the session and outcomes/questions for further work) that you can collect into a ‘book of proceedings’.

The facilitators’ role in this bit of the conference is to answer questions, and make sure everyone has the materials they need to run their break-out session. They do not (in principle) intervene in the sessions - the participants are supposed to self-organize.


Have everyone back in the circle. A simple and effective way to close is to have the participants pass a ‘talking stick’ around, and let them (briefly, e.g. in a sentence or a word) say what they feel about the day.

Bumblebees and butterflies:

Bumblebees internalize the law of two feet quickly, and constantly flit from meeting to meeting, pollinating, cross-fertilizing, and adding richness and variety.

Butterflies may never get into any meeting. They are focal points of quiet and beauty. If you watch them, every once in a while you’ll see them engage in conversation. Those conversations often are significant.

Learning Tribe

From a discussion on the Early Retirement Extreme Forum, a comment from tsch talks about AA meetings and how they are run:

"It seems to me that getting the underlying structure of such meetups would have a big impact on their success.

I am a little fascinated by how well a tightly-run 12-step meeting works. Set aside any notions about the content of 12-step meetings, that's NOT this thread, but look at how successful (ie. well-attended) ones are structured:

  • There is a meeting script that a facilitator literally reads. This script welcomes newcomers, states the purpose of the group, and provides for any administrative tasks (service positions to fill, decisions to be made by the group, etc.), and explains concepts important to the group (eg. in 12-step - anonymity, cross talk, the steps, the traditions). This explains concepts to newcomers and continually reinforces the precise definitions for oldtimers.
  • The facilitator (typically the "secretary") position rotates regularly, usually every 6 months.
  • The facilitator turns the meeting over to the speaker for a set period of time
  • Meetings start on time and end on time
  • Members are expected to fill service positions (making coffee, setting up the room, cleanup, literature table, secretary, treasurer, etc.). This keeps the meeting running but also ensures that people show up; there's a strong sense that you don't flake on a service position.

There's a lot of other background to what gets people into meetings and coming back. But these little bits of framework appeal to me. The last thing I typically want to do is go to anything described as a "meeting", because usually that means I'm going to sit around at the mercy of whichever blowhards talk the loudest. Good facilitation puts a stop to that. I'm not sure what that would mean in terms of what a meeting of a learning tribe would look like, though."


  • Dominant
    • Rakesh
    • 400 RnP students
    • lazy gardeners
  • Abundant
    • range topics
    • experimentation / trying locations, programs, platforms
  • Frequent
    • learning days
    • participants coming back
  • Occasional
    • there will be failures
    • communication platform (Jitsi / Zoom) is sometimes not working
    • internet connections of participants will have intermittent problems
    • meet in a physical place
  • Rare
    • common sense
    • for something succeed in the first try
  • Non-existant
    • physical connection

Dreaming: Celebration


  • What went well?
    • interesting observations from different participants
    • different tools used in non-traditional ways
  • What would I do differently?
    • energy fizzled out after a few meetings, nobody was really motivated to see this project manifested; I should question my motivation earlier and set my boundaries appropriately
  • What is my vision?
    • someone interested in starting a learning community hopefully can learn something from the information gathered here
  • What is my next step?
    • finish up this design for publication


As we gathered the information it became quite clear to me that using the Internet to organize meetings and create a community is not very compatible with permaculture.

I do not feel the motivation to continue my participation with this project at this point in time. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and I will take those with me on future projects.