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Accreditation Criteria for the Diploma of Applied Permaculture Design

adopted by the UK Diploma Work Net and others in Europe

(Germany, Spain, Italy ..)



Version 5.0 September 2002


This proposal is modified from the previous draft (Version 4.0, June 1997) to take into account the constructive feedback from those who have taken part in Accreditation Sessions since then. The Version 4.0 draft superseeded Version 3.0 draft proposed and issued in August 1995.


This proposal is issued by the Permaculture Academy of Britain.


The continued issue of documentation in draft form is Academy and Diploma WorkNet policy.

It serves to remind us all that all such documentation is open to review and modification in the light of changing conditions and experience.




That the following criteria be used for assessment of an apprentice's work submitted for accreditation for a Diploma of Applied Permaculture Design.



The criteria provide a clear structure for reviewing and assessing an apprentice's work.

The criteria are intended to be available to the apprentice at the outset of their action learning pathway. This way the apprentice has a clear view of the requirements from the beginning.


The criteria fall into two groups, Essential Criteria and Complementary Criteria.




Essential Criteria


These two criteria are fundamental to being a successful and competent permaculture designer with the inherent authority of one who walks their talk (practising what they are preaching).


Theory in action


This is a phrase which has a partner - espoused theory.

When we learn new theory and can successfully speak it to others then the theory is in the category of something that we espouse (speak) but as yet we may not be doing it.

Later that changes and we start to live more and more of the theory so it becomes theory in action.

An apprentice coming for accreditation will be expected to have moved on to the theory in action phase and it will be plain to see, from their lifestyle and their work, that they are enacting permaculture as well as espousing it.

A history of the changes and choices they have made to their own lifestyle will be good evidence for this.



Design Practice


The next foremost criteria for evaluating an apprentice's work is how well they demonstrate competence in choosing and operating design processes. Evidence of design practice is required in which the apprentice illustrates the design processes of their choice.

A diversity of approaches may be used depending on the apprentice's assessment of what is appropriate for each project.


The apprentice will be able to describe the processes chosen, which may include amongst others, for example (and this is not a complete list):


  • Overall Design Procedures or Design Frameworks

These are macro processes that provide designers with overall assistance around being systematic. Almost every design science has its own versions of these macro processes. These three are modified versions of macros from Industrial Engineering (O'BREDIMET), Landscape Architecture (SADIM) and, our own (CEAP).

Their easy to remember, mnemonic style, is one of their strengths.

theO'BREDIMET model - Observation, Boundaries and resources, Recording of the site, Examination and analysis of data, Design strategies chosen, Implementation strategy, Maintenance requirements of proposed systems, Evaluation of results and Tweaking for improvement

the SADIM model - Survey, Analysis, Design, Implementation and Maintenance

the CEAP model - Collecting site information, Evaluating this information, Applying permaculture principles to this information and to generate a design and Planning a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation and tweaking


  • Design methods

This is an extensive (but not complete) list of design strategies that would be used inside an overall process such as BREDIM or SADI. Designers would not necessarily be familiar with all these methods and may well have some inventions of their own that could be entered into the list.

This means that your Accreditation Evidence does not have to include references to all the methods shown below.

Designing your own design strategies/methods to suit your circumstances (and disseminating them) is encouraged.

building a Pattern Language of potential elements to provide the site operators with a generative design guide for their own use.

Planning for Real or Rapid Rural Appraisal both used in order to open the design process to wide groups of stakeholders with an interest in a site.

Futures Histories, Future Searches and Vision Design to access visionary materials from clients.

Analytical Design - design by listing the characteristics of elements

Observation - design by expanding on direct observations of a site

Deduction from nature - design by adopting lessons from nature

Options and decisions - design as a selection of options or pathways based on decisions

Data Overlay - design by map overlays and exclusion zones

Random Assembly - design by assessing the viability of randomly generated assemblies

Flow diagrams - design by paper testing of flows of resources in proposed assemblies of elements

Zone and Sector analysis- design by use of master patterns

Incremental or rolling design methods

Design by application of principles - especially every element should function in many ways and every essential function should be supported by many elements

Creating guilds - design by establishing synergistic (or antagonistic) assemblies


What should be evident is that the apprentice has:

• made appropriate and useful choices

• demonstrated a fluency in the use of their chosen methods

• the confidence to design fresh methods to cover new situations


Guideline: Ten journeys through a design process using a framework such as O'BREDIMET, SADI and CEAP is a good number to ensure thorough learning.

These journeys would also entail the use of several design methods like those in the list above.



If this were a counting sort of operation these two essential criteria Theory in Action and Design Practice would account for 60% of the mark in an assessment for accreditation. An apprentice could qualify with good attention to these two with only elemental reference to the complimentary criteria shown below.




Complimentary Criteria


Elements of some of the areas below are often visible in pieces of permaculture design work.

However, in many cases, the apprentice may have developed considerable extra expertise and expended significant efforts in this group of criteria.


These four criteria are about how the apprentice's work relates to the growing body of permaculture designers both in the wider permaculture community and in a world context.

There is a network of designers dispersed over a wide geographical area. This is one of our strengths.

However it means that many designers are isolated and unable or unmotivated to connect to the experience being accrued elsewhere.

Connecting to others well and building community are qualities and so apprentices can develop these abilities and qualify with them.




Throughout the (minimum) two year apprenticeship period following a Design Course the apprentice will have made good efforts to disseminating the results of their work.


There will be a clear sense that the apprentice is interested in sharing their work within the permaculture or wider community through any means which may include: writing magazine and journal articles; teaching spots on Design Courses and Advanced Design Courses, speaking at conferences.


An apprentice may specialise in this work through, for example documenting permaculture works already underway for wider dissemination. We have an enormous backlog of this type of work.



Community Building


The apprentice shows community building and community development as a focus in their work.

The community may be, for example, a local permaculture group or LETSystem which the apprentice has had significant involvement in at either the formation or development stage. This involvement is more than being an active member of such a system (being an active member would appear in the Theory in Action evidence) and will involve leading and initiating activities.


Other examples of activity that can provide evidence for this criteria are:

• working with communities to assist them in development of their own capacities to organise and design their local areas

• developing and applying wide and small area design strategies that are especially accessible to people normally excluded from such activities by factors of class, education, disability, mental health, age etc.





This criteria is included to acknowledge candidates who look back at the sources of their original support and learning in permaculture and choose to find ways to reciprocate these gifts of support.


Earlier permaculture pioneers have established a wide infrastructure.

For example the Permaculture Association and it's registration as a charity, these procedures for accreditation and the Diploma WorkNet, the many projects in the Permaculture Project Network, the web sites, local groups and other resources that enable the permaculture community to function.

They have made gifts of these crucial elements of organisational capacity to the wide permaculture community.


A symmetrical culture acknowledges and celebrates these gifts by recognising the value of these elements of infrastructure and by actively developing the potential of these.


For the individual apprentice symmetry means a transition from:

requiring one way attention from the WorkNet for their development as designer


having the capacity to give attention to others, both those who have gone before and those who are coming after and working to develop the WorkNet


Examples of this type of work are such things as:

• Supporting a local area reference person who animates a local community of apprentices.

• The provision of slides and teaching materials from the apprentices works and travels to teachers to extend their repertoire.

• Being a support person on a course for a permaculture teacher (ie. looking out for the teacher, making them comfortable and enhancing their effectiveness by operating as a flack catcher, think and listener and friendly ally - this goes well with the apprentice teaching some spots on the course for dissemination puposes).

• Working as an apprentice to an establishing designer.



Evaluation and Costings


Where relevant the apprentice will have made efforts to estimate yields, input costs and likely output figures for their design work and have made (or have plans to make) the results of this work known to the permaculture community. Wherever possible some strategy for the validation of these figures by actual results will have been considered.


This is as yet a little developed side of permaculture design work and it is becoming increasingly pressing that we are able to make good estimates of costs and yields. We believe that permaculture designs can be economically efficient as well as being ecologically sound. It is time for us to collect the evidence for this and to develop techniques for good estimating.




Designers Profile


Designers tend to develop special areas of expertise or work in certain arenas.

The Permaculture Institute of Australia issues the following list of likely areas.

These are used to map a profile of an apprentice's experience as a designer and this profile is kept by the Academy as part of the apprentices accreditation record.


  • Site Development: Designing and working on their own or another site as a demonstration of permaculture principles.
  • Site Design: Completing permaculture designs for clients paying or not.
  • Administration: Directing, conducting or assisting consultancy groups, associations and institutes and developing strategies in permaculture work.
  • Education: Working on curricula, teaching or course work in permaculture education.
  • Finance: Setting up or operating financial systems for ethical investment, community revolving loan funds or other self financing systems for communities.
  • Trusteeship: Setting up or operating land or property trusts for ethical ends, or designing and running land access systems, or acting as a trustee to permaculture projects to enable them to use charitable status, to raise money and to operate as viable projects.

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

  • Media and Communications: Creating or operating publications or audio-visual and mixed media aids to communication for sustainable system education in the permaculture and wider community. Apppropriate software development.
  • Manufacturing: Establishing or operating making strategies or workshops producing hardware or goods for permaculture design use. Making available essential technologies through research, development and marketing.
  • Community Development: Planning, assisting with, or implementing community development projects in urban or rural systems or work with disadvantaged groups.
  • Architecture: Designing or building low cost and low energy use dwellings and structures.
  • Research: Making a significant contribution to research in the area or field of academic research into permaculture systems and needs.








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