Confused about ‘Open Space’? Wondering where the Permaculture “names” are in the programme?
The aim and mission of European Permaculture Convergence (EUPC) is to share practice amongst ourselves, in contrast to the more public facing International Permaculture Conferences (IPC) which have many high profile speakers and experienced practitioners offering workshops.
With this in mind and from our own experience running the All Ireland Permaculture Gatherings using the Open Space methodology, the programme will be generated from whoever has chosen to attend.
With Open Space there are no invited speakers but everyone is welcome to come and contribute.
This means that experienced Permaculturalists and the less experienced who have a question, or even children, are all able to offer to hold space to invite discussion, give talks or run workshops. The purpose of this method is to take away hierarchy and create more meaningful exchanges peer to peer. It democratises these exchanges by consciously not elevating one person’s contribution over another’s. All contributions are valued equally. Attendees vote with their feet, going to what interests them, and are encouraged to move between concurrently running sessions if they don’t feel they are in the right place for whatever reason. We value those butterflies and bumble bees who are cross pollinating and helping to connect the many things going on.
The 2018 EUPC has a pattern design that bookends two open space days with an ‘Honouring the Elders‘ first day and hearing from the newer practitioners on the last day. (We are defining ‘Elder’ as anyone who has been practicing Permaculture for more than 15 years.)
We have chosen the theme ‘New Partners in Permaculture: Expanding Our Edge’; in order to have one additional outward facing and cross-pollinating/networking day and for that reason we are inviting some non-Permaculturalists who have relevance or connections to Permaculture such as speakers from Transition Towns, community gardeners, and so on.
Permaculture in Ireland is still a very young discipline. Unlike the UK and other countries around the world, there is no formal Permaculture Association in Ireland. But there is a loosely organised, distributed network across the Island. There are only a few public facing projects and practitioners. There are a number of PDCs and other Permaculture courses, and participants from these are spreading and growing, trying new things and learning lots along the way. Attending a Gathering or Convergence has proven to be a great way to connect with like minded people and expand the network. The first gathering in 2011 was a simple collective of volunteers who came together for the first time to run a gathering and since then the Irish gathering has moved around the country with old and new volunteers picking up the work of organising a gathering and learning along the way.
The people in this fledgling network are ever changing and evolving as a group of volunteers. No one has ever been ‘invited’ to speak at an Irish Gathering but all are welcome to come along make offerings in the community made up of whoever else has come along. People find areas of interest or vote with their feet and leave. There is a phrase from the originators of Open Space that help give a feel for the way it works and the personal responsibility to make what ever happens happen:
” Whoever is there is meant to be there, what ever happens is the only thing that could have happened,
it starts when it starts and its over when its over.”
At first this disruption to the more familiar patterns of hierarchy and control, of egos and politics can be confusing and challenging. People wonder, who is in charge? Who do I ask permission of to do this or that? Who will welcome me or invite me to speak? But then people start finding their niche. This is like in an ecosystem; it might be helping in the kitchen, offering a workshop, singing at the campfire, changing the toilet roll, or sitting at the edge of a group daydreaming under a tree. People take responsibility for their own choices, rather than there being a person in charge or a leader. So if you have something to offer that fits under the Permaculture ethical umbrella of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares then come along and offer it and see if anyone else is interested!
In this spirit, we openly invite anyone practicing Permaculture in Ireland, Europe or indeed further afield, to come join the convergence and share your stories and practice. We will not discriminate against anyone, for any reason whatsoever, whether it be age, gender, sex, nationality, religion, political views or life experience. We welcome you to come and join in community. Everyone has a contribution. There is much work to be done.