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Design Methods
Cultural & Ecological designing
ferrocement garage - front view ferrocement garage - rear quarter view

My training, experience and research includes Whole Systems Design, Permaculture design, group processes and communication, Biointensive gardening, selective sustainable forestry, Keyline water management and land design, Council process, forest gardening and agroforestry, alternative and natural building, community forestry, and more. See my projects and resume or contact me for additional details.

Whole Systems Design offers innovative ways of observing, understanding and creating processes, systems, 'things' and other desired outcomes. It teaches us both how and why "...the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Permaculture design is a particular manifestation of whole systems design, as are most other methods I employ.

  • 'Whole' (as in 'holistic') - thinking and acting holistically means dealing with 'wholes' (whole 'things', ideas, processes, systems) rather than arbitrarily separated pieces or fragments. It means looking and asking questions 'outside the box', expanding our realms of inquiry in order to reach a more complete understanding of whatever we are concerned with.
  • 'Systems' means understanding and working with organization, interaction and pattern. A 'system' is, in general, any collection of 'parts' which interact with each other to function as a recognizable 'whole'.
  • 'Design' offers ways to manifest, through artifacts ('stuff'), systems and processes, whatever it is we want. Design is how we express our (holistic systemic) creativity as human beings.
Whole Systems Design is not limited to any particular discipline, practice or field of endeavor. It is, rather, a manner of being - a way of doing whatever it is we do.

Permaculture design, developed through prolonged and thoughtful observation of natural systems, organizes and integrates a diverse array of ecological design techniques, methods and technologies from numerous cultures, ancient to modern. It can be applied to designing locally self-sufficient communities at any appropriate scale. Permaculture emphasizes relationships between elements of a design as key to creating diverse, healthy and robust ecological systems.

Group Process and Communication happens all the time, in daily life, at work, at home, at play, in stressful times and quiet times, in small groups and large groups. How we interact with each other is fundamental to what sort of communities we create. All our designing - for people, place, learning, integration - is ultimately expressed, for better or worse, through our interactions with ourselves and one another.

In other words, the consequences of whatever tools, techniques or technologies we employ to create food, water, shelter, community and so on depend primarily on how we relate with ourselves and each other, and not on the tools, techniques or technologies themselves.

Therefore I embrace and integrate multiple approaches to group process and communication - approaches that recognize the multitude of different ways we describe our experiences, and that honor the infinite variety of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical aspects of our existence.

This is why I call what I do 'Cultural and Ecological Designing'.

Ecological designing invites us to understand and integrate ourselves with the living systems on which our existence depends, to mutual benefit for all.

Cultural designing invites us to notice that what matters most is how we do what we do - our lived culture. To design and create what we say we want, we may need to redesign and recreate our cultural patterns, habits and assumptions.

Copyright © 2010 John Schinnerer
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