My first diploma tutorial

I had my first diploma tutorial last week with Jan Mulreany, my tutor.  Talking to her, it was interesting to realise how far I had got with my diploma and how much I had learned.  We decided that I probably had at least four designs that could be submitted right now – ALP, Time and Money, Cutting Edge and Teaching Permaculture.

One of the things that the tutorial brought home to me was the difference between design and implementation.  When submitting your design, you need to prove that you have followed a process (SADIM, OBREDIMET) which led you to make the decisions that you did.  You don’t need to prove that it ‘worked.’  I feel that I want to submit only designs that worked – as a showcase for my obviously enormous intelligence 😉  However, I need to remember that this is not the point.  A design which doesn’t quite work out the first time and is then redesigned and does work out is perhaps a better demonstration of the process of learning.

This is something that I am struggling a bit with with my Cutting Edge project – a permaculture business plan for my scythe courses.  I have completed the design, based on the observation and analysis and knowledge I had at the time, but that design has proved rather disastrous this year.  By rather disastrous I mean completely disastrous – but that’s a whole other post.  Still, I will submit it and hopefully by the time I get to accreditation (far far in the future) then I will have redesigned with success and this year will be a humorous blip in my journey to being reigning queen of scythe courses…

I also told her of my issues with the various syndromes that seem to affect many of the diploma apprentices I know.  These are ‘big project syndrome,’ ‘how the hell do you do a non-land-based design syndrome’ and ‘how will I know when it’s finished syndrome…’

‘Big project syndrome’ and ‘how will I know when it’s finished syndrome’ are about two sides of the same coin.  They are about where you position the boundaries of your project.  Almost all designs will spawn further mini (or not so mini designs) so you need to work out where you’re going to draw the line.  If you’re designing a garden, is the garden the whole design, or could the garden constitute a whole diploma’s worth of smaller projects?  I guess it’s up to you, how much time you have, where you want to be at the end of the diploma.  Design the appropriate scale for yourself!

My diploma will go on for a long time, so I’m hoping to get some big  stuff done.  But that does mean that rather than have ten projects, what I really have is around 50 not inconsiderably small projects.  What I need to do with this, I think, is apply some project management tools for example critical path analysis.  Using a tool like this would help me identify pathways towards my goals and also where roadblocks lie.  It would also really pinpoint the projects that don’t have a SMART goal.  How can you get there if you don’t know where you’re going?

For example, I know that not having ample or accessible storage space is a problem for many of my projects, but particularly the preserving and scythe projects.  This is really holding up a lot of projects and I need to either design and build a storage space (i.e.  a shed) or I need to work out how I can work with the space that is currently available.  Perhaps a storage design is in order…  (oh god, not another design…)  My issue here is that building a shed is a fairly big project and one that needs to be done with (ok, by) my housemate who owns the house.  Negotiations, design and building will take most of the winter, I suspect, so I need to come up with a way of progressing projects until we reach that point.  Other roadblocks are less tangible.  My reluctance to invest in a shed is largely to do with not knowing how long I will be living here, so any kind of storage space design like this needs to include key elements of succession.  Can Ben use it after I have gone?  Hmm, one storage design coming up, I suspect.


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