Observation checklist for non-land based designs

Since the start of my diploma, I have been very confused with how one goes about starting a non-land based design.  There is plenty of advice around about how to start observing a piece of land, but not very much about what to observe for when starting a different kind of project.  I’m sure that there’s advice on this in Looby’s book, People and Permaculture, but I am ashamed to say I haven’t read it (it’s on the list).  Since I am now quite a few designs into my diploma I realised that I have learnt quite a lot about how to start observing for a non-land based project and whilst wallowing in the bath last night (give me a break, I don’t have many showers…) came up with a checklist of areas to observe for.

The idea with this checklist is not to be able to answer it all at once, but to notice which areas I am not quite sure about and spend time observing those.  It’s a work in progress, I am sure I will add to it as time goes on.  If you’ve got any comments on it, I’d be glad to hear them.

Here it is:



–  Does this design stem from a problem that I need to solve, or from an idea I have had?

I.e. do I have an idea of the outcome I’d like to achieve or am I open to any outcome that solves my problem in a permacultural way?

–  What is motivating me to start this project? What problems will it solve in my life?

–  How does this project fit in with my purpose and motivations?

–  On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does this project excite me?


–  Do I honestly have enough energy for this project right now?

–  What else is currently taking up my time and energy, and how will those things mesh with this project?

The Project 

–  What are the parts of this project?  What different activities will I need to be able to do and make time for?

–  Are the outputs of this project multi-faceted?

E.g. for a livelihood design, is it lucrative and educational and will help me meet cool and interesting people?

–  Do the eventual outputs honestly justify the inputs?

–  How scaleable is the project?  What are my plans for scaling it?

–  What will be my biggest limiting factors and how do I plan to mitigate these?

–  How much space will the project require, and of what kind?


–  Do I honestly have the required knowledge to do this now?

–  If not, how will I get this knowledge?

E.g.  Books, internet, DVD, course (in person or online), experiential learning 

–  How long will it take me before I know enough to be able to action this project?


–  What resources will I need for this project?

–  Do I already have them?

–  Can I get them quickly, easily and cheaply?

–  If they’re more expensive or harder to source, do I have a plan for acquiring them?


–  How much time will this project require?  How do I know this?

–  How much time will the initial project require (the 80%), and how much time will maintenance require (the 20%)?

–  How much time do I have available for this project?

–  How will I build this project incrementally, over time?

–  How much admin will the project require, and how much time will that take?

–  How does this project fit in with the cycle of my year, month, week?


–  Who are my collaborators in this project?

–  Who are my mentors in the project?

Mentors don’t have to be ‘official,’ you don’t even have to know them.  They could be someone who has successfully done what you would like to do and are open to being asked questions about it.  

–  Where are the hubs for getting to know collaborators and mentors?

E.g. Online, clubs, societies and associations, cafes


One thought on “Observation checklist for non-land based designs

  1. […] non-land-based designs, as well as the basic roadmap towards my goals.  I’ll include the checklist in this starter kit obviously as I am already finding it immensely useful.  I’m so glad that […]

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