Permaculture Blog

Create Your Own Livelihood Plan

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This is the second part of an article published in Permaculture Magazine in Summer 2016.

You may at first consider your acquired skill-set to be redundant in your new future, but we can apply permaculture to most things. An accountant for instance is good with numbers and those skills are needed in many areas of life. Give it a little thought and you may realise that your skillset could be a great asset in the permaculture community. What better way to get some clarity on this than to apply a design process?

Survey

Here are some key questions I would ask in applying permaculture thinking to this topic:

Stocks and flows

  • What are your ongoing needs – financial and otherwise? Do some vary seasonally? Might you be able to meet more of those needs directly or through other forms of exchange?

  • What do you have in reserve to support you through a change of livelihood? Finances or otherwise. There are many other forms of capital to consider.

Start by listing your current financial income and outgoings. Look for easy ways to reduce your need for money before seeking ways to increase it.

Personal resources

  • What skills do you already have?

  • How might these be useful to other permaculture businesses?

  • Start here when looking for opportunities. 

  • What do you love to do – where is your passion? What are you inspired to learn? These things could become part or all of your future income.

  • Where are you based? Where do you spend time? Are you a home-lover or do you like to travel? Do you have computer skills? Do you love to write?

  • Do you have more energy in the summer and less in the winter?

Material resources

  • Do you own or have use of any land or buildings?

  • What tools, software etc. do you have use of?

  • Social environment

  • Who do you have within your network?

  • What can they offer and what might they need?

  • What does the permaculture community as a whole currently look like?

  • What are the primary communication routes? This might involve some research.

  • Where are the gaps? Could you fill any of these empty niches? What limits you?

  • What’s holding you back from doing what you’d most love to do?

  • Are you unnecessarily wasting any energy, time or money?

  • Where could you make interventions to plug these leaks? It’s always better to save what you have than to find more.

Social environment

  • Who do you have within your network? What can they offer and what might they need?

  • What does the permaculture community as a whole currently look like?

  • What are the primary communication routes? This might involve some research.

  • Where are the gaps? Could you fill any of these empty niches?

What limits you?

  • What’s holding you back from doing what you’d most love to do?

  • Are you unnecessarily wasting any energy, time or money? Where could you make interventions to plug these leaks? It’s always better to save what you have than to find more

 

Analysis

While the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares can underpin our new livelihood, the principles can help us in framing our decisions. Here’s how you can apply some of them to this challenge. Can you think of any others?

Multiple elements for each important function – aim to create a poly-income (from more than one source) and ensure a good seasonal spread (work with nature). Choose income streams that would be affected differently by any specific changes in the economy/ environment. I personally travel and teach a lot throughout the warmer months and retreat to home to be creative, writing in particular, during the winter.

Multiple functions for each element – can you re-purpose what you do rather than re-create some things from scratch? Multifunctioning your journeys is a fairly easy win.

Appropriate scale – choose a livelihood that gives you the freedom to work as much as you need, but no more than you want. One that will allow you to scale up or down should the need arise.

Everything gardens – who loves to do the jobs you don’t want to?

Design for cooperation – find others to collaborate with and create a support structure around you – to share what you learn. There may be niches out there just waiting to be filled, for instance Joel Salatin invites his interns to look for opportunities to create a new business for themselves at Polyface Farms.

Produce no waste – can you make use of waste from somewhere else and find a further use for yourself? I came across a business in Brussels growing mushrooms on waste coffee grounds which then donated their own waste as compost to a local community garden.

Edge effect – where do the resources you need meet? Where are your clients? How can you increase your edge (get noticed etc.)? Start small and work out from well-managed areas – don’t be in a hurry to make changes. Be like nature and play the long game, evolving your poly-income as you gain new skills.

Succession – look ahead and consider how your environment might change and how you can adapt to stay ahead of the game.

Decisions and Implementation Planning

Spending enough time in the planning stage is important, but at some point we need to take our first steps with our new venture. Create a clear implementation plan – Gantt charts (a chart in which a series of horizontal lines shows the amount of work done or production completed in certain periods of time in relation to the amount planned for those periods) are an excellent way of keeping track of projects.

Continue to monitor how well things are going, keeping a track of finances and seasonal changes in demand. Tweak as necessary. Ensure you have a good support structure around you. I personally meet up every few months with a couple of self-employed friends in different lines of work and we share what’s been going well for us and our goals for the future. And remember, that even the longest journey begins with a single step. What’s stopping you from answering those questions above right now?

If you've enjoyed this blog and would like to go deeper into your livelihood design and/or be supported through the process join our Design Your Ethical Livelihood Course.

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