by Kerry Lane
Fair Shares. One of the foundation ethics of Permaculture. It sounds like common sense, but when it comes to practical application there are all kinds of knotty moral questions that arise. What does ‘fair’ mean in practice? Everyone having exactly the same of everything? Equality of opportunity? What about the future generations are we including them too?
The real life situation I am experiencing at the moment is around my livelihood as a permaculture facilitator. Behind every course, every opportunity offered there is a choice, a balance struck between valuing yourself as a facilitator and meeting your need for an income balanced with wanting to create a thriving future, empowering as many people as possible.
Giving everyone the opportunity
If you are reading this blog, chances are you are part of the worldwide grassroots movement imagining and building a better future for ourselves, the earth and all the people on it. We want to empower everyone to take their part, share the tools and techniques that work, grow the movement. And we want everyone involved, if we leave even one person behind it isn’t going to work. So we really do want to make it possible for anyone who feels drawn to a course or opportunity to be able to participate and benefit from it. We don’t want money to be a barrier. That is why we have 3 different prices for the March 7 Ways to Think Differently course, so that those who can afford to pay more and those that can’t can still come.
Livelihoods of Passion
Everyone in permaculture is doing it for the love of it, none of us are expecting to earn our millions. However, we still live in an economy largely reliant on money, some people manage to survive with very little, me included, but it is very difficult to do without completely. And the amount of time that goes into running a course is phenomenal. Yes, there is the time you are actually facilitating the course when you are more or less working 24 hours a day; the informal conversations outside of sessions often being as valuable as the sessions themselves. But on top of that there are the hours spent designing the sessions, promoting the course to get participants, co-ordinating the logistics of the cooking, the venue, the finances. And if we are taking a bigger picture view then what about all of the hours spent training as a facilitator, growing your permaculture knowledge and experience, all of that personal development. It is so important to value yourself, not to sell yourself short or to devalue the gifts that you bring to the world. But in a world where a lot of us choose to measure value through money, where would we be if we attempted to get minimum wage for all of the hours we put into a course, let alone some of the training that got us there in the first place.
Consider our upcoming 7 Ways to Think Differently course.
- Two facilitators, for a richer and more diverse course
- An apprentice, giving someone the opportunity to grow and develop on their pathway as facilitator
- Cooks, we have a couple cooking for us this time and they serve more function on the course than just preparing food
- Venue, supporting a great ethical enterprise
- Food, important nourishment for the body as well as the mind, keeping in line with our ethics with local, organic wholefood
It doesn’t take a great deal of maths expertise to spot the tension between these two aspects.
So you try to find a balance somewhere between the two. And part of that balance is also with the number of participants on a course. A small group is wonderful for learning and connection, but unless each participant pays a high fee then the team get no pay. But you don’t want a massive group, because then you don’t get the quality of experience, 10-20 is usually the ideal.
Then we get to the psychological fact that in the vast majority of cases people do not value things unless they have to work or pay for them. If someone perceives that we have set our course fee too low then they will wonder why and may well assume that it is because we have cut corners or it is of lower quality.
Additionally coming on a course is about investing in yourself both financially and with dedicated time and intention, practically nourishing and empowering yourself to move to a better future both personally and for the rest of the world. Making that initial investment is part of that journey and process, it is part of your commitment to change. I often wish it was otherwise, but I know from experience that I need to invest in order to cement my commitment to something I want to do in my life, otherwise I often discover that I am still not giving it the priority I would like. Weird psychology, but true!
So where is the balance? There is no easy answer at the moment, but we continue to walk the line down the middle, working for a better future for everyone and a right livelihood for ourselves. But in the spirit of co-operative thinking, dear reader, you might be able to help! If you would like to come along to our course in March, know someone who might be interested or are happy to spread the word, then please check out and share the course information.