Some people refer to Grounded Permaculture Action Party Inc. as a ‘movement’.
This is because there are a few things that make it unique to anything else in existence.
Grounded is the first Permaculture Action Party in the world.
The purpose of this article is to lay out the 5-Step Permaculture Action Party Formula so that anyone, anywhere, can copy the fundamentals and remix it for themselves. As with most things in this life - nothing is original, everything is a remix. (<--good watch, highly recommend)
There are some aspects to the formula that have not and will not change. This is because they are based on some deep fundamental truths of culture that are permanent across space and time (permaculture).
As I said above, everything is a remix and the idea of a Permaculture Action Party is no different. So before diving any deeper, credit must be given where credit is due and I would like to acknowledge the two key sources of inspiration for putting together the first Grounded Permaculture Action Party.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Founded by the late Dan Palmer in Melbourne the first permablitz happened way back in 2006 (before I even know what permaculture was!) It is a very well-organised grass-roots movement that has inspired regional permablitzes all over the world. There is much that can be learnt and adopted here to create your own Permaculture Action Party. On their site is a list of open-source guides for designers, facilitators and hosts that can be copied and remixed to meet your needs.
Before putting on the first Grounded event - I had never been to a permablitz, I had only vaguely heard of it. Once I started floating the idea and getting feedback - people would say - “oh that’s like a permablitz”. I checked it out online. I had no idea how organised they were but saw the missing ingredient and key point of difference I wanted to integrate…. the party! (More about why the music is SO IMPORTANT further down).
I first heard about the PAN through The Polish Ambassador in 2014. About 2012 I discovered his music and really enjoyed it. I started following him on socials and I became really inspired as he started using his profile to share his journey into permaculture. In 2014 he put out an album “Pushing Through The Pavement” - and basically said, “Hey I’ve got this tour to 35 cities and I want to do something more meaningful than just play shows - I want to leave a positive trace and use my music to facilitate social change”.
So he got a team together, created the PAN and launched a crowd-funding campaign to see if the idea would stick. Needless to say, it was a huge success - they smashed the target and put on Permaculture Action Days before and after his shows all over the country (USA).
At the time I was ALL IN on the music game - but was slowly becoming jaded as I was beginning to see that the “conscious music” scene and festivals were very hedonistic. Whilst music is an EXCELLENT TOOL for facilitating internal conscious evolution - that doesn’t always translate into an evolution of behaviour on the ground.
I began to realise that making music a #1 priority in a culture without a grounded foundation in the earth was a fool's game because the house of cards was going to come down sometime sooner or later and I needed to be as ready as possible.
Witnessing the success of the first Permaculture Action Tour planted a seed that made me realise music can and should be so much more than just a celebration of culture. In the right conditions, it can completely reframe culture AND regenerate the earth.
Using the above two movements as inspiration (as well as all my other life experiences) - here is the 5-Step Formula I followed to put on the first Grounded Permaculture Action Party. I share this in the hope you start your own Permaculture Action Party.
First you must survey your internal landscape and ask the big question WHY?
Why you? Why this? Why now? Get as clear as you possibly can on these questions BEFORE bringing anyone else on board.
For me, I loved organising parties and music was my #1 priority, but I could see that music culture (and our culture in general) was not grounded in reality and if I wanted to create something that could stand the test of time, it needed to be grounded in our sacred connection to country, community and culture. In that order of priority.
Based on what I had seen with the Permaculture Action Network, my skills and experience in Environmental Engineering, Permaculture, Project Management, Music and Events - I could see I was the one I had been waiting for. And so like many wise and successful people have said - if you want to change the world - start in your own backyard.
Once you are clear on your why, map out the concept in writing and float it with people in your sphere of influence. Start with your trusted inner circle. Then move out in concentric rings from there. If you don’t feel you have that inner circle or sphere of influence, humbly show up in service to other events and organisations that - for you - are somewhat on the path. From there you will be able to build trust and relationships with others and then leverage those connections to make your ideas happen.
In my case - being deep in the transformational festival scene - I consulted with event organisers and festival directors who I saw were ‘leading the way’. During this process, I found out that a few key organisers had actually had the same inspiration in the early 2000s, but with a more bush regen focus.
I asked why it stopped and learnt that while the ambitions and intentions were noble - the practical on-the-ground systems and follow-up management didn’t always work.
I thought deeply, consulted widely and drafted the first MOI. I came up with a budget and we made a pozible page to crowd-fund the concept.
Whilst the original crowdfunding campaign fell short of its target (and we didn’t get any of the money), it was enough to test the waters and build an email list. We went ahead with it anyway on a donation basis. There were swales that needed planting and there were enough people that were willing to come over for a jam, share some food and make a proper shin-dig out of it.
If you are not the paper owner of the site then you must have a solid relationship and understanding with the paper owner. The paper owner is the one who holds the title deed - and has the final say in the ultimate vision and any decisions of the site.
The best person is someone you've known the longest. In my case, for the first Grounded Gathering, it was my mother's property, the land I grew up on. After that first event, we started moving to new sites within the network of people that showed up to each event.
Another key aspect of this is only taking action on what can be maintained after everyone goes home. This was a big part of the failed projects of the bush doof scene in the early 2000s. Over-ambitious hippies planting thousands of trees to feel good while trippin’ balls. Trees planted at the wrong time of year with no follow-up maintenance… a recipe for failure. All that effort for nothing.
This is where permaculture design comes in as well. You don’t want to be rocking up ready for action with no plan. Worse still if the plan is bad and does not integrate best practices. Permaculture Design is a great place to start - but terrible place to finish. See my 5 Frameworks for a Regenerative Future for more info on that.
If you haven’t done a PDC or aren’t sure how it will work, consult with someone who has got the skills and know-how - better yet get them involved!
And finally, you want to make sure that what gets done can be maintained. Yes, I’m repeating myself because this is really important.
I’ve found over the years that it matters not how much you get done, but how well it is done and how much everyone has fun.
PHONE A FRIEND (or 200)
Now you’ve done the Groundwork, it is time to pull the trigger.
This is where courageous leadership comes in.
Pick a date.
Make the call.
Invite all your friends and family.
Call in every single favour you have bar none.
Be prepared to follow through no matter who shows up.
This is where you must punch fear in the face and get comfortable with the idea of failing.
The first Grounded Gathering was completely donation based. I literally called upon everyone I knew and called in every favour I had to get them there.
If you’ve never hosted a party, social gathering or even a dinner, then this will be a real challenge - but not a show-stopper. Work within your capacity. Fortunately for me, I’ve been putting on parties (and LOVE IT) since I was 12.
There are four types of people you need to show up, listed below in no particular order. Even better if you find individuals that can cover ALL of these categories - they are the HIGHEST VALUE people you can be friends with… the true gems!
- SKILLED FRIENDS
Awareness, education and empowerment lie at the heart of a Permaculture Action Party.
The world needs more people aware of the reality we face, educated about solutions and empowered to follow through and take action.
Holding immersive, intimate, transformative experiences for small groups of people allows for potent ancestral downloads and evolutionary upgrades to rewire the brain and change behaviours for the better.
It has been a fundamental part of Grounded’s value proposition since inception.
Arguably - you might not have the same experience or networks I did when I organized the first event. So if opting for a smaller, more casual, one-day event (like our one-day Moonthly Meetups) then simply lining up a few friends to share their passions and skills will work wonders to tick this box.
Think darning, building, composting, fermenting, butchering, propagating, growing food, ANYTHING. If it’s a practical skill that we’ve been doing for a long time - then it is worth sharing.
- MUSIC FRIENDS
This is anyone that you know that can come and play music. Be sure to book at least one act - whether band or DJ - that can activate the dance floor. Curate a bit of a vibe with the music flow like you would any social gathering. You will also need a sound system and someone to manage it.
- ACTION FRIENDS
These are your mates that love to get their hands dirty.
The ones that love bush-building, jury-rigging, hole-digging and fixing shitters… and know how to have fun while doing it! Your action-orientated friends are a critical part of the team to bring all the hard physical infrastructure together.
(Secret pro tip: they usually work harder when you bribe them with beer - especially home-brew!)
- FOODIE FRIENDS
Last, but certainly not least is to make sure a solid bunch of food-orientated friends come. If it is just one or two meals to cover, it is easy to freestyle and self-organise by simply asking people to bring a plate or donation to share. If you are expecting a big turnout (ie more than 100) - and/or it goes for many days - be sure to book one (or more) people in to cover the coordination of all the meals!
This job is not to be underestimated - it is by far the BIGGEST job to be taken care of and sharing food as a community is critical to creating the right vibe. As the old saying goes…
“Communities that eat together - stay together”. Cue segway.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
Sharing food is a key part of the Permaculture Action Party. We have been sharing food as a species forever. We have a deep ancestral yearning for this as the memories are encoded into our DNA.
Another big thing missing from our current Western culture is the connection with our food. Of course, growing it yourself is the ultimate - but not always possible.
Ethically source local food wherever possible and share the story of the food before it is eaten. This helps bridge the ever-widening gap between our awareness and the food we eat. Make sure that the food is all-inclusive for as many people as possible. We’ve found that catering vegan gluten-free as the default covers the most bases - and then adding dairy or meat options to the side separately keeps everyone’s bellies and bowels happy.
I knew sharing food was important from the beginning - but only after a few years did we start to introduce the food circle. A concept introduced from Rainbow Gatherings (I’ve never personally been) - which brings everyone present to hold hands in a circle before sharing the food.
This gives us an opportunity to connect with each other, share a song, prayer or blessing for the food and hear the story of where the food came from and how it was prepared. This is one of the most powerful and fundamental aspects of all Grounded events now and I can’t imagine it ever not happening!
We usually end this with a YUM or OM all sung at the same time to bring it back to the experience of the very first thing of existence that pricked our curiosity of consciousness… SOUND in HARMONY, cue segway.
PARTY (VIBE AND SIZE)
This is the extra fun bit!
When the tribe is together, and all of our basic physical and emotional needs are met…what else is there to do but celebrate?!
We have been celebrating since the dawn of time. The celebration of culture - aka the party - runs deep in our shared evolutionary story of humanity.
Key considerations when it comes to the party;
Before there was the word - there was the sound.
Music is the universal language that speaks to the deepest parts of our being. It is the natural precursor to invoking transcendental and spiritual experiences.
This is how we’ve celebrated and communed with the divine since before time.
Be sure to curate a vibe that is family-friendly.
Keep the morning for action and workshops, maybe some chill choonz in the arvo - build it up through the eve and finish around midnight. There are so many benefits to this. It keeps it family friendly, neighbours happy (be sure to check in with them first!) and makes sure everyone is fresh the next day for more action (if you are going multi-day).
Live jams and drum circles can take it to another level.
I personally like a good mix of live and electronic grounded sounds.
The psytrance that the hippies made in Goa with early electronic sequencers and computers in the 60’s and 70s - coupled with all the psychedelics - sent consciousness into the outer realms of the universe to explore the possibilities and dream up the new reality.
The next paradigm shift with the communications and internet age ushered in a new wave of psychedelic bass music to GROUND that dream into reality and the earth.
Ever wondered why someone like Formidable Vegetable consistently teams up with the BEST psychedelic bass producers in the world? Now you know.
The size of a Permaculture Action Party is orientated around Dunbar’s number.
The number comes from Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist who put forth the idea that the human brain only has the capacity to maintain 150 personal relationships. The idea has stood the test of time and scientific rigour and has been widely adopted through different disciplines throughout the world.
It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150. However, any debate around the specific number is semantics because back then we had no need to count!
This is the maximum number a group of people can cohesively manage before graduating to the next level of rules, laws and more institutional organisation (aka society, civilisation, agriculture, writing, organised religion, money, etc).
All of our ancestors for most of our existence lived in groups this size or smaller. This aspect of culture is as permanent as it gets.
When bringing people together to celebrate, this is the perfect number where there are still enough people to make it a cracking good time and not get boring, but still small enough to create a family-friendly village-sized vibe based on trust and personal relationships.
When it is this size and smaller - it is much easier to curate the culture.
As soon as you start getting bigger than this - then it loses the tribe/village vibe and it increases the opportunity for sketchy behaviour that people can get away with.
Under this number, everyone is a familiar face.
Go above this number and it becomes MUCH HARDER to moderate, mediate and modulate the culture and vibe you want to create.
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
In summary, the 5-Step Permaculture Action Party Formula is as follows;
- INVISIBLE GROUNDWORK - ask Why? Write it down. Get feedback from friends.
- PHYSICAL GROUNDWORK - find a site and make a plan (with a permaculture design)
- CALL A FRIEND (or 2…hundred) - Pick a date and make the call. Specifically, you want;
- Experienced Friends - to share practical knowledge and skills.
- Musical Friends - to bring the music and party vibes.
- Action Friends - that love getting stuff done and having fun while doing it.
- Foodie Friends - that love preparing and sharing food.
- FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD - grow and source local food, make sure everyone eats together.
- PARTY (VIBE & SIZE) - curate the musical flow and keep the size under Dunbar’s number.
This is just the beginning. If you actually manage to pull it off… and do it well, then everyone will want to do it again, and again, and again.
This is what happened with Grounded and there have been so many other learnings along the way since. Things like organisational structures, decision-making, conflict resolution, project management, leadership, business, finance, accounting and marketing to name a few.
If you need any support getting your own Permaculture Action Party happening, let me know. It would be an honour to assist in propagating this idea across space and time.
Best wishes and good luck.