GOBRADIMET+ Design process

Making visible some of the invisible layers in the permacultural designing process

Photo by Luiza Oliveira — For me, the pattern of this succulent reminds me of how it takes time to deeply observe something (land, situation, processes) to be able to see and understand the many layers and perspectives intertwined within it. And how more you observe, more you see elements that you didn’t notice before.

There are things in life that no matter how much we prepare ourselves for, we cannot foresee every aspect of it. Learning permaculture design, I understood that one of the many goals of the design it is not to be in control of everything, but it is to allow the energies within a system (sun, water, wind, human power, for example) to flow in a balanced way, creating no waste, allowing regeneration to happen, in a spiral process of learning, designing, implementing, re-evaluating, re-designing.

This is one of the aspects that I love the most in the permacultural way of learning, it is a continuous learning process, knowing that with time, many things will change, and the need for re-evaluation it is part of continuous practice.

But there are things that I only learned to identify in this designing process after applying GOBREDIMET in various contexts and situations. In this article, I will share some steps that I believe it would have made my life a little bit easier if I was aware of these invisible layers before.

Before starting to talk about the invisible layers of the design, let’s do a touch base here. If you are not familiar with design processes in permaculture, I suggest you read these two articles before moving forward:

So, now, I am going to share my personal process of understanding the pattern processes of my designs. And I am saying that it is a personal process because I don’t think that it is the same process for everybody. So, take what it is useful for you, and the rest, let it compost.

I am calling invisible layers here the layers that usually are forgotten to be considered and recorded as a layer in the process, like, socials layers that involve communication system, decision-making process, conflict-transformation tools, emotional layers, for example.

As one of the principles in permaculture, to learn how to better understand any system and/environment, we learn to Observe and Interact. When I think about a physical space or a group of people working together, it is easy to imagine from where to start observing, but thinking about my designs as a group of various experiences, that are collected in a file with various analysis, with different contexts and groups of people, how to observe and look for the patterns they create?

I am a very visual and synesthetic person. So, it is important for me to create visual representations of the concepts that are being discussed, and create pieces that I can play with to create a physical experience out of it. This kind of process helps me to engage in my own learning process. This may sound obvious, but not everybody learns in the same way, so it is important to identify your own learning channels to be able to create a more enjoyable and practical process for you to learn.

So, taking my visual and synesthetic learning channels in consideration, I created a big board on the floor to represent the many aspects that I could identify in the designs that I had created and I have been creating so far, making easier for me to observe and make my own analysis of these multiple systems.

Image by Luiza Oliveira

With this exercise, I managed to understand better the various layers of my own permacultural path, experiences, and patterns between projects design. And I identified:

  • My local peer’s that I often discuss permaculture design processes with;
  • Places where I practice working with my community applying permacultural principles in different degrees;
  • The pattern of my own designs, and how they connect to each other somehow;
  • I was able to harvest tools that I learned in early projects that allowed me to make the following design a little bit easier;
  • I identified why some designs were more challenging than others and where I needed to create more tools to move on.

From that experience, I realized that I started to see and use the GOBRADIMET tool a little bit different during my designs and I decided to Tweak it consciously to my own use over time. I called it GOBRADIMET+ since I added a phase 0 and a phase 6.

Here it is how I mapped it to help me to navigate over my design processes:
(Spoiler alert: the next image contains many English mistakes in it since it was my first doodle about it.)

Doodled by Luiza Oliveira

GOBRADIMET +

Phase 0: Identifying the system where you are going to create the design

a. Who is this design for? And with who are you doing it with? Identify the system around where you are going to start your design.

  • Yourself
  • Your family
  • Your neighbors
  • A specific group of people
  • An association
  • A client

Sometimes, you are going to find yourself in a situation that you are going to start a design for yourself, in a family space, or a shared space within your neighborhood, so don’t worry if your answer check more than one box, try to identify who is going to be directly involved by your design and design process, and with who you are going to co-create with.

Try to identify the immediate surrounding that may interact with your design in many ways (direct and indirectly), as a resource, and as a restriction, so it is important to identify it even before Phase 2 (Boundaries and Resources), because you may want to engage your surrounding in your design process in this early stage in order to create more synergies around it (or not).

The purpose of this identification is to understand the process that you are going to need to create in order to keep your design experience flowing. Because if you are doing it by yourself, for yourself (and the Earth), you are going to create your own pace that you can change it as you go, but if you are working with other people, your decision-making process and communication processes are going to influence directly the rhythm your design progress.

And this leads us to the next question of this phase:

b. How decisions are going to be taken?

  • Are you autonomous in your decision process?
  • Do you need to ask permission/consent to someone (Family, Landowner, State)?
  • If you are designing with a group of people, what is the structure that you are working with? Is it hierarchical? Is it horizontal? Who are the stakeholders of your design? How is your communication system within the group? How is the flow of it?

It is important to realize that if you are working with other people, the quality of your communication is going to influence directly the progress of your design. People share different communication skill and experiences, so it is important to take some time to understand how you are going to communicate within your group and how decisions are going to be made. This kind of space can create trust within the group and the time “spent” here is going to be saved in the future.

c. What about emotional availability?

Working with nature, I realized that our emotional availability also comes in seasons too. Remember to create space and time within your design for days that you feel more tired, less engaged and less emotionally available. To communicate your emotional availability in your group also helps the group to create strategies to support each other in order to move better together.

Yes, it is not always easy to communicate like that, especially because most of us didn’t learn how to do it. But from my personal experience, when I managed to be authentic in a group and managed shared my tiredness, sadness or frustration feeling of the moment, that were playing a role to make me less emotional available at the moment, new spaces and beautiful new dynamics were created too, without having to shovel my feelings, making me more present and believe it or not, more emotionally available within the process.

d. What is the format of your design in time?

  • Is it punctual*?
  • Is it helicoidal**?
  • How flexible in time are you going to be?

*I call a punctual format design that it is very specific for a situation, usually at one specific moment in time, that after may devellop to a helicoidal format if desired. Or punctual format can also be a helicoidal process that ended abruptly.

**I call a helicoidal format of the design that you are going to create it, re-evaluate it and re-design it many times, taking into consideration the context in order to improve it accordingly.

The idea with this question is to identify how much energy and time you are willing to invest in this design. Most of my designs are helicoidal, to understand how much time you would like to spend in each phase, will help you and your group to keep track of it, and navigate together.

Remember the idea of creating a clear design process is not to try to control everything, but it is a way to save energy and improve your experience in designing it, helping you to create some structure in the way you navigate in the process.


Phase 1: Goals & Observations

Goals:

Identify:

  • Personal goals;
  • Shared group goals;
  • Stakeholders goal;

Identify your personal goals for the chosen design, and if you are co-creating with other people, ask everybody to make a list of their own personal goals, and then share it with the group and try to understand which are the shared goals, and how they interact with each other.

Do they create synergic interactions with each other? How? If not, how to create a synergic dynamic between your goals?

Observations:

Gather all the information and data collected so far about the potential design area, about the land you will be working on, try also to observe the social context within it and around it, the emotional context, family or families background, for example.

Remember that depending on the flexibility of your design your goals may change and evolve over time, and this is part of the process, don’t worry. But because this is an evolving process, it is important to be aware that if you are working with other people the quality of your communication and recording processes are going to have a big impact in the steps to come. So try to be mindful about how you are communicating your ideas clearly and how you are recording the steps during your process.


Phase 2: Boundaries & Ressources (B&R)

Identify the boundaries and resources within yourself, group and surrounding related to your design, think about:

  • Physical B&R;
  • Climate B&R;
  • Human power and community engaged B&R;
  • Time B&R;
  • Cultural B&R;
  • Emotional B&R;
  • Personal B&R

Phase 3: Analysis & Design

Identify:

  • The elements and the components of the area where you are working on;
  • Organize all the data collected during phase 1 and see how they help you to better understand the area where you are going to work with;
  • Identify the sectors of your land (this is also valid for social and emotional designs too, like evaluate the emotional sectors, for example);
  • Identify the zones of your design and how you or your group interact with them;
  • How do you apply the permaculture ethics and principles in the design in order to create a more resilient system that creates regeneration within it and in its surroundings?
  • Use the scale of permanence to help you visualize from where to start your design process;

Phase 4: Implementation & Maintenance

Think about:

  • From where are you going to start? Remember the principle of using small and slow solutions. How slow can you go?
  • What is your time frame?
  • How much energy is going to take you to implement it and to maintain over time?
  • Is it possible to create a more energy efficient and autonomous design over time?

Phase 5: Evaluating & Tweaking

  • How do you feel about the design?
  • What do you like about it?
  • What would you do it differently?
  • Do you feel that it is aligned with your goals and the goals of your group, client, neighborhood?
  • Can you make your design more dynamic?
  • Can you create more synergies within it and its surroundings?
  • Can you see cultural emergence emerging from it?

Phase 6: Re-defining your goals and preparing for the re-designing process

  • Are your goals the same since you first started? If not what changed it? How to integrate them in the design?
  • If your goals are the same, are you satisfied with the outcome? What was different from what you expected? What changed?
  • Are you working by yourself? How do you feel about the entire process? How can you improve it? What can you harvest from it? And it needs to be composted?
  • Are you working with a group of people? Did your working group change? Did the dynamics within the group change? How? What can you harvest from it? And it needs to be composted?
  • Redefine who is moving to the next re-design phase with you and restart the process and redefine Phase 0.

At the first moment, GOBREDIMET+ can be a bit overwhelming, but I must say that when I managed to name better my steps in the process even before starting the GO phase I saved so much energy in my own processes and the dynamics in working with groups.

So, I wish you all the best in your permacultural designing process!

Remember to have fun with it!