Design: One year internship (income focused)
Location:  Germany
Client: Kuckucksmuehle community, internee, me
Start and end of planning dates: November – December 2019
Type of project:  Business
Design process: SADIMET

Synopsis

22nd November 2019 – High Heathcombe Center

In the last days whilst meeting new people and introducing myself I have found that explaining what I do takes a while as I go through the long list of activities and projects that I am currently involved in. In a talking circle when asked how I felt at a point I was so overwhelmed that I could barely speak and full of emotion I said “I feel everything, I am exhausted”. Some months ago someone had suggested to me that I need an assistant. This took a while to sink in seemingly, I had initially dismissed the idea as pretentious, however I have finally accepted that I need help. It was not immediately clear to me which part of my work I need help with. What is clear to me is that I want that this is not just a job someone does to fill the time but to offer a real opportunity for someone to learn and live what we do. To become an integral part of our community and bring real value to everyone involved. As a community we are particularly struggling to make our project sustainable with only one stream of income our “bus factor” does not look good.

Since I have signed up as a member of the Permaculture Association I often receive emails with the latest opportunities published on their website. There are often offers like the one I was wanting to provide and so there was my inspiration. 

Survey

23rd November 2019 – High Heathercombe Center, UK

Site Survey

Kuckucksmühle (Cuckoo Mill) is a historical water mill in the North East of Germany (Brandenburg Federal State) between Berlin and Hamburg.

It is also the name of a small community of 6 to 9 people that live on site, permies: 1 elder who suffers from dementia, 1 programmer that works remotely, 1 programmer that spends weekdays in Potsdam and weekends at the community, 1 project manager, 1 programmer spends months away and then months again at the community. Then there are the transient part of the community: 5 volunteers in Summer and 3 in Winter. Turnover of transient members is usually around 2 weeks however longer stays are possible and do happen occasionally. 

Average occupancy is around 6 people per day.

Ideals

Sustainable living using appropriate technology and permaculture principles.

To provide sustainable living spaces for people to experience a way of life that is not necessarily dependent on the system using appropriate, open and low cost technological solutions.

Sustainable Living & Simple Sustainable Solutions

  • self sustainable community and living environment
  • ecological farming using permaculture principles
  • reuse & recycle
  • conserving resources like water, soil, …
  • avoiding use of chemicals/pesticides
  • preserve & rehabilitate nature
  • repopulation of flora & fauna
  • use of natural products (hygiene)
  • living off the grid when possible

Sustainable Hackerspace

  • development of opensource solutions focused on the needs of permaculture farming
  • automation of recurring tasks to save resources
  • intelligent resource management

Reducing Poverty

  • create low cost opensource solutions for permaculture farming
  • raising awareness about poverty and how to alleviate it

create and maintain a fair share environment

Connecting People

  • encouraging collaboration
  • collaboration with other similar projects/communities
  • involving the local community
  • encourage social gatherings & festivals
  • using & promoting local resources and local networking infrastructure

Building an Inclusive Community

  • respecting all members of the community
  • providing an anti-discriminatory space
  • community members can be both offline (local) and/or online

Education

  • workshops & skill sharing
  • internships & volunteering programmes
  • documentation of the project
  • opensource development & promotion

Art and Culture

  • providing a space for art and culture
  • promotion and support for local art and cultural events

Democracy

  • implementing a democratic or consensual way of making decisions such as
    • setting priorities
    • use of monetary resources
  • promote and enhance the democratic process

Community main goals

Affiliations

  • Part of the Eco Hacker Farm project
  • Energie Dezent eV

Client Interview

Community members are not so interested in scheduling formal meetings and prefer to discuss topics informally. The below is a summary from the different conversations held between the 22nd November

and 29th November 2019. For the purpose of this exercise the permanent members of the community except for Gert due to the dementia participated in the discussions.

Aimee: Needs help. My role is currently very broad and with many projects on site and externally it is not possible to focus my energies on long term development needed for creating a sustainable income. It would also be interesting to combine this spreading of responsibility to someone who stays with our community and wants to be a part of it for some time, say 6 to 12 months in order to be able to add value and create a system which can be built on after they move on. 

Franz: Acknowledges that there needs to be a reduction in Aimee’s workload, likes the idea of adding more long term community members and their input into the community income stream. He also would be interested in getting involved with some income making activities but only if they match his interests. For example mushroom cultivation or beekeeping.

Robert: Is a little skeptical as to whether we would be able to find long term residents however after having seen similar posts with other communities he recognises that this might be possible. He also likes the idea of adding to the community members. 

Anton: Is happy that Aimee is acknowledging and is asking for help, additional members to the community welcome and hopefully we make steps in the right direction with diversifying our income streams and working on different ideas. 

Vision for the role and the person

  • Focus on income generation projects only
  • Fits well within our community – share ideals
  • Long term stay 6 to 12 months or longer
  • Understands / wants to learn more about our community vision, permaculture and hackerculture

Budget

  • Funds for accomodation and food from the volunteer budget reducing no of temporary volunteers from 5 to 4 in Summer and from 3 to 2 in Winter – maintaining flexibility where possible. 
  • Private accommodation sacrificing one rental room in the hopes of recouping the costs from the interns income focused work. 

Resources

  • Permies skills
    • Project management
    • Programming skills
    • Permaculture knowledge & design
  • A beautiful residence in a historical building
  • Some rooms that can be rented out with minimal changes
  • The Ecolodge building that is almost ready for renting out
  • Woodwork shop in the barn equipped with basics
  • Profile on many platforms to attract more volunteer help
  • Ideas: permies have plenty of different income generation models 
  • Mutual support and encouragement: being part of this community means that you provide support to other members when they need it and ask for help and receive support when you need it.

Limitations

  • Time – minimum maintenance should be needed

Current income flows and desired flows

 

Understanding the current flows and the desired additions and reductions is a way of identifying the direction in which the job role will go towards, which skills may be needed and also where there is room for own ideas and creativity within this framework. 

Specifics for the job role to create new income streams from:

  • Courses
  • Events & Retreats
  • Renewable energy resources
  • Food market produce

Non specifics:

  • Bring new ideas and more energy into the mix

Analysis

PMI

+ new energy

+ new ideas

+ familiar / effective effort towards becoming financially sustainable

+ can house site when we are away

+ feels more like a community with more permanent residents

+ increased skill diversity

+ better spread tasks

+ highlighting opportunities for improvements    

 

– less rental income

– less wide exposure

– 1 less volunteer space

– financial risk

– reputational risk

– more financial resources needed

 

i different group dynamic

i perspective of a new comer

Fears

increased conflict in the community

ideals not shared

needs not being about to be met

Remediation

Probation period

open communication and behavioural expectations

shared ideals as a requirements

make clear which needs we can fulfil

Hopes

ideals are shared

open communication

shared goals

recuperate financial costs

SWOC Analysis

Strengths Weaknesses
Bringing in a new person increases diversity of ideas and skills needed to make the community efforts successful. Entering an established community may be difficult for someone new, especially if they do not know anyone there before. 
Opportunities Challenges
The community is more financially sustainable and closer to their collective goals of attracting longer term community members by having different sources of income. Property renovation costs are covered without any loans needed from the bank. The person chosen may not be suitable, damage the community’s good reputation in the local area / online. They could damage community social structures and property and become a burden. 

Structure and Freedom

The main functions of this design are to: 

  • A job description and specification document for a 1 year internship – income focused
  • Provide information about our community and what we are looking to do in the longer term
  • Allow for freedom and flexibility for the person joining in to bring their own ideas and energy to the role

Input & Output Analysis

As a starting point for this exercise I took into account the known outputs and inputs and analyse how they interact with each other. I also wanted to make sure that since this post involved becoming an active part of the community this part would be emphasised. 

This is demonstrated with the most links between the listed elements with community information and invitation output. 

Design

It was clear from the beginning that the the job post would be a mixture of a job description and a job specification document however this was not enough to portray who we are as a community and how a person. 

The main functions that have been identified: 

  • Community information
  • Invitation for engagement
  • Job description – tasks that will be covered
  • Job specification – requirements from candidates
  • Ideals information
  • Social contract terms
  • Social contract offer
  • Legal information / limitations
Component Content Functions
Title One year internship post: assistant project manager Job description
Status Status: open for applications Invitation for engagement

Introduction Kuckucksmuehle is a small but growing community of 4 to 5 people which we call “permies” hosting up to 5 volunteers at a time in the summer and 3 in the winter. Together we work to combine permaculture and hackerculture (aka appropriate technology) for sustainable living. This year we would like to open a 1 year spot for a volunteer to help with the income generation part of the project.We live in a very beautiful 16th century old water mill surrounded by land, our main focus is to become more self sustainable both in terms of food production and also from an income perspective since the property requires extensive renovation. Our long term objective is to increase our capacity to accommodate more long term community members on site. Community information
Ideals introduction
Invitation for engagement
Venue information
Job description about the position:You will be working 30 hours a week, to support and work closely with Aimee, the project manager on site with tasks specific to income generation, these include but are not limited to:help with organising and planning tasks to get the ecolodge on the go
help develop and implement a marketing plan for ecolodge
identify and develop other possible income streams
eg venue hire / workshops / retreats / room hire etc.occasionally house sitting
includes taking care of the animals and Gert (elderly person living on site) if there are no other volunteers on site (rare but possible)
Social contract terms
Job description
Job specification about you:
skills
Highly organised and good at planning and implementation
Comfortable with technology, spreadsheets, presentations etc.Familiar with permaculture principles or willing to learnHands on skills for diy
helpful
Marketing and project management experience desirable
Essential: an excellent work ethic, turn up on time and work collaboratively

Job specification
Job specification personality, values & experienceloves countryside living, including animals, compost toilets, outdoor solar showers and getting your hands dirtyhas a can-do attitudewant to participate in all aspects of community lifeattending house meetingsshare in household chores (cleaning, cooking, heating, wood chopping, community work days etc)values aligned closely with the three permaculture ethicsA morning person that does not smoke and does not take drugs (prescription drugs are ok)Vegetarian / vegando not have any own pets (we are already at capacity with the animals on site) Job specification
Invitation for engagement
Ideals introduction


Additional information note about couplesIf you are a couple then it would also be possible to make some arrangement especially if one of you is a carpenter, handy person or is a very keen housekeeper. Invitation for engagement
Offer what we offer:
A private room, visitors are allowed in line with our visiting conditions.
Vegetarian / vegan home grown / organic food we grow on site and what we don’t is sourced regionally / organic, we do not buy milk and meat.
Supermarket drinks and snacks are not included but we have a small tuck shop on site if you want to indulge yourself with a little chocolate.
Generally we have a communal dinner in the evenings.
If you want to work outside the community for money, please make sure that you have enough time to honor our agreement.
This position is for 30 hours a week in return for food and accommodation. Working hours can be discussed if you have preferred times and days, this will have to be compatible with the needs of the project and Aimee’s schedule.
This position is for 30 hours a week.
We have a piano and electric guitar if you are musically inclined.
We have bicycles you can borrow to go to town.
You can learn how to live in nature, foraging, food growing using a no till technique, companion planting, seed saving, craft making, natural fence building, food preservation, bread baking and countless other skills.
Occasionally we go on trips and outings which you are more than welcome to join in on.
There is a lake for swimming a short bike ride away from here which is quite pleasant in the summer.
Social contract offer
Experience and qualifications important things that you should tell us about:
Your experience with:
living in remote locations
living in a community
project management
technology / programming etc.or other relevant subject
any of your needs that we can support you with
Invitation for engagement
Additional information: Community information things you should be aware of:
We are a transitioning community that wants to be as eco friendly and sustainable as possible.
We maintain a blog to try and document our experience, please read a few posts to get familiar with our activities and difficulties on site.
Germany has a compulsory health insurance requirement, for people with 0 income this will be around 180Eur a month please make sure that you have enough funds in order to cover this before you apply for this position.
Invitation for engagement
Legal information
Additional information: Community information who is Aimee?
Aimee is a co founder and project manager of Eco Hacker Farm, project manager of Kuckucksmuehle, co-founder of RioLaden eV (a community managed organic and regional food shop), she runs workshops centered around permaculture topics. She is also a compost toilet designer, permaculture designer and permaculture design certificate holder. She can be found at tech conferences and alternative festivals delivering workshops and presentations or at Kuckucksmuehle gardening, organising or relaxing in a hammock. She also runs a yearly coding camp for young people. She is passionate and dedicated to spread permaculture and sustainable living ideals into the world.
Community information
Invitation for engagement
Conclusion Apply today!
Send an email to aimee@ecohackerfarm.org to apply for this opportunity.
Invitation for engagement

You can view the final product here.

Permaculture  Ethics

Care for the people – central to this design self care and care for a new community member

Care for the planet – offering an opportunity to live a sustainable life that is less harmful, learning new sustainable skills

Future care & Fair share – showing what is possible to others, share our spaces and have increased capacity for sharing even further.

Permaculture  Principles

Charles Birch and John Cobb, The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community (1984)

Six Principles of Natural Systems

1. Nothing in nature grows forever. There is a constant cycle of decay and rebirth.

I have accepted that any member of the community may eventually move on and thus leaving space for the next members to join, new energy and ideas to keep the community alive.

2. Continuation of life depends on the maintenance of the global bio geo chemical cycles of essential elements, in particular carbon,oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus.

We as a community also depend on our diversity to hold different roles in the community, different flavours in our interactions together with the individual and collective projects which make this community unique and resilient.

3. The probability of extinction of populations or a species is greatest when the density is very high or very low. Both crowding and too few Individuals of a species may reach thresholds of extinction.

We recognise the limit of our living space and resources and correlate that directly with the number of people on site, observing what happens with not enough people and too many people this informed the design as to what attributes are likely to enhance our small but diverse group. This is also why the number of spaces is limited.

4. The chance that a species has to survive and reproduce is dependent primarily upon one or two key factors in the complex web of relations of the organism to its environment.

We live at one with our landsite, the surrounding areas we recognise that awareness of this changes our behaviour and would like to inspire change in others, integration, understanding and agreement with our ideals was central 

5. Our ability to change the face of the earth increases at a faster rate than our ability to foresee the consequence of change.

By adding a person to our environment we are changing the make up of our community, whilst the consequences are not entirely forseeable we let the natural systems priciples guide us through the process, grounded in the permaculture ethics.

6. Living organisms are not only means but ends. In addition to their instrumental value to humans and other living organisms, they have an intrinsic worth.
 
We acknowledge that every person is valuable in their worth no matter what abilities they may or may not have.

Implementation

The design was presented to the community for approval on the 30th November and it was quickly approved for implementation.

1st December 2019 – Published on Permaculture Association UK Opportunities list

7th December 2019 – Published on the Eco Hacker Farm Blog

13th December 2019 – Sent out link together with the monthly newsletter

Maintenance

Upon feedback received – Ad Hoc

It was agreed that the wording of the different parts of the design would be adjusted depending on the feedback that was received from the public as and when received. 

After 3 months of first publication

Similarly the post would be revised if there would be no applicants after 3 months from first publications to reduce the internship post from 1 year to 6 months. 

After 6 months of no appointment

The community would also be able to decide after 6 months if there were no suitable applicants to reconfirm the need for the post, whether to republish this or abort it and think of other solutions. 

Evaluation

11th January 2020 – We received our first application from the volunteer who originally wanted to come here as a short term visitor. The post did not attract many applicants and I am wondering whether the cold season has actually put people off from applying. In any case since we are only looking for one candidate it will be easy to assess the volunteer when he arrives on site and decide together whether we are a good match.

Tweaking

11th January 2020 – Since this seems to be more effective I will also add this as an offer to volunteers who apply for short term stays if the applicant doesn’t work out. 

Accreditation Criteria

Demonstrating Design Skills Applying Permaculture in my own life

Design tools used:

SADIMET

Client interview

Flows diagram

Input Output analysis

SWOC

Component / Function Design

Design pattern to details

PMI

The design process helped in some ways to bring out some of my inner biases in a way that they can be clearly identified and modified. For example in the requirements I stated that the person be preferably a non smoker however the candidate that ended up staying is in fact a smoker. What really was bothering me was not that they smoked but the litter that smoking creates and that it was done around me in a way that even in the garden I was not able to enjoy the natural environment without the smoke causing me a cough and finding cigarette butts in my garden beds made me very angry. With both the litter and the non communal smoking tackled I found the person’s smoking habit more tolerable. Perhaps it was the respect for nature and other people that needed to be put to the forefront and not the person’s smoking habit.

Learning from and developing your permaculture practice Applying permaculture to my work and projects
Following the SADIMET design process using different analysis and design methods and practices further has enabled me to design more efficiently, honing in on the tools that enable the designs to come about and be documented in a more concise and clear way. Thinking in systems based on the permaculture ethics and prime directive has helped to put my work and my projects in perspective. This design in particular whilst its main focus was intended to produce a “business” development it has had multiple yields. The community discussion about the person’s qualities and ideals brought us closer together in vision. The personal insight for my own life made lasting changes to my perspective about myself, my inner biases and enabled me to express and address these better within myself and with others. We have grown our community and added diversity thus becoming more resilient. The projects in which he is involved in have flourished with the extra attention and his personal touch to them.