mini-link to this page >>

Inclusion is what things will look like when we act on the guidelines for Basic Human Rights & there is no more discrimination, prejudice or oppression.

In permaculture design terms, when we practice inclusion, we are increasing fertile edge (great permaculture principle) by bringing together people with very different outlooks, experiences, ways of thinking, etc.

There needs to be an agreed common overall vision for any group or event to work well, but if that is achieved through too much uniformity (in culture, ways of thinking, life experience, sex, class, etc.), there will be a diminished creative output or (to use permaculture design terminology) not enough 'fertile edge'.

Dreams of Inclusion 

Vídeo de YouTube

Youth Council members of the Global partnership on Children with Disabilities talk about what Inclusion means

Inclusion as a term used by people with disabilities and other disability rights, advocates for the idea that all people should freely, openly and without pity accommodate any person with a disability without restrictions or limitations of any kind.  See wikipedia article on this

Permaculture Conferences

A design example of how to design for Inclusion.

First of all we need to notice that in a deeply oppressive, divisive background culture (as the destructo-culture is), inclusion does not 'happen spontaneously', or just because we wish it.   So to simply state in conference invites that "everyone is welcome" is deeply naive at best, and quite cruel to de facto excluded people, at worst. 
It simply shows very little capacity of observation, a key skill for a good designer.

For these reasons (and fired by a wish to increase collective intelligence in our movement) a team within the Integral Permaculture Academy has worked since 2006 in experimenting with various designs for more inclusive conferences, by raising awareness of these issues, and by creating a 'virtual edge' to existing 'traditional' (localized) international events. 

The interesting observation is that, in the same way that making buildings accessible to wheel-chair users actually improves things for everyone else (increases yield considerably), also (the elderly, people with prams, bicycles, moving furniture, etc.), making conferences accessible to people who can't physically be there actually increases the benefits & communications for everyone, ej.:
  1. we can do introductions before the event, 
  2. make the agenda more participative, 
  3. more likely to record presentations 
  4. & encourage online longer-term discussion of important topics, 
  5. easier to keep in touch after conference & foster long-term relationships, 
  6. & in general many more fertile connections happen
  7. also to 'slow down' proceedings so that we all get 'more time to think' which seems to be as essential in creating any kind of good thinking, as effectively using diversity is in creating any kind of collective intelligence.

This works well if the conference organizers care about inclusion, but unfortunately they seldom seem to (so far, because we still have low-ish skills in designing conferences, and are still not that great in DOING the co-operation directive of permaculture, in practice).

It is especially ironic for permaculture conferences to end up excluding (as they do) precisely the people who have any of these characteristics (or combinations of), obvioustly to the detriment of the permacuture movement (if we expect conferences to add to the history of the movement in any significant way):

1) SPIRIT OF PLACE - people who are so committed to / successful in their local projects or communities that they don't wish to leave them to go to international (or even national) meetings.      What we find in practice is that people who are very attached to the land they are stewarding can become very stressed when they have to physically dis-connect with it. This is sometimes thought of as a 'spiritual connection' with Nature, but there is good evidence that we not only connect emotionally, but also quite physically to ecosystems or land via electromagnetic & chemical pathways - that quite naturally become stronger the longer we live in one place.    The expression "to tear myself away" can feel like a very physical & painful reality for some people, who then need long recovery times to 're-connect' once they return home.    This doesn't just happen to the person leaving but to the creatures being left (think of how your dog misses you when you leave just for a few hours - how about all the other creatures in the ecosystem which don't express themselves in such easy to understand ways for humans?)

2) INTROVERTS - People who don't necessarily enjoy / are able to cope with crowds of people or people they don't know well.   Given that between 30% & 50% of people are introverts (see this great talk about The Power of Introverts), this can mean effectively excluding a big chunk of people.   Introverts are not 'anti-social' (as some extroverts sometimes think) but simply prefer to socialize more quietly, or within their own community, preferably with people they have long-term bonds, or some possibility of creating them (they are very good community builders!).  This is the description of an introvert (& we all have varying percentages of this):

Given the choice, you'll devote your social energy to the people you care about most, preferring a cup of tea with a close friend to a party full of strangers. You think before you speak, and relish solitude. You feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests you. You have an active inner life, and are at your best when you tap into its riches.

And most of these are very desirable qualities for a good permaculture designer, yet it's clear that most types of 'mass-meeting' type of conferences by nature discriminate against introverts, which is a great loss to the collective intelligence of any event & movement.

3) FAMILY COMMITMENTS - People (most often women) with responsibilities, for example who are primary caretakers of children, elderly or other dependents (usually of entire families, including animals... eg. if they have a farm) and can't simply 'take off' to go to an event far from home for a few days.   Or would wish to, even if they technically could.

Even if they can figure out how to arrange things so that others can take over their responsibilities, this can entail so much work in organizing, and then in worrying, that it ends up not feeling like a 'holiday' at all to take a break from the routine.  Which is why people with this kind of responsabilities (& corresponding high leadership skills!) seldom show up at conferences.

4) MAVERICKS - people who are different from the norm, or think of themselves as different, will not necessarily be welcome or feel welcome at a large group event, but will be more likely to participate if they have more freedom in selecting what & how they wish to contribute (much easier to do online).  Being 'edge creatures' they often feel more at home on the edges of conversations, events, groups, etc.  Online we can design multiple edges that aren't possible to insert into physical events. 

A maverick is defined as "one that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
adj. Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence."

That is, yet more very desirable or likely qualities found in good permaculture designers.  See a very worrying pattern yet?

5) THE POOR / ECONOMICALLY WISE - most people can't afford to attend conferences, which can be very expensive when conference fees are added to the expense of living and eating away from home plus all the travel involved.   Even people who could afford the expense in theory will not choose to do so if they are working on significant permaculture projects, which as anyone who has created one knows all too well, require constant and considerable imputs of money, as well as other resources, like time, energy, attention ... 

Given that we know many permaculture projects fail because of an inability to prioretize (budget) well ... again this could mean yet another worrying exclusion from the kind of designer intelligences we can reap at big international permaculture conferences.

6) DISABLED - & nearly last but certainly not least, the more obvioustly excluded, like the elderly or disabled, whether they are motor-impaired or who can't hear or see well, so need special physical support to participate in group events, and even before that, special consideration on how to invite them.     

The kinds of physical extra support that physically disabled people need are almost never made available at permaculture events, which in fact often even pride themselves on being held in difficult to get to outdoor venues, in order to be 'close to nature'.

7) CULTURAL BARRIERS - (added Aug. 2014) whatever we accept as the 'dominant' or 'acceptable' culture will (usually unawarely) exclude people from other cultures, especially when we don't think that everything has a culture (like everything is political).   It is almost impossible for a group of men who don't have children to even imagine the barriers that say women with children will encounter in trying to participate in their activities.  The fact that the women usually won't even try (because even the form of communicating or the design of the event is unconsciously exclusive) is often seen as 'proof' that they weren't interested anyway.   And whole groups of people become 'invisibile' in this way for many different reasons and are excluded a priori just by the culture of an event (usually unaware culture).

So the brave but quite naive attempts at 'keeping permaculture non-political' or 'non-religious' are more an indication of the level of consciousness of the people who imagine those criteria are possible to achieve than anything else.  And significantly, they are usually claims made by white anglosaxon men of a certain age who enjoy some additional economic privilege.  The most privileged tend to imagine that their own cultural & political standard are 'the norm' or 'neutral' in some way: it is practically a definition of privilege not to be aware of one's privileges.   Which makes for an interesting set of feedback loops that automatically come with what kinds (variety) of people set up to organize any particular event.

Here is an interesting article which argues for the 'hippy' & 'spiritual' activities that have become normalized in some permaculture circles being an observed barrier to inclusion:

together with some interesting replies that suggest this may even have happened as a backlash to the attempts of 'de-politicizing' and 'removing religion' from permaculture.

8) HUNGER FOR CONNECTION -  There is much said & written after presential conferences & meetings (especially those amongst people in alternative or 'edge' fields like permaculture) about the wonderful warmth & touching feelings of connection & 'family' that people experience there.     But these are all fairly easy things to achieve in homogeneous groups & whilst in the 'pseudo-community' phase of any group (in the 'honey-moon phase'), but particularly one that comes together with so much personal effort from each person & with such high expectations.  

The more effort & resources are required to even get there, the bigger the motivation to make sure any event goes well, so we're all on our very best behaviour - which also means we're there with our biggest social masks on (masks that don't usually widthstand the pressures of living in a real community, and would start to crack after the magical 3 days most big working events last). 

Especially for people who are not aware of the natural succession stages of a group (or who find pseudo-community easy to tolerate - so guess who is being excluded here) this can feel like a great 'coming home' especially when compared to the 'people back home' who might well 'not understand us and our weird new permaculture ideas'.     

People have fallen madly in love & even moved continents & radically changed their lives because of how good this can feel.  Basically it's a big dopamine shot: being in the honey-moon of any relationship is a recognized powerful drugged state, and people can get hooked on it, like with any other drug.

But the reality is that these meetings are usually very short-lived, & - if we're lucky - we may manage to make what become a few truly nourishing long-term relationships there.   Which is not insignificant (indeed it can be a life-changing experience, for an individual) but not all that important on a collective level, perhaps, compared to the collective resources sunk into the effort.     & if we'e unlucky we get to feel the 'post-conference blues' that can follow. 

Am just referring to the sought after 'family feel' that does draw many people to go to events like this, sometimes over & over (and confuse the events for the wider network, that they never adecuately represent).    

9) for designing a movement?  (still writing this part... )
But perhaps even more importantly, as a vehicle for designing a movement  (which usually is the stated or implied main intention of our regional, national & internationa PC meetings), a weekend (or at most the two weeks of a permaculture certificate course) is too short time to achieve anything significant - which is very interesting if you look at this with a designer eye & have some understanding of the natural successions of groups & communities, or of project management: if we don't have effective structures to stay in touch after the meeting, as a group, no significant progress will be possible, no matter how great the intentions & ideas sprouted at the meeting.    For those who just want to 'network' however, it works fine (as individualistic frameworks tend to work fine in a generally individualistic culture).

And there are other interesting dynamics around which people self-select for big permaculture conferences.   For example these will - very understandably - tend to attract in greatest numbers those who are new to the movement, or /& feel most isolated, most frustrated in their communities (or lack of community) that they find themselves in, or who as relative new comers to permaculture do feel the most need to spend a lot of money & travelling energy getting to these events.    Which means this is an important function that conferences can provide, but they would fulfill this function a lot better if this was acknowledged more openly as an aim, instead of pretending these huge efforts are mainly designed to be a way to bring the movement together.  

And ironically, those designers who have successfully created themselves a life where they live in an ongoing state of permaculture coherence & warm community feeling (that so many love finding at such events) quite naturally won't feel much need to attend such conferences.    Yet who are we most likely to learn about community building from?

This rather suggests that if the stated function of these conferences were something like "to 'unite people who feel isolated" and / or "create a temporary community feeling to explore permaculture networking for beginners" (or/and at the same time make a collective effort to help to further fund the transport multinationals, if we want to be a little cynical / more honest) or some such ... then it would be a great design to choose - as the form - an annual weekend event purporting to bring people together briefly from thousands of kilometers distances: the form would fulfill that function very well.    And good designers know that form has to follow function (not the other way around) at least if we are consciously designing.

But the stated functions are usually something like to discuss 'strategy, educational standards, research, developments in practice, and regional / global development' (broadly to bring the movement together to learn from itself) even though that is not what they actually do, if we are honest.  

What they mostly end up doing in practice (some of us have noticed) is to create some kind of self-electing 'elite' or class of people who feel they are important in or are somehow directing the permaculture movement just because they know each other and have the resources to attend a lot of permaculture meetings, with the self-confidence that comes to most of us when we feel similarly 'in the loop' in any area.  It's just the 'big fish in a small pond' syndrome, as permaculture convergences not only are in no way representative (cross-sectionally) of the movement, but they also include only a very small drop of the very particular class of the real-life permaculture world they do represent, effectively excluding the vast majority of us.

For the majority of others who only attend the occasional conference, they can certainly be very interesting holidays that can bring us home more inspired and effective for our permaculture designs, but we must wonder if we might be able (with a little more effort but especially willingness), as a movement, to design much more effective ways to do that, for more people, with much longer-term, deeper learning & inspiration potential (&, it bears repeating, without donating quite so much of our collective spare budget to the transport multinationals, instead of more directly - and effectively? - to permaculture projects).  

You know, like actually do some mini-max, multi-function, maximize edge ... 

So if we are seeking to (a suggestion of some clearer objectives for international PC conferences/convergences -
  1. increase the collective intelligence of a movement, 
  2. connect better with other potential allies,
  3. truly to think globally & act locally, 
  4. bring the cutting edges of the movement to learn together 
  5. celebrate pioneers (almost by definition mavericks, see above) to create more edge, 
  6. & massively increase collective learning, 
  7. whilst directing the maximum possible resources to creating on-the-ground infrastructure for the Transition 
  8. (+ other more permacultural aims) 

... then we could try to bring more of our design skills to (say) - 

a) first observe a lot better what the needs, functions, vision & aims actually are (define function very clearly), before 
b) truly looking at the most effective ways to meet those needs (find the best forms to deliver the functions), 
c) & design together, super-creatively, from there.  

And I suggest that taking that quite different, more modern perspective, would fairly quickly come up with a hybrid system of local (very local, & at most regional) live conferences connected internationally using the best that internet connections can provide us, with some truly 'out of the box thinking' and applied creativity toward some innovative participatory democracy designs.   I would expect something amazing from a movement that purports to have something to teach us about design.  

And about designing for sustainability.    Given that designing a local-to-planetary participative democracy is probably the most challenging & most vitally urgent design we have to work on nowadays (if we truly want to get out of the disastrous planetary collective stupidity cul-de-sac we've gotten ourselves into, as humans), it might be a good idea to focus more of our design skills (not to mention, ethics, principles & directives) to 'starting small' by practicing with designing a much better participatory democracy just amongst the tiny percentage of the global population who are permaculture designers.  

Which however needs to start with finding a stronger collective motivation for better inclusion and - please!? - also a radical self-education effort of permaculture people who are - for whatever reason - proud of declaring themselves internet illiterates.  (What the hell is that about?)

... article to be continued

by Stella, 
Coordinator Integral PC Academy

Inclusion & Collective intelligence

Number of women in group linked to effectiveness in solving difficult problems  (social sensitivity a crucial factor)


October 2, 2010
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Researchers document the existence of collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well, showing that such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups' individual members, and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

When it comes to intelligence, the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. A new study co-authored by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Union College researchers documents the existence of collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well, showing that such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups' individual members, and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

Many social scientists have long contended that the ability of individuals to fare well on diverse cognitive tasks demonstrates the existence of a measurable level of intelligence in each person. In a study published Sept. 30, in the advance online issue of the journal Science, the researchers applied a similar principle to small teams of people. They discovered that groups featuring the right kind of internal dynamics perform well on a wide range of assignments, a finding with potential applications for businesses and other organizations.

"We set out to test the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different kinds of tasks," says Anita Williams Woolley, the paper's lead author and an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. "Our hypothesis was confirmed," continues Thomas W. Malone, a co-author and Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "We found that there is a general effectiveness, a group collective intelligence, which predicts a group's performance in many situations."

That collective intelligence, the researchers believe, stems from how well the group works together

For instance, groups whose members had higher levels of "social sensitivity" were more collectively intelligent.

 "Social sensitivity has to do with how well group members perceive each other's emotions," says Christopher Chabris, a co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Union College in New York. 

"Also, in groups where one person dominated, the group was less collectively intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed," adds Woolley. And teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn greater collective intelligence compared to teams containing fewer women.

To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers conducted studies at MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence and Carnegie Mellon, in which 699 people were placed in groups of two to five. The groups worked together on tasks that ranged from visual puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments. The researchers concluded that a group's collective intelligence accounted for about 40 percent of the variation in performance on this wide range of tasks.

Moreover, the researchers found that the performance of groups was not primarily due to the individual abilities of the group's members. For instance, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.

Only when analyzing the data did the co-authors suspect that the number of women in a group had significant predictive power. "We didn't design this study to focus on the gender effect," Malone says. "That was a surprise to us." However, further analysis revealed that the effect seemed to be explained by the higher social sensitivity exhibited by females, on average. "So having group members with higher social sensitivity is better regardless of whether they are male or female," Woolley explains.

Malone believes the study applies to many kinds of organizations. "Imagine if you could give a one-hour test to a top management team or a product development team that would allow you to predict how flexibly that group of people would respond to a wide range of problems that might arise," he says. "That would be a pretty interesting application. We also think it's possible to improve the intelligence of a group by changing the members of a group, teaching them better ways of interacting or giving them better electronic collaboration tools."

Woolley and Malone say they and their co-authors "definitely intend to continue research on this topic," including studies on the ways groups interact online, and they are "considering further studies on the gender question." Still, they believe their research has already identified a general principle indicating how the whole adds up to something more than the sum of its parts. As Woolley explains, "It really calls into question our whole notion of what intelligence is. What individuals can do all by themselves is becoming less important; what matters more is what they can do with others and by using technology."

"Having a bunch of smart people in a group doesn't necessarily make the group smart," concludes Malone.

In addition to Woolley, Malone and Chabris, the other co-authors were Alexander Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts & Science at the MIT Media Lab; and Nada Hashmi, a doctoral candidate at MIT Sloan.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone. Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human GroupsScience, September 30, 2010 DOI:10.1126/science.1193147

Different Vision Required

Inclusion requires us to see things with different eyes, it requires thinking in different ways, truly seeing 'the problem is the solution', being creative, a lateral thinker, thinking 'out of the box', etc. ... all things a good permaculture designers train themselves into.   

This is one example of someone who did this & in doing so helped us all to see beauty differently.  Totally not to do (directly) with permaculture, but added here in order to (hopefully) help us to better see the underlying pattern.

Seeing Beauty for a Change

Rick Guidotti was a speaker at TEDxEast in New York, and is the director of POSITIVE EXPOSURE, a non-profit organization that challenges the stigma associated with difference by pioneering a new vision of the beauty and richness of genetic diversity.

See Human Rights article in this e-book (related pages), & the various pages on the mechanics of Oppression

This is important for designing for Collective Intelligence, and the experiments with new types of conferences (with an online 'edge') are very relevant to developing Holomidal Collective Intelligence

Psychologists have repeatedly shown that a single statistical factor—often called “general intelligence”—emerges from the correlations among people’s performance on a wide variety of cognitive tasks. 

But no one has systematically examined whether a similar kind of “collective intelligence” exists for groups of people. 

In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. 

This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with 
  • the average social sensitivity of group members, 
  • the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, 
  • and the proportion of females in the group.

And each of these is addressed by designing for Inclusion in groups

From Wikipedia

Inclusion is a term used by people with disabilities and other disability rights advocates for the idea that all people should freely, openly and without pity accommodate any person with a disability without restrictions or limitations of any kind. 

Although disability rights has historically existed as a relatively cohesive movement, the movement centered around inclusion has only recently begun to take shape and to position itself in the eye of the general public.

The concept of inclusion emphasizes universal design for policy-oriented physical accessibility issues, such as ease-of-use of physical structures and elimination of barriers to ease of movement in the world, but the largest part of its purpose is on being culturally transformational. Inclusion typically promotes disability studies as an intellectual movement and stresses the need for disabled people — the inclusion-rights community usually uses thereclaimed word "cripple" or "crip" instead — to immerse themselves, sometimes forcibly, into mainstream culture through various modes of artistic expression. Inclusion advocates argue that melding what they term "disability-art" or "dis/art" into mainstream art makes integration of different body types unavoidable, direct, and thus positive. 

They argue it helps able-bodied people deal with their fears of being or becoming disabled, which, unbeknownst to the person, is usually what underlies both the feelings of "inspiration" and feelings of pity s/he may have when watching a disabled person moving in his or her unusual way(s), or in participating in activities that obviously draw attention to the person's condition(s).

Inclusion advocates often specifically encourage disabled people who choose to subscribe to this set of ideas to take it upon themselves to involve themselves in activities that give them the widest public audience possible, such as becoming professional dancers, actors, visual artists, front-linepolitical activistsfilmmakersorators, and similar professions.

The inclusive attitude is quite divergent from, and usually the exact opposite of, the prevailing attitude in most countries worldwide. Inclusion's opposite tends to be an attitude or undercurrent of pityand/or sorrow among the population of the able-bodied towards people with disabilities — and, among the medical community, a prevalence of the medical model of disability focusing on the physical and/or mental therapiesmedicationssurgeries and assistive devices that might help to "normalize" or "fix" the disabled person so that they may have an easier time in their surrounding environment.

The attitude of inclusion, which has a lot in common with the social model of disability, alleges that this entire approach is wrong and that those who have physical, sensory and/or intellectual impairments are automatically put on a much more effective and fulfilling road to a good, complete, and 'full' life if they are, instead, looked at and valued by society from the outset as totally "normal" people who just happen to have these "extra differences." Like the social movements of feminismanti-racism and gay rights before it, inclusion is often derided by critics from the right as naïvité, and by critics from the left as identity politics

As it looks less towards 'overcoming' and 'achieving', and more towards being and existing in the moment, inclusion by its very nature forces others in the world to possibly begin to actually accept bodily forms and processes they may not be immediately comfortable with.

Some say that part of the reason for resistance to inclusion in the United States may be that the older architecture of its more prominent cities makes structural adjustment for disabled people costly and supposedly impractical, leading indirectly to a high measure of hostility towards disabled people lest they end up feeling 'entitled' to receive such adjustments automatically and unquestionably. 

Others tend to blame the attitude of Social Darwinism more generally, accusing it of corrupting the attitude of able-bodied people in the U.S. in particular towards disabled people — often to the point that it prevents that country's culture from readily accepting disabled people in aspects and venues that are not directly legality or law-related, e.g. theaterfilmdance, and sexuality(See also the article Ableism.)