#Penntopaper – joining the dots

Dec 4, 2019




To me, our recent AGM felt like a milestone of an event. Not just because it was an outstanding day packed with learning, like-minded people and lovely food, but because it was a joint venture, held in partnership with the Permaculture Association Britain (PAB).

For a long time now I’ve harboured a strengthening conviction that the way forward for people and organisations with values similar to WWOOF’s, is by joining hands and walking into the future together. Collaboration, signposting each other: united we stand.

As if to remind me of this original motivation to having a joint AGM, in the run-up to it I read a novel set during the Spanish Civil War in which the protagonist laments the left-wing Republicans fighting among themselves and forming splinter groups. And then the splinter groups formed splinter groups; factions wasting life-and-death energies against each other, while all along the Fascists retained a clear and common goal. History is not my strong point so I can’t substantiate or elaborate, but I read and re-read the words, thinking how it is borne out by what I see sometimes even among ‘us’ – the green groups, the pacifists, the animal rights campaigners, even within the world of WWOOF at times.

Back in 2016 I’d already been dwelling on this a while when I went to my first ever Permaculture Convergence in Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales. At the end of the weekend and as part of the closing plenary, we were invited to set an intention, and to intensify it using kinetic learning. The premis, as I understood it, is if you make a physical action at the same time of being present / stating your intention, you’re more likely to follow up on your objective with action. On the spur of the moment I sidled up to Andy Goldring, Chief Exec of the Permaculture Association, and said “How about we jump off the bench together and hold the intention of WWOOF and PAB working more closely?” So we held hands and leapt into willful cooperation.

In subsequent months we chewed over possibilies but the obvious way to partner up didn’t present itself until over a year later when, at the 2017 AGM, the Permaculture Association asked for women to join the male-heavy Board. I thought “Ooh…I wonder…” And then I did!

It wasn’t a pre-meditated goal of mine to have a joint AGM but with my newfound proximity to both organisations, I could see that for 2019 both were leaning toward holding their membership gathering at roughly the same time, in roughly the same part of the world and suddenly it just made sense. I floated the idea and staff and Trustees on both sides were open-minded enough to be immediately enthusiastic.

On the day, 100 people, roughly 50/50 from each organisation, some from both – and interestingly –  a few from neither, congregated in a community centre in Leeds. The program was rich with talks and events around two main themes; working together for a better future, and tree-planting. Unexpectedly the latter put us on the radar of Sky News as it coincided with the day (if you remember) that all the political parties were trying to out-do eachother with the amount of trees they’d plant when they came to power. Unnanounced, a film crew rolled up, partially exploding our carefully choreographed schedule as hushed whispers circulated and various attendees were rounded up for interview or on-camera tree-planting. And yes, we did make a 90 second segment of news!


Scarlett (WWOOF) & Andy (Permaculture Association) filmed for Sky News


So, post party, what does the future look like for WWOOF and PAB? We’re currently talking about how we can put together some sort of joint membership (possibly similar to that which we offer with the Landworkers Alliance currently)  because what we are trying to achieve – and how we’re trying to achieve it  – overlaps and compliments in so many areas. For example, I recently hosted a WWOOFer who’d been studying permaculture intensely from books and videos, but lacked any practical experience at all. He filtered WWOOF host criteria to find someone using permaculture techniques and, deciding on me, stayed for two months. He couldn’t have been keener to get out and see what was already in place, then get his own hands dirty putting in to practise some of what he’d read about. 

So this seems already a well-working partnership, which has the bonus of great potential to do more. There are other organisations which also fit, and lots more which are aligned to fundamental values. I’m particularly interested in an event called Ctrl Shift (Control Shift) which has the galvanising subtitle ‘An Emergency Summit For Change’, because change we must.

So watch this space, and get in touch if you have any suggestions or ideas. I’m on the look out for more dots to join.


Photo credits: Taryn Field


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