IPC India 2017: Permaculture as an International Social Movement

On 29th November 2017 Dr Benjamin Habib conducted a workshop on his research into permaculture as a transnational social movement at the 2017 International Permaculture Convergence, hosted at Polam Farm outside of Hyderabad in Telangana, India.

This research project is examining permaculture as a transnational social movement, with a view to with a view to exploring how the movement acts at the interface between local-level sustainability transition projects, national environmental policies and international climate politics, across different national contexts.  The study will be guided by social movement theories to map the international permaculture movement, in all its dynamism and diversity, guided by questions such as…

  • What aspirations and grievances inspire the permaculture movement?
  • What factors open windows of opportunity for permaculture to spread?
  • Who is in the permaculture movement, and why?
  • How does the permaculture movement operate at global scale?
  • What are the political impacts of the permaculture movement?

The goal is to construct a conceptual map of how the permaculture movement operates at global scale, to help permaculture practitioners and organisations to better facilitate networking, resourcing and collaboration internationally.

During the workshop, Ben provided an introduction to the research project, then led a small-group discussion with audience members asking them to discuss how they connect with the international permaculture movement. Audience participants were then asked to visualise that connection in pictorial form by drawing a diagram.  As a group we then viewed the collected drawings together to decode meaning, identify patterns and interpret our stories as participants in the movement.


In the sustainability transition space, permaculture is demonstrating a methodology of sustainable and regenerative systems design in agricultural, economic and social contexts, drawing on a set ethics and design principles which mimic the organisation and complexity of natural ecosystems. This project will map the relationship between grassroots permaculture projects as an expression of the evolution of environmental movements from protest-based activism against environmental degradation into more holistic projects based on ecological and economic regeneration.  As political praxis, permaculture moves beyond traditional activist models to create new economic and social systems that send tangible political, social and market signals to existing institutions and give its practitioners leverage in relation to these structures.  Understanding the transformative nature of permaculture practice and its associated social movement will aid its further implementation as a sustainability transition methodology.

The drawing-based workshop activity is an adaptation from a more expansive research methodology developed by my PhD student Sarah Houseman, who is exploring ecological and horizontal organisational models in her research project.  The aim of this method is to provide participants with a tactile means of communicating connections, as well as an means of articulating potentially problematic relationships in a non-confrontational manner.  The visual medium can also help the researcher identify patterns across the data set that might not otherwise be obvious from written or spoken responses.

Thank you to audience members for your enthusiastic participation in the collaborative workshop and to the IPC India 2017 organisers for hosting a wonderful event!

Get Involved

If you are a qualified permaculture practitioner (completed a permaculture design course) and would like to participate in this project as an interviewee, you are invited to complete the interview questionnaire and/or contact Dr Benjamin Habib directly to arrange an interview face-to-face or online.



For more information about this research project, please contact Dr Benjamin Habib at b.habib@latrobe.edu.au.

Thank you to all the wonderful people I interviewed for this project at the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence.  It was fascinating and inspiring to hear your stories.

Participant Drawings from the Workshop

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