Organizing a Neighborhood Permaculture Convergence, Part 2

Reader Contribution by Jan Spencer
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The Expo was free and open to the public.

Over a month ago, I wrote about the upcoming 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence. Better late than never, here is a report on the Convergence and some other topics of interest. The Convergence took place August 28 to 30, 2015, in Eugene, Oregon.

What is a Permaculture Convergence?

First, a permaculture convergence, or conference, is a coming together of people interested in permaculture. Typically, there are presentations, plenary sessions, networking, perhaps hands on skill building. There might be tours of the site or nearby places of interest that show what applied permaculture looks like.

Most convergences take place at a community college or in rural areas like a private property or retreat center. The 2015 Northwest Convergence took place in a neighborhood recreation center in the midst of suburbia. Having a friendly and familiar neighborhood recreation center was a big asset to organizing the event. The theme was “Greening Our Neighborhoods With Permaculture.”

Not only was the Convergence in a suburban neighborhood, but a large part of the convergence was free and open to the public. We chose a town location specifically to introduce many of the creative permaculture ideas and actions for living more friendly to people and planet to a new suburban audience.

Permaculture Tours and Open Houses

We started off with five free site tours. One was an all-day show-and-tell of suburban permaculture sites in the neighborhood where the rec center is located. Other tours included Block Planning – a land use redevelopment tool — along with green business, habitat restoration, shared housing, citizen initiative on public property and more.

Each tour showed an important aspect or action of a more eco friendly economy and culture.  The intent was calling attention to “previews” of a preferred future — actions people are already taking that point the way to a more resilient and peaceful home, community and world.

There were also open house tours in the countryside near Eugene at Lost Valley, Fern Hill and Aprovecho education centers. Altogether, the tours drew over 200 people. Many people had never seen homes, businesses, appropriate technology and social collaborations like these before.

Another part of outreach was an outdoor Expo in the park where the Rec Center is located. The Expo included educational groups, a variety of vendors, business sponsors, a Kid Zone and 15 practical skill sharing presentations for greening the home and neighborhood. The Expo was also free and open to the public. The Expo and site tours could have been complete events on their own.

This skill share presentation was about food forests and drew a crowd.

Indoors, there were presentations, plenary sessions, meals and the Green Neighborhood Summit.  The Summit was perhaps the first gathering of its kind to focus on a variety of impressive “place making” projects in the Northwest where city programs, neighborhood associations, permaculture and public property come together.  There were inspiring stories from Seattle, Olympia, Portland and Eugene where citizens have taken initiative with surprising partnerships, for creating more cohesive and resilient neighborhoods and communities.

You Don’t Have to Move to Live in a Better Neighborhood

The 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence was a great success. Many people in the neighborhood took on important roles. Building neighborhood cohesion was an important benefit.

Plenary sessions and dining took place in this large meeting room.

The Convergence contained four distinct parts, described above, that could be stand-alone events or could take place in any combination. A favorite phrase, “you don’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood” applies. Creating greener and more resilient neighborhoods is a smart idea everywhere. Those who take initiative on behalf of community and planet will likely discover more assets and allies to work with where they live, and benefits from these projects, than they might have imagined.

A new website came into being after the Convergence: Green and Resilient Neighborhoods. The website features links, stories and photos about actions people are taking at the neighborhood scale to build greater cohesion and resilience.

New stories are welcome. You will find instructions on the website about how to submit a story. There is also a forum for asking questions and sharing information about creating green and resilient homes, neighborhoods and communities. The website has more information about each part of the Convergence and other great stories about how people are making their neighborhoods better places to live.

Homestead Hamlets Promote the Good Life

Speaking of greener and more resilient neighborhoods. Congratulations K.C. Compton, MOTHER EARTH NEWS Senior Editor for the article Community + Self Reliance = The Good Life in the October/November, 2015 issue. The article describes seven different urban/suburban “hamlets.”  These hamlets all great examples of people working together for taking care of more needs in ways that reduce their eco-footprints while building cohesion and resilience. Most of the stories are about people repurposing existing infrastructure ranging in scale from a single home to dozens of homes.

A new term K.C. uses is DIO:  Do It Ourselves. If the human presence is to evolve to a place where it actually lives within its economic and environmental means, that process will require a lot of social and economic cooperation, as described in K.C.’s article.  (Please nag MOTHER EARTH NEWS to have more articles and a blog category about social and economic cooperation.)

My next blog will be about “place making.” Place making, in the sense used here, is the multi-layered act of retrofitting public or private places in ways that deepen the relationship between people and where they live. A place-making project adds to the social and economic well being of the community. A place-making project says, “there are people here who care about this street, park or neighborhood.”

Stay tuned.

Jan Spencer has been transforming his quarter-acre suburban property for 15 years. The project shows what home economics and suburbia can look like — taking care of more needs closer to home, including food, energy, water, and culture. Read a draft preface for his forthcoming book, Notes from the Suburban Frontier at He is available for making presentations about transforming suburbia, economy and culture. Find his contact info, CV and more topics he can address on his website, andclick hereto read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.

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